Jottings Logo - John Fraser

A New Book of Verse


This offbeat mini-anthology consists of poems listed in the Table of Contents which for the most part aren’t elsewhere on the Web, or not in sufficiently readable texts. To get an idea of their variousness, click on Sampler.


Whanne mine eyhnen misten

Whanne mine eyhnen misten
And mine eren sissen,
And my nose koldet
And my tunge foldet
And my rude slaket
And mine lippes blaken
And mine mouth grennet,
And my spotel rennet
And mine her riset
And mine herte griset
And my honden bivien,
And mine fet stivien—
All too late, all too late,
Whanne the bere is at the gate.

Anonymous, 13th century

Of all wemen that ever were borne

Of all wemen that ever were borne,
That bere childer, abide and see
How my sone lyeth me beforne,
Upon my skirte, taken from the Tree.
Your childer ye daunce upon youre knee,
With laghing, kissing and mery chere:
Beholde my childe, beholde wele me,
For now lyeth dedd my dere sone, dere.

O! woman, woman, wele is thee:
Thy childe capps thou castest upon.
Thou pikest his here, beholdest his ble,
Thou wottest not wele when thou haste don.
But ever, alas, I make my mon,
To see my sonis hedd as it is here:
I prike out thornes by oon and oon,
For now lyeth dedd my dere sone, dere.

O! woman, a chaplet chosen thou has:
Thy childe to were it dose thee liking.
Thou pinnest it on—grete joye thou mas.
And I sitt with my sone sore weping.
His chaplet is thornes sore pricking.
His mouth I kisse with a careful chere.
I sit weping and thou singing,
For now lyeth dedd my dere sone, dere.

O! wemen, loketh to me ageine,
That playe and kisse youre childer pappis.
To see my sone I have grete peine,
In his breste so grete a gappe is,
And on his body so many swappis,
With blody lippis I kisse him here.
Alas! Full harde me thinkis my happis,
For now lyeth dedd my dere sone, dere.

O! woman, thou takest thy childe by the hand,
And seyste, ‘Dere sone, gif me a stroke.’
My sonis handes are so bledand
To loke on them me liste not to layke.
His handes he sufferd for thy sake
Thus to be bored with nailes sere.
When thou makes mirth gret sorrows I make,
For now lyeth dedd my dere sone, dere.

Beholde! Wemen, when that ye play,
And have your childer on kne daunsand,
Ye fele ther fete, so fete are they,
And to youre sight full well likand.
But the most fingers of mine hand
Thorow my sonis fete I may put here,
And pulle it out sore bledand,
For now lyeth dedd my dere son, dere.

Therfore, wemen, by town and strete,
Your childer handes when ye beholde,
Ther breste, ther body, and ther fete,
God were on my sone to thinke, and ye wolde,
How care hath made my herte full colde,
To see my sone with naile and spere,
With scourge and thornes manifolde,
Wounded and dedd my dere sone, dere.

Anonymous, ca.1450

Wele, well; pikest, tidy ; ble, face; mas, makest;
chere, face; swappis, blows; happis, lot; sere, diverse;
so fete, so comely; most, biggest; God, Good; and ye, if you

Ballade: Les Contradits de Franc Gontier

Gontier ne crains, il n’a nuls hommes
Et mieux que moi n’est herité.
Mais en ce débat-ci nous sommes,
Car il loue sa pauvreté,
Etre pauvre hiver et été,
Et à felicité repute
Ce que tiens à malheureté;
Lequel a tort? Or en discute:

Sur mol duvet assis, un gras chanoine,
Lez un brasier en chambre bien natée
A son côté gisand Dame Sidoine,
Blanche, tendre, polie et attintée,
Boire ypocras à jour et à nuitée
Rire, jouer, mignonner et baiser,
Et nu à nu pour mieux des corps s’aiser,
Les vis tous deux par un trou de mortaise;
Lors je connus que pour deuil apaiser
Il n’est trésor que de vivre à son aise.

Si Franc Gontier et sa compagne Hélène
Eussent cette douce vie hantée,
D’oignons, civots, qui causent forte haleine
N’acontassent une bise tostée.
Tout leur maton, ne toute leur potée,
Ne prise un ail, je le dis sans noiser.
S’ils se vantent coucher sous le rosier,
Lequel vaut mieux, lit cotoyé de chaise?
Qu’en dites-vous? Faut-il à ce muser?
Il n’est trésor que de vivre à son aise.

De gros pain bis vivent, d’orge, d’avoine,
Et boivent eau tout au long de l’année
Tous les oiseaux d’ici en Babiloine
A tel écot une seule journée
Ne me tendroient, non une matinée.
Or s’ébatte, de par Dieu, Franc Gontier,
Hélène o lui, sous le bel eglantier,
Si bien leur est, cause n’ai qu’il me pèse
Mais quoi que soit du laboureux métier,
Il n’est trésor que de vivre à son aise.

Prince, juge pour tôt nous accorder.
Quant est de moi, mais qu’à nul ne deplaise,
Petit enfant, j’ay oï recorder
Il n’est trésor que de vivre à son aise.

François Villon (c. 1431– c.1463)

The Reply to Franc Gontier

A plump canon lounging on an eiderdown
Near the fire in a thickly carpeted room
Lady Sidonia stretching out beside him
White, delectable, glistening, primped
Sipping mulled wine by day and by night
Laughing, toying, dallying, kissing
Both completely naked for their bodies’ delight
So I spied them through a mortise chink
Then I knew that for casting off grief
There’s no treasure like high living.

If only Franc Gontier and his friend Helen
Had got a little used to the easy life
They wouldn’t now be garnishing their black toast
With onions and leeks that foul the breath
All their yoghurt and vegetable soups
Aren’t worth one garlic, meaning no offense
Though they go on about sleeping under the rose tree
Can they beat a bed with a chair beside it?
What do you say? Don’t bother to think twice
There’s no treasure like living high

They live on coarse bread of barley and oats
And drink only water the year around
But all the birds from here to Babylon
Couldn’t make me stick it for one day
On such a diet, no not for a morning
So let him get on with it, by God, Franc Gontier
And his Helen under the pretty eglantine
If that’s what they like it’s fine with me
But whatever may be said for life at the plough
There’s no treasure like living high

Prince decide so we can quickly agree
But as for me, let no one take offense
When I was a child I used to hear them say
There’s no treasure like living high

François Villon (c. 1431– c.1463)
Tr. Galway Kinnell

To the Merchantis of Edinburgh

See Glossary

1. Quhy will ye merchantis of renoun
Lat Edinburgh your nobill toun
For laik of reformatioun
The commone proffeitt tyine and fame?
Think ye not schame,
That onie uther regioun
Sall with dishonour hurt your name?

2. May nane pas throw your principall gaittis
For stink of haddockis and of scaitti,
For cryis of carlingis and debaittis,
For fensum flyttingis of defame;
Think ye not schame,
Befoir strangeris of all estaittis
That sic dishonour hurt your name?

3. Your stinkand scull that standis dirk
Haldis the lycht fra your parroche kirk;
Your foirstair makis your housis mirk
Lyk na cuntray bot heir at hame;
Think ye not schame,
Sa litill polesie to work
In hurt and sklander of your name?

4. At your hie Croce quhar gold and silk
Sould be, there is bot crudis and milk;
And at your Trone bot cokill and wilk,
Pansches, pudingis of Jok and Jame;
Think ye not schame,
Sen as the world sayis that ilk
In hurt and sclander of your name?

5. Your commone menstrallis hes no tone
But Now the Day Dawis, and Into Joun;
Cunningar men man serve Sanct Cloun
And nevir to uther craftis clame;
Think ye not schame,
To hald sic mowaris on the moyne
In hurt and sclander of your name?

6. Tailyouris, soutteris and craftis vyll
The fairest of your streittis does fyll,
And merchandis at the stinkand styll
Ar hamperit in ane hony came;
Think ye not schame,
That ye have nether witt nor wyll
To win yourselff ane bettir name?

7. Your burgh of beggeris is ane nest,
To schout thai swentyouris will not rest;
All honest folk they do molest,
Sa piteuslie thai cry and rame:
Think ye not schame,
That for the poore hes nothing drest,
In hurt and sclander of your name?

8. Your proffeit daylie dois incres,
Your godlie workis les and les;
Through streittis nane may mak progres
For cry of cruikit, blind, and lame;
Think ye not schame,
That ye sic substance dois posses
And will nocht win ane bettir name?

9. Sen for the Court and the Sessioun
The great repair of this regioun
Is in your burgh, thairfoir be boun
To mend all faultis that ar to blame,
And eschew schame;
Gif thai pas to ane uther toun
Ye will decay, and your great name.

10. Thairfoir strangeris and liegis treit,
Tak not ouer meikle for thair meit,
And gar your merchandis be discreit,
That na extortiounes be, proclame
All fraud and schame;
Keip ordour, and poore nighbouris beit,
That ye may gett ane bettir name.

11. Singular proffeit so dois yow blind,
The common proffeit gois behind;
I pray that Lord remeid to fynd
That deit into Jerusalem,
And gar yow schame!
That sum tyme ressoun may yow bind
For to win bak to you guid name.

William Dunbar (ca 1460–ca 1525)

Meditatioun in Wyntir

In to thir dirk and drublie dayis,
Quhone sabill all the hewin arrayis
With mystie vapouris, cluddis, and skyis
Nature all curage me denyis
Off sangis, ballattis, and of playis.

Quhone that the nycht dois lenth in houris
With wind, with haill, and havy schouris,
My dule spreit dois lurk for schoir,
My hairt for languor dois forloir,
For laik of Symmer with his flouris,

I walk, I turne, sleip may I nocht,
I vexit am with havie thocht;
This warld all ouir I cast about,
And ay the mair I am in dout,
The mair that I remeid have socht.

I am assayit on everie syde:
Despair sayis ay, “In tyme provyde
And get sum thing quhairon to leif,
Or with grit trouble and mischeif
Thow sall in to this court abyd.”

Then Patience sayis, “Be not agast:
Hald Hoip and Treuthe within the fast,
And lat Fortoun wirk furthe hir rage,
Quhone that no rasoun may assuage,
Quhill that hir glas be run and past.”

And Prudence in my eir sayis ay,
“Quhy wald thow hald that will away?
Or craif that thow may have no space,
Thow tending to ane uther place,
A journay going everie day?”

And than sayis Age, “My freind, cum neir,
And be not strange, I the requeir;
Cum, brodir, by the hand me tak,
Remember thow hes compt to mak
Off all thi tyme thow spendit heir.”

Syne Deid castis upe his yettis wyd,
Saying, “This oppin sall the abyd;
Albeid that thow wer neuer sa stout,
Undir this lyntall sall thow lowt,
There is nane uther way besyde.”

For feir of this all day I drowp,
No gold in kist, nor wyne in cowp,
No ladeis bewtie, not luiffis blys,
May lat me to remember this,
How glaid that ever I dyne or sowp.

Yit quhone the nycht begynnis to schort
It does my spreit some pairt confort,
Off thocht oppressit with the schowris;
Cum lustie Symmer with thi flowris,
That I may leif in sum disport.

William Dunbar (ca 1460–ca 1525)

drublie> gloomy / quhone>when / sabill>blackness / hewin>heaven / arrayis>clothes

dule>melancholy / lurk>cower / for schoir> from dread / forloir> grow forlorn


assayit>tried out / ay>always / leif>live

rasoun>reasoning / glas>hour-glass

strange>aloof / compt>account

Syne>Then / yettis>gates / oppin>open / albeid>all be it, although/ stout>brave / lowt>stoop

kist>chest / lat>allow / off thocht>although

On the Nativity of Christ

Rorate celi desuper!
Hevins distill your balmy schouris,
For now is rissin the bricht day ster
From the ros Mary, flour of flouris;
The clere sone quhome no clud devouris,
Surminting Phebus in the est,
Is cumin of his hevinly touris
Et nobis puer natus est.

Archangellis, angellis and dompnationis,
Tronis, potestatis and marteiris seir,
And all ye hevinly operationis,
Ster, planeit, firmament and speir,
Fyre, erd, air and watter cleir
To him give loving, most and lest,
That come in to so meik maneir,
Et nobis puer natus est.

Synnairs be glaid and pennance do
And thank your Makar hairtfully,
For he that ye mycht nocht cum to
To yow is cumin full humly,
Your saulis with his bluid to by
And lous yow of the feindis arrest,
And only of his awin mercy;
Pro nobis puer natus est.

All clergy do to him inclyne
And bow unto that barne benyng,
And do your observance devyne
To him that is of kingis King;
Ensence his alter, reid and sing
In haly kirk with mynd degest,
Him honouring attour all thing,
Qui nobis puer natus est.

Celestiall fowlis in the are
Sing with your nottis upoun hicht,
In firthis and in forrestis fair
Be myrthfull now, at all your mycht,
For passit is your dully nycht,
Aurora hes the cluddis perst.
The son is rissin with glaidsum lycht
Et nobis puer natus est.

Now spring up flouris fra the rute,
Revert yow upwart naturally
In honour of the blissit frute
That rais up from the rose Mary;
Lay out your levis lustily,
From deid tak lyfe now at the lest
In wirschip of that Prince wirthy,
Qui nobis puer natus est.

Sing hevin imperiall, most of hicht,
Regions of air mak armony;
And fishe in flud and foull of flicht
Be myrthfull, and mak melody:
All Gloria in excelsis cry,
Hevin, erd, se, man, bird and best,
He that is crownit abone the sky
Pro nobis puer natus est.

William Dunbar (ca 1460–ca 1525)

Rorate celi desuper>Send down dew from above / ster>star / clere>bright, beautiful /sone>son / surminting>surmounting, surpassing / is cumin of>is coming from / touris>towers / Et nobis… > And unto us a son is born.

Dompnationis>Dominions / Tronis>Thrones / marteirisseir>various martyrs / operationis>agencies / speir>sphere / come in to so meik>that came in such a modest/ that ye mycht nocht come to>to whom you may not come

arrest > grip, clutches

All clergy…>All you clergy, bend towards him barne>bairn, child / benyng> benign, gentle / Ensence>Perfume with incense / degest>solemn / attour>beyond


Now spring up flouris>Now flowers, spring up / Revert yow upwart>Spring up afresh


It sings and swings along gloriously, celebrating a major event in an orderly world, like the birth of an heir to a great kingdom where the Classical and the Christian cohabit as naturally as they do in the great paintings of that time.

But to internalize it one has to voice it, giving the obviously phonetic spellings the sound values that they look as if they have without worrying about whether “yow” is yow, or yoh or yoo, or “incline” is inclyne or incleen, and with the recognition that “-is” can signify a plural ( “angellis”) or a possessive (“feindis”), and that words that the structure require to rhyme do in fact rhyme, giving us “Mary” as “Marie” and “wirthy” as “wirthee,” and that there are no mystical concepts behind unfamiliar words.

Reading it aloud with a confident forward movement helps one to see how mild, relatively, are the differences in spelling and syntax from later southern English when words are voiced—rissin (risen), ster (star), erd (earth), awin (own), reid (read), etc.

There are no mysteries here:
To yow [he] is cumin full humly,
Your saulis with his bluid to by
And lous youw of the feindis arrest
To yow (what else?) is comin’/coming very humbly, your souls with his blood (what else? to buy (what else?) and lous (loose, free) you from the fiend’s (what? hold? grip?).

As to metre, the lines would go:
To yów is cúmin fúll humlée
Your saúlis wíth his blúid to bee
And loús yow óf the féíndis arrést.

If one wants to go broader and deeper, there’s always the marvelous online Dictionary of the Scottish Language.

En voyant sa dame au matin

En voyant sa dame au matin
Pres du feu où elle se lace,
Où est le coeur qui ja se lace
De regarder son beau tetin?

Alors se dit maint bon tatin
Quand on s’entretien face à face
En voyant sa dame au matin.

En ung beau corset de satin
Quant on la tient et on l’embrasse,
C’est ce qui tout ennuy efface,
Maulgré faulx Dangier, le mastin,
En voyant sa dame au matin.

Anonyme, vers 1480

Watching His Lady

Watching his lady in the morning
Beside the fire as she laces up,
Where is the heart that was growing bored
With looking at her lovely tits?

So says many a friendly chap
Describing confidentially
Watching his lady in the morning.

In a beautiful satin corset,
When you’re hugging and kissing her,
That’s what drives the boredom off,
Despite Old Scary, the guardian dog,
Watching his lady in the morning.

Anon., ca 1480
Tr. JF

A Lamentation of Queen Elizabeth

See Note

O ye that put your trust and confidence
In worldly joy and frail prosperity,
That so live here as ye should never hence,
Remember death and look here upon me.
Ensample I think there may no better be.
Your self wot well that in this realm was I
Your queen but late, and lo now here I lie.

Was I not born of old worthy lineage?
Was not my mother queen, my father king?
Was I not a king’s fere in marriage?
Had I not plenty of every pleasant thing?
Merciful God, this is a strange reckoning:
Riches, honour, wealth and ancestry
Hath me forsaken, and lo now here I lie.

If worship might have kept me, I had not gone.
If wit might have me saved, I needed not fear.
If money might have help, I lackéd none.
But O good God what vaileth all this gear?
When death is come, thy mighty messenger,
Obey we must, there is no remedy,
Me hath he summoned, and lo here I lie.

Yet was I late promiséd otherwise,
This year to live in wealth and delice.
Lo whereto cometh thy blandishing promise
O false astrology and divinatrice,
Of God’s secrets, making thy self so wise!
How true is for this year thy prophecy!
The year yet lasteth and lo now here I lie.

O brittle wealth, aye full of bitterness,
Thy single pleasure doubled is with pain.
Account my sorrow first and my distress,
In sundry wise, and reckon there again
The joy that I have had, and I dare sayn,
For all my honour, enduréd yet have I
More woe than wealth, and lo now here I lie.

Where are our castles now, where are our towers?
Goodly Richmond, soon art thou gone from me;
At Westminster that costly work of yours,
Mine own dear lord, now shall I never see.
Almighty God vouchsafe to grant that ye
For you and your children well may edify.
My palace builded is, and lo now here I lie.

Adieu, mine own dear spouse, my worthy lord.
The faithful love that did us both combine
In marriage and peaceable concord
Into your hands here I clean resign
To be bestowed upon your children and mine.
Erst were you father, and now must ye supply
The mother’s part also, for lo now here I lie.

Farewell, my daughter lady Margaret.
God wot full oft it grievéd hath my mind
That ye should go where we should seldom meet.
Now am I gone, and have left you behind.
O mortal folk, that we be very blind;
That we least fear, full oft it is most nigh:
From you depart I first, and lo now here I lie.

Farewell, madame, my lord’s worthy mother,
Comfort your son, and be ye of good cheer.
Take all a worth, for it will be no nother.
Farewell, my daughter Katherine late the fere
To prince Arthur, mine own child so dear.
It booteth not for me to weep or cry;
Pray for my soul, for lo now here I lie.

Adieu, Lord Henry, my loving son, adieu.
Our Lord increase your honour and estate.
Adieu, my daughter Mary, bright of hue.
God make you virtuous, wise, and fortunate.
Adieu, sweet heart, my little daughter Kate;
Thou shalt, sweet babe, such is thy destiny,
Thy mother never know, for lo now here I lie.

Lady Cecily, Anne, and Katherine,
Farewell my well-beloved sisters three;
O Lady Bridget, other sister mine,
Lo here the end of worldly vanity.
Now well are ye that earthly folly flee,
And heavenly things love and magnify.
Farewell and pray for me, for lo now here I lie.

Adieu my lords, adieu my ladies all,
Adieu my faithful servants everychone.
Adieu my commons whom I never shall
See in this world, wherefrom to Thee alone,
Immortal God verily three and one,
I me commend Thy infinite mercy
Show to Thy servant, for lo now here I lie.


Thomas More (1478–1535)

ensample> example; fere> companion, spouse; divinatrice> fortune-telling?;
erst> first; everychone> every one; nother> different

Lament of the Maister of Erskine

Departe, departe, departe,
Allace! I must departe
Frome hir that hes my hart,
With hairt ful soir,
Against my will in deid,
And can find no remeid,
I wait, the panis of deid
Can do no more.

Now must I go, allace!
Frome sicht of her sueit face,
The grund of all my grace
And soverane:
Quhat chanss that may fall me
Sall I nevir mirry be,
Unto the tyme I se
My sueit agane.

I go, and wait not quhair,
I wandir heir and thair,
I weip and sichis rycht sair,
With panis smart;
Now most I pass away,
In wild and wilsum way:
Allace! this wofull day
We suld depart.

My spreit dois quaik for dreid,
My thirlit hairt dois bleid,
My panis dois exceed;
Quhat suld I say?
I wofull wycht alone,
Makand ane petous mone,
Allace! my hairt is gone,
For evir and ay.

Throw langour of my sueit,
So thirlit is my spreit,
My dayis are most compleit,
Throe hir absence:
Chryst, sen scho know my smert,
Ingrawit is my hairt,
Becaus I must departe,
From hir presens.

Adew, my awin sueit thing,
My joy and comforting,
My mirth and sollessing,
Of erdly gloir;
Fair weill, my lady bricht,
And my remembrance rycht;
Fair weill, and haif gud nycht:
I say no moir.

Alexander Scott (1520–158?)

A New Ballade of the Marigolde

(On the Accession of Mary I, 1553)

See Note

The God above, for man’s delight,
Hath here ordaynèd everything—
Sonne, Moone, and Sterres, shinyng so bright,
With all kinde fruites that here doth spring,
And Flowrs that are so flourishyng.
Amonges all which that I beholde,
As to my minde best contentyng,
I doo commende the Marigolde.

In Veare first springeth the Violet;
The Primrose, then, also, doth spred;
The Couslip sweete abroade doth get;
The Daisye gaye sheweth forth her hed;
The Medowes greene, so garnishèd,
Most goodly (truly) to beholde,
For which God is to be praisèd:
Yet I commende the Marigolde.

The Rose that chearfully doth shewe
At Midsomer, her course hath shee;
The Lilye white after doth growe;
The Columbine then see may yee;
The Joliflowre in fresh degree,
With sundrie mo than can be tolde:
Though they never so pleasaunt bee,
Yet I commend the Marigolde.

Though those which here are mentionèd
Bee delectàble to the iye,
By whom sweete smelles are ministred,
The sense of man to satisfye,
Yet each as serveth his fantasye;
Wherefor to say I wyll be bolde,
And to avoide all flaterye,
I doo commende the Marigolde.

All these but for a time doth serve,
Soone come, soone gone, so doth they fare,
At fervent heates and stormes they sterve,
Fadying away, their staulkes left bare.
Of that I praise, thus say I dare,
Shee sheweth glad cheere in heate and colde,
Moche profitying to hertes in care,
Such is this floure, the Marigolde.

The Marigolde Floure, mark it well,
With Sonne doth open, and also shut;
Which (in a meaning) to us doth tell
To Christ, God’s Sonne, our willes to put,
And by his woorde to set our futte.
Stiffly to stande, as Champions bolde,
From the truthe to stagger nor stutte,
For which I praise the Marigolde.

To Marie, our Queene, that Floure so sweete,
This Marigolde I do apply,
For that the name doth serve so meete,
And properlee, in each partie,
For her enduryng paciently
The stormes of such, as list to scolde
At her dooynges, with cause why,
Loth to see spring this Marigolde.

She may be calde Marigolde well,
Of Marie (chiefe), Christes mother deere,
That as in heaven shee doth excel,
And Golde in earth, to have no peere:
So (certainly) shee shineth cleere,
In Grace and honour double folde,
The like was never earst seene here,
Such is this floure, the Marigolde.

Her education well is knowne,
From her first age how it hath wrought;
In singler Vertue shee hath growne,
And servyng God, as she well ought;
For which he had her in his thoughte,
And showed her Graces manifolde,
In her estate to see her broghte,
Though some did spite this Marigolde.

Yf shee (in faith) had erred a-misse,
Which God, most sure, doth understande,
Wolde he have doone, as provèd is,
Her Enmies so to bring to hande?
No, be ye sure, I make a bande,
For servyng him he needes so wolde
Make her to Reigne over Englande,
So loveth hee this Marigolde.

Her conversacion, note who list,
It is more heavenly than terraine,
For which God doth her Actes assiste;
All meekenesse doth in her remaine:
All is her care, how to ordayne,
To have God’s Glorie here extolde;
Of Poore and Riche, shee is most fayne.
Christ save, therefore, this Marigolde.

Sith so it is, God loveth her,
And shee, His Grace, as doth appeare;
Ye may be bolde as to referre
All doubtfulnesse as to her most cleare,
That, as her owne, in like maneare
She wilth your welthes, both yong and olde,
Obey her, then, as your Queene deare,
And say: Christ save this Marigolde.

Christ save her in her High Estate,
Therin (in rest) long to endure;
Christ so all wronges here mitigate,
That all may be to his pleasure:
The high, the lowe, in due mesure,
As membres true with her to holde,
So eache to be th’others treasure.
In cherishing the Marigolde.

Be thou (O God) so good as thus
Thy Perfect Fayth to see take place;
Thy peace thou plant here among us,
That Errour may go hide his face,
So to concorde us in eache case,
As in thy Courte, it is enrolde,
Wee all (as one) to love her Grace,
That is our Queene, this Marigolde.

God save the Queene

William Forrest, Priest.

Veare> Spring; sterve>die; stutte>stumble; earst>before;
singleer>singular; terraine>earthly, worldly; fayne>desirous;
wilth your welthes>wills (desires) your well-being;

Ces longues nuits d’hiver, où la Lune ocieuse

Ces longues nuits d’hiver, où la Lune ocieuse
Tourne si lentement son char tout à l’entour,
Ou le Coq si tardif nous annonce le jour,
Où la nuit semble un an à l’ame soucieuse:

Je fusse mort d’ennui sans ta forme douteuse,
Qui vient par une feinte alleger mon amour,
Et faisant toute nue entre mes bras sejour,
Me pipe doucement d’une joie meteuse.

Vraie tu es farouche, et fiere en cruauté:
De toi fausse on jouit en toute privauté
Pres ton mort je m’endors, pres de lui je repose:

Rien ne m’est refusé. Le bon sommeil ainsi
Abuse par le faux mon amoureux souci.
S’abuser en amour n’est pas mauvaise chose.

Pierre de Ronsard (1524–1585)

In these long winter nights when the lazy Moon

In these long winter nights when the lazy Moon
Steers her chariot so slowly on its way,
When the cockerel so tardily calls the day,
When night to the troubled soul seems years through:

I would have died of misery if not for you,
In shadowy form, coming to ease my fate,
Utterly naked in my arms, to lie and wait,
Sweetly deceiving me with a specious view.

The real you is fierce, of pitiless cruelty:
The false you one enjoys, in true intimacy,
I sleep beside your ghost, rest by an illusion:

Nothing’s denied me. So kind sleep deceives
My loving sorrows with your false reality.
In love there is no harm in self-delusion.

Pierre de Ronsard (1524–1585)
Tr. A.S. Klein


Douce Maistress touche,
Pour soulager mon mal,
Ma bouche de ta bouche
Plus rouge que Coral;
Que mon col soit pressé
De tes bras enlassé.

Puis face dessus face
Regarde moy les yeux,
Afin que ton trait passe
En mon coeur soucieux,
Coeur qui ne vit sinon
D’Amour et de ton nom.

Je l’ay veu fier et brave,
Avant que ta beauté
Pour estre ton esclave
Du sein me l’eust osté
Mais son mal luy plaist bien,
Pourveu qu’il meure tien.

Belle, par qui je donne
À mes yeux tant d’esmoy,
Baise moy ma mignonne,
Cent fois rebaise moy;
Et quoy? faut-il en vain
Languit dessus ton sein?

Maistresse je n’ay garde
De vouloir t’esveiller.
Heureux quand je regarde
Tex beaux yeux sommeiller:
Heureux quand je les voy
Endormis dessus moy.

Veux-tu que je les baise
Afin de les ouvrir?
Hà, tu fais la mauvaise
Pour me faire mourir:
Je meurs entre tes bras,
Et s’il ne t’en chaut pas.

Hà! ma chère ennemie,
Si tu veux m’appaiser,
Redonne moy la vie
Par l’esprit d’un baiser.
Hà! j’en sens la douceur
Couler jusques au coeur.

J’aime la douce rage
D’amour continuel,
Quad d’un mesme courage
Le soing est mutuel.
Heureux sera le jour
Que je mourray d’amour.

Pierre de Ronsard (1524–1585)


To relieve my pain,
Sweet mistress, touch
My mouth with yours,
Redder than coral,
With your arms tight
Around my neck.

Then, face close to mine,
Gaze into my eyes,
And let your dart pierce
My anxious heart,
A heart living only
For Love and you.

I’ve known it brave and proud
Before your beauty
Stole it from my breast
To make it your slave,
But it’s happy with the pain,
Provided it dies yours.

So lovely that my eyes
Are seething, seething,
Kiss me, my darling,
Kiss me a hundred times;
And then? Must I lie in vain
Upon your bosom … ?

Oh mistress mine, I can relax now.
No need to wake you.
I’m happy just watching
Your lovely eyes drowsing
Happy when I see them
Asleep underneath me.

But how about a kiss or two,
To reopen them…?
Oh, you’re being wicked,
You’re simply killing me
I’m dying in your arms
And it doesn’t bother you.

My dear sweet enemy,
If you want to be really nice.
Just bring me back to life
With a well-placed kiss …
Ah! I can feel the sweetness
Flowing up to my heart.

I love the sweet storm
Of continual passion
When we’ve the same desires
And can come together.
It will be bliss
When I really die of love.

Pierre de Ronsard (1524–1585)
Tr. JF

D’une Courtizanne à Venus

Si je puis ma jeunesse folle,
Hantant les bordeaux, garantir
De ne pouvoir jamais sentir
Ne poulains, chancre, ne verole,

O Venus! de Bacus compaigne,
À toi je promets, en mes voeus,
Mon éponge, et mes faus cheveus,
Mon fard, mon miroer, et mon paigne.

Pierre de Ronsard (1524–1585)

From a Courtesan to Venus

If my wanton youth can be certain,
As it haunts the brothels,
That it will never have to know
Buboes, cankers, or pockmarks,

O Venus! companion of Bacchus,
I'll see that you inherit,
My little sponge and my hairpieces,
My rouge, my mirror, and my comb.

Pierre de Ronsard (1524–1585)
Tr. JF

“O long winter nights”

O long winter nights, bane of my existence,
Give me patience and allow me to sleep.
The very mention of you makes my whole body
Shudder and sweat, you treat me so cruelly.

Sleep, however briefly, never hovers over
My always-open eyes, and I can’t press
Eyelid upon eyelid, but only groan,
Suffering, like Ixion, unending pain.

Old dark of earth, the dark of hell,
You hold open my eyes with chains of iron,
And ravage my body with a thousand stabbing pains.

To stop them for ever, let death come to me.
O death, our common haven, our human comforter,
Put an end to my suffering, I beseech you with clasped hands.

Pierre de Ronsard (1524–1585)
Tr. JF

Of all the birds that I do know

Of all the birds that I do know,
Philip my sparrow hath no peer;
For sit she high, or sit she low,
Be she far off, or be she near,
There is no bird so fair, so fine,
Nor yet so fresh as this of mine;
For when she once hath felt a fit,
Philip will cry still: yet, yet, yet.

Come in a morning merrily
When Philip hath been lately fed;
Or in an evening soberly
When Philip list to go to bed;
It is a heaven to hear my Phipp,
How she can chirp with merry lip,
For when she once hath felt a fit,
Philip will cry still: yet, yet, yet.

She never wanders far abroad,
But is at home when I do call.
If I command she lays on load
With lips, with teeth, with tongue and all.
She chants, she chirps, she makes such cheer,
That I believe she hath no peer.
For when she once hath felt the fit,
Philip will cry still: yet, yet, yet.

And yet besides all the good sport
My Philip can both sing and dance,
With new found toys of sundry sort
My Philip can both prick and prance.
And if you say but: fend cut, Phipp!
Lord, how the peat will turn and skip!
For when she once hath felt the fit,
Philip will cry still: yet, yet, yet.

And to tell truth he were to blame,
Having so fine a bird as she
To make him all this goodly game
Without suspect or jealousy;
He were a churl and knew no good,
Would see her faint for lack of food,
For when she once hath felt the fit,
Philip will cry still: yet, yet, yet.

George Gascoigne (ca. 1528–1577)

The Night is Neir Gone

See Glossary/a>

Hay! now the day dawis,
The jolie Cok crawis,
Now shroudis the shawis
Throw Natur anone,
The thissell-cok cryis
On Lovers wha lyis,
Nou skaillis the skyis:
The nicht is neir gone.

The fields owerflowis
With gowans that growis
Quhair lilies lyk low is,
Als rid as the rone.
The turtill that trew is
With nots that renewis
Hir partie persewis:
The night is neir gone.

Nou hairtis with hyndis
Conforme to thair kindis,
Hie tursis thair tyndis
On grund whair they grone,
Nou hurchonis with hairis
Ay passis in pairis,
Quhilk deuly declairis
The night is neir gone.

The sesone excellis
Throgh sweetnes that smellis;
Nou Cupid compellis
Our hairtis echone
On Venus wha waikis
To muse on our maikis,
Syn sing for thair saikis,
The night is neir gone.

All curageous knichtis
Aganis the day dichtis
The breist plate that bright is
To fight with thair fone,
The stoned steed stampis
Throu curage and crampis
Syn on the land lampis:
The night is neir gone.

The freikis on feildis
That wight wapins weildis
With shyning bright sheildis
As Titan in trone;
Stiff speiris in reistis
Ower cursoris cristis
Ar brok in thair breistis:
The night is neir gone.

So hard att thair hittis
Some sweyis, some sittis
And some perforce flittis
On grund whill they grone;
Syn groomis that gay is
On blonkis that brayis
With swordis assayis:
The night is neir gone.

Alexander Montgomerie (b. ca 1543–1558; d. 1598)

The Secreit Prais of Love

See Glossary/a>

As everie object to the outward ee
Dissaivis the sight and semis as it is sene
Quhen not bot shap and cullour yit we se
For no thing els is subject to the ene,
As stains and trees appearing gray and grene,
Quhais quantities upon the sight depends,
Bot qualities the cunning comprehends.

Even sa wha sayis they sie me as I am,
I mene a man, suppose they sie me move,
Of ignorance they do tham selfis condam
By syllogisme this properly I prove.
Quha sees (by look) my loyaltie in love,
Quhat hurt in hairt, what hope or hap I haiv?
Quhilk ressone movis the senses to consaiv.

Imagination is the outward ee
To spy the richt anatomie of mynd
Quhilk (by some secreit sympathie) may see
The force of love quhilk can not be defynd,
Quharthrou the hairt according to his kynd
Compassionat, as it appeirs plane
Participats of plesur or of pane.

Of hevins or earth some simlitude or shape
By cunning craftismen to the ees appeir,
Bot who is he can counterfurt the ape
Or paint a passion papable, I speir,
Quhilk enters by the organ of the eir
And bot, when it is pithily exprest,
And yit I grant the gritest pairt is gest?

Suppose the hevins be huge for to behold,
Contening all within their compass wyde,
The starris be tyme (thogh tedious) may be told
Because within a certin bounds they byd.
The carde the earth from waters may devyde,
But who is he can limit Love, I wene,
Quhom nather carde nor compas can contene.

Quhat force is this subdeuing all and sum?
Quhat force is this that makes the tygris tame?
Quhat force is this that na man can ouircum?
Quhat force is this that rightlie nane can name?
Quhat force is this that careis sik a fame?
A vehemency that words can not reveill
Quhßilk I conclude to suffer and conceill.

Alexander Montgomerie (b. ca 1543–1558; d. 1598)

A Godly Prayer

See Glossary/a>

Peccavi Pater, miserere mei.
I am not worthy to be call’d thy chylde
Who stubburnely haif look’t so long astray,
Not lyke thy sone bot lyk the prodigue wyld.
My sillie saull with sin is so defyld
That Satan seeks to catch it as his pray.
God grant me grace that he may be begyld.
Peccavi Pater, Miserere mei.

I am abash’d hou I dar be sa bald
Befor thy godly presence to appeir
Or hazard anes the hevins to behald
Who am unworthy that the earth suld beir,
Yit damne me noght whom thou hes boght so deir
Sed salvum me fac dulcis fili Dei
For out of Luk this leson nou I leir.
Peccavi Pater, Miserere mei.

If thou O Lord with rigour wouldst revenge,
What flesh befor thee faultless suld be fund?
Or who is he whois conscience can him clenge?
But by his birth to Satan he is bund,
Yit of thy grace thou took away that grund
And sent thy Sone our penalty to pay
To saiv us from that hiddious hellish hund.
Peccavi Pater, miserere mei.

I hope for mercy thogh my sinnis be huge,
I grant my gylt and grone to thee for grace.
Thogh I suld flie whair sall I find refuge?
In hevin O Lord? thair is thy dwelling place,
The erth thy futstule, yea in hel is (alace)
Doun with the dead, bot all must thee obey.
Thairfor I cry whill I haif tyme and space
Peccavi Pater, miserere mei.

O gratious God my gyltines forgive
In sinners death since thou dost not delyte
But rather that they suld convert and live
As witnessis thy sacred holy wryte.
I pray thee then thy promise to perfyte
In me, and I sal with the Psalmist say
To get thy prais and wondrous works indyte.
Peccavi Pater, miserere mei.

Suppose I slyde, let me not sleep in sleuth,
In stinking sty with Satans sinful swyn
Bot mak my tongue the trompet of thy treuth
And lend my verse sik wings as ar divine.
Sin thou hes grantit me so good ingyn
To Loif thee, Lord, in gallant style and gay
Let me no moir so trim a talent tyne.
Peccavi Pater, miserere mei.

Thy Spirit my spirit to speik with speed inspire.
Help holy Ghost, and be Montgomeries muse.
Flie doun on me in forked tongues of fyre
As thou did on thy oune Apostills use
And with thy fyre me fervently infuse
To laud thee, Lord, and longer not delay.
My former foolish fictiouns I refuse.
Peccavi Pater, Miserere mei.

Stoup stubborne stomock that hes bene so stout,
Stoup filthie flesh and carioun of clay,
Stoup hardnit hairt befor thee Lord and lout,
Stoup, stoup in tyme, defer not day by day.
Thou knouis not weill wen thou man pass away.
The Tempter als is bissie to betrey.
Confes thy sinnis and shame not for to say
Peccavi Pater, miserere mei.

To gret Jehovah let all glore be gevin
Wha shupe my saull to his similitude
And to his sone whom he sent doun from hevin
When I wes lost to buy me with his blude
And to the holy Ghost my gyder gude
Who must confirme my faith to tak no fray.
In me cor mundum crea, I conclude.
Peccavi Pater, miserere mei.

Alexander Montgomerie (b. ca 1543–1558; d. 1598)

The text comes from Alexander Montgomerie, Poems, 2 vols., ed. David J. Parkinson (2000), with the following tweaks: v>w, u>w (as in dueling/dweling), the>thee, thought>thogh

To the Honour of the Ladyis, and the Fortification of their Fame.

See Glossary/a>

Just to declair the hie Magnificence,
And Bountie grit that in the Ladyis is,
The Wirdyness and Verteus Excelence,
The Laud, the Truth, the Bewtie, and the Bliss,
My Barbir Tung unworthy is I wiss;
But nicht the less my Pen I will apply,
To say the Suth, thoch Eloquence I miss,
Of Femenyne the Fame to fortifie.

Thocht Doctors auld Addresses their Delyt,
To dyt of Ladys Defamation,
Wae worth the Wicht sould set his Appityte,
To reid sic Rolls of Reprobation;
But tittat mak plain Proclamation,
To gather all sic Lybills bisselie,
And in the Fyre mak their Location,
Of Femenyne the Fame to fortifie.

For quho sae list the Richt trew to reherse,
To humane Glore they mak Habilitie;
Quehen Men ar sad at them solace they ferss,
As Habitickles of all Humanity,
They bring grit Weirs aft to Tranquilitie,
Malice of Men they meis and pacifie,
To Saul and Body baith Utilitie;
Therfore all Men their Fame sould fortifie.

Althoucht a Man had as much Gude to spend
As all the Empyres of this Globe around;
Wer Women wanting Weil-fare were at End,
Without their Comfort Care sould him confound;
Quhair they abyde thair Bliss does ay abound,
And quahair they flie Felicetie gaes by;
But thair Solace nae Sage may be eir found;
Thairfore all Men their Fame sould fortifie.

Sen GOD has grantit them sie Gudliness,
And formid them after sae fine fassoun,
Syne put sic bluming Bewtie in thair Face,
Quhy sould not Men hald them of grit Renown?
Sen God has given to them sae grit Guerdoun,
And with sie Meiknes does them magnifie,
Quhy sould Men mak to them Comparisone,
But owre all quhair their Fames to fortifie?

Or Mary myld, the Maid immaculate,
To fortifie of Femenyne the Fame,
CHRYST was incarnate and incorporate,
And nurist was nyn Months within hir Wame;
And aftir born, and bocht us frae the Blame
Of Bellial, that brint us bitterlie;
That heavenly Honour saves the Sex frae Shame,
And owre al quahair their Fame does fortifie.

John Stewart (ca. 1545–ca. 1605)

C’est une estrange loy de souffrir que l’on couche

C’est une estrange loy de souffrir que l’on couche
En une mesme chambre, et l’amie et lamant,
Separez l’un de l’autre, et n’oser seulement
La nuict se relever, et moins ouvrir le bouche:

Amans je vos diray pourquoy cela me touche,
Tout auprès de mon lict couche journellement,
Celle dont la beaute me blesse incessamment,
Toujours avec Amour je suis à l’escarmouche:

Ainsi que vous voyez une biche amoureuse
Sortir le chef baissé de sa couche espineuse,
L’oeil encor my sille de sommeil gracieuse;

Je vois ainsi du lict cette belle descendre,
Je meurs, en la voyant si doucement estendre
Ses bras aux rais luisans du feu chaud de ses yeux.

First pub. 1639

Cristofle de Beaujeu (1552–1635)

It’s a curious law that permits putting

It’s a curious law that permits putting
Beloved and lover in one bedchamber,
But separated, and not even daring
To relieve themselves, let alone open their mouths.

Lovers, I’ll tell you why this touches me.
Right beside my bed lies every night
She whose beauty wounds me without respite.
For me Love is always a skirmishing.

Like when one’s observed an amorous doe
Emerging with lowered head from her thorny lair,
Her eyes half closed still from a graceful sleep;

So this beauty steps from her bed in the morning
And I die watching as she gently stretches out
Her arms in the shining rays of the fire of her eyes.

Christofle de Beaujeu (1552–1635)
Tr. JF

Down in the depth of mine iniquity

Down in the depth of mine iniquity,
That ugly center of infernal spirits,
Where each sin feels her own deformity,
In these peculiar torments she inherits,
Deprived of human graces, and divine,
Even there appears this saving God of mine.

And in this fatal mirror of transgression,
Shows man as fruit of his degeneration,
The error’s ugly infinite impression,
Which bears the faithless down to desperation;
Deprived of human graces and divine,
Even there appears this saving God of mine.

In power and truth, Almighty and eternal,
Which on the sin reflects strange desolation,
With glory scourging all the Sprites infernal,
And uncreated hell with unprivation;
Deprived of human graces, not divine,
Even there appears this saving God of mine.

For on this spiritual Cross condemned lying,
To pains infernal by eternal doom,
I see my Saviour for the same sins dying,
And from that hell I feared, to free me come;
Deprived of human graces, not divine,
Thus hath his death raised up this soul of mine.

Fulke Greville (1554–1628)

Lady Anne Bothwell’s Lament

Balow my Boy, lye still and sleep,
It grieves me sore to hear thee weep;
If thou’lt be silent, I’ll be glad,
Thy Mourning makes my Heart full sad;
Balow my Boy, thy Mother’s Joy,
Thy Father bred me great Annoy.
Balow, my Boy, lye still and sleep,
It grieves me sore to hear thee weep.

Balow, my Darling, sleep a while,
And when thou wak’st, then sweetly smile,
But smile not as thy Father did,
To cozen Maids, nay God forbid;
But in thine Eye, his Look I see,
The tempting Look that ruin’d me.
Balow, my Boy, &c.

When he began to court my Love,
And with his sugar’d Words to move,
His tempting Face and flatt’ring Chear,
In time to me did not appear;
But now I see, that cruel he
Cares neither for his Babe nor me.
Balow, my Boy, &c.

Farewell, farewell, thou falsest Youth,
That ever kist a Woman’s Mouth;
Let never any after me
Submit unto thy Courtesy;
For if they do, O! cruel thou
Will her abuse, and care not how.
Balow, my Boy, &c.

I was too cred’lous at the first
To grant thee all a Maiden durst;
Thou swore for ever true to prove,
Thy Faith unchang’d, unchang’d thy Love;
But quick as Thought the Change is wrought,
Thy Love’s no more, thy Promise nought.
Balow, my Boy, &c.

I wish I were a Maid again,
From young men’s Flatt’ry I’d refrain,
For now unto my Grief I find,
They are all perjur’d and unkind.
Bewitching Charms bred all my Harms,
Witness my Babe lies in my Arms.
Balow, my Boy, &c.

I take my Fate from bad to worse,
That I must needs be now a Nurse,
And lull my young Son on my Lap,
From me, sweet Orphan, take the Pap.
Balow, my Child, thy Mother mild
Shall wail, as from all Bliss exil’d.
Balow, my Boy, &c.

Balow my Boy, weep not for me,
Whose greatest Grief’s for wronging thee;
Nor pity her deserved Smart,
Who can blame none but her fond Heart:
For, too soon trusting latest finds,
With fairest Tongues are falsest Minds.
Balow, my Boy, &c.

Balow my Boy, thy Father’s fled,
When he the thriftless Son has play’d;
Of Vows and Oaths, forgetful he
Prefer’d the Wars to thee and me:
But now, perhaps, thy Curse and mine,
Makes him eat Acorns with the Swine.
Balow, my Boy, &c.

But curse not him, perhaps now he
Stung with Remorse, is blessing thee:
Perhaps at Death; for who can tell.
Whether the Judge opf Heaven or Hell,
By some proud Foe has struck the Blow,
And laid the dear Deceiver low?
Balow, my Boy, &c.

I wish I were into that Bounds
Where he lies smother’d in his Wounds,
Repeating, as he pants for Air,
My Name, whom once he call’d his Fair.
No Woman’s yet so fiercely set,
But she’ll forgive, tho’ not forget.
Balow, my Boy, &c.

If Linnen lacks, for my Love’s sake,
Then quickly to him would I make
My Smock once for his Body meet,
And wrap him in that Winding-sheet.
Ah me! how happy had I been,
If he had ne’er been wrapt therein!
Balow, my Boy, &c.

Balow my Boy, I’ll weep for thee;
Too soon, alake, thou’lt weep for me:
Thy Griefs are growing to a Sum,
God grant thee Patience when they come,
Born to sustain thy Mother’s Shame,
A hapless Fate, a Bastard’s Name!
Balow, my Boy, &c.


Balow>a lullaby; “a word used in hushing a child to sleep”
(Dictionary of the Scots Language)

Text from Orpheus Caledonius; A Collection of Scots Songs
set to Music by William Thomson
(1733 edition).

Aux Cuisses

Quoi? bessons pilotis, quoi? gemelle colonne,
Soutien de la chapelle, ou marglier est mon coeur,
Blanc soliveau marbrin, que tremble tu d’horreur,
Quand, pretre. En ton beau temple un motet je fredonne.

Mainte autre belle Église appreuve ma vois bonne,
Bien que j’enfonce bas, si n’ai-je le son dur:
Pare nature est mon fa, bemol ferme le choeur,
Je rentre droit au ton, quand par fois je m’entonne.

Je sçai conter la pause, et tenir le tacet,
J’accorde bien ma voix à trois, à quatre, à set:
Prenés, donc, ô piliers, plaisir à ma Musique,

Craignés, cliquant si fort, de discorder no sons:
Si vous goutés le miel de mes douces chansons,
Vous n’avourés jamais autre chantre en pratique.


Jean-Édouard du Monin (1557–1586)

To Her Thighs

What? –foundations of legs? What? –a twin column?
Supports of the chapel where my heart keeps watch?
White marble joists, why do you quake in horror
When, priest-like, in your temple I hum a motet?

Many another lovely church likes my fine voice.
And what if I plunge down low if the sound isn’t harsh,
My bass is natural, it’s the choir that’s flat
I land right back on the note when I happen to stray.

I know how to count a pause and hold a silence
I can fit in with three, or four, or seven others.
So, oh you pillars, please enjoy my music.

Don’t risk creating a discord with those protestings.
Once you’ve tasted the honey of my sweet songs
You’ll never want to confess to another poet.

Jean-Édouard du Monin (1557—1586)
Tr. JF

Bethsabe’s Song

Hot sun, cool fire, tempered with sweet air,
Black shade, fair nurse, shadow my white hair;
Shine, sun; burn, fire; breathe air, and ease me;
Black shade, fair nurse, shroud me and please me:
Shadow, my sweet nurse, keep me from burning,
Make not my glad cause cause of mourning.
Let not my beauty’s fire
Inflame unstaid desire,
Nor pierce any bright eye
That wandereth lightly.

George Peele (c.1557–1596)

Whenas the rye

When as the rye reach to the chin,
And chopcherry, chopcherry ripe within,
Strawberries swimming in the cream,
And school-boys playing in the stream;
Then O, then O, then O my true love said,
Till that time come again,
She could not live a maid.

George Peele (c.1557–1596)

Fair maiden

Fair maiden, white and red,
Comb me smooth, and stroke my head;
And thou shalt have some cockle bread.
Gently dip, but not too deep,
For fear thou make the golden beard to weep.
Fair maid, white and red,
Comb me smooth, and stroke my head;
And every hair a sheave shall be,
And every sheave a golden tree.

George Peele (c.1557–1596)

Hierusalem, my happy home
To the Tune of “Diana”

Hierusalem, my happie home,
when shall I come to thee?
When shall my sorrowes have an end?
thy joyes when shall I see?

O happie harbour of the saintes,
O sweete and pleasant soyle,
In thee no sorrow may be founde,
no greefe, no care, no toyle.

In thee no sicknesse may be seene,
no hurt, no ache, no sore;
There is no death nor uglie devill,
there is life for evermore.

No dampishe mist is seen in thee,
no could nor darksome night;
There everie soule shines as the sunne,
there god himself gives light.

There lust and lukar cannot dwell,
there envie beares no sway;
There is no hunger, heate, nor coulde,
but pleasure everie way.

Hierusalem, Hierusalem,
god grant I once may see
They endless joyes, and of the same
partaker aye to be.

Thy walles are made of precious stones;
thy bulwarkes, diamonds square;
Thy gates are of right Orient pearle,
exceedinge riche and rare.

Thy terrettes and thy Pinacles
with Carbuncles do shine;
Thy verie streetes are paved with gould,—
surpassinge cleare and fine.

Thy houses are of Ivorie,
thy windoes Cristale cleare;
Thy tyles are made of beaten gould—
O god, that I were there!

Within thy gates nothing doeth come
that is not passinge cleane;
No spider’s web, no durt, no dust,
no filth may there be seene.

Ay my sweete home, Hierusalem,
would god I were in thee;
Would god my woes were at an end,
thy joyes that I might see!

Thy saintes are crown’d with glorie great,
they see god face to face;
They triumph still, they still rejoyce,
most happie is their case.

Wee that are here in banishment
gontinuallie doe mourne;
We sighe and sobbe, we weepe and weale,
perpetuallie we groane.

Our sweete is mixt with bitter gaule,
our pleasure is but paine,
Our joyes scarce last the lookeing on,
our sorrowes still remaine;

But there they live in such delight,
such pleasure, and such play,
As that to them a thousand yeares
doth seeme as yeaster-day.

Thy Viniards and thy Orchards are
most beautifull and faire,
Full furnishèd with trees and fruites,
most wonderfull and rare.

Thy gardens and thy gallant walkes
continually are greene;
There growes such sweete and pleasant flowers
as no where else are seene.

There is nector and Ambrosia made,
there is muske and Civette sweete;
There mainie a faire and daintie drugge
are trodden under feete.

There Cinemon, there sugar, growes;
there narde and balme abound.
What tounge can tell or hart conceive
the joyes that there are founde?

Thy happy Saints (Jerusalem)
do bathe in endless blisse;
None but those blessèd soules can tell
how great thy glory is.

Quyt through the streetes with silver sound
the flood of life doth flowe;
Upon whose bankes, on every syde,
the wood of life doth growe.

There trees for evermore beare fruite,
and evermore doe springe;
There evermore the Angels sit,
and evermore doe singe.

There David standes, with harpe in hand,
as maister of the Queere.
Ten thousand times that man were blest
that might this musique heare.

Our Ladie singes magnificat,
with tune surpassinge sweete,
And all the virginns beare their partes,
sitinge above her feete.

Te Deum doth saint Ambrose singe,
sainte Augustine dothe the like;
Ould Simeon and Zacharie
have not their songes to seeke.

There Magdalene hath left her mone,
and cheerfullie doth singe,
With blessèd saintes whose harmonie
in everie streete doth ringe.

Hierusalem, my happie home,
would god I were in thee;
Would god my woes were at an end,
thy joyes that I might see!


lukar>luchre; Queere>Choir

From Vivian de Sola Pinto and Allan Rodway, The Common Muse, pp, 279–283

No, no, Nigella

No, no, Nigella!
Let who list prove thee,
I cannot love thee.
Have I deservèd
Thus to be servèd?
Well then, content thee,
If thou repent thee.

No, no, Nigella!
In sign I spite thee,
Lo, I requite thee.
Henceforth complaining
Thy love’s disdaining,
Sit, thy hands wringing,
Whilst I go singing.

Thomas Morley (ca. 1557–1602)

In midst of woods or pleasant grove

In midst of woods or pleasant grove
Where all sweet birds to sing,
Methought I heard so rare a sound,
Which made the heavens to ring.
The charm was good, the noise full sweet,
Each bird did play his part;
And I admired to hear the same;
Joy sprung into my heart.

The blackbird made the sweetest sound,
Whose tunes did far excel,
Full pleasantly and most profound
Was all things placèd well.
Thy pretty tunes, mine own sweet bird,
Done with so good a grace,
Extols thy name, prefers the same
Abroad in every place.

Thy music grave, bedeckèd well
With sundry points of skill,
Bewrays thy knowledge excellent,
Engrafted in thy will.
My tongue shall speak, my pen shall write,
In praise of thee to tell.
The sweetest bird that ever was,
In friendly sort, farewell.

John Munday (ca. 1560–1602)

Fine Knacks for Ladies

Fine knacks for ladies, cheap, choice, brave, and new,
Good pennyworths, but money cannot move;
I keep a fair but for the fair to view;
A beggar may be liberal in love;
Though all my wares be trash the heart is true,
The heart is true,
The heart is true.

Great gifts are guiles and look for gifts again;
My trifles come as treasures from my mind;
It is a precious jewel to be plain;
Sometimes in shell the orient’s pearl we find;
Of others take a sheaf, of me a grain,
Of me a grain,
Of me a grain.

Within this pack pins, points, laces, and gloves,
And diverse toys fitting a country fair,
But in my heart where duty serves and loves,
Turtles and twins, court’s brood, a heavenly pair;
Happy the heart that thinks of no removes
Of no removes
Of no removes.

John Dowland (1563–1625)

If I Could Shut the Gate

If I could shut the gate against my thoughts,
And keep out sorrow from this room within,
Or memory could cancel all the notes
Of my misdeeds, and I unthink my sin.
How free, how clear, how clean my soul should lie,
Discharged of such a loathsome company.

Or were there other rooms without my heart,
That did not to my conscience join so near,
Where I might lodge the thoughts of sin apart,
That I might not their clamorous crying hear,
What peace, what joy, what ease should I possess,
Freed from their horrors that my soul oppress.

But, O my Saviour, who my refuge art,
Let thy dear mercies stand ’twixt them and me,
And be the wall to separate my heart
So that I may at length repose me free,
That peace and joy and rest may be within,
And I remain divided from my sin.

John Danyel (1564–1626)

Come, let us sound with melody the praises

Come, let us sound with melody the praises
Of the kings’ King, the Omnipotent Creator,
Author of number, that hath all the world in
Harmony framed.

Heaven is his throne, perpetually shining.
His divine power and glory thence he thunders,
One in all, and all still in one abiding,
Both Father and Son.

O sacred Sprite, invisible, eternal,
Everywhere, yet unlimited, that all things
Canst in one moment penetrate, revive me,
O holy Spirit.

Rescue, O rescue me from earthly darkness.
Banish hence all these elemental objects.
Guide my soul that fasts to the shining fountain
Of thy divineness.

Cleanse my soul, O God, thy bespotted image,
Altered with sin so that heavenly pureness
Cannot acknowledge me but in thy mercies,
O Father of grace.

But when once thy beams do remove my darkness,
O then I’ll shine forth as an angel of light,
And record with more than an earthly voice thy
Infinite honours.

Philip Rosseter (1567–1623)

I heard a noise and wishèd for a sight

I heard a noise and wishèd for a sight.
I looked aside and did a shadow see,
Whose substance was the sum of my delight;
It came unseen, and so it went from me.
But yet conceit persuaded my intent,
There was a substance where the shadow went.
I did not play Narcissus in conceit,
I did not see my shadow in a spring;
I knew my eyes were dimmed with no deceit,
I saw the shadow of some worthy thing;
For as I saw the shadow passing by,
I had a glance of something in my eye.
Shadow, or she, or both, or choose you whether,
Blest be the thing that brought the shadow hither.

Thomas Bateson (ca. 1570–1630)

The Spring of Joy is Dry

The spring of joy is dry
That ran into my heart;
And all my comforts fly.
My love and I must part.
Farewell, my love, I go,
If fate will have it so.
Yet to content us both
Return again, as doth
The shadow to the hour,
The bee unto the flower,
The fish unto the hook,
The cattle to the brook,
That we may sport our fill
And love continue still.

Martin Peerson (ca. 1571–1650)

Sweet Suffolk owl, so trimly dight

Sweet Suffolk owl, so trimly dight
With feathers like a lady bright,
Thou singest alone, sitting by night,
Te whit, te whoo, te whit, te whit.
Thy note, that forth so freely rolls,
With shrill command the mouse controls,
And sings a dirge for dying souls,
Te whit, te whoo, te whit, te whit.

Thomas Vautor (1579–1620)

How many new years have grown old

How many new years have grown old
Since first your servant old was new.
How many long hours have I told
Since first my love was vowed to you.
And yet, alas, she doth not know
Whether her servant love or no.

How many walls as white as snow,
And windows clear as any glass,
Have I conjured to tell you so,
Which faithfully performèd was.
And yet you’ll swear you do not know
Whether your servant love or no.

How often hath my pale lean face
With true characters of my love
Petitionèd to you for grace,
Whom neither sighs no tears can move.
O cruel, yet do you not know
Whether your servant love or no?

And wanting oft a better token,
I have been fain to send my heart,
Which now your cold disdain hath broken,
Nor can you heal’t by any art.
O look upon’t and you shall know
Whether your servant love or no.

Robert Jones (?–?)

Clear or cloudy, sweet as April showering

Clear or cloudy, sweet as April showering,
Smooth or frowning, so is her face to me.
Pleased or smiling, like mild May all flowering,
When skies blue silk, and meadows carpets be,
Her speeches, notes of that night bird that singeth,
Who thought all sweet, yet jarring notes out-ringeth.

Her grace like June, when earth and trees be trimmèd
In best attire of complete beauty’s heighth.
Her love again like summer’s days be-dimmèd
With little clouds of doubtful constant faith.
Her trust, her doubt, like rain and heat in skies
Gently thundering, she lightning to mine eyes,

Sweet summer-spring that breatheth life and growing
In weeds as into herbs and flowers,
And sees of service divers sorts in sowing,
Some haply seeming, and some being, yours;
Rain on your herbs and flowers that truly serve,
And let your weeds lack dew, and duly starve.


Pour le Luth d’une Demoiselle

Sy vostre main blanche et legere
Anime et donne au luth la voix,
Jugez ce qu’elle pourroit faire
D’un autre instrument que de bois.

Croyez, belle menestriere,
Pendant que vous avez le choix,
Remuer un peut le derriere
Et non pas si souvent les doigts.

Le luth pour un temps vous peut plaire,
Mais ce plaisir ne dure guiere,
Il ennuye et lasse par fois;

Mais un V[it] fais tous le contrare,
Car son entretien ordinaire,
Faict que les ans semblent des mois.

Anonymous, 1616

For the Lute of a Young Lady

If your delicate white hand
Can rouse the lute and give it voice,
Think what that hand could bring about
For an instrument not made of wood.

Believe me, beautiful musician,
While you still possess the choice,
Try moving your bottom a little more
And your fingers a little less.

The lute can amuse you for a while,
But the enjoyment doesn’t last,
After a bit it bores and tires.

But a p---k does just the reverse;
Its everyday mode of intercourse
Can make a year seem like a month.

Anonymous, published. 1616
Tr. JF

Le Luth

Pour le plus doux ebat que je puisse choisir,
Souvent, apres disner, craignant qu’il ne m’ennuye,
Je prens le manche en main, je le taste et manie,
Tant qu’il soit en estat de me donner plaisir.

Sur mon lict je me jette, et sans m’en dessaisir,
Je l’estrains de mes bras et sur moy je l’apuye,,
Et remuant bien fort, d’aise toute ravie,
Entre mille douceurs j’acomplis mon desir.

S’il avient par malheur, quelquefois qu’il se lasche
De la main je le dresse, et derechef, je tasche
A jouir du plaisir d’un si doux maniment:

Ainsi, mon bien aymé, tant que le nerf luy tire
Me contemple et me plaist, puis de luy doucement,
Lasse et non assouvie en fin je me retire.


Héliette de Vivonne (1558—1625)

The Lute

For the sweetest enjoyment that I can choose,
Often, after dinner, so as not to be bored,
I take hold of the stem and work upon it,
Bringing it to a state that will give me pleasure.

I throw myself on my bed, and, still gripping it,
Enfold it in my arms and press it to me;
And, moving it firmly with ravishing ease,
Among a thousand sweet sounds, I achieve my desire.

If, by mischance, at times it happens to slacken,
I tauten it with my fingers, and then, anew,
Enjoy the pleasure of such mellifluous handling.

And so my well-beloved, though highly strung,
Watches and pleasures me. Then softly from it,
Tired but not glutted, I finally withdraw.


Héliette de Vivonne (1558–1625)
Tr. JF.

The Goodwife’s Ale

When shall we meet again, and have a taste
Of that transcendent Ale we drank of last?
What wild ingredients did the woman choose
To mad her drink with all ; it made me lose
My wits before I quenched my thirst: there came
Such whimsies in my head, and such a flame
Of fiery drunkenness had singed my nose,
My beard shrunk in for fear. There were of those
That took me for a comet; some a far
Distance remote thought me a blazing star.
The earth methought just as it was it went
Round in a wheeling course of merriment.
My head was ever drooping, and my nose
Offering to be a suitor to my toes.
My mouth did stand awry just as it were
Lab’ring to whisper something in mine ear.
My pockholed face, they say, appeared to some
Most like a dry and burning honeycomb.
My tongue did swim in ale, and joyed to boast
Himself a better seaman than the toast.
My guts were mines of sulphur, and my set
Of parchéd teeth struck fire as they met.
Nay, when I pissed, my urine was so hot
It burnt a hole quite through the chamber-pot.
Each brewer that I met I kissed and made
Suitor to be apprentice to the trade.
One did approve the motion when he saw
That mine own legs did the indenture draw.
Well, Sir, I grew stark mad, as you may see
By this adventure upon poetry.
You easily may guess, I am not quite
Grown sober yet, by these poor lines I write.
I only do’t for this, that you may see
That though you paid for th’ale, yet it paid me.

Ben Jonson (ca. 1572–1637)

It fell on a summer’s day

It fell on a summer’s day,
While sweet Bessie sleeping lay
In her bower on her bed,
Light with curtains shadowéd
Jamie came, she him spies,
Opening half her heavy eyes.

Jamie stole in through the door;
She lay slumbering as before.
Softly to her he drew near;
She heard him, yet would not hear;
Bessie vowed not to speak;
He resolved that dump to break.

First a soft kiss he doth take,
She lay still and would not wake.
Then his hands learned to woo;
She dreamt not what he would do,
But still slept, while he smiled
To see love by sleep beguiled.

Jamie then began to play;
Bessie as one buried lay,
Gladly still, through this sleight,
Deceived in her own deceit;
And, since this trance began,
She sleeps every afternoon.

Thomas Campion (1567–1620)

Jack and Joan they think no ill

Jack and Joan they think no ill,
But loving live, and merry still;
Do their week-days’ work, and pray
Devoutly on the holy day:
Slip and trip it on the green
And help to choose the Summer Queen;
Lash out, at a country feast
Their silver penny with the best.

Well can they judge of nappy ale,
And tell at large a winter tale;
Climb up to the apple loft,
And turn the crabs till they be soft.
Tib is all the father’s joy,
And little Tom the mother’s boy.
All their pleasure is Content;
And care, to pay their yearly rent.

Joan can call by name her cows,
And deck her windows with green boughs;
She can wreaths and tuttyes make,
And trim with plums a bridal cake.
Jack knows what brings gain or loss;
And his long flail can stoutly toss:
Make the hedge, which others break;
And ever thinks what he doth speak.

Now, you courtly dames and knights
That study only strange delights;
Though you scorn the homespun gray,
And revel in your rich array;
Though your tongues dissemble deep,
And can your heads from danger keep;
Yet for all your pomp and train,
Securer lives the silly swain.

Thomas Campion (1567–1620)

A secret love or two, I must confess

A secret love or two, I must confess,
I kindly welcome for change in close playing:
Yet my dear husband I love nevertheless,
His desires, whole or half, quickly allaying,
At all times ready to offer redress.
His own he never wants, but hath it duly,
Yet twits me, I keep not touch with him truly.

The more a spring is drawn, the more it flows;
No Lamp less light retains by lighting others:
Is he a loser his loss that never knows?
Or is he wealthy that wast treasure smothers?
My churl vows no man shall sent his sweet Rose:
His own enough and more I give him duly,
Yet still he twits me, I keep not touch truly.

Wise Archers bear more then one shaft to field
The Venturer leads not with one ware his shipping:
Should Warrior learn but one weapon to wield?
Or thrive fair plants ear the worse for the slipping?
One dish cloys, many fresh appetite yield:
Mine own I’ll use, and his he shall have duly,
Judge then what debter can keep much more truly.

Thomas Campion (1567–1620)

wants>lacks; sent> smell; Venturer> merchant venturer;
slipping> “taking a slip from a plant for planting or grafting”
(Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th ed.)

To an Inconstant One

I loved thee once; I’ll love no more—
Thine be the grief as is the blame;
Thou art not what thou wast before,
What reason I should be the same?
He that can love unloved again,
Hath better store of love than brain:
God send me love my debts to pay,
While unthrifts fool their love away!

Nothing could have my love o’erthrown
If thou hadst still continued mine;
Yes, if thou hadst remained thy own,
I might perchance have yet been thine.
But thou thy freedom didst recall
That it thou might elsewhere enthrall
And then how could I but disdain
A captive’s captive to remain?

When new desires had conquered thee
And changed the object of thy will,
It had been lethargy in me,
Not constancy, to love thee still.
Yea, it had been a sin to go
And prostitute affection so;
Since we are taught no prayers to say
To such as must to others pray.

Yet do thou glory in thy choice—
Thy choice of his good fortune boast;
I’ll neither grieve nor yet rejoice
To see him gain what I have lost:
The height of my disdain shall be
To laugh at him, to blush for thee;
To love thee still, but go no more
A-begging at a beggar’s door.

Robert Ayton (1570–1638)

The Exercise of Affection

There is no worldly pleasure here below
Which by experience doth not folly prove,
But among all the follies that I know,
The sweetest folly in the world is love.

But not that passion, which by fool’s consent,
Above the reason bears imperious sway,
Making their lifetime a perpetual Lent,
As if a man were born to fast and pray.

No! that is not the humour I approve,
As either yielding pleasure or promotion;
I like a mild and lukewarm zeal in love,
Altho’ I do not like it in devotion.

For it hath no coherence in my creed,
To think that lovers die as they pretend:
If all that say they die, had died indeed,
Sure long ere now the world had had an end.

Besides, we need not love but if we please,
No destiny can force man’s disposition,
And how can any die of that disease,
Whereof himself may be his own physician?

But some seem so distracted of their wits,
That I would think it but a venial sin,
To take some of these innocents that sit
In Bedlam out, and put some lovers in.

Yet some men, rather than incur the slander
Of true apostates, will false martyrs prove;
But I am neither Iphis nor Leander,
I’ll neither drown or hang myself for love.

Methinks a wise man’s actions should be such
As always yield to reason’s best advice,
Now for to love too little, or too much,
Are both extremes, and all extremes are vice.

Yet have I been a lover by report,
Yea, I have died for love as others do,
But praised be God, it was in such a sort,
That I revived within an hour or two.

Thus have I lived, thus have I loved till now,
And found no reason to repent me yet,
And whosoever otherwise will do,
His courage is as little as his wit.

Robert Ayton (1570–1638)

Condensed Confession/ Abrégé de Confession

Since the seven sins of the eyes
Bar the way that leads to Heaven,
Reverend Father, I promise you
To abominate them in every way,
Just so I don’t encounter any
Impatience and lasciviousness.

Those two come naturally to me:
Neither castigation, nor laws,
Nor noble words can hold me back
And when a simple-souled repentance
Would like to turn me away from them
My nature makes it impossible.

I’ve done my best to avoid them both
By saying over my Paternosters
And reading in the Holy Book
But in the midst of all my struggles
Comforters whisper in my ear
That actually they’re perfectly normal.

It isn’t God who’s listed them
Among the ranks of our enemies;
Some second Pandora has been at work
Who, wanting to torment mankind,
Has spread that calumny about Him
With her own mischief-making hands.

For I don’t know any Augustinian,
Or Carmelite, or Celestine,
However firm and full of zeal,
However perfect in devotion,
Who, when out in the real world,
Could honour so severe a law.

So please arrange it, as I’ve said,
That I can be given proper credit
So as to be pure of conscience
Like the blessed Saints of old,
And eliminate from that rigid list
Impatience and lasciviousness.

Mathurin Regnier (1573–1613)
Tr. JF

Stances ou une Dame Parle

J’ayme bien ces pourtraits au blanc d’une muraille,
Dont seulement l’object esmeut nos appetits,
Mais je ris de ces fous, o la grande canaille
Qui les peignent si grands et les ont si petits.

Ils veulent par l’objet d’une feinte peinture,
Faire courre apres eux, mais ils en sont bien loing;
Nos C[ons] ne suyvent pas de façon la nature:
Ils ne vont point au lievre, ils sont oiseaux de poing.

Quelque faim qui les presse en leur humeur gourmande,
L’oyseau n’est pas niais, il cognoist son gibier;
Il faut qu’il voye un poing bien garny de viande,
Si l’on veut qu’il s’abbate et rende familier.

Les C[ons] et les autou ont ceste ressemblance
Qu’ils se paissent du cru, et au vif ils vont tous;
Ensemble, leur nature a ceste difference
Que l’un fond sur la proye, et l’autre fond dessous.

Louise-Marguerite de Lorraine, Princesse de Conty (1588–1631)

Stanzas in Which a Lady Speaks

I’m fond of those portraits drawn on whitewashed walls
In which the things are the centre of attention,
But I laugh at those idiots, oh that riff-raff,
Who make them huge, their own being so small.

They’re hoping that the thing in a lying picture
Will make us run after them, but they’re so wrong.
Our cunts don’t follow naturally behind
They don’t behave like hares; they’re hunting-birds.

Driven by some craving in their natures,
The bird isn’t naive, it knows its prey.
It has to see a fist well stuffed with meat
If you want it to drop down and be sociable.

Cunts and goshawks both have this in common,
They require real flesh, and hunger after more.
There’s also this difference between the two,
One pounces on its prey, the other melts beneath it.

Louise-Marguerite de Lorraine, Princesse de Conty (1588–1631)
Tr. JF

Tom o’ Bedlam’s Song

From the hagg and hungrie goblin
That into raggs would rend ye,
And the spirit that stands by the naked man
In the Book of Moones defend ye,
That of your five sounde sences
You never be forsaken,
Nor wander from your selves with Tom
Abroad to begg your bacon.

While I doe sing Any foode, any feeding,
Feedinge, drinke or clothing
Come dame or maid, be not afraid,
Poor Tom will injure nothing.

Of thirty bare years have I
Twice twenty bin enraged,
And of forty bin three tymes fifteene
In durance soundlie caged
On the lordlie loftes of Bedlam,
With stubble softe and dainty,
Brave bracelets strong, sweet whips ding dong,
With wholesome hunger plenty.
And now I sing, etc.

With a thought I tooke for Maudlin,
And a crust of cockle pottage,
With a thing thus tall, skie blesse you all,
I befell into this dotage.
I slept not since the Conquest,
Till then I never waked,
Till the rogysh boy of love where I lay
Mee found and strip’t me naked.
And nowe I sing, etc.

When I short have shorne my sow’s face
And swigg’d my horny barrel,
In an oaken inne I pound my skin
As a suite of guilt apparel.
The moon’s my constant Mistresse,
And the lowlie owle my marrowe,
The flaming Drake and the Nightcrowe make
Mee musicke to my sorrowe.
While I doe sing, etc.

The palsie plagues my pulses
When I prigg your pigs or pullen,
Your culvers take, or matchless make
Your Chanticleare, or Sullen.
When I want provant, with Humfrie
I sup, and when benighted,
I repose in Powles with waking soules
Yet never am affrighted
But I doe sing, etc.

I know more than Apollo,
For oft, when he lys sleeping,
I see the starres att bloudie warres
In the wounded welkin weeping;
The moone embrace her shepheard,
And the queen of Love her warrior,
While the first doth horne the star of morne,
And the next the heavenly Farrier.
While I doe sing, etc.

The Gipsie Snap and Pedro
Are none of Tom’s comradoes,
The punk I skorne and the cut purse sworn
And the roaring boyes bravadoe.
The meeke, the white, the gentle,
Me handle touch and spare not
But those that crosse Tom Rynosseros
Doe what the panther dare not
Although I sing, etc.

With an host of furious fancies,
Whereof I am commander,
With a burning speare, and a horse of aire,
To the wilderness I wander.
By a knight of ghostes and shadowes
I summon’d am t tourney
Ten leagues beyond the wide world’s end
Me thinke it is noe journey.
Yet will I sing etc.


Sir Walter Rauleigh his lamentation:
Who was beheaded in the old Pallace at West-
minster the 29. of October, 1618.

To the tune of Welladay.

See Note.

Courteous kind Gallants all,
pittie me, pittie me,
My time is now but small,
here to continue:
Thousands of people stay,
To see my dying day,
Sing I then welladay,
woefully mourning.

Once in a gallant sort
lived I, lived I,
Belov’d in Englands court
graced with honours:
Sir Walter Rauleighs name
Had then a noble fame:
Though turned now to shame
through my misdoing.

In youth I was too free
of my will, of my will,
Which now deceiveth me
of my best fortunes:
All that same gallant traine
Which I did then maintaine,
Holds me now in disdaine
For my vaine folly.

When as Queene Elizabeth
Ruld this land, ruld this land,
I trode the honord path
of a brave Courtier;
Offices I had store,
Heapt on me more and more,
And my selfe I in them bore
proud and commanding.

Gone are those golden dayes,
woe is me woe is me:
Offences many waies
brought unto triall,
Shewes that disloyaltie
Done to his Majestie,
Judgeth me thus to dye;
Lord for thy pitie.

But the good graces here
of my King, of my King,
Shewd to me many a years
makes my soule happie
In that his royall Grace
Gave me both time and space
Repentance to embrace:
now heaven be praised.

Thirteene yeare in the Tower
have I lien, have I lien,
Before this appointed houre
of my lifes ending:
Likewise such libertie
Had I unluckily,
To be sent gallantly
out on a voyage.

But that same voyage then
prov’d amiss, prov’d amiss,
Many good gentlemen
lost their good fortunes:
All that with me did goe
Had sudden overthrowe
My wicked wil to shew
gainst my deere Countrey.

When I returned backe,
hoping grace, hoping grace,
The Tower againe alack
was my abiding
Where for offences past,
My life againe was cast
Woe on woe followed fast
to my confusion.

It pleas’d my royall King
thus to doe, thus to doe,
That his peeres should me bring
to my lifes judgment.
The Lieutenant of the Tower
Kept me fast in his power
Till the appointed houre
of my removing.

The Second Part

To Westminster then was I
garded strong, garded strong
Where many a wandring eye
saw me convayed
Where I a Judgment had,
For my offences bad,
Which was to loose my head,
there the next morning.

So to the Gatehouse there,
was I sent, was I sent,
By knights and Gentlemen,
guarding me safely,
Where all that wofull night,
My heart tooke no delight:
Such is the heavie plight
of a poore prisoner.

Calling then to my mind,
all my joyes, all my joyes,
Whereto I was inclind,
living in pleasures:
All those dayes past and gone,
Brings me now care and mone,
Being thus overthrowne,
by mine owne folly.

When the sad morning came
I should die, I should die:
O what a fright of shame
filld up my bosome:
My heart did almost breake,
When I heard people speake,
I shold my ending make
as a vile traitor.

I thought my fortune hard,
when I saw, when I saw
In the faire palace yard
a scaffold prepared
My loathed life to end:
On which I did ascend,
Having at all no friend
there to grant mercy.

Kneeling downe on my knee,
willingly, willingly,
Pray’d for his Majestie
long to continue:
And for his Nobles all,
With subjects great and small,
Let this my wofull fall
be a fit warning.

And you that hither come
thus to see, thus to see
My most unhappy doome:
pittie my ending.
A Christian true I die:
Papestrie I defie,
Nor never Atheist I
as is reported.

You Lords & knights also
in this place, in this place
Some gentle love bestow,
pity my falling:
As I rose suddenly
Up to great dignities,
So I deservedly
die for my folly.

Farewell my loving wife,
woe is me, woe is me:
Mournefull will be thy life,
left a sad widow.
Farewell my children sweet,
We never more shall meet
Till we each other greet,
blessed in heaven.

With this my dying knell
willingly, willingly,
Bid I the world farewell
full of vaine shadowes
All her deluding showes
Brings my heart naught but woes
Who rightly feeles and knows
all her deceivings.

Thus with my dying breath
doe I kiss, doe I kiss
This axe that for my death
here is provided:
May I feele little paine,
When as it cuts in twaine
What my life must sustaine,
all her deceivings.

My head on block is laid,
and my last part is plaid:
Fortune hath me betraid,
sweet Jesus grant mercy.
Thou that my headsman art,
When thou list, when thou list,
Without feare doe thy part,
I am prepared:

Thus here my end I take
farewell world, farewell world,
And my last will I make,
climing to heaven:
For this my offence,
I die with true penitence,
Jesus receive me hence:
farewell sweet England.

Anonymous (1618)

Je songeois que Phyllis des enfers revenue

Je songeois que Phyllis des enfers revenue,
Belle comme elle estoit à la clarté du jour,
Vouloit que son phantosme encore fit l’amour
Et que comme Ixion, j’embrassasse une nue.

Son ombre dans mon lict se glissa toute nue
Et me dit, cher Thyrsis, me voicy de retour,
Je n’ay fait qu’embellir en ce triste sejour
Ou depuis ton despart le sort m’a retenue

Je viens pour rebaisser le plus beau des Amants,
Je viens pour remourir dans tes embrassements.
Alors quand cette idole eut abusé ma flamme,

Elle me dit: Adieu, je m’en vay chez les morts,
Comme tu tes vanté d’avoir foutu mon corps,
Tu te pourras vanter d’avoir foutu mon ame.

Théophile de Viau (1590–1626)

I dreamed that Phyllis, returning from the shades

I dreamed that Phyllis, returning from the shades,
As beautful as she’d been by the light of day,
Wanted her phantom to make love again,
With me, like Ixion, coupling with a cloud.

Her spirit glided into my bed, stark naked,
And said, “Dear Thyrsis, here I am again,
I’ve only become lovelier in that gloomy place
Where fate detained me after you had left me.

I’ve come to make love again to the loveliest lover,
I’ve come to die again in your embraces.”
Finally, when the adored had consumed my fire,

She said, “I’m off, I’m returning to the dead,
And you who boasted of having fucked my body,
Can boast, now, of having fucked my soul.”

Théophile de Viau (1590–1626) Tr. JF


When you see me kissing your arms,
Laid there naked on the sheets,
And whiter than the linen itself;
When you feel my burning hand
Wandering upon your breasts,
Cloris, you well know I love you

Like the faithful gazing heavenward,
With my eyes turned towards your eyes,
Upon my knees beside your bed,
Urged on by a thousand burning thoughts,
I keep my mouth shut and allow
My pleasures to sleep on with you.

Sleep, happy to have you there,
Prevents your eyes from seeing mine
And keeps you under its dominion,
Allowing you so little freedom
That, brought to a full stop, your spirit,
Neither murmurs nor draws breath.

The rose dispensing its perfume,
The sun distributing its warmth,
Diana behind her night-sky horses
A Naiade floating in the water,
And the Graces in a painting,
Make more noise than does your breath.

So here I’m breathing next to you
And wondering how it comes about
That your eyes so sweetly rest.
I cry, O Heaven, how so lightly
Can you from such a lovely creature
Create in me so cruel a hurt?

Théophile de Viau (1590–1626) Tr. JF

Un corbeau devant moi croasse

Un corbeau devant moi croasse,
Une ombre offusque mes regards,
Deux bellettes, et deux renards
Traversent l’endroit où je passe:
Les pieds faillent à mon cheval,
Mon laquay tombe de haut mal,
J’entends craqueter le tonnerre,
Un espirit se presente à moy,
J’oy Charon qui m’appelle à soy,
Je voy le centre de la Terre.

Ce ruisseau remonte en sa source,
Un boeuf gravit sur un clocher,
Le sang coule de ce rocher
Un aspic s’accouple d’une ourse,
Sur le haut d’une vieille tour
Un serpent dechire un vautour,
Le feu brusle dedans le glace,
Le Soleil est devenu noir,
Je voy la Lune qui va choir,
Cet arbre est sorty de sa place.

Théophile de Viau (1590–1626)

A raven croaks ahead of me

A raven croaks ahead of me,
A shadow falls across the scene,
Two weasels and a pair of foxes
Cross the space through which I’m passing;
My horse’s steps become uncertain,
My footman takes a nasty fall,
I listen to the thunder crackling,
A specter shows itself to me,
The voice of Charon summons me,
I see the centre of the Earth.

That stream’s returning to its source,
An ox is climbing up a steeple,
Blood is flowing from this rock,
A viper couples with a bear.
On the top of an old tower
A serpent lacerates a vulture;
Fire is burning in the ice,
The Sun has darkened in the sky
The Moon is just about to fall
That tree has left its normal spot.

Théophile de Viau (1590–1626) Tr. JF


Phyllis, tout est foutu, je meurs de la verole,
Elle exerce sur moy sa derniere rigueur;
Mon Vit baisse la teste et n’a point de vigueur,
Un ulcere puant a gasté ma parole.

J’ay sué trante jours, j’ai vomy de la colle;
Jamais de si grands maux n’eurent tant de longueur;
L’esprit le plus constant fust mort à ma langueur,
Et mon affliction n’a rien qui la consolle.

Mes amis plus secretz ne m’osent approcher;
Moy-mesme, en cet estat, je ne m’ose toucher.
Philis, le mal me vient de vous avoir foutue!

Mon Dieu! Je me repans d’avoir si mal vescu,
Et si votre courroux à ce coup ne me tue,
Je fais voeu desormais de ne foutre qu’en cu!

Théophile de Viau (1590–1626)


Phyllis, everything’s fucked. I’ve got the pox.
It’s turning all its deadly force against me:
My cock hangs down without a trace of life.
My speech is garbled by a stinking ulcer.

Thirty days in the sweatbox, vomiting muck!
Never have such pains dragged on so long.
The strongest mind couldn’t survive this languor,
And absolutely nothing comforts me.

My closest friends don’t dare approach me now.
I don’t dare touch myself in this condition.
Phyllis, this all comes from having screwed you.

O Lord, I’m sorry for my rotten life,
And if this time your fury doesn’t slay me,
I solemnly swear to only do ass-fuckng.

Théophile de Viau (1590–1626)
Tr. JF

In a sweatbox, heated mercury gave off supposedly curative fumes.

This poem contributed to Viau’s spending two years in prison, from which he died, and being burned in effigy at the stake in absentia.


On m’a dit que ma soeur chevauche;
J’ai faict rencontre d’un sergent;
Je viens de perdre mon argent
Et j’ai veu le croissant à gauche.
Que nos jours ont un mauvais sort;
Que ma planette et mal logée;
Que la fortune est enragee
De me persecuter si fort!
Je me fasche et me plains de tout;
Tout me deplaist, tout m’importune
Ventrebleu! le destin me fout,
J’enrage contre ma fortune!
Je pisse du verre et du feu;
Je ne crache que de la colle,
Je n’ay presque plus un cheveu;
J’ay la peste! J’ay la verolle!
Le gravelle me tient aux reins;
Je ne trouve plus qui me foute,
Et la saincte ampoulle de Rheims
Tariroit plustost que ma goutte.
Je n’ayme ni lutz ni chansons;
L’on ne me voit point rire aux farces,
Foutre des culs et des garçons!
Maugrebieu des cons et des garces!
A cinquante ans un homme est mort;
Aucun bien presque ne nous dure.
Par Dieu! les destins nous font tort;
Foutre d’eux et de la nature
Je n’attends secours d’aucun lieu;
Mon malheur est insatiable;
Les hommes m’envoyent à Dieu;
Qui m’assiste autant que le diable.
Vaines ombres de l’Achéron,
Larves, démons, rivages sombre
Pétrone, Arétin, Maugiron,
A grand peine êtes vous des ombres!

Théophile de Viau (1590–1626)


They say my sister rides on top;
I’ve had a run-in with the Law;
My money’s just gone down the drain,
And now I see the moon is waning.
Our days are going nowhere fast;
My planet’s in an unlucky house;
Fortune must really hate my guts
To persecute me as it does.
I’m mad and constantly complaining;
Everything sucks, everything’s trouble.
Fuck it, destiny’s screwing me.
I’m mad as hell about my fate.
I’m pissing broken glass and fire;
I only spit the thickest mucus;
I’ve almost gone completely bald;
I’ve got the plague! I’ve got the pox!
My kidneys are filled up with stones;
I can’t find anyone to fuck;
The sacred oil in Rheims Cathedral
Will dry up sooner than my gout.
I get no joy from lute or song;
I don’t find any farces funny.
To hell with boys, to hell with arses!
Curses on trollops and their cunts!
A man at fifty’s all washed up;
Virtually nothing good remains.
Christ but the fates are screwing us;
To hell with them, to hell with nature.
Help won’t arrive from anywhere;
My rotten luck’s insatiable;
Men try to steer me towards God,
Who’s no more useful than the Devil.
Empty shades of Acheron,
Phantoms, demons, gloomy shores,
Petrone, Arétin, Maugiron,
Are nothing more for me than shadows.

Théophile de Viau (1590–1626)
Tr. JF

Gaius Petronius Arbiter (ca.27–66 AD), hedonistic alleged author of the Satyricon.

Pietro Aretino (1492–1556), bisexual satirist, playwright, erotic poet.

Louis de Maugiron (1560–1578), one of the court “darlings” of Henri III.

A Psalm or Hymn to the Graces

Glory be to the Graces!
That do in public places
Drive thence whate’er encumbers
The listening to my numbers.

Honour be to the Graces!
Who do with sweet embraces,
Show they are well contented
With what I have invented.

Worship be to the Graces!
Who do from sour faces,
And lungs that would infect me,
For evermore protect me.

Robert Herrick (1591–1674)

The White Island; or Place of the Blest

In this world (the Isle of Dreames)
While we sit by sorrowes streames,
Teares and terrors are our theames

But when once from hence we flie,
More and more approaching nigh
Unto young Eternitie

In that whiter Island, where
Things are evermore sincere;
Candor here, and lustre there

There no monstrous fancies shall
Out of hell an horrour call,
To create (or cause at all)

There in calm and cooling sleep
We our eyes shall never steep;
But eternal watch shall keep,

Pleasures, such as shall pursue
Me immortaliz’d, and you;
And fresh joyes, as never to
Have ending.

Robert Herrick (1591–1674)

Why dost thou shade thy lovely face

Why dost thou shade thy lovely face? O why
Does that eclipsing hand of thine deny
The sunshine of thy soul-enliv’ning eye?

Without thy light, what light remains in me?
Thou art my life, my way; my light; in thee;
I live, I move, and by thy beams I see.

Thou art my life; if thou but turn away
My life’s a thousand deaths; thou art my way;
Without thee, Lord, I travel not but stray.

My light thou art; without thy glorious sight
My eyes are darken’d with eternal night;
My God, thou art my way, my life, my light.

Thou art my way; I wander if thou fly;
Thou art my light; if hid, how blind am I;
Thou art my light, if thou withdraw I die.

Mine eyes are blind and dark, I cannot see;
To whom or whither should my darkness flee,
But to that light, and who’s that light but thee?

My path is lost, my wand’ring steps do stray;
I cannot safely go, nor safely stay;
Whom should I seek but thee, my path, my way?

Oh, I am dead; to whom shall I, poor I,
Repair? to whom shall my sad ashes fly,
But life? And where is life but in thine eye?

And yet thou turn’st thy face away and fly’st me;
And yet I sue for grace and thou deny’st me;
Speak, art thou angry, Lord, or only try’st me?

Unscreen those heavenly lamps, or tell me why
Thou shad’st thy face; perhaps thou think’st no eye
Can view their flames, and not drop down and die.

If that be all, shine forth and draw thee nigher,
Let me be bold and die, for my desire,
Is phoenix-like to perish in that fire.

Death-conquer’d Laz’rus was redeem’d by thee;
If I am dead, Lord, set death’s prisoner free;
Am I more spent, or stink I worse than he?

If my puff’d life be out, give leave to tine
My shameless snuff at that bright lamp of thine;
Oh! what’s thy light the less for lighting mine?

If I have lost my path, great Shepherd, say
Shall I still wander in a doubtful way?
Lord, shall a lamb of Israel’s sheep-fold stray?

Thou art the pilgrim’s path, the blind man’s eye,
The dead man’s life; on thee my hopes rely;
If thou remove, I err, I grope, I die.

Dissolve thy sun beams; close thy wings, and stay;
See, see how I am blind, and dead, and stray,
Oh thou, that art my life, my light, my way.

Then work thy will; if passion bid me flee,
My reason shall obey, my wings shall be
Stretched out no further than from me to thee

Francis Quarles (1592–1644)

An Old Souldier of the Queen

Of an old Souldier of the Queens,
With an old motley coat, and a Maumsie nose,
And an old Jerkin that’s out at the elbows,
And an old pair of boots, drawn on without hose
Stuft with rags instead of toes;
And an old Souldier of the Queens,
And the Queen’s old Souldier.

With an old rusty sword that’s hackt with blows,
And an old dagger to scare away the crows,
And an old horse that reels as he goes,
And an old saddle that no man knows,
And an old Souldier of the Queens,
And the Queens old Souldier.

With his old wound in Eighty-Eight,
Which he recover’d at Tilbury fight;
With an old Pasport that never was read,
That in his old travels stood him in great stead;
And an old Souldier of the Queens,
And the Queens old Souldier.

With his old Gun, and his Bandeliers,
And an old head-piece to keep warm his ears,
With an old shirt is grown to wrack,
With a hugr Louse, with a great list on his back,
Is able to carry a Pedlar and his Pack;
And an old Souldier of the Queens,
And the Queens old Souldier.

With an old Quean to lie by his side,
That in old time had been pockifi’d;
He’s now rid to Bohemia to fight with his foes,
And he swears by his Valour he’ll have better cloaths
Or else he’ll lose legs, arms, fingers, and toes,
And he’ll come again, when no man knows,
And an old Souldier of the Queens,
And the Queens old Souldier.

Maumsie> Malmsey


Contre Son V[it]

Je ne puis plus bander le jour;
La nuit, des misteres d’amour
Je me trouve un peu plus capable;
Je pourois fournir au deduit.
Mon V[it] aux esprits est semblable:
Il ne revient plus que le nuit.

Pauvre V[it] à la teste basse,
Pauvre V[it] sans force ni grace,
Est-ce toy sous qui ma Chloris
Alla si souvent à Courbette?
Est-ce toy que la jeune Iris
Baisa tant de fois à pincette?

Quelle triste mine fais-tu?
Pauvre Priape sans vertu,
Te voila bien melancholique!
Pour flater ton sort inhumain,
Puisses tu trouver une main
Que daigne te branler la pique.

ca. 1650

François de Maucroix (1619–1708)

To His P---k

I’m no good any more by day;
At night, with its mysteries of love,
I feel a bit more competent.
I could still give a little pleasure.
My prick is similar to ghosts;
It only reappears by night.

Poor penis, with its drooping head,
Poor penis, without strength or grace,
Was it beneath you that my Chloris
Thrust herself so often upwards
Was it you that the young Iris
Gripped inside herself like tongs?

What a sad showing you make now,
Priapus with the essence gone,
And such a melancholy air.
To ease your wretched lot a little,
Maybe you can find a hand
Willing to massage your head.

ca. 1650

François de Maucroix (1619–1708)
Tr. JF

A Prognostication on Will Laud, late Archbishop of Canterbury

My little lord, methinks ’tis strange,
That you should suffer such a change,
In such a little space.
You that so proudly t’other day,
Did rule the king, and country sway,
Must budge to ’nother place.

Remember now from whence you came,
And that your grandsires of your name,
Were dressers of old cloth.
Go, bid the dead men bring their shears,
And dress your coat to save your ears,
Or pawn your head for both.

The wind shakes cedars that are tall,
An haughty mind must have a fall,
You are but low I see;
And good it had been for you still,
If both your body, mind, and will,
In equal shape should be.

The king by heark’ning to your charms,
Hugg’d our destruction in his arms,
And gates to foes did ope;
Your staff would strike his cepter down,
Your mitre would o’ertop the crown,
If you should be a Pope.

But you that did so firmly stand,
To bring in Popery in this land,
Have miss’d your hellish aim;
Your saints fall down, your angels fly,
Your crosses on yourself do lie,
Your craft will be your shame.

We scorn that Popes with crozier staves,
Mitres or keys, should make us slaves,
And to their feet to bend:
The Pope and his malicious crew,
We hope to handle all, like you,
And bring them to an end.

The silenc’d clergy, void of fear,
In your damnation will bear share,
And speak their mind at large:
Your cheese-cake cap and magpie gown,
That make such strife in every town,
Must now defray your charge.

Within this six year six ears have
Been cropped off worthy men and grave,
For speaking what was true;
But if your subtle head and ears
Can satisfy those six of theirs,
Expect but what’s your due.

Poor people that have felt your rod,
Yield laud to the Devil, praise to God,
For freeing them from thrall;
Your little grace, for want of grace,
Must lose your patriarchal place,
And have no grace at all.

Your white lawn sleeves that were the wings
Whereon you soared to lofty things,
Must be your fins to swim;
Th’Archbishop’s see by Thames must go,
With him into the Tower below,
There to be rack’d like him.

Your oath cuts deep, your lies hurt sore,
You canons made Scot’s cannon roar,
But now I hope you’ll find,
That there are cannons in the Tower,
Will quickly batter down your power,
And sink your haughty mind.

The commonalty have made a vow,
No oath, no canons to allow,
No Bishop’s Common Prayer;
No lazy prelates that shall spend
Such great revenues to no end,
But virtue to impair.

Dumb dogs that wallow in such store,
That would suffice above a score
Pastors of upright will;
Now they’ll make all the bishops teach,
And you must in the pulpit preach,
That stands on Tower Hill.

When the young lads to you did come,
You knew their meaning by the drum,
You had better yielded then;
Your heart and body then might have
One death, one burial, and one grave,
By boys—but two by men.

But you that by your judgments clear
Will make five quarters in a year
And hang them on the gates,
That head shall stand upon the bridge,
When yours shall under Traitors trudge,
And smile on your miss’d pates.

The little Wren that soar’d so high
Thought on his wings away to fly,
Like Finch, I know not whither;
But now the subtle whirly-Wind-
Debanke hath left the bird behind,
You two must flock together.

A bishop’s head, a deputy’s breast,
A Finch’s tongue, a Wren from’s nest,
Will set the Devil on foot;
He’s like to have a dainty dish,
At once both flesh and fowl and fish,
And Duck and Lamb to boot.

But this I say, that your lewd life
Did fill both Church and State with strife,
And trample on the Crown;
Like a bless’d martyr you will die
For Church’s good; she rises high,
When such as you fall down.


A Prayer

Eternal reason, glorious majesty,
Compared to whom what can be said to be?
Whose attributes are thee, who art alone
Cause of all various things, and yet but one;
Whose essence can no more be searched by man,
Than Heaven thy throne be graspéd with a span.
Yet is this great creation was designed
To several ends fitted for ev’ry kind;
Sure man (the world’s epitome) must be
Formed to the best, that is, to study thee.
And as our dignity, ‘tis duty too,
Which is formed up in this, to know and do.
These comely rows of creatures spell thy name,
Whereby we grope to find from whence they came,
By thy own chain of causes brought to think
There must be one, then find that highest link.
Thus all created excellence we see
Is a resemblance faint and dark of thee.
Such shadows are produced by the moon-beams
Of trees or houses in the running streams.
Yet by impressions born with us we find
How good, great, just thou art, how unconfined.
Here we are swallowed up and gladly dwell,
Safely adoring what we cannot tell.
All we know is, thou art supremely good,
And dost delight to be so understood;
A spicy mountain on the universe,
On which thy richest odours do disperse.
But as the sea to fill a vessel heaves
More greedily than any cask receives,
Besieging round to find some gap in it,
Which will a new infusion admit:
So dost thou covet that thou may’st dispense
Upon the empty world thy influence;
Lov’st to disburse thy self in kindness: Thus
The king of kings waits to be gracious.
On this account, O God, enlarge my heart
To entertain what thou wouldst fain impart.
Nor let that soul, by several titles thine,
And most capacious formed for things divine,
(So nobly meant, that when it most doth miss,
‘Tis in mistaken pantings after bliss)
Degrade itself in sordid things delight,
Or by profaner mixtures lose its right.
Oh! that with first unbroken thoughts it may
Admire the light which does obscure the day.
And since ‘tis angels work it hath to do,
May its components be like angels too.
When shall these clogs of sense and fancy break,
That I may hear the God within me speak,
When with a silent and retired Art
Shall I with all this empty hurry part?
To the still voice above, my soul, advance;
My light and joy placed in his countenance.
By whose dispence my soul to such frame brought,
May tame each treach’rous, fix each scatt’ring thought;
With such distinctions all things here behold,
And so to separate each dross from gold,
That nothing my free soul may satisfy,
But t’imitate, enjoy, and study thee.

Katherine Philips (1631–1664)

To Mrs. Mary Awbrey

Soul of my soul, my joy, my crown, my friend,
A name which all the rest doth comprehend,
How happy are we now, whose souls are grown
By an incomparable mixture one:
Whose well-acquainted minds are now as near
As love, or vows, or friendship can endear?
I have no thought but what’s to thee revealed,
Nor thou desire that is from me concealed.
Thy heart locks up my secrets richly set,
And my breast is thy private cabinet.
Thou find’st no tear but what my moisture lent,
And if I sigh, it is thy breath is spent.
United thus, what horror can appear
Worthy our sorrow, anger, or our fear?
Let the dull world alone to talk and fight,
And with their vast ambitions Nature fright;
Let them despise so innocent a flame,
While envy, pride and faction play their game:
But we by love sublimed so high shall rise,
To pity kings, and conquerors despise,’
Since we that sacred union have engrssed
Which they and all the factious world have lost.

Katherine Philips (1631–1664)

Wiston Vault

And why this vault and tomb? alike we must
Put off distinction, and put on our dust.
Nor can the stateliest fabric help to save
From the corruption of a common grave;
Nor for the resurrection more prepare,
Than if the dust were scattered into air.
What then? Th’ambition’s just, say some, that we
May thus perpetuate our memory.
Ah false vain task of art! ah poor weak man!
Whose monument does more than’s merit can:
Why by his friends’ best care and love’s abused,
And in his very epitaph accused:
For did they not suspect his name would fall,
There would not need an epitaph at all.
But after death too I would be alive,
And shall, if my Lucasia do, survive.
I quit these pomps of death, and am content,
Having her heart to be my monument:
Though ne’er stone to me, ‘twill stone for me prove,
By the peculiar miracle of love.
There I’ll inscription have which no tomb gives,
Not, Here Orinda lies, but, Here she lives.

Katherine Philips (1631–1664)

Orinda to Lucasia


Observe the weary birds, e’er night be done,
How they would fain call up the tardy sun:
With feathers hung with dew
And trembling voices too,
They court their glorious planet to appear,
That they may find recruits of spirits there.
The drooping flowers hang their heads,
And languish down into their beds:
While brooks more bold and fierce than they,
Wanting those beams, from whence
All things drink influence,
Openly murmur, and demand the day.


Thou my Lucasia are for more to me,
Than he to all the under-world can be;
From thee I’ve heat and light,
Thy absence makes my night.
But ah! my friend, it now grows very long,
The sadness weighty, and the darkness strong:
My tears (its dew) dwell on my cheeks,
And still my heart thy dawning seeks,
And to thee mournfully it cries,
That if too long I wait,
E’en thou may’st come too late,
And not restore my life, but close my eyes.

Katherine Philips (1631–1664)

The Salutation

These little limbs,
These eyes and hand which here I find,
This panting heart wherewith my life begins,
Where have ye been? Behind
What curtain were ye from me hid so long?
Where was, in what abyss, my new-made tongue?

When silent I
So many thousand thousand years
Beneath the dust did in a chaos lie,
How could I, smiles or tears,
Or lips or hands or eyes or ears, perceive?
Welcome ye treasures which I now receive.

I that so long
Was nothing from eternity,
Did little think such joys as ear or tongue
To celebrate or see;
Such sounds to hear, such hands to feel, such feet,
Such eyes and objects, on the ground to meet.

New burnished joys
Which finest gold and pearl excel!
Such sacred treasures are the limbs of boys,
In which a soul doth dwell;
Their organizéd joints and azure veins
More wealth include than the dead world contains.

From dust I rise,
And out of nothing now awake;
These brighter regions which saluye mine eyes,
A gift from God I take.
The earth, the sea, the light, the lofty skies,
The sun and stars are mine; if these I prize.

A stranger here
Strange things doth meet, strange glory see;
Strange treasures lodged in this fair world appear,
Strange all and new to me;
But that they mine should be, who nothing was,
That strangest is of all, yet brought to pass.

Thomas Traherne (1637?–1674)

The Poor Client’s Complaint

Done out of BUCHANAN.

Colin, by Promise, being oblig’d to pay
Me such a Sum, betwixt and such a Day:
I ask’d it, he refus’d it. I addrest
Aulus the Lawyer: He reply’d, It’s best
To sue him at the Law, I’ll make him Debtor;
Your Cause is good, there cannot be a better.
Being thus advis’d, away to Pete I trudge,
Pray him, & pay him to bespeak the Judge.
Engag’d thus far, be’t better, be it worse,
I must proceed, and thus I do dispurse,
For writing Summons, signing, signeting
With a red Plaister and a Paper Ring;
For summoning the Principal, and then
For citing Witnesses to say, Amen;
For Execution (alias Indorsations)
For Tabling, Calling with Continuations;
Next for consulting Aulus and his Man,
(For he must be consulted now and then)
For Pleading in the Outter house and Inner
From Ten to Twelve, then Aulus goes to Dinner;
For writing Bills, for reading them, for Answers
More dubious than those of Necromancers;
For Interlocutors, for little Acts;
For large Decreet, and their as large Extracts,
For Hornings, for discussing of Suspensions,
Full stuff’d with Lies & frivolous Pretentions;
For Please your Lordships, & such like Petitions;
For raising and for serving Inhibitions;
And for Comprisings or Adjudications,
For their Allowances for Registration,
And many, many, many other Ations,
Which may be sum’d up in one Word Vexations.
Then unexpectedly, upon a small
Defect alleg’d, Colin reduces all.
We to’t again, and Aulus doth disjoint
The Process, and debates it Point by Point.
The Cause at length’s concluded, but not ended.
That made me wonder! Aulus he pretended,
Decreets must not be given out at Random,
But must abide a serious Avisandum,
Conform to Course of Roll; when that will be,
Indeed I cannot tell, nor yet can he.
Thus Aulus hath for Ten Years Space extended
Vast Sums, and further more I have expended
Vast Sum, to wit, for washing, Lodging, Diet,
Yet seldom did I sleep or eat in Queit.
For Coal, for Candle, Paper, Pen and Ink,
And such like Things, which truly one would think,
Were insignificant, but yet they’re come
In Ten Years Space unto a pretty Sum.
To Macers, Turn keys, Agents, Catchpoles, Petes,
Servants, Sub-servants, petty Foggers, Cheats;
For Morning-Drinks, Four-hours, half Gils at Noon,
To fit their Stomacks for the Fork and Spoon,
To which they go; but I poor Man, mean while,
Slip quietly to th’Earl of Murray’s Isle.
We meet again at Two, then to Digest
Their Bellyful, they’ll have a Gill at least,
Sometimes a double One; for Brandy-wine
Can only end the War cal’d Intestine,
For Mum, Sack, Claret, White-wine, Port, Bear, Ale,
(One he would have it new, another stale,
Both must be pleas’d) for Pipes, Tobacco, Snuff,
Twist, Coffee, Tea, and also greasie Stuff
Call’d Chocolate, Punch, Clarified Whey,
With other drinks, all which I duly pay:
For Rolls, for Nackets, Roundabouts, Sour-Cakes,
For Cheshire-Cheese, fresh Butter, Cookies, Bakes,
For Panches, Saucers, Sheepheads, Cheats, Plackpyes,
Lamb-legs, Lamb Kernels, and Lamb Privities,
Skate, Lobsters Oysters Mussels Wilks Neats Tongues.
One he for Leeks, Beer, and Red-herring longs,
This must be had, another doth prefer
Raw herrings, Onions, Oyl, Spice, Vinegar;
Rare Composition! And he’s truly sorry
It’s not in Culpeper’s Dispensatory:
For Apples, Pears, Plumbs, Turneeps, Radishes,
With fourty other Things I have forgot,
And I’m a Villain if I pay’d them not.
Moreover my Affairs at Home sustain
Both the emergent Loss, and cessant Gain;
Aulus himself terms this a double Loss,
And I call him and it a triple Cross.
By all these means, my Expence do surmount
Near ten times, ten times Colin’s first Account,
And now ere that I wholly be bereft
Of th’little Time and Money to me left,
I’m at the length resolved thus to do,
I’ll shun my Debitor and Lawyer too.
And after this I never will give Credit
Unto one Word, if either of them said it.
You’ll ask, Which of the two I’d rather shun?
Aulus; ’tis he, ’tis he hath me undone.
I’ve Words from both, yet sad Experience tells
That Colin gives, but Aulus dearly sells.

Th’unweary Reader thinks, perhaps that I
Have pen’d a Satyre ’gainst the
’Gainst those who by their accurate Debates
Maintain our Rights, and settle our Estates;
Who do their very Lungs with Pleading spend,
Us ’gainst Oppressors stiffly to defend.
A gross Mistake! For I’ll be sworn, I do
Admire their Parts and their Profession too
I wish that
Law and Lawyers both may thrive,
And at the Height of
Grandeur so arrive,
That in all good Men’s [eyes] they may appear,
Like burnisht Gold, both beautiful and clear.
That this may be, (and ’tis for this I pray)
Rust must be scour’d off, Cobwebs swept away.


The Blythsome Wedding

See Glossary/a> and Note

Fy let us a’ to the bridal,
For there will be lilting there;
For Jocky’s to be married to Maggie,
The lass wi’ the gowden hair;
And there will be lang-kail and pottage,
And bannocks of barley-meal,
And there will be good sawt-herring,
To relish a cog of good ale.
Fy let us a’ to the bridal, &c

And there will be Sawney the sutor,
And Will wi’ the meikle mou’,
And there will be Tom the blutter,
And Andrew the tinkler I trow,
And there will be bow-legg’d Robbie,
And thumbless Katy’s goodman,
And there will be blue-cheeked Dowbie,
And Lawrie the laird of the land.
Fy let us, &c

And there will be sow-libber Patie,
And plucky-fac’d Wat i’ the mill,
Capper-nos’d Francie, and Gibbie
That wins in the how of the hill,
And there will be Alaster Sibbie
Wha in with black Bessie did mool,
And sniveling Lilly and Tibby,
The lass that stands aft on the stool.
Fy let us, &c

And Madge that was buckled to Steenie,
And cost him grey breeks to his arse,
And after was hangit for stealing,
Great mercy it happen’d na warse;
And there will be gleed Geodie Janners,
And Kirsh wi’ the lilly-white leg,
Wha gade to the south for manners,
And bang’d up her wamb in Mons-Meg.
Fy let us, &c

And there will be Judan Maclawrie,
And blinkin daft Barbara and Macleg,
Wi’ flae-lugged sharney-fac’d Lawrie,
And shangy-mou’d haluket Meg.
And there will be happer-ars’d Nansy,
And fairy-fac’d Flowrie by name,
Muck Madie, and fat-hippit Grisy,
The lass wi’ the gowden wame.
Fy let us, &c

And there will be Girn-again Gibbie,
And his glaikit wife Jenny Bell,
And misle-shinn’d Mungo Macapie,
The lad that was skipper himsell.
There lads and lassies in pearlings,
Will feast in the heart of the ha,
On sybows, and rifarts, and carlings,
That are baith sodden and raw.
Fy let us, &c

There will be fadges and brachan,
With fowth of good gabbocks of skate,
Powsowdy, and drammock, and crowdy,
And cauler nowt-feet in a plate;
And there will be partans and buckies,
And whitens and speldings anew,
With sing’d sheep-heads, and a haggis,
And scadlips to sup till ye spew.
Fy let us, &c

And there will be lapper’d-milk kebbocks,
And sowens, and farls, and baps,
And swats, and well-scraped paunches,
And brandy in stoups and in caps;
And there will be meal-kail and castocks,
With skink to sup till ye rive,
And roasts to roast on a brander,
Of flowks that were taken alive.
Fy let us, &c

Scrapt haddocks, wilks, dulse and tangle,
And a mill of good snishing to prie;
When weary with eating and drinking,
We’ll rise up and dance till we die.
Then fy let us all to the bridal,
For there will be lilting there;
For Jocky’s to be married to Maggie,
The lass with the gowden hair.

Francis Sempill (1616?–1686)

On the Death of Mr. William Harvey

It was a dismal, and a fearful night,
Scarce could the Morn drive on th’unwilling Light,
When Sleep, Death’s image, left my troubled breast
By something liker Death possest.
My eyes with tears did uncommanded flow,
And on my soul hung the dull weight
Of some intolerable fate.
What bell was that? Ah me too much I know!

My sweet companion, and my gentle peer,
Why hast thou left me thus unkindly here,
Thy end for ever, and my life to moan?
O thou hast left me all alone!
Thy soul and body, when death’s agony
Besieged around thy noble heart,
Did not with more reluctance part
Than I, my dearest Friend, do part from thee.

My dearest Friend, would I had died for thee!
Life and this world henceforth will tedious be:
Nor shall I know hereafter what to do
If once my griefs prove tedious too.
Silent and sad I walk about all day,
As sullen ghosts stalk speechless by
Where their hid treasures lie;
Alas! my treasure’s gone; why do I stay?

Say, for you saw us, ye immortal lights,
How oft unwearied have we spent the nights,
Till the Ledaean stars, so famed for love,
Wonder’d at us from above!
We spent them not in toys, in lusts, or wine;
But search of deep Philosophy,
Wit, Eloquence, and Poetry—
Arts which I loved, for they, my Friend, were thine.

Ye fields of Cambridge, our dear Cambridge, say,
Have ye not seen us walking every day?
Was there a tree about which did not know
The love betwixt us two?
Henceforth, ye gentle trees, for ever fade;
Or your sad branches thicker join,
And into darkness shades combine,
Dark as the grave wherein my Friend is laid!

Large was his soul; as large a soul as e’er
Submitted to inform a body here;
High as the place ‘twas shortly in Heaven to have,
But low and humble as his grave;
So high that all the virtues there did come,
As to their chiefest seat
Conspicuous and great;
So low, that for me too it made a room.

Knowledge he only sought, and so soon caught,
As if for him Knowledge had rather sought;
Nor did more learning ever crowded lie
In such a short mortality.
Whene’er the skilful youth discoursed or writ,
Still did the notions throng
About his eloquent tongue,
Nor could his ink flow faster than his wit.

His mirth was the pure spirits of various wit,
Yet never did his God or friends forget;
And when deep talk and wisdom came in view,
Retired, and gave to them their due.
For the rich help of books he always took,
Though his own searching mind before
Was so with notions written o’er,
As if wise Nature had made that her book.

With as much zeal, devotion, piety,
He always lived, as other saints do die.
Still with his soul severe account he kept,
Weeping all debts out e’er he slept.
Then down in peace and innocence he lay,
Like the sun’s laborious light,
Which still in water sets at night,
Unsullid with his journey of the day.

But happy Thou, ta’en from this frantic age,
Where ignorance and hypocrisy does rage!
A fitter time for Heaven no soul e’er chose—
The place now only free from those.
There ’mong the blest thou dost for ever shine;
And wheresoe’er thou casts thy view
Upon that white and radiant crew,
See’st not a soul clothed with more light than thine.

Abraham Cowley (1618–1667)

La Bella Bona-Roba

I cannot tell who loves the skeleton
Of a poor marmoset, naught but bone, bone;
Give me a nakedness with her clothes on.

Such whose white-satin upper coat of skin
Cut upon velvet rich incardadine,
Has yet a body (and of flesh) within.

Sure it is meant good husbandry in men,
Who do incorporate with airy lean,
T’repair their sides and get their rib again.

Hard hap unto that huntsman that decrees
Fat joys for all his sweat, whenas he sees
After his ‘say, naught but his keeper’s fees.

Then, Love, I beg, when next thou tak’st thy bow,
Thy angry shafts, and does heart-hunting go,
Pass rascal deer, strike me the largest doe.

Richard Lovelace (1618–1658)

A Satyre entitled the Witch—Note

Supposed to be made against the Lady Francis Countess of Somerset

Shee with whom troopes of Bustuary slaves
(Like Legion) sojourned still amongst the Graves;
And there laid plots which made the silver Moone
To fall in Labour many times too soone:
Canidia now drawes on.

Shee that in every vice did so excell
That Shee could read new principles to Hell;
And shew the Fiends recorded in her looks,
Such deeds, as were not in their blackest books:
Canidia now drawes on.

Shee that by spells could make a frozen stone
Melt and dissolve with soft affection;
And in an instant strike the Factours dead
That should pay duties to the Marriage Bed:
Canidia now drawes on.

Shee that consisted all of borrowd grace,
Could paint her heart as smoothly as her face,
And when her breath give wings to silken words,
Poisons in thoughts conceive and murthering swords:
Canidia now drawes on.

Shee that could reeke within the sheets of lust,
And there be searcht, yet passe without mistrust;
Shee that could surfle upp the waies of sinne,
And make streight Posternes where wide gates had bin:
Canidia now drawes on.

Shee that could cheate the matrimoniall bed,
With a false-stampt adulterate maidenhead
And make the Husband think those kisses chast,
Which were stale Panders to his Spouses wast:
Canidia now drawes on.

Whose brest was that Aceldama of blood.
Whose virtue still became the Cankers food;
Whose closet might a Golgotha bee stil’d,
Or else a charnell where dead bones are pil’d:
Canidia now drawes on.

Whose waxen pictures made by Incantation,
Whose philters, potions for Loves propagation;
Count Circe but a novice in the trade,
And scorn all druggs that Colchos ever made:
Canidia now drawes on.

Oh let no Bells bee ever heard to ring,
Let not a Chime the nightly houres sing;
Let not the Lyrique Larke salute the day
Nor Philomele tune the sad dark away:
Canidia still drawes on.

Let croaking Ravens, and death-boding Owles,
Let groning Mandrakes, and the ghastly howles
Of men unburied, be the fatall knell:
To ring Canidia downe from Earth to Hell:
Canidia still drawes on.

Let Wolves and Tygers howle, let Serpents cry,
Let Basilisks bedew their poisoning eie;
Let Plutos dogg stretch high his barking note,
And chant her dirges with his triple throate:
Canidia still drawes on.

Under his burthen let great Atlas quake,
Let the fixt Earth’s unmovèd center shake;
And the faire Heavens wrapp’t as it were with wonder
That Devills dye, speake out their loudest thunder;
Canidia still drawes on.

No longer shall the pretty Marigolds
Ly sepulchred at night in their owne folds;
The Rose should flourish, and throughout the years
No leafe nor plant once blasted would appeare:
Were once Canidia gone

The Starres would seeme as glorious as the Moone,
And Shee like Phoebus in his brightest noone;
Mists, cloud and vapours, all would passe away,
And the whole yeare bee as Halcyon’s day:
Oh were Canidia gone.

ca. 1622?

Upon the Theme of Love

O Love, how thou art tired out with Rhyme!
Thou art a tree, whereon all poets climb,
And from thy tender branches every one
Doth take some fruit, which Fancy feeds upon:
But now thy tree is left so bare and poor,
That they can hardly gather one plum more.

Margaret Cavendish (ca. 1623–1673)

Sonnet sur la Mort de Chausson

Amis, on a brûlé le malheureux Chausson,
Ce coquin si fameux, à la tête frisée;
Sa vertu par sa mort s’est immortalisée;
Jamais on n’expira de plus noble façon.

Il chanta d’un air gai la lugubre chanson,
Il vêtit sans pâlir la chemise empesée,
Et du bûcher ardent de a pile embrasée
Il regarda la mort sans crainte et sans frisson.

En vain son confesseur lui prêchoit dans la flamme,
Le crucifix en main, de songer à son âme;
Couché sous le poteau, quand le feu l’eut vaicu,

L’infâme vers le Ciel tourna sa croupe immonde,
Et, pour mourir enfin comme il avoit vécu,
Il montra, le vilain, son cul à tout le monde.

Claude Le Petit (1638–1662)

Sonnet on the Death of Chausson

Friends, they have burned the unfortunate Chausson,
That famous rascal with the curly hair.
His character has triumphed in his death.
No one will ever die in a nobler manner.

He gaily sang the song of the condemned.
He put on without blenching the stiffened shirt.
And from the blazing pyre of the lit faggots,
He gazed on death unawed, without a tremor.

In vain his confessor beseeched him in the flames,
With crucifix in hand, to think of his soul.
Lying below the stake when the fire had downed him,

The villain turned his filthy haunches to Heaven,
And so as to die at last as he had lived,
Displayed his arse, the dog, to everyone.

Claude Le Petit (1638–1662)
Tr. JF

Jacques Chausson (1618–1661), writer.

Stiffened shirt > tunic impregnated with sulphur.

Claude Le Petit himself died at the stake the following year, in part because of this poem.

Au Lecteur Curieux

Estant hier en desbauche au faubourg Saint-Germain,
Entre une heure et minuit , dans mon humeur bourrue
Et cherchant à tastons, tout seul, de rue, en rue,
Un bordel pour gister jusques au lendemain;

Marchant moitié du pied et moitié de la main,
Et crotté jusqu’au cul comme un soc de charrue,
Le vis, le long du mur, venir à pas de grue
Un grand phantosme sec comme du parchemin.

Qui fut lors bien surpris, ce fut moy, je te jure;
On m’auroit d’une paille estoupé la nature,
Jamais je ne me vis en pareil embarras.

Tu vaudrois bien savoir ce que c’estoit, sans doute?
Mais Lecteur… Pourquoy non? Si fait, tu le sauras:
C’estoit…Dieu me pardonne!…un diable qui te foute.


Claude Le Petit (1638–1662)

To the Curious Reader

Last night, after a debauch on the Faubourg Saint-Germain,
Between midnight and one, in a surly mood,
And groping my way alone from street to street
In search of a brothel where I could rest till morning,

Half on foot, half on my hands and knees,
And as filthy up to my arse as a ploughshare,
I saw up ahead beside the wall, like a whore,
A great spectre, as thin as a rake, in action

If anyone was ever surprised, it was me.
You could have finished me off with a feather
I never was so taken aback in my life.

You’ll want to know what I’m talking about, I’m sure.
But, Reader…oh, why not? It happens, as you’ll find out.
It was—God forgive me—a devil fucking you.

Claude Le Petit (1638–1662)
Tr. JF

Sur Mon Livre

Courtisanes de Priape at du père Bacchus,
Vigoureux officiers des nocturnes patrouilles,
Venerables fouteurs d’inépuisables couilles,
Experts depuceleurs, artisans de cocus;

Et vous, garces à chiens, croupions invaincus,
Qui de nos braquemards vous faites des quenouilles,
Dames de Putanisme, agreables gargouilles,
Vous lâches empaleurs et chaussoneurs de cus;

Venez tous au bordel de ces muses lubriques;
L’esprit, qui prend plaisir aux discours satyriques,
Deschargera sans doute, entendant ces accords.

Ce livre fleurira sans redouter les flammes:
On souffre icy des lieux pour les plaisirs des corps,.
On en souffrira bien pour le plaisir des âmes.

Claude Le Petit (1638–1662)

On My Book

Courtiers of Priapus and Father Bacchus,
Energetic officers of nightly patrols,
Venerable fuckers with inexhaustible balls,
Expert virgin-takers, master cuckold-makers,

And you, trollops, with your dogs and unbeaten rumps,
Who turn our amorous weapons into distaffs,
Ladies of Harlotry, spurting for us like gargoyles,
And you, deplorable buggers and procurers of arses;

All of you, come to the brothel of these lubricious muses;
The spirit which enjoys satirical discourse
Will ejaculate, for sure, listening to these harmonies.

This book will flourish without fear of the flames;
They tolerate places here to pleasure the senses;
They’ll also tolerate pleasuring the mind.

Claude Le Petit (1638–1662)
Tr. JF

Meditation Twenty

Philippians II: 9: Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him.

View, all ye eyes above, this sight which flings
Seraphick Phancies in Chill Raptures high:
A Turffe of Clay, and yet bright Glories King:
From dust to Glory Angell-like to fly.
A Mortall Clod immortaliz’d behold,
Flyes through the skies swifter than Angells could.

Upon the Wings he of the Winde rode in
His Bright Sedan, through all the Silver Skies,
And made the Azure Cloud, his Charriot, bring
Him to the Mountain of Celestiall joyes.
The Prince o’ th’ Aire durst not an Arrow spend,
While through his Realm his Charriot did ascend.

He did not in a Fiery Charriot’s shine,
And Whirlewinde, like Elias upward goe.
But th’golden Ladders Jasper rounds did climbe
Unto the Heavens high from Earth below.
Each step had on a Golden Stepping Stone
Of Deity unto his very Throne.

Methinks I see Heavens sparklingl Courtiers fly,
In flakes of Glory down him to attend;
And heare Heart Cramping notes of Melody
Surround his Charriot as it did ascend:
Mixing their Musick, making e’vry strong
More to inravish, as they this tune sing.

God is Gone up with a triumphant shout:
The Lord with sounding Trumpets melodies:
Sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praise, sing Praises out,
Unto our King sing praise seraphick-wise!
Lift up your Heads, ye lasting Doore, they sing,
And let the King of Glory Enter in.

Art thou ascended up on high, my Lord,
And must I be without thee here below?
Art thou the sweetest joy the Heavens afford?
Oh! that I with thee was! What shall I do?
Should I pluck Feathers from an Angells Wing,
They could not waft me up to thee my King.

Lend mee thy Wings, my Lord, I’st fly apace,
My Soules Arms stud with thy strong Quills, true Faith;
My Quills then Feather with thy Saving Grace,
My Wings will take the Winde thy Word displai’th.
Then I shall fly up to thy glorious Throne
With my strong Wings whose Feathers are thine own.

Edward Taylor (1642–1679)

Meditation Sixty-Two

Second Series

Canticle 1: 12: While the king sitteth at his table,
my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof.

Oh! thou, my Lord, thou king of Saints, here mak’st
A royall Banquet, thine to entertain
With rich and royall fare, Celestial Cates,
And sittest at the Table rich of fame.
Am I bid to this Feast? Sure Angells stare,
Such Rugged looks, and Ragged robes I ware.

I’le surely com; Lord, fit mee for this feast:
Purge me with Palma Christi from my sin.
With Plastrum Gratiae Dei, or at least
Unguent Apostolorum healing bring.
Give me thy Sage and Savory: me dub
With Golden Rod, and with Saint Johns Wort good.

Root up my Henbain, Fawnbain, Divells bit,
My Dragons, Chokewort, Crosswort, Ragwort, vice:
And set my knot with Honeysuckles, stick
Rich Herb-a-Grace, and Grains of Paradise,
Angelica, yes, Sharons Rose the best,
And Herba Trinitatis in my breast.

Then let thy Sweetspike sweat its liquid Dew
Into my Crystall Viall, and there swim.
And, as thou at thy Table in Rich Shew
With royal Dainties, sweet discourse as King
Dost Welcome thine, My Spiknard with its smell
Shall vapour out perfumed Spirits Well./p>

Whether I at thy Table Guest do sit,
And feed my tast, or Wait, and fat mine Eye
And Eare with Sights and Sounds, Heart Raptures fit:
My Spicknard breaths its sweet perfumes with joy.
My heart thy Viall with this spicknard fill,
Perfumed praise to thee then breath it will.

Edward Taylor (1642–1679)


Today in your arms I’ve lain there in a swoon;
Today, dear Tircis, your amorous energy
Has wholly triumphed over my modesty;
I yield to the rapture that enchants my soul.

Your adoring fire has finally disarmed me;
All my happiness is in our embraces;
I no longer care about virtuousness and honour,
Since I love Tircis and am loved by him.

Oh you enfeebled souls who aren’t aware
Of the sweetest joys that one can taste on Earth,
Go learn the transports ravishing my soul.

A gentle languor steals away my mind;
I die between the arms of my faithful lover;
And it’s in this death that I discover life.

Marie-Catherine de Villedieu (1640–1683)
Tr. JF

The Platonic Lady

I could love thee till I die,
Wouldst thou love me modestly,
And never press me whilst I live,
For more than willingly I’d give;
Which should sufficient be to prove
I’d understand the Art of Love.

I hate the thing is called enjoyment,
Besides, it is a dull employment.
It cuts off all that’s life and fire
From that which may be termed desire;
Just like the bee, whose sting being gone
Converts the owner to a drone.

I love a youth will give me leave
His body in my arms to wreathe,
To press him gently and to kiss,
To sigh and look with eyes that wish
For what if I could once obtain,
I would neglect with flat disdain.

I’d give him liberty to toy,
And play with me and count it joy.
Our freedoms should be full complete,
And nothing wanting but the feat.
Let’s practice then and we shall prove
These are the only sweets of Love.

John Wilmot (1647–1680)

Song: Love a Woman

Love a woman! You’re an ass!
‘Tis a most insipid passion
To choose out for your happiness
The silliest part of God’s creation.

Let the porter and the groom,
Things designed for dirty slaves,
Drudge in fair Aurelia’s womb,
To get supplies for age and graves.

Farewell woman, I intend
Henceforth every night to sit,
With my lewd well-natured friend,
Drinking to engender wit.

Then give me health, wealth, mirth, and wine,
And if busy love intrenches,
There’s a sweet soft page, of mine,
Can do the trick worth forty wenches.

John Wilmot (1647–1680)

A History of Insipids

See Glossary/a> and Note


Chaste, pious, prudent Charles the Second,
The miracle of thy restoration,
May like to that of quails be reckon’d,
Rain’d on the Israelitish nation:
The wish’d for blessing which Heaven sent,
Became their curse and punishment.


The virtues in thee, Charles, inherent
(Although thy countenance be an odd piece)
Proves thee as true a God’s viceregent
As e’er was Harry with the cod-piece:
For chastity and pious deeds,
His grandsire Harry Charles exceeds.


Our Romish bondage-breaker Harry,
Espousèd half a dozen wives;
Charles only one resolves to marry,
And other men’s he never swives;
Yet hath he sons and daughters more
Than e’er had Harry by threescore.


Never was such a Faith’s Defender;
He, like a politic prince and pious,
Gives liberty to conscience tender
And does to no religion tie us:
Jews, Christians, Turks, Papists, he’ll please us,
With Moses, Mahomet, Pope, and Jesus.


In all affairs of Church and State,
He very zealous is, and able,
Devout at prayer, and sits up late,
At the Cabal and council-table;
His very dogs at council board
Sit grave and wise like any Lord.


Let Charles’s policy no man flout—
The wisest kings have all some folly—
Nor let his piety any doubt;
Charles, like a sovereign wise and holy,
Makes young men judges of the bench,
And bishops those that love a wench.


His father’s foes he doth reward,
Preserving those that cut off’s head:
Old cavaliers, the Crown’s best guard,
He leaves to starve for want of bread.
Never was any king endu’d
With so much grace and gratitude.


Blood that wears treason on his face,
Villain complete, in parson’s gown,
How much is he at court in grace,
For stealing Ormonde, and the crown?
Since loyalty doth no man good,
Let’s steal the King and outdo Blood.


A Parliament of knaves and sots,
(Members by name we must not mention)
He keeps in pay, and buys their votes,
Here with a place, there with a pension.
When to give money he can’t collogue them
He does with scorn prorogue, prorogue them.


But they long since, by too much giving,
Undid, betray’d, and sold the nation,
Making their membership a living
Better than e’er was sequestration
God give thee, Charles, a resolution
To damn the knaves by dissolution.


Fame is not founded on success:
Though victories were Caesar’s glory,
Lost battles made not Pompey less,
But left him stylèd great in story.
Malicious Fate doth oft devise
To beat the brave and fool the wise.


Charles in the first Dutch War stood fair,
To have been master of the deep,
When Opdam blew up in the air,
Had not his Highness gone to sleep.
Our fleet slack’d sails, fearing his waking;
The Dutch had else been in sad taking.


The Bergen business was well laid,
Though we paid dear for that design:
Had we not three days parling stay’d,
The Dutch fleet there, Charles had been thine:
Though the false Dane agreed to sell ’um,
He cheated us, and savèd Skellum.


Had not Charles sweetly chous’d the States,
By Bergen baffle grown more wise,
And made them shit as small as rats,
By their rich Smyrna fleet’s surprise;
Had haughty Holmes but call’d in Spragge,
Hans had been put into a bag.


Mists, storms, short victuals, adverse winds,
And once, the navy’s wise division,
Defeated Charles’s best designs,
Till he became the foe’s derision.
But he had swing’d the Dutch at Chatham,
Had he had ships but to come at ’em.


Our Blackheath host without dispute,
(Rais’d, put on board, why, no man knows)
Must Charles have render’d absolute,
Over his subjects or his foes;
Had not the French king made us fools,
By taking Maastricht with our tools.


But, Charles, what could thy policy be,
To run so many sad disasters?
To join thy Fleet with false D’Estrées?
To make the French of Holland masters?
Was’t Carwell, brother James, or Teague,
That made thee break the Triple League?


Could Robin Viner have foreseen
The glorious triumphs of his master,
The Woolchurch statue gold had been,
Which now is only alabaster:
But wise men think, had it been wood,
T’were for a bankrupt King too good.


Those that the fabric well consider,
Do of it diversely discourse;
Some pass their censure on the rider,
Others their judgments on the horse;
Most say the steed’s a goodly thing:
But all agree ’tis a lewd king.


By the Lord Mayor and his wise coxcombs,
Freeman of London Charles is made;
Then to Whitehall a rich gold box comes,
Which is bestow’d on the French jade:
But wonder not it should be so, sirs,
When monarchs rank themselves with grocers!


Cringe, scrape no more, ye City fops,
Leave off your feasting and fine speeches,
Beat up your drums, shut up your shops,
The courtiers then may kiss your breeches.
Arm, tell that Romish Duke that rules,
You’re free-born subjects, no French mules.


New upstarts, bastards, pimps and whores,
That locust-like devour the land,
By shutting up th’Exchequer doors
When there our money was trepann’d,
Have render’d, Charles, thy restoration,
A curse and plague unto the nation.


Then, Charles, beware thy brother York
Who to thy government gives law;
If once we fall to the old work,
You must again both go to Breda:
Where, spite of all that would restore you,
Turn’d commonwealth, we will abhor you.


If of all Christian blood the guilt
Cry loud for vengeance unto Heaven;
That sea by Charles and Louis spilt,
Can never be by God forgiven:
Worse scourges to their subjects, Lord,
Than pestilence, famine, fire, and sword.


The wolf of France and British goat,
One Europe’s scorn, t’other her curse
(This fool, that knave, by public vote,
Yet hard to say which is the worse),
To think such kings, Lord, reign by thee
Were most prodigious blasphemy.


They know no law but their own lust:
Their subjects’ substance and their blood
They count a tribute due and just,
Still spent and spilt for public good.
If such kings be by God appointed
The Devil is then the Lord’s anointed.


Of kings curs’d be the power and name,
Let all the earth henceforth abhor ’em:
Monsters which knaves sacred proclaim,
And then like slaves fall down before ’em.
What can there be in kings divine?
The most are wolves, goats, sheep, or swine.


Then farewell, sacred Majesty,
Let’s pull all brutish tyrants down!
Where men are born and still live free,
There ev’ry head doth wear a crown.
Mankind, like miserable frogs,
Is wretched, king’d by storks or logs.



The Green-Gowne

See Note

Pan leave Piping, the Gods have done feasting,
There’s never a Goddess a Hunting to Day:
Mortals marvel at Coridon’s Jesting,
That gives the assistance to entertain May.
The Lads and the Lasses, with Scarfs on their Faces,
So lively as passes, trip over the Downs:
Much Mirth and Sport they make, running at Barley-break;
Lord what haste they make for a Green-gown!

John with Gillian, Harry with Frances,
Meg and Mary, with Robin and Will,
George and Margery lead all the Dances,
For they were reported to have the best Skill:
But Cicily and Nancy, the fairest of many,
That came last of any, from out of the Towns,
Quickly got in among the midst of all the Throng,
They so much did long for their Green-gowns.

Wanton Deborah whispered with Dorothy,
That she would wink upon Richard and Sym,
Mincing Maudlin shew’d her Authority,
And in the Quarrel would venture a Limb.
But Sibel was sickly, and could not come quickly,
And therefore was likely to fall in a Swoon,
Tib would not tarry for Tom, nor for Harry,
Lest Christian should carry away the Green-gown.

Blanch and Bettrice, both of a Family,
Came very lazy lagging behind;
Annie and Aimable noting their Policy,
Cupid is coming, although he be blind:
But Winny the Witty, that came from the City,
With Parnel the Pretty, and Besse the Brown;
Clem, Joan, and Isobel, Sue, Alice and bonny Nell,
Travell’d exceedingly for a Green-gown.

Now the Youngsters had reach’d the green Meadow,
Where they intended to gather their May,
Some in the Sun-shine, some in the Shadow,
Singled in couples did fall to their Play;
But constant Penelope, Faith, Hope and Charity,
Look’d very modestly, yet they lay down;
And Prudence prevented what Rachel repented,
And Kate was contented to take a Green-gown.

Then they desirèd to know of a truth,
If all their Fellows were in the like Case,
Nem call’d for Edie, and Edie for Ruth,
Ruth for Marcy, and Marcy for Grace;
But there was no speaking, they answer’d with squeaking,
The pretty Lass breaking the head of the Clown;
But some were wooing, while others were doing,
Yet all their going was for a Green-gown.

Bright Apollo saw all this while peeping,
To see if his Daphne had been in the Throng,
But missing her hastily downwards was creeping,
For Thetis imagin’d he tarried too long:
Then all the Troop mourned and homeward returned,
For Cynthia scorned to smile, or to frown;
Thus they did gather May, all the long Summer-day,
And at night went away with a Green-gown.

Thomas d’Urfey? (1653–1723)

On a Pretty Madwoman


While mad OPHELIA we lament,
And her distraction mourn,
Our grief’s misplac’d, our tears mispent,
Since what for her condition’s meant
More justly for our own.


For if ‘tis happiness to be,
From all the turns of Fate,
From dubious joy, and sorrow free;
OPHELIA then is blest, and we
Misunderstand her state.


The Fates may do what’er they will,
They can’t destroy her mind,
Insensible of good, or ill,
Be Fortune cross or kind.


Then make with reason no more noise,
Since what should give relief,
The quiet of our mind destroys,
Or with a full spring-tide of joys,
Or a dead-ebb of grief.

Matthew Prior (1664–1721)

A Song


For God’s-sake—nay, dear Sir,
Lord, what do you mean?
I protest, and I vow, Sir,
Your ways are obscene.


Pray give over, O! fie,
Pish, leave off your fooling,
Forbear, or I’ll cry,—
I hate this rude doing.


Let me die if I stay,
Does the Devil possess you?
Your hand take away,
Then perhaps I may bless you.

Matthew Prior (1664–1721)


Farewell ye shady walks and fountains,
Sinking valleys, rising mountains:
Farewell ye crystal streams that pass
Through fragrant meads of verdant grass
Farewell ye flowers, sweet and fair,
That used to grace Dorinda’s hair:
Farewell ye woods, who used to shade
The pressing youth and yielding Maid
Farewell ye birds whose morning song,
Oft made us know we slept too long:
Farewell dear bed, so often blest,
So often above others blest,
With the kind weight of all her charms,
When panting, dying, in my arms.
Dorinda’s gone, gone far away,
She’s gone, and Strephon cannot stay:
By sympathetic ties I find
That to her sphere I am confined,
My motions still on her must wait,
And what she wills to me is fate.

She’s gone, O! hear it all ye bowers,
Ye walks, ye fountains, trees, and flowers,
For whom you made your earliest show,
For whom you took a pride to grow,
She’s gone, O! hear ye nightingales,
Ye mountains ring it to the vales,
And echo to the country round
The mournful, dismal, killing sound:
Dorinda’s gone and Strephon goes,
To find with her his last repose.

But ere I go, O! let me see,
That all things mourn her loss like me:
Play, play, no more ye spouting fountains,
Rise ye valleys, sink ye mountains;
Ye walks, in moss, neglected lie,
Ye birds, be mute; ye streams, be dry.
Fade, fade, ye flowers, and let the rose
No more its blushing buds disclose:
Ye spreading beech, and taper fir,
Languish away in mourning her;
And never let your friendly shade,
The stealth of other lovers aid.
And thou, O! dear, delightful bed,
The altar where her maidenhead,
With burning cheeks, and downcast eyes,
With panting breast, and kind replies,
And other due solemnity,
Was offered up to love and me.
Hereafter suffer no abuse,
Since consecrated to our use,
As thou art sacred, don’t profane
Thy self with any vulgar stain,
But to thy pride be still displayed,
The print her lovely limbs have made:
See, in a moment, all is changed,
The flowers shrunk up, the trees disranged,
And that which wore so sweet a face,
Become a horrid, desert place.
Nature her influence withdrawn,
Th’effect must follow still the cause,
And where Dorinda will reside,
Nature must there all gay provide,
Decking that happy spot of earth,
Like Eden’s garden at its birth,
To please her matchless, darling maid,
The wonder of her forming-trade;
Excelling all who e’er excelled,
And as we ne’er the like beheld,
So neither is, nor e’er can be,
Her parallel, or second she.

Matthew Prior (1664–1721)

forming-trade> occupation as creator.

A Song on the South Sea

Ombre and basset laid aside,
New games employ the fair;
And brokers all those hours divide
Which lovers used to share.

The court, the park, the foreign song
And harlequin’s grimace
Forlorn; amidst the city throng
Behold each blooming face.

With Jews and Gentiles undismayed
Young tender virgins mix;
Of whiskers nor of beards afraid,
Nor all the cozening tricks.

Bright jewels, polished once to deck
The fair one’s rising breast,
Or sparkle round her ivory neck,
Lie pawned in iron chest.

The gayer passions of the mind
How avarice controls!
Even love does now no longer find
A place in female souls.

Anne Finch (1666–1720)

On the South Sea Bubble of 1720, see, for example,

Stella’s Birthday, 1725

As, when a beauteous nymph decays,
We say, she’s past her dancing days;
So poets lose their feet by time,
And can no longer dance in rhyme.
Your annual bard had rather chose
To celebrate your birth in prose;
Yet merry folks, who want by chance
A pair to make a country dance,
Call the old housekeeper, and get her
To fill a place for want of better;
While Sheridan is off the hooks,
And friend Delaney at his books,
That Stella may avoid disgrace,
Once more the Dean supplies their place.
Beauty and wit, too sad a truth,
Have always been confined to youth;
The god of wit and beauty’s queen,
He twenty-one and she fifteen;
No poet ever sweetly sung,
Unless he were, like Phoebus, young;
Nor ever nymph inspired to rhyme,
Unless, like Venus, in her prime.
At fifty-six, if this be true,
Am I a poet fit for you?
Or, at the age of forty-three,
Are you a subject fit for me?
Adieu, bright wit, and radiant eyes,
You must be grave and I be wise.
Our fate in vain we would oppose,
But I’ll be still your friend in prose.
Esteem and friendship to express
Will not require poetic dress;
And if the Muse deny her aid
To have them sung, they may be said.
But, Stella, say, what evil tongue
Reports you are no longer young;
That Time sits with his scythe to mow
Where erst sat Cupid with his bow;
That half your locks are turned to grey?
I’ll ne’er believe a word they say.
‘Tis true, but let it not be known,
My eyes are somewhat dimmish grown;
For nature, always in the right,
To your decays adapts my sight,
And wrinkles undistinguished pass,
For I’m ashamed to use a glass;
And till I see them with these eyes,
Whoever says you have them, lies.
No length of time can make you quit
Honour and virtue, sense and wit;
Thus you may still be young to me,
While I can better hear than see.
O ne’er may Fortune show her spite,
To make me deaf, and mend my sight.

Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)

To Stella, March 13, 1723-4

(Written on the Day of her Birth, but not on the Subject,
when I was sick in bed..)

Tormented with incessant pains,
Can I devise poetic strains?
Time was, when I could yearly pay
My verse on Stella’s native day;
But now, unable grown to write,
I grieve she ever saw the light.
Ungrateful; since to her I owe
That I these pains can undergo.
She tends me like an humble slave;
And, when indecently I rave,
When out my brutish passions break,
With gall in ev’ry word I speak,
She with soft speech my anguish cheers,
Or melts my passion down with tears;
Although ’tis easy to descry
She wants assistance more than I;
Yet seems to feel my pains alone,
And is a stoic in her own.
When, among scholars, can we find
So soft and yet so firm a mind?
All accidents of life conspire
To raise up Stella’s virtue higher;
Or else to introduce the rest
Which had been latent in her breast.
Her firmness who could e’er have known,
Had she not evils of her own?
Her kindness who could ever guess,
Had not her friends been in distress?
Whatever base returns you find
From me, dear Stella, still be kind.
In your own heart you’ll reap the fruit,
Though I continue still a brute.
But, when I once am out of pain,
I promise to be good again.
Meantime, your other juster friends
Shall for my follies make amends;
So may we long continue thus,
Admiring you, you pitying us.

Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)

The Progress of Marriage

Aetatis suae fifty-two,
A rich Divine began to woo
A handsome young imperious girl,
Nearly related to an Earl.
Her parents and her friends consent,
The couple to the temple went.
They first invite the Cyprian Queen,
’Twas answered, she would not be seen;
The Graces next, and all the Muses
Were bid in form, but sent excuses.
Juno attended at the porch,
With farthing candle for a torch,
While Mistress Iris held her train,
The faded bow distilling rain.
Then Hebe came and took her place,
But showed no more than half her face.

What’er these dire forebodings meant,
In mirth the wedding-day was spent;
The wedding-day, you take me right,
I promise nothing for the night.
The bridegroom, dressed to make a figure,
Assumes an artificial vigour,
A flourished night-cap on to grace
His ruddy, wrinkled, smirking face,
Like the faint red upon a pippin,
Half withered by a winter’s keeping.

And thus set out, this happy pair,
The Swain is rich, the Nymph is fair;
But, which I gladly would forget,
The Swain is old, the Nymph coquette;
Both from the goal together start,
Scarce run a step before they part;
No common ligament that binds
The various textures of their minds,
Their thoughts and actions, hopes and fears,
Less corresponding than their years.
Her spouse desires his coffee soon,
She rises to her tea at noon.
While he goes out to cheapen books,
She at the glass consults her looks
While Betty’s buzzing in her ear,
Lord, what a dress these Parsons wear!
So odd a choice how could she make?
Wished him a Colonel for her sake.
Then, on her fingers ends, she counts
Exact to what his age amounts;
The Dean, she heard her Uncle say,
Is fifty, if he be a day;
His ruddy cheeks are no disguise;
You see the crows-feet round his eyes.

At one she rambles to the shops,
To cheapen tea, and talk with fops;
Or calls a council of her maids
And tradesmen, to compare brocades.
Her weighty morning business o’er,
Sits down to dinner just at four;
Minds nothing that is done or said,
Her evening work so fills her head.
The Dean, who used to dine at one,
Is mawkish, and his stomach gone;
In thread-bare gown, would scarce a louse hold,
Looks like the chaplain of the household,
Beholds her from the chaplain’s place
In French brocades and Flanders lace;
He wonders what employs her brain;
But never asks, or asks in vain;
His mind is full of other cares,
And in the sneaking parson’s airs
Computes, that half a parish dues
Will hardly find his wife in shoes.
Can’st thou imagine, dull Divine,
’Twill gain her love to make her fine?
Hath she no other wants beside?
You raise desire as well as pride,
Enticing coxcombs to adore,
And teach her to despise thee more.

If in her coach she’ll condescend
To place him at the hinder end,
Her hoop is hoist above his nose,
His odious gown would soil her clothes,
And drops him at the church, to pray,
While she drives on to see the play.
He like an orderly Divine
Comes home a quarter after nine,
And meets her hasting to the Ball:
Her chairmen push him from the wall;
He enters in, and walks up stairs,
And calls the family to prayers,
Then goes alone to take his rest
In bed, where he can spare her best.
At five the footmen make a din,
Her Ladyship is just come in;
The Masquerade began at two,
She stole away with much ado,
And shall be chid this afternoon
For leaving company so soon;
She’ll say, and she may truly say’t,
She can’t abide to stay out late.

But now, though scarce a twelvemonth married
His Lady has twelve times miscarried;
The cause, alas, is quickly guessed,
The Town has whispered round the jest;
Think on some remedy in time,
You find His Reverence past his prime,
Already dwindled to a lath;
No other way but try the Bath.
For Venus rising from the ocean,
Infused a strong prolific potion,
That mixed with Achelaus’ spring,
The hornéd flood, as poets sing,
Who, with an English Beauty smitten,
Ran underground from Greece to Britain,
The genial Virtue with him brought,
And gave the Nymph a plenteous draught;
Then fled, and left his Horn behind
For husbands past their youth to find;
The Nymph who still with passion burned
Was to a boiling fountain turned,
Where childless wives crowd every morn
To drink in Achelaus’ Horn;
And here the father often gains
That title by another’s pains.

Hither, though much against his grain,
The Dean has carried Lady Jane;
He for a while would not consent,
But vowed his money all was spent;
His money spent! a clownish reason!
And must My Lady slip her Season?
The Doctor with a double fee,
Was bribed to make the Dean agree.

Here all diversions of the place
Are proper in my Lady’s case
With which she patiently complies,
Merely because her friends advise;
His money and her time employs
In music, raffling-rooms, and toys,
Or in the Cross Bath seeks an heir,
Since others oft have found one there;
Where if the Dean by chance appears,
It shames his cassock and his years;
He keeps his distance in the gallery
’Till banished by some coxcomb’s raillery,
For ’twould his character expose
To bathe among the belles and beaux.

So have I seen within a pen,
Young ducklings fostered by a hen;
But when let out, they run and muddle,
As instinct leads them, in a puddle;
The sober hen, not born to swim,
With mournful note clucks round the brim.

The Dean, with all his best endeavour,
Gets not an heir, but gets a fever;
A victim to the last essays
Of vigor in declining days,
He dies, and leaves his mourning mate
(What could he less?) his whole estate.

The widow goes through all her forms;
New lovers now will come in swarms.
Oh, may I see her soon dispensing
Her favours to some broken Ensign!
Him let her marry for his face,
And only coat of tarnished lace;
To turn her naked out of doors,
And spend her jointure on his whores:
But for a parting present leave her
A rooted pox to last for ever.

Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)

miscarried> had her period.

Cross Bath>A thermal bath whose use, according to the Web, goes back at least two thousand years. James II’s wife gave birth to a son nine months after bathing in it.

Lady Acheson Weary of the Dean

The Dean would visit Market-hill;
Our invitation was but slight;
I said—why—Let him if he will,
And so I bid Sir Arthur write.

His manners would not let him wait,
Lest we should think ourselves neglected,
And so we saw him at our gate
Three days before he was expected.

After a week, a month, a quarter,
And day succeeding after day,
Says not a word of his departure
Though not a soul would have him stay.

I’ve said enough to make him blush
Methinks, or else the Devil’s in’t,
But he cares not for it a rush,
Nor for my life will take the hint.

But you, My Life, must let him know,
In civil language, if he stays
How deep and foul the roads may grow,
And that he may command the chaise.

Or you may say—my wife intends,
Though I should be exceeding proud,
This winter to invite some friends,
And Sir, I know you hate a crowd.

Or, Mr. Dean—I should with joy
Beg you would here continue still,
But we must go to Aghnaclay,
Or Mr. Moor will take it ill.

The house accounts are daily rising
So much his stay does swell the bills;
My dearest Life, it is surprising
How much he eats, how much he swills.

His brace of puppies how they stuff,
And they must have three meals a day,
Yet never think they get enough;
His horses too eat all our hay.

Oh! if I could, how I would maul
His tallow face and wainscot paws,
His beetle-brows and eyes of wall,
And make him soon give up the cause.

May I be every moment chid
With Skinny, Honey, Snip, and Lean,
Oh! that I could but once be rid
Of that insulting tyrant Dean.

Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)

Market-hill>Markethill, a village near Sir Arthur Acheson’s estate, Gosford Demesne, where Swift had spent eight months in 1728 during the first of three annual visits, and where he got a good deal of writing done.

beetle-brows> “beetle-browed” is defined online as “1. having bushy or overhanging eyebrows; 2.sullen in appearance; scowling.”

Skinny, etc>His nicknames for her.

My Lady’s Lamentation and Complaint against the Dean

July 28, 1728

Sure never did man see
A wretch like poor Nancy,
So teaz’d day and night
By a Dean and a Knight;
To punish my sins,
Sir Arthur begins,
And gives me a swipe
With Skinny and Snipe;
His malice is plain,
Hallooing the Dean.
The Dean never stops,
When he opens his chops;
I’m quite over-run
With rebus and pun.

Before he came here
To sponge for good cheer,
I sat with delight,
From morning till night,
With two bony thumbs
Could rub my own gums,
Or scratching my nose,
And jogging my toes;
But at present, forsooth,
I must not rub a tooth:
When my elbows he sees
Held up by my knees,
My arms like two props,
Supporting my chops,
And just as I handle ’em
Moving all like a pendulum;
He trips up my props,
And down my chin drops,
From my head to my heels,
Like a clock without wheels;
I sink in the spleen,
As useless machine.

If he had his will,
I should never sit still:
He comes with his whims,
I must move my limbs;
I cannot be sweet
Without using my feet;
To lengthen my breath
He tires me to death.
By the worst of all Squires,
Thro’ bogs and thro’ briers,
Where a cow would be startled,
I’m in spite of my heart led:
And, say what I will,
Haul’d up every hill;
‘’Till, daggled and tatter’d,
My spirit’s quite shatter’d,
I return home at night,
And fast out of spite:
For I’d rather be dead,
Than it e’er should be said
I was better for him,
In stomach or limb.

But, now to my diet,
No eating in quiet,
He’s still finding fault,
Too sour or too salt:
The wing of a chick
I hardly can pick,
But trash without measure
I swallow with pleasure.

Next, for his diversion,
He rails at my person:
What court-breeding this is?
He takes me to pieces.
From shoulder to flank
I’m lean and am lank;
My nose, long and thin,
Grows down to my chin;
My chin will not stay,
But meets it half way;
My fingers, prolix,
Are ten crooked sticks:
He swears my el—bows
Are two iron crows,
Or sharp pointed rocks,
And wear out my smocks:
To ’scape them, Sir Arthur
Is forc’d to lie farther,
Or his sides they would gore
Like the tusk of a boar.

Now, changing the scene,
But still to the Dean:
He loves to be bitter at
A lady illiterate;
If he sees her but once,
He’ll swear she’s a dunce;
Can tell by her looks
A hater of books:
Thro’ each line of her face
Her folly can trace;
Which spoils ev’ry feature
Bestow’d her by nature,
But sense give a grace
To the homeliest face:
Wise books and reflection
Will mend the complexon.
(A civil Divine!
I suppose meaning mine.)
No Lady who wants them
Can ever be handsome.

I guess well enough
What he means by this stuff:
He haws and he hums,
At last out it comes.

What, Madam? No walking,
No reading, nor talking?
You’re now in your prime,
Make use of your time.
Consider, before
You come to threescore,
How the hussies will fleer
Where’er you appear:
That silly old puss
Would fain be like us,
What a figure she made
In her tarnish’d brocade?

And then he grows mild;
Come, be a good child:
If you are inclin’d
To polish your mind,
Be ador’d by the men
’Till threescore and ten,
And kill with the spleen
The jades of sixteen,
I’ll shew you the way:
Read six hours a-day.
The wits will frequent ye,
And think you but twenty.

Thus was I drawn in,
Forgive me my sin.
At breakfast he’ll ask
An account of my task.
Put a word out of joint,
Or miss but a point,
He rages and frets,
His manners forgets;
And, as I am serious,
Is very imperious.
No book for delight
Must come in my sight;
But, instead of new plays,
Dull Bacon’s Essays,
And pore ev’re day on
That nasty Pantheon.
If I be not a drudge,
Let all the world judge.
’Twere better be blind,
Than thus be confin’d.

But, while in an ill tone,
I murder poor Milton,
The Dean, you will swear,
Is at study or pray’r.
He’s all the day saunt’ring,
With labourers bant’ring,
Among his colleagues,
A parcel of Teagues,
(Whom he brings in among us
And bribes with mundungus.)
Hail fellow, well met,
All dirty and wet:
Find out, if you can,
Who’s master, who’s man;
Who makes the best figure,
The Dean or the digger;
And which is the best
At cracking a jest.
How proudly he talks
Of zigzacks and walks,
And all the day raves
Of cradles and caves;
And boasts of his feats,
His grottos and seats;
Shows all his gew-gaws,
And gapes for applause?
A fine occupation
For one of his station!
A hole where a rabbit
Would scorn to inhabit,
Dug out in an hour,
He calls it a bow’r.

But, Oh, how we laugh,
To see a wild calf
Come, driven by heat,
And foul the green seat;
Or run helter-skelter
To his arbor for shelter,
Where all goes to ruin
The Dean has been doing.
The girls of the village
Come flocking for pillage,
Pull down the fine briers,
And thorns to make fires;
But yet are so kind
To leave something behind:
No more need be said on’t,
I smell when I tread on’t.

Dear friend, Doctor Jenny,
If I could but win ye,
Or Walmsley or Whaley,
To come hither daily,
Since Fortune my foe,
Will needs have it so
That I’m, by her frowns
Condemn’d to black gowns;
No ’Squire to be found
The neighbourhood round,
(For, under the rose,
I would rather chuse those:)
If your wives will permit ye,
Come here out of pity,
To ease a poor Lady,
And beg her a play-day.
So may you be seen
No more in the spleen:
May Walmsley give wine
Like a hearty divine;
May Whaley disgrace
Dull Daniel’s whey-face;
And may your three spouses
Let you lie at friends houses.

Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)

rebus> “a kind of word puzzle that uses pictures to represent words or parts of words. For example, H + picture of ear = Hear, or Here” (Wikipedia).

Pantheon>Panthayon, all the gods. Classical mythology?

Teagues> “Taig (also Teague, Teig and Tag)is a derogatory term for a Catholic” (Wikipedia)

mundungus> “a dark smelly tobacco”

gew-gaw> “something showy but useless and of little value…”

Doctor Jenny> a clergyman in the neighbourhood.

under the rose> sub rosa; confidentially

whey-face>pallid face

The Extravagant Drunkard’s Wish

Had I my wish, I would distend my guts
As wide as from the north to southern skies,
And have at once as many mouths and throats
As old Briareus arms, or Argus eyes.
The raging sea’s unpalatable brine,
That drowns so many thousands in a year,
I’d turn into an ocean of good wine,
And for my cup would choose the hemisphere;
Would then perform the wager Xanthus laid,
In spite of all the river’s flowing streams,
Swill till I pissed a deluge, then to bed,
And please my thirsty soul with small-beer dreams.
Thus drink and sleep, and, waking, swill again,
Till I had drunk the sea-gods’ cellar dry,
Then rob the niggard Neptune, and his train
Of Tritons, of that wealth they now enjoy;
Kiss the whole Nerides and make the jades
Sing all their charming songs to please my ear,
And whether flesh or fish, thornback or maids,
I’d make the gypsies kind through love or fear.
And when thus wicked and thus wealthy grown,
For nothing good, I’d turn rebellious Whig,
Pull ev’ry monarch headlong from his throne,
And with the Prince of Darkness make a league,
That he and I, and all the Whigs beside,
Might rend down churches, crowns in pieces tear,
Exert our malice, gratify our pride,
And settle Satan’s kingdom ev’rywhere.

Anonymous (1713)

An Epistle from a Half-Pay Officer in the Country to his Friend in London, upon Reading the Address of the Two Houses, to thank her Majesty for the Safe, Honourable and Advantageous Peace

Curse on the star, dear Harry, that betrayed
My choice from law, divinity or trade,
To turn a rambling brother o’ the blade!
Of all professions sure the worst is war.
How whimsical our fortune! how bizarre!
This week we shine in scarlet and in gold:
The next, the cloak is pawned—the watch is sold.
Today we’re company for any lord:
Tomorrow not a soul will take our word.
Like meteors raised in a tempestuous sky,
A while we glitter, then obscurely die.
Must heroes suffer such disgrace as this?
O cursed effects of Honourable Peace.

I, who not long ago indulged my hours
In witty commerce or in soft amours,
And in rich Mulso, Volney or Champagne
Adored each night the beauties then in reign
(Till, arms submitting to the awful gown,
Our troops were forced to abdicate the town),
Must now retire, and languish out my days
Far from the roads of pleasure or of praise:
Quit sweet Hyde Park for dull provincial air,
And change the playhouse for a country fair;
With sneaking parsons beastly bumpers quaff,
At low conceits and vile conundrums laugh;
Toast to the Church and talk of Right Divine,
And herd with squires—more noisy than their swine.
Must heroes suffer such disgrage as this?
O cursed effects of Honourable Peace.

There was a time—oh yes! there was a time—
(Ere poverty made luxury a crime)
When marigolds in porridge were a jest,
And soups were used to introduce the feast.
Then French ragouts were orthodox and good,
And truffles held no heresy in food.
Nor to eat mackerel was judged high treason,
Though gooseberries as yet were not in season.
But under H[ar]ley’s frugal dispensation
These vanities require a reformation.
Scourged by his wand and humbled by his sway,
I’ve learned to suit my diet to my pay;
And now can sanctify with solemn face
A heavy dumpling with a formal grace.
In awkward plenty, slovenly I dine,
And nappy ale supplies the want of wine.
No nice desserts my learned palate please:
To fill up chinks—a slce of Suffolk cheese.
And must then heroes nibble Suffolk cheese?
O cursed effects of Honourable Peace!

But ah! the hardest part is still behind—
The fair too, gentle Harry, prove unkind.
Think then how wretchedly my life must pass!
For what’s this world, my friend, without a lass?
Poor be my lot, inglorious be my state,
Give me but woman, I’ll absolve my fate.
But ’tis in vain—
Th’ ungrateful sex, as senseless as unjust,
To feed their pride will even starve their lust:
And fooled by equipage and empty show,
Quit the tough soldier for the lathy beau.
I who so oft their forward zeal have showed,
And in their service spent my warmest blood,
Am now reduced (hard fate!) for want of pelf
To fight the Jesuit’s battle by myself.
Must heroes suffer such disgrace as this?
O cursed effects of Honourable Peace.

Richardson Pack (1682–1728)

The Forsaken Wife

Methinks, ’tis strange you can’t afford
One pitying look, one parting word;
Humanity claims this as due,
But what’s humanity to you?

Cruel man! I am not blind,
Your infidelity I find;
Your want of love my ruin shows,
My broken heart, your broken vows.
Yet maugre all your rigid hate,
I will be true in spite of fate;
And one preeminence I’ll claim,
To be for ever still the same.

Show me a man that dare be true,
That dares to suffer what I do;
That can for ever sigh unheard,
And ever love without regard:
I then will own your prior claim
To love, to honour, and to fame;
But till that time, my dear, adieu,
I yet superior am to you.

Elizabeth Thomas (1675–1731)

The True Effigies of a Certain Squire: Inscribed to Clemena.

Some generous painter now assist my pen,
And help to draw the most despised of men:
Or else, oh Muse! do thou that charge supply,
Thou that art injured too as well as I;
Revenge thyself, with satire arm thy quill,
Display the man, yet own a justice still.

First, paint a large, two-handed, surly clown,
In silver waistcoat, stockings sliding down,
Shoes (let me see) a foot and half in length,
And stoutly armed with sparables for strength.
Ascend! and let a silver string appear,
Which seems to cry “A golden watch is here.”
O’er all a doily stuff, to which belongs
One pocket charged with citron peel and tongs;
T’other contains, more necessary far,
A snuffbox. comb, a glass, and handkercher,
Three parts of which hangs dangling by his side,
The fourth is wisely to a button tied:
Just as it was in former days a rule
To tie young children’s muckenders at school.
Forget not, Muse, gold buttons at the wrist,
Nor Mechlin lace to shade the clumsy fist;
Two diamond rings thy pencil next must show,
Always in sight like Prim’s, the formal beau;
But if rude company their notice spare,
Then draw that hand elated to his ear,
And at one view let diamond ring and golden bob appear.
A steenkirk next, of paltry needle stuff,
Which cost eleven guineas (cheap enough).
Next draw the giant-wig of shape profuse,
Larger than Foppington’s or Overdo’s.
The greasy front pressed down with essence lies,
The spreading elf-locks cover half his eyes;
But when he coughs or bows, what clouds of powder rise!

Enough, O Muse! thou hast described him right,
Th’emetic’s strong, I sicken at the sight:
A fop is nauseating, howe’er he’s dressed,
But this too fulsome is to be expressed.
Such hideous medley would thy work debase,
Where rake and clown, where ape and knave, appear with open face.

Yet stay, proceed and paint his awkward bow,
And if thou hast forgot, I’ll tell thee how:
Set one leg forward, draw his other back,
Nor let the lump a booby wallow lack;
His head bend downward, with obsequious quake,
Then quickly raise it with a spaniel shake.
His honours thus performed, a speech begin
May show th’obliging principles within:
Thy memory to his sense I now confine,
His be the substance, but th’expression thine.

“Madam,” he cries, “Lord, how my soul is moved
To see such silly toys by you approved!
A closet stuffed with books: pray, what’s your crime,
To superannuate before your time,
And make yourself look old and ugly in your prime?
Our modern pedants contradict the schools,
For learned ladies are but learned fools.
With every blockhead’s whim ye load your brains,
And for a shadow take a world of pains.
What is’t to you what numbers Caesar slew?
Or who at Marathon beat the de’il knows who?
Defend me, Fortune! from the wife I hate,
And let not bookish woman be my fate.
For when with rural sports fatigued I come,
And think to rest my wearied limbs at home,
No sooner shall I be retired to bed,
Than she, for one poor word, shall break poor Priscian’s head.
Perhaps you’ll say in books you virtue learn,
And, by right reason, good from ill discern:
Ha, ha! believe me, virtue’s but pretence
To cloak hypocrisy and insolence;
Let woman mind her economic care,
And let the man what he thinks fit prepare
(What he thinks fit, I say, or please to spend,
For those are fools that on their wives depend).
Nor need they musty books to pass their time.
There’s twenty recreations more sublime.
When tired with work, then let them to the play;
If fair, go visit; if a rainy day,
In cards and chat drive lazy time away.
No, hang me if I speak not as I mean:
If on my nuptial day there is not seen
Of all my spouse’s books a stately pyre,
Which she herself obediently shall fire;
And oh! might Europe’s learning in that blaze expire.
Now Madam, pray, the mighty difference show:
I eat, I drink, I sleep as well as you;
I know by custom two and two is four;
My man is honest, then what need I more?
And truly speak it to my joy and praise,
I never read six books in all my days.
Nor should my son; for could my wish prevail,
Blest ignorance I’d on my race entail.
Unthinking and unlearned, in plenteous ease,
My happy heir each appetite should please;
And when chance strikes the last unlucky blow,
Glutted with life, I’d have him boldly go
To try that somewhat or that naught below.”

How is’t, my friend? Can you your spleen contain
At this ignoble wretch, this less than man?
Trust me, I’m weary, can repeat no more,
And own this folly worse than when ‘twas acted o’er.

Elizabeth Thomas (1675–1731)

My Little Bird

My little Bird, how canst thou sit
And sing amidst so many Thorns?
Let me but hold upon thee get,
My Love with Honour thee adorn.

Thou art at present little worth;
Five farthings none will give for thee;
But prithee little Bird come forth,
Thou of more value art to me.

’Tis true it is Sun-shine today,
Tomorrow Birds will have a Storm;
My pretty one, come thou away,
My Bosom then shall keep thee warm.

Thou subject are to cold o’ nights,
When darkness is thy covering;
At days thy danger’s great by Kites,
How canst thou then sit there and sing?

Thy food is scarce and scanty too,
’Tis Worms and Trash which thou dost eat;
Thy present state I pity do,
Come, I’ll provide thee better meat.

I’ll feed thee with white Bread and Milk
And Sugar-plums, if them thou crave;
I’ll cover thee with finest silk,
That from the cold I may thee save.

My Father’s Palace shall be thine,
Yea, in it thou shall sit and sing;
My little Bird, if thou’lt be mine,
The whole year round shall be thy Spring.

I’ll teach thee all the notes at Court;
Unthought of Musick thou shalt play;
And all that thither do resort,
Shall praise thee for it ev’ry day.

I’ll keep thee safe from Cat and Cur,
No manner o’ harm shall come to thee;
Yea, I will be thy Succourer,
My Bosom shall thy Cabbin be.

But lo, behold, the Bird is gone;
These Charmings would not make her yield;
The Child’s left at the Bush alone,
The Bird flies yonder o’er the Field.

John Bunyan (1628–1688)

Miss Betty’s Singing Bird

A pretty song, this coming spring,
A little chanting bird will sing;
The bird you’ve heard old women say
Comes often down the chimney-way,
Then flies or hops the house around,
Where tricks and pranks are to be found;
The same which does all stories tell,
When little girls do ill or well;
When they’re obstrep’rous or loquacious,
With what is given ’em discontent,
Or say things of their own invent;
Fling off their caps and cloaks i’ the street,
Beat little children that they meet,
Call Aunt a sow or ugly witch,
Cic’ly a hussy, slut or b—h,
Scratch, bite and pinch, or pull her quoif,
And lead her a most dreadful life;
Saunter an hour or two to school;
And when they come there play the fool,
The ramping hoyden or Miss Bumkin,
The girls they sit by ever thumping;
Call masters bastards or such name,
And ev’ry little miss defame;
When Aunt can scarce on them prevail
To wear a gown not rattle-tail,
Yet never want a daggled tail;
When they have got a knack of crying,
Their stays a-lacing or hair tying;
Go oft to bed with weeping eyes,
Yet sigh and slobber when they rise;
When raisins, sugar plums nor figs
Will bribe them not to pull off wigs;
For which, their bawling and their yelping,
They surely get full many a skelping,
Are locked in vault, or hole o’ th’ stairs,
To sigh, and fret, and melt in tears,
To bawl and roar, and not let out
Till many a tear is dropped about,
And after to their mistress sent
For further flogging punishment;
Which chastisements, if proving vain,
They never more must go again
To Lecoudre or Delamain,
But carried be, from city far,
To Jerrico or Mullingar.
These, and perhaps a bolder thing,
This little prating bird will sing
Of naughty girls this coming spring.
But if they’re modest, mild and witty,
And do things innocent and pretty;
Observing always what they’re bid,
Never deserving to be chid,
Discreet and good, they will be then
By ladies loved, admired by men;
Indulged in ev’ry harmless way,
And suffered now and then to play;
Have all the finest, nicest clothes
Rich ribbons, laces, stockings, shoes,
Gold snuffbox, watch and diamond pendant,
And cross with jewels at the end on’t;
Oft coach abroad, to take the air
At park and strand, when weather’s fair;
Go now and then on holidays
To concerts, puppet-shows and plays,
Be always fine, most nicely dressed,
In what’s most curious, rich and best.
All these this pretty bird will sing;
All these and more will surely bring
To girls, if good, this coming spring.

John Winstanley (1678?–1750)

To a Young Lady with Some Lampreys

With lovers ’twas of old the fashion
By presents to convey their passion:
No matter what the gift they sent,
The lady saw that love was meant.
Fair Atalanta, as a favour,
Took the boar’s head her hero gave her,
’Twas a fit present from a hunter.
When squires send woodcocks to the dame,
It serves to show their absent flame:
Some by a snip of woven hair
In posied lockets bribe the fair;
How many mercenary matches
Have sprung from di’mond-rings and watches!
But hold—a ring, a watch, a locket,
Would drain at once a poet’s pocket,
He should send songs that cost him nought,
Nor ev’n be prodigal of thought.
Why then send lampreys? Fie. For shame!
’Twill set a virgin’s blood on flame.
This to fifteen a proper gift!
It might lend sixty-five a lift.
I know your maiden aunt will scold,
And think my present somewhat bold.
I see her lift her hands and eyes:
“What, eat it, niece? Eat Spanish flies!
Lamprey’s a most immodest diet:
You’ll neither wake nor sleep in quiet.
Should I tonight eat sago-cream,
’Twould make me blush to tell my dream;
If I eat lobster, ’tis so warming
That ev’r man I see looks charming;
Wherefore had not the filthy fellow
Laid Rochester upon your pillow?
I vow and swear, I think the present
Had been as modest and as decent.
Who has her virtue in her power?
Each day has its unguarded hour,
Always in danger of undoing,
A pawn, a shrimp may prove our ruin!
The shepherdess, who lives on salad,
To cool her youth controls her palate;
Should Dian’s maids turn liqu’rish livers,
And of huge lampreys rob the rivers,
Then all beside each glade and visto,
You’d see nymphs lying like Calisto
The man who meant to heat your blood,
Needs not himself such vicious food—”
In this, I own, your aunt is clear.
I sent you what I well might spare:
For when I see you (without joking),
Your eyes, lips, breasts are so provoking,
They set my heart more cock-a-hoop
Than could whole seas of craw-fish soup.


John Gay (1685–1732)

Lucky Spence’s Last Advice

See Glossary/a> and Note

Three times the carline grain’d and rifted,
Then frae the Cod her Pow she lifted,
In bawdy Policy well gifted,
When she now faun
That Death na longer wad be shifted,
She thus began:

My loving lasses, I maun leave ye;
But dinna wi’ ye’r Greeting grieve me,
Nor wi’ your Draunts and Droning deave me,
But bring’s a Gill;
For Faith, my Bairns, ye may believe me,
‘Tis gainst my Will.

O black Ey’d Bess, and mim Mou’d Meg,
O’er good to work, or yet to beg,
Lay Sunkots up for a sair Leg;
For when ye fail,
Ye’r Face will not be worth a Feg,
Nor yet ye’r Tail.

Whan’er ye meet a Fool that’s fow,
That ye’re a Maiden gar him trow,
Seem nice, but stick to him like Glew
And when set down,
Drive at the Jango till he spew,
Syne he’ll sleep soun.

When he’s asleep, then dive and catch
His ready Cash, his Rings, or Watch;
And gin he likes to light his Match
At your Spunk-box,
Ne’er stand to let the fumbling wretch
E’en take the Pox.

Cleek a’ ye can by Hook or Crook,
Ryp ilky Poutch frae Nook to Nook;
Be sure to truff his Pocket-book—
Saxty Pounds Scots
Is nae deaf Nits: in little Bouk
Lie great Bank-Notes.

To get a Mends of whinging Fools
That’s frighted for Repenting-Stools,
Wha often whan their Metal cools
Turn sweer to pay;
Gar the Kirk-Boxie hale the dools
Anither day.

But dawt Red-Coats, and let them scoup
Free for the Fou of cutty Stoup;
To gee them up, ye needna hope
E’er to do weel:
They’ll rive ye’r Brats, and kick your Doup,
And play the Deel.

There’s ae sair Cross attends the Craft,
That curst Correction-house, where aft
Vild Hangy’s Taz ye’er Riggings saft
Makes black and blae,
Enough to pit a body daft;
But what’ll ye say.

Nane gathers Gear withoutten Care,
Ilk Pleasure has of Pain a Skare;
Suppose then they should tirle ye bare,
And gar ye sike,
E’en learn to thole; ’tis very fair,
Ye’re Nibour like.

Forby, my Looves, count upo’ Losses,
Ye’r Milk-white Teeth, and Cheeks like Roses,
Whan Jet-black Hair and Brigs of Noses
Faw down wi’ Dads,
To keep your Hearts up ’neath sic Crosses,
Set up for Bawds.

Wi’ well crish’d Loofs I hae been canty.
Whan e’er the Lads would fain ha’e faun t’ye
To try the auld Game Taunty-Raunty,
Like Coofers keen,
They took Advice of me, your Aunty,
If you were clean.

Then up I took my Siller Ca’,
And whistl’d benn, whiles ane, whiles twa;
Roun’d in his Lug, That there was a
Poor Country Kate,
As halesome as the Well of Spaw,
But unka blate.

Sae when e’er Company came in,
And were upon a merry Pin,
I slade awa’ wi’ little Din,
And muckle Mense,
Lest Conscience judge, it was a’ ane
To Lucky Spence.

My Bennison come on good Doers,
Wha spend their cash on bawds and whores;
May they ne’er want the Wale of Cures
For a sair Snout:
Foul fa’ the Quacks wha that Fire smoors,
And puts nae out.

My Malison light ilka Day
On them that drink and dinna pay,
But tak a Snack and rin away;
May’t be their Hap
Never to want a Gonorrhea
Or rotten clap.

Lass, gi’e us in anither Gill.
A Mutchken, Jo, let’s tak our Fill;
Let Death syne registrate his Bill
Whan I want Sense,
I’ll slip away with better Will.
Quo’ Lucky Spence.

Allan Ramsay (1686–1758)

Elegy on Maggy Johnston
Who died Anno 1711

Auld Reeky mourn in Sable Hue,
Let Fouth of Tears dreep like May Dew,
To braw Tippony bid Adieu,
Which we with greed
Bended as fast as she cou’d brew,
But ah! she’s dead.

To tell the truth now Maggy dang,
Of Customers she had a Bang;
For Lairds and Souters a’ did gang
To drink bedeen,
The Barn and Yard was aft sae thrang,
We took the Green.

And there by Dizens we lay down,
Syne sweetly ca’d the Healths arown,
To bonny Lasses black or brown,
As we loo’d best;
In Bumpers we dull Cares did drown,
And took our Rest.

When in our Poutch we fand some Clinks,
And took a Turn o’er Bruntsfield-Links,
Aften in Maggy’s at Hy-jinks,
We guzl’d Scuds,
Till we cou’d scarce wi’ hale-out Drinks
Cast off our Duds.

We drank and drew, and fill’d again,
O wow but we were blithe and fain!
When ony had their Count mistain,
O it was nice,
To hear us a’ cry, Pike ye’r Bain,
And spell ye’r Dice.

Fou closs we us’d to drink and rant
Until we did baith glowre and gaunt,
And pish and spew, and yesk and maunt,
Right swash I true;
Then of auld Stories we did cant
When we were fou.

When we were weary’d at the Gowff,
Then Maggy Johnston’s was our Howff;
Now a’ our Gamesters may sit dowff,
Wi’ Hearts like Lead,
Death wi’ his Rung rax’d her a Yowff,
And sae she died.

Maun we be forc’d thy Skill to tine?
For which we will right sair repine;
Or hast thou left to Bairns of thine
The pauky Knack
Of brewing Ale amaist like Wine
That gar’d us crack.

Sae brawly did a Pease-scon Toast
Biz i’ the Queff, and flie the Frost;
There we gat fou wi’ little Cost,
And muckle Speed,
Now wae worth Death, our Sport’s a’ lost,
Since Maggy’s dead.

Ae Simmer Night I was sae fou,
Amang the Riggs I geed to spew;
Syne down on a green Bawk, I trow
I took a Nap,
And soucht a Night Balillilow,
As sound’s a Tap.

And when the Dawn begoud to glow,
I hirsl’d up my dizzy Pow,
Frae ’mang the Corn like Wirricow,
Wi’ Bains sae sair,
And ken’d not mair than if a Ew
How I came there.

Some said it was the Pith of Broom
That she stow’d in her Masking-loom,
Which in our Heads rais’d sic a Foom,
Or some wild Seed,
Which aft the Chaping Stoup did toom,
But fill’d our Head.

But now since ’tis sae that we must
Not in the best Ale put our Trust,
But whan we’re auld return to Dust
Without Remead,
Why shou’d we tak it in Disgust
That Maggy’s dead.

Of wardly Comforts she was rife,
And liv’d a lang and hearty Life,
Right free of Care, or Toil, or Strife,
Till she was stale,
And ken’d to be a kanny Wife
At brewing Ale.

Then farewell Maggy douce and fell,
Of Brewers a’ thou boor the Bell;
Let a’ thy Gossies yelp and yell,
And without Feed,
Guess whether ye’re in Heaven or Hell,
They’re sure ye’re dead.


Allan Ramsay (1686–1758)

The Bonny Earl of Murray

Ye Highlands, and ye Lawlands,
Oh! where have you been?
They have slain the Earl of Murray,
And they laid him on the green!
They have, &c

Now wae be to thee, Huntly,
And wherefore did you sae?
I bade you bring him wi’ you,
But forbade you him to slay.
I bade, &c.

He was a braw gallant,
And he rid at the ring;
And the bonny Earl of Murray,
Oh! he might have been a king.
And the &c.

He was a braw gallant,
And he play’d at the ba’:
And the bonny Earl of Murray
Was the flower among them a’.
And the, &c.

He was a braw gallant,
And he play’d at the glove:
And the bonny Earl of Murray
Oh! he was the queen’s love.
And the, &c.

Oh! lang will his lady
Look o’er the castle Down,
Ere she see the Earl of Murray
Come sounding through the town.
Ere she, &c.

Anonymous (from Ramsay’s Tea-Table Miscellany)

O Waly, Waly

O waly, waly, up yon bank,
And waly, waly down yon brae;
And waly by yon river’s side,
Where my love and I was wont to gae.

Waly, waly, gin love be bonny,
A little while when it is new;
But when it’s auld, it waxes cauld
And wears away, like morning dew.

I leant my back unto an aik,
I thought it was a trusty tree;
But first it bow’d, and sine it brake,
And sae did my fause love to me.

When cockle-shells turn siller bells,
And muscles grow on ev’ry tree;
When frost and snaw shall warm us a’,
Then shall my love prove true to me.

Now Arthur-Seat shall be my bed,
The sheets shall ne’er by fyl’d by me;
Saint Anton’s Well shall be my drink,
Since my true love has forsaken me.

O Martinmas wind, when wilt thou blaw,
And shake the green leaves off the tree?
O gentle death, when wilt thou come?
And take a life that wearies me.

‘Tis not the frost that freezes fell,
Nor blawing snaw’s inclemency;
‘Tis not sic cauld that makes me cry,
But my love’s heart grown cauld to me.

When we came in by Glasgow town,
We were a comely sight to see;
My love was clad in the black velvet,
And I my sell in cramaisie.

But had I wist, before I kiss’d,
The love had been sae ill to win,
I’d locked my heart in a case of gold,
And pin’d it with a silver pin.

Oh, oh, if my young babe were born,
And set upon the nurse’s knee,
And I my sell were dead and gane!
For a maid again I’ll never be.


Waly> exclamation of sorrow; syne>then; aik>oak; busk>adorn;
Arthur-seat> hill in Edinburgh; fyl’d> defiled, soiled;
Saint Anton’s Well>below Arthur’s Seat; Martinmas>November; cramasie>crimson

Johnny Faa, the Gypsie Laddie

The gypsies came to our good lord’s gate,
And vow but they sang sweetly;
They sang sae sweet, and sae very compleat,
That down came the fair lady.

And she came tripping down the stair,
And a’ her maids before her;
As soon as they saw her well-far’d face,
They coost the glamer o’er her.

Gae tak frae me this gay mantile,
And bring to me a plaidie;
For if kith and kin and a’ had sworn,
I’ll follow the gypsie laddie.

Yestreen I lay in a well-made bed,
And my good lord beside me;
This night I’ll ly in a tenant’s barn,
Whatever shall betide me.

Come to your bed, says Johnny Faa,
Oh come to your bed, my deary;
For I vow and swear, by the hilt of my sword,
That your lord shall nae mair come near ye.

I’ll go to bed my Johnny Faa,
I’ll go to bed my deary;
For I vow and swear by what past yestreen,
That my lord shall nae mair come near me.

I’ll mak a hap to my Johnny Faa,
And I’ll mak a hap to my deary,
And he’s get a’ the coat goes round,
And my lord shall nae mair come near me.

And when my lord came hame at een,
And speir’d for his fair lady,
The tane she cry’d, and the other reply’d,
She’s away with the gypsie laddie.

Gae saddle to me the black black steed,
Gae saddle and make him ready;
Before that I either eat or sleep,
I’ll gae seek my fair lady.

And we were fifteen well-made men,
Altho’ we were nae bonny;
And we were a’ put down for ane,
A fair young wanton lady.


Church Monuments

While that my soul repairs to her devotion,
Here I entomb my flesh, that it betimes
May take acquaintance of this heap of dust,
To which the blast of death’s incessant motion,
Fed with the exhalation of our crimes,
Drives all at last. Therefore I gladly trust

My body to this school, that it may learn
To spell his elements, and find his birth
Written in dusty heraldry and lines;
Which dissolution sure doth best discern,
Comparing dust with dust, and earth with earth.
These laugh at jet and marble, put for signs,

To sever the good fellowship of dust
And spoil the meeting: what shall point out them,
When they shall bow, and kneel, and fall down flat
To kiss those heaps which now they have in trust?
Dear flesh, while I do pray, learn here thy stem
And true descent, that, when thou shalt grow fat,

And wanton in thy cravings, thou may’st know
That flesh is but the glass which holds the dust
That measures all our time; which also shall
Be crumbled into dust. Mark here below
How tame these ashes are, how free from lust,—
That thou mayst fit thyself against thy fall.

George Herbert (1591–1674)

The Life and Death of the Piper of Kilbarchan

See Glossary and Note

Kilbarchan now may say, alas!
For she hath lost her Game and Grace,
Both Trixie and the Maiden Trace:
But what Remeed?
For no man can supply his Place,
Hab Simson’s dead.

Now who shall play The Day it daws?
Or Hunts up, when the Cock he craws?
Or who can for our Kirk-towns Cause,
Stand us instead?
On Bag-pipes now no body blaws,
Sen Habbie’s dead.

Or who shall cause our Shearers shear?
Who will bend up the Brags of Weir,
Bring in the Bells, or good play Meir,
In Time of Need?
Hab Simson could, what need you speir?
But now he’s dead.

So kindly to his Neighbours neist,
At Beltan and Saint Barchan’s Feast,
He blew and then held up his Breist,
As he were weid,
But now we need not him arreist;
For Habbie’s dead.

At Fairs he play’d before the Spear-Men,
All gayly graithed in their Gear-men.
Steel Bonnets, Jacks, and Swords so clear then
Like any Bead,
Now who shall play before such Weir-Men,
Sen Habbie’s dead?

At Clark-Plays when he wont to come;
His Pipe play’d trimly to the Drum,
Like Bikes of Bees he gart it bum,
And tun’d his Reed:
Now all our Pipers may sing dumb,
Sen Habbie’s dead.

And at Horse-Races many a Day,
Before the Black, the Brown, the Gray,
He gart his Pipe when he did play,
Baith skirl and skried:
Now all such Pastim’s quite away,
Sen Habbie’s dead.

He counted was a wail’d wight Man,
And fiercely at Foot-baill he ran;
At every Game the Gree he wan,
For Pith and Speed;
The like of Habbie was not than,
But now he’s dead.

And than beside his valiant Acts,
At Brydels he wan many Placks,
He babbed ay behind Folks Backs,
And shook his Head.
Now we want many merry Cracks,
Sen Habbie’s dead.

He was convoyer of the Bride;
With Kittock hanging at his side,
About the Kirk he thought a Pride,
The Ring to lead.
But now she may go but a Guide;
For Habbie’s dead.

So well’s he keeped his Decorum,
And all the Steps of Whip meg morum,
He slew a Man, and wae’s me for him,
And bare the Fead!
But yet the man wan Hame before him,
And was not dead!

Ay when he play’d the Lasses leugh,
To see him toothless, old and teuch.
He wan his Pipes beside Barheugh,
Withoutten dread:
Which after wan him Gear enough,
But now he’s dead.

[Ay whan he play’d, the Gaitlings gedder’d,
And whan he spake, the Carl bledder’d:
On Sabbath Days his Cap was fedder’d,
A seemly Weid.
In the Kirk-yeard his Mare stood tedder’d,
Where he was dead.]

Alas! for him my Heart is sare,
For of his Springs I got a Share,
At every play, Race, Feast and Fair,
But Guile or Greed.
We need not look for Piping mair,
Sen Habbie’s dead.

Robert Sempill (1595?–1660?)

A Receipt to Cure the Vapours

Why will Delia thus retire
And idly languish life away?
While the sighing crowds admire,
’Tis too soon for hartshorn tea.

All those dismal looks and fretting
Cannot Damon’s life restore;
Long ago the worms have ate him,
You can never see him more.

Once again consult your toilet,
In the glass your face review;
So much weeping soon will spoil it,
And no spring your charms renew.

I like you was born a woman—
Well I know what vapours mean;
The disease alas! is common;
Single, we have all the spleen.

All the morals that they tell us
Never cured sorrow yet;
Choose among the pretty fellows
One of humour, youth, and wit.

Prithee hear him every morning
For at least an hour or two,
Once again at night returning—
I believe the dose will do.

Mary Montagu (1689–1762)

Receipt> Recipe.

Hartshorn > “ammonium carbonate, used in smelling salts; sal volatile; so called because formerly obtained from deers’ antlers.” Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th ed,

vapours> “ (a) exhalations from the stomach believed to be harmful to one’s health; (b) hypochondria or depressed spirits (often with ‘the’).” ibid

The Reasons That Induced Dr Swift to Write a Poem Called “The Lady’s Dressing Room”

The Doctor in a clean, starched band,
His Golden Snuff box in his hand,
With care his Diamond Ring displays
And Artful shows its various Rays,
While Grave he stalks down — — Street
His dearest Betty — to meet.

Long had he waited for this Hour,
Nor gained admittance to the Bower,
Had joked and punned, and swore and writ,
Tried all his Gallantry and Wit,
Had told her oft what part he bore
In Oxford’s Schemes in days of yore,
But Bawdy, Politicks, nor Satyr
Could move this dull, hard-hearted Creature.
Jenny, her Maid, could taste a Rhyme,
And grieved to see him lose his Time,
Had kindly whispered in his Ear,
For twice two pounds you enter here.
My Lady vows, without that Sum
It is in vain you write or come.

The Destined Offering now he brought
And in a paradise of thought,
With a low bow approached the Dame
Who smiling heard him preach his Flame.
His Gold she takes (such proofs as these
Convince most unbelieving shees),
And in her trunk rose up to lock it
(Too wise to trust it to her pocket),
And then returned with Blushing Grace,
Expects the Doctor’s warm Embrace.

But now this is the proper place
Where morals Stare me in the Face
And for the sake of fine Expression
I’m forced to make a small digression.
Alas for wretched Humankind,
With Learning Mad, with wisdom blind!
The Ox thinks he’s for Saddle fit
(As long ago Friend Horace writ)
And Men their Talents still mistaking,
The stutterer fancies his is speaking.
With Admiration oft we see
Hard Features heightened by Toupée,
The Beau affects the Politician,
Wit is the citizen’s Ambition,
Poor Pope Philosophy displays on
With so much Rhyme and little reason,
And tho’ he argues ne’er so long
That all is right, his Head is wrong.

None strive to know their proper merit
But strain for Wisdom, Beauty, Spirit,
And lose the Praise that is their due
While they’ve th’impossible in view.
So have I seen the Injudicious Heir
To add one Window the whole House impair.

Instinct the Hound does better teach
Who never undertook to preach,
The frighted Hare from Dogs does run
But not attempts to bear a Gun.
How many Noble thoughts occur
But I prolixity abhor,
And will pursue th’instructive Tale
To show the Wise in some things fail.

The Reverend Lover with surprise
Peeps in her Bubbies, and her Eyes,
And kisses both, and tries—and tries.
The Evening in this Hellish Play,
Beside his Guineas thrown away,
Provoked the Priest to that degree
He swore, the Fault is not in me.
Your damned Close stool so near my Nose.
Your Dirty Smock, and Stinking Toes
Would make a Hercules as tame
As any Beau that you can name.

The nymph grown Furious roared by God
The blame lies all in Sixty odd
And scornful pointing to the door
Cried Fumbler see my Face no more.
With all my Heart I’ll go away
But nothing done, I’ll nothing pay.
Give back the Money—How, cried she,
Would you palm such a cheat on me!
For poor four pound to roar and bellow,
Why sure you want some new Prunella?
I’ll be revenged you saucy Quean
(Replies the disappointed Dean)
I’ll so describe your dressing room
The very Irish shall not come.
She answered short, I’m glad you’ll write,
You’ll furnish paper when I shite.

Mary Montagu (1689–1762)

Oxford>Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford , with whom and his fellow Tory Henry St. John, 1st Viscount Bolinbroke, Swift had been intimate for a while.

Saturday: The Small-Pox.

The wretched Flavia on her couch reclined,
Thus breathed the anguish of a wounded mind;
A glass reversed in her right hand she bore,
For now she shunned the face she sought before:

“How am I changed! alas! how am I grown
A frightful spectre, to myself unknown!
Where’s my complexion? Where my radiant bloom,
That promised happiness for years to come?
Then with what pleasure I this face surveyed!
To look once more, my visits oft delayed!
Charmed with the view, a fresher red would rise,
And a new life shot sparkling from my eyes!

Ah! faithless glass, my wanted bloom restore,
Alas! I rave, that bloom is now no more!
The greatest good the Gods on men bestow,
Even youth itself, to me is useless now:
There was a time (oh! that I could forget!)
When opera-tickets poured before my feet;
And at the ring, where brightest beauties shine,
The earliest cherries of the spring were mine.
Witness, O Lily, and thou, Motteaux, tell
How much Japan these eyes have made ye sell,
With what contempt ye saw me oft despise
The humble offer of the raffled prize;
For at each raffle still the prize I bore,
With scorn rejected, or with triumph wore!
Now beauty’s fled, and presents are no more.

For me the Patriot has the House forsook,
And left debates to catch a passing look:
For me the Soldier has soft verses writ;
For me the Beau has aimed to be a Wit.
For me the Wit to nonsense was betrayed;
The Gamester has for me his dun delayed,
And overseen the card I would have paid.
The bold and haughty by success made vain,
Awed by my eyes have trembled to complain:
The bashful ’squire touchd with a wish unknown,
Has dared to speak with spirit not his own;
Fired by one wish, all did alike adore;
Now beauty’s fled, and lovers are no more!

As round the room I turn my weeping eyes,
New unaffected scenes of sorrow rise!
Far from my sight that killing picture bear,
The face disfigure, and the canvas tear!
That picture which with pride I used to show,
The lost resemblance but upbraids me now.
And thou, my toilette! where I oft have sat,
While hours unheeded passed in deep debate,
How curls should fall, or where a patch to place:
If blue or scarlet best became my face;
Now on some happier nymph your aid bestow;
On fairer heads, ye useless jewels glow!
No borrowed luster can my charms restore;
Beauty is fled, and dress is now no more!

Ye meaner beauties, I permit ye shine;
Go, triumph in the hearts that once were mine;
But midst your triumphs with confusion know,
’Tis to my ruin all your charms ye owe.
Would pitying Heaven restore my wonted mien,
Ye still might move unthought-of and unseen.
But oh! how vain, how wretched is the boast
Of beauty faded, and of empire lost!
What now is left but weeping, to deplore
My beauty fled, and empire now no more?

Ye cruel Chymists, what withheld your aid?
Could no pomatums save a trembling maid?
How false and trifling is that art ye boast,
No art can give me back my beauty lost.
In tears, surrounded by my friends I lay,
Mask’d o’er and trembling at the sight of day;
MERMILLO came my fortune to deplore,
(A golden headed cane well carv’d he bore)
Cordial, he cried, my spirits must restore:
Beauty is fled, and spirit is no more.

GALEN, the grave, officious SQUIRT, was there,
With fruitless grief and unavailing care:
MACHAON too, the great MACHAON, known
By his red cloak and his superior frown;
And why, he cried, this grief and this despair?
You shall again be well, again be fair;
Believe my oath, my beauty is no more!

Cease, hapless maid, no more thy tale pursue,
Forsake mankind, and bid the world adieu!
Monarchs and beauties rule with equal sway;
All strive to serve, and glory to obey:
Alike unpitied when deposed they grow;
Men mock the idol of their former vow.

Adieu! ye parks!—in some obscure recess,
Where gentle streams will weep at my distress,
Where no false friend will in my grief take part,
And mourn my ruin with a joyful heart;
There let me live in some deserted place,
There hide in shades this lost inglorious face.
Ye, operas, circles, I no more must view!
My toilette, patches, all the world adieu!”

Mary Montagu (1689–1762)

Ignotum per Ignotius,
or a Furious Hodge-Podge of Nonsense.
A Pindaric

Or yield or die’s the word, what could he mean,
That tempted the corroborated scene?
Though frying-pans do bite their nails,
Let fritters pass in ancient heraldry,
And pudding boast its pedigree:
When toads do fight with bankrupt quails,
Green cheese in embryo and lockram shirts
Do poll for Knights o’ the Shire,
All buttoned down the skirts,
And quibble votes for the intoxicated year.

The semicircular excursions ran
Forth to monopolise the three-legged can;
When Justice Lickspit kembed his head,
Triumphant hieroglyphic thrummed the law,
And spouting cataracts foresaw
That magazines on bulks lay dead.
The scouring eggshells all besmeared with blood,
Inveloped in damned dry blows,
Detached the sudorific mud,
And brewed a pair of still mustachios.

It galled the winching brush to hear them say
That rigid southern hog-troughs danced the hay;
Though porringers themselves do beat,
And flyblown crow, on vane of weathercock,
Does threshing floors from hinges knock,
And squeamish bellows loathe their meat
Yet grinning oaks still show their butter-teeth,
And fiery hogos from their sties
Do limping legacies bequeath,
And jest upon their blind forefathers’ eyes.

Anonymous (1705)

Ane little Interlude of the Droichs

See Glossary/a> and Note



Hirry, hary, hobbilschow,
Se ye not quha is cum now,
But yit wate I nevir how,
Brocht with the Quihirl-wind;
A Sergeand out of Soudoun Land,
A Gyane strang in Limbs to stand,
That with the Strength of my awin Hand
May Bairs and Bugles bind.


Quaha is then cum heir, but I
A bauld and bowsteous Bellomy,
Among you all to cry a Cry
With a maist michty Soun?
I generit am of Gyans kynd,
Fra hardy Hercules be Strynd,
Of all the Occident and Ynd,
My Elders woir the Croun.


My fore Grandsyre heicht Fynmackoull,
Quha dang the Deil, and gart him youl,
The Skyes raind Fludes quhen he wald skoul,
He troublit all the Air.
He gat my Gudsyre Gog Magog,
He, when he daunst, the Warld wald schog,
Then Thousand Ells yied in his Frog
Of Highland Plaids, and mair.


Sic was he quhen of tendir Youth,
But aftir he grew mair at Fouth,
Elevin Myle wyde mett was his Mouth,
His Teith was ten Myles squair;
He wald upon his Tais upstand,
And tak the Starns doun with his Hand,
And set them in a Gold Garland,
Abuve his Wyfes Hair.


His Wyfe scho mekle was of Clift,
Her Heid wan heicher than the Lift,
The Hevin reirdit quhen she did rift,
The Lass was naithing sklender:
Scho spat Loch-lowmond with hir Lips,
Thunder and Fyre flew from hir Hips,
Quhen scho was crabbit, the Sun thold Clips;
The Feynd durst nocht offend hir.


For Cauld scho tuke the Fevir Cartane,
For all the Claith in France and Bartane
Wald not be to hir Leg a Gartane,
Thocht scho was yung and tendir:
Upon a Nicht heir in the North,
Scho tuke the Gravel, and staild Craig-gorth,
And pischt the grit Watter of Forth,
Sic Tyd ran afterhind hir.


Ane Thing written of hir I find,
In Yrland quhen scho blew behind,
On Norway Coist she raist the Wind,
And grit Schips drownit their:
The scho fischt all the Spainyie Seis,
With her Sark Lap betwix her Theyis,
And thre Days sailing tween her Kneis
It was esteemd and mair.


The hingan Braes on Adir Syde
Scho powtert with hir Lymms sae wyde;
Lasses micht lair at hir to stryde,
Wald gae to Luvairs lair.
Scho market to the Land with Mirth,
Scho quihirrd five Quhails into the Firth
Had croppin on hir Geig for Girth,
Walterand amang the Wair.


My Fader mekle Gow Macmorne,
Out of his Moders Wame was schorne,
For Littlenes scho was forlorn,
Sican a Kemp to beir;
Or he of Age was Yeirs thre,
He wald stap owre the Ocean Se,
The Mone sprang neir abune his Knie,
The Heavens had of him Feir.


Ane thousand Yiers ar past frae Mynd,
Sen I was generit of his Kynd,
Far furth in Desart of the Ynd,
Amang Lyon and Beir:
Worthy King Arthur and Gawane,
And mony a bauld Bairn of Bartane
Ar deid, and in the Wars are slain,
Sen I could weild a Speir.


The Sophie and the Sowdoun strang,
With Battles that haif lastit lang,
Out of their Bounds has maid me gang,
And turn to Turkie tyte.
The King of Francis grit Armie
Has brocht a Derth in Lombardie,
That in the Countrie I and he
Can nocht dwell baith perfyte.


Swadrick, Danmark, and Noraway,
Nor in the Steids I dar not gae,
For ther is nocht but burn and flae,
Cut Thropples and mak quyte.
Yrland for ay I haif refusit,
All wyse Men will hald me excusit;
For neit in Land wher Earse is usit,
To dwell had I delyt.


I haif bene foremost ay in Feild,
And now sae lang haif born the Scheild,
That I am crynit in for Eild
This little, as ye may se:
I haif bene banist under the Lynd
This lang Tyme, that nane could me fynd,
Quhyle now with this laist Eistin Wynd,
I am cum her perdie.


My name is Welth, therefore be blyth,
I am cum Comfort you to kyth,
Suppose ilk Wretch suld wail and wryth,
All Derth I sall gar die:
For certainly the Truth to tell,
I cum amang ye now to dwell,
Far frae the Sound of Curphour Bell,
To live I neir sall drie.


Now sen I am sic Quantitie
Of Gyans cum, as ye may se,
Quhair will be gotten a Wyfe for me,
Of siclyk Breid and Hicht?
In all this Bour is not a Bryde
Ane Hour I wate dar me abyde,
Yet trow ye ony Heir beside
Micht suffer me all Nicht.
But I will not lang byde ye frae.


Adew a quhyle, for now I gae,
But I will not lang byde ye frae
I wisch ye be conserft from Wae,
Bait Maiden, Wyfe and Man:
God bless them and the haly Rude,
Gif me a Drink, se it be gude,
And quha trows best that I do lude,
Skink first to me the Kan.

From Allan Ramsay, ed., The Ever Green; a Collection of Scots Poems (1724–1727)

A Brash of Wooing

See Glossary/a> and Note

In secret Place this hinder Nicht
I heard a Bairn say till a Bricht,
My Hinny, my Howp, my Heart, my Heil,
I haif been lang your Luiver leil,
And can of you get Comfort nane,
How long will ye with Danger deil?
Ye brek my Heart, my bony ane.

His Bony Baird was kemd and cropit,
But all with Kail it was bedropit,
Comich he was, fulish and goukit,
He clapit fast, he kist, he chukit,
As with the Glaicks he were oergane,
Yet by his Feirs he wald have ——
Ye brek my Heart, my bony ane.

Quod he, my Heart, seit as the Hinny,
Sen that I born was of my Minny,
I never wouit an uther but you,
My Wame is of your Love sae fou,
That as a Ghaist I glowr and grane,
I trymil sae ye wadna trow,
Ye brek my Heart, my bony ane.

Tehei, quod scho, and gae a Gawf,
Be still my Cowsyne, and my Cawf,
My new spaind Howphyn frae the Souk,
And all the Blythness of my Bouk,
My swanky sweet, saif thee alane,
Nae Leid haif I luivd all this Owk,
Fow leis me on that gracless gane.

Quod he, my Claver, my Curiedody,
My Hinnysopps, my sweit Possody,
Be not owre bowstrous to your Billy,
Be warm hertit, not illywilly;
Your Hals as whyt as Quhalis Bane,
Gars rise on Loft my Quilly-lillie,
Ye brek my Heart my bony ane.

Quod scho, my Clip, my unspaynd Lam,
With Mithers Milk yet in your Gam,
My Belly Hudrom, my Hurle Bawly,
My Honneyguks, my Siller Tawsy,
Your Pleins wud pers a Heart of Stane;
Tak Comfort, my great headed Gawsy,
Fou lies me on your gracles gane.

Quod he, my Kid, my Capercalyeane,
My bony Bab with the ruch Brilyeane,
My tender Girdil, my Wally Gowdy,
My Tirly Mirly, my Sowdy Mowdy,
Quhen that our Mouths do meit in ane,
My Stang does cork in with your Towdy,
Ye brek my Heart, my bony ane.

Quod scho then tak me be the Hand,
Welcom my Golk of Maryland,
My Chirry and my maikless Mynyeon,
My Sucker sweit as ony Unyeon,
My Strummil Stirk yet new to spane,
I am applyd to your Opinyion,
Fou leis me on that gracless gane.

He gaif til hir ane Aple-ruby,
Gramerce, quod scho, my kind Cowhubby,
Syne they twa till a Play began,
Quilk that they call the Dirrydan.
Quhile baith thair Fancies met in ane,
O vow! Quoth she, quahir will he Man,
Leil lies me on that gracles gane.


To Mrs. Frances-Arabella Kelly

Today as at my glass I stood,
To set my head-clothes and my hood,
I saw my grizzled locks with dread,
And called to mind the Gorgon’s head.

Thought I, whate’er the poets say,
Medusa’s hair was only grey:
Though Ovid, who the story told,
Was too well-bred to call her old;
But, what amounted to the same,
He made her an immortal dame.
Yet now, whene’er a matron sage
Hath felt the rugged hand of age,
You hear our witty coxcombs cry,
‘Rot that old witch—she’ll never die’;
Though, had they but a little reading,
Ovid would teach them better breeding.

I fancy now I hear you say,
‘Grant heaven my locks may ne’er be grey!
Why am I told this frightful story,
To beauty a memento mori?’

And, as along the room you pass,
Casting your eye upon the glass,
‘Surely,’ say you, ‘this lovely face
Will never suffer such disgrace:
The bloom, that on my cheek appears,
Will never be impaired by years.
Her envy, now I plainly see,
Makes her inscribe those lines to me.
These beldames, who were born before me,
Are grieved to see the men adore me::
Their snaky locks freeze up the blood;
My tresses fire the purple flood.

‘Unnumbered slaves around me wait,
And from my eyes expect their fate.
I own of conquest I am vain,
Though I despise the slaves I gain.
Heaven gave me charms, and destined me
To universal tyranny.’

Mary Barber (1690–1757)


Foolish eyes, thy streams give over,
Wine, not water, binds the lover:
At the table then be shining,
Gay coquette, and all designing.
To th’addressing foplings bowing,
And thy smile or hand allowing,
Whine no more thy sacred passion,
Out of nature, out of fashion.

Let him, disappointed, find thee
False as he, nor dream to bind thee,
While he breaks all tender measures,
Murdering love and all its pleasures.
Shall a look or word deceive thee,
Which he once an age will give thee?
Oh! No more, no more excuse him,
Like a dull deserter use him.

Martha Sansom (1690–1736)

The Humble Wish

I ask not wit, nor beauty do I crave,
Nor wealth, nor pompous titles wish to have;
But since ‘tis doomed, in all degrees of life
(Whether a daughter, sister, or a wife),
That females shall the stronger males obey,
And yield perforce to their tyrannic sway;
Since this, I say is every woman’s fate,
Give me a mind to suit my slavish state.

Arabella Moreton (after 1690–before 1741)

On a Death’s Head

On this resemblance, where we find
A portrait drawn for all mankind,
Fond lover! Gaze awhile, to see
What beauty’s idol charms shall be.
Where are the balls that once could dart
Quick lightning through the wounded heart?
The skin, whose tint could once unite
The glowing red and polished white?
The lip in brighter ruby dressed?
The cheek with dimpled smiles impressed?
The rising front, where Beauty sate
Throned in her residence of state;
Which half-disclosed and half-concealed,
The hair in flowing ringlets veiled?
‘Tis vanished all! Remains alone
The eyeless scalp of naked bone,
The vacant orbits sunk within,
The jaw that offers at a grin.
Is this the object then that claims
The tribute of our youthful flames?
Must amorous hopes and fancied bliss,
Too dear delusions, end in this?
How high does Melancholy swell!
Which sighs can more than language tell;
Till love can only grieve or fear:
Reflect awhile, then drop a tear
For all that’s beautiful and dear.


Elizabeth Tollet (1694–1754)

Written to a Near Neighbour in a Tempestuous Night, 1748

You bid my muse not cease to sing,
You bid my ink not cease to flow;
Then say it ever shall be spring,
And boisterous winds shall never blow:
When you such miracles can prove,
I’ll sing of friendship, or of love.

But now, alone, by storms oppressed,
Which harshly in my ears resound;
No cheerful voice with witty jest,
No jocund pipe, to still the sound;
Untrained beside in verse-like art,
How shall my pen express my heart?

In vain I call th’harmonious Nine,
In vain implore Apollo’s aid;
Obdurate, they refuse a line,
While spleen and care my rest invade.
Say, shall we Morpheus next implore,
And try if dreams befriend us more?

Wisely at least he’ll stop my pen,
And with his poppies crown my brow:
Better by far in lonesome den
To sleep unheard-of—than to glow
With treacherous wildfire of the brain,
Th’intoxicated poet’s bane.

Henrietta Knight (1699-1756)

An Epistle to Lady Bowyer

How much of paper’s soiled! What floods of ink!
And yet how few, how very few can think!
The knack of writing is an easy trade;
But to think well requires—at least a head.
Once in an age, one genius may arise,
With wit well-cultured, and with learning wise
Like some tall oak, behold his branches shoot!
No tender scions sprouting at the root.
Whilst lofty Pope erects his laurelled head,
No lays like mine can live beneath his shade
Nothing but weeds, and moss, and shrubs are found.
Cut, cut them down, why cumber they the ground?

And yet you’d have me write!—For what? For whom?
To curl a favourite in a dressing-room?
To mend a candle when the snuff’s too short?
Or save rappee for chamber-maids at court?
Glorious ambition! noble thirst of fame!—
No, but you’d have me write—to get a name.
Alas! I’d live unknown, unenvied too,
‘Tis more than Pope with all his wit can do;
‘Tis more than you with wit and beauty joined,
A pleasing form, and a discerning mind.
The world and I are no such cordial friends;
I have my purpose, they their various ends.
I say my prayers, and lead a sober life,
Nor laugh at Cornus, or at Cornus’ wife.
What’s fame to me, who pray, and pay my rent?
If my friends know me honest, I’m content.

Well, but the joy to see my works in print!
Myself too pictured in a mezzotint!
The preface done, the dedication framed,
With lies enough to make a lord ashamed!
Thus I step forth, an Auth’ress in some sort;
My patron’s name? ‘O choose some lord at court.
One that has money which he does not use,
One you may flatter much, that is, abuse.
For if you’re nice, and cannot change your note,
Regardless of the trimmed, or untrimmed coat,
Believe me, friend, you’ll ne’er be worth a groat.

Well then, to cut this mighty matter short,
I’ve neither friend nor interest at Court.
Quite from St. James’s to thy stairs, Whitehall,
I barely know a creature, great or small,
Except one Maid of Honour, worth them all.
I have no business there—Let those attend
The courtly levee, or the courtly friend,
Who more than fate allows them dare to spend;
Or those whose avarice, with much, craves more,
The pensioned beggar, or the titled poor.
These are the thriving breed, the tiny great!
Slaves! wretched slaves! the journeymen of state.
Philosophers! who calmly bear disgrace,
Patriots who sell their country for a place.
Shall I for these disturb my brains with rhyme?
For these, like Bavius creep, or Glencus climb?
Shall I go late to rest, and early rise,
To be the very creature I despise?
With face unmoved, my poems in my hand,
Cringe to the porter, with the footman stand?
Perhaps my lady’s maid, if not too proud,
Will creep, you’ll say, to wink me from the crowd.
Will entertain me, till his lordship’s dressed,
With what my lady eats, and how she rests:
How much she gave for such a Birthday-gown,
And how she tramped to every shop in town.

Sick at the news, impatient for my lord,
I’m forced to hear, nay smile at every word.
Tom raps at last—‘His lordship begs to know
Your name? Your business?—‘Sir, I’m not a foe:
I come to charm his lordship’s listening ears
With verses, soft as music of the spheres.’
‘Verses!—Alas! his lordship seldom reads;
Pedants indeed with learning stuff their heads;
But my good lord, as all the world can tell,
Reads not ev’n tradesmen’s bills, and scorns to spell.
But trust your lays with me—some things I’ve read,
Was born a poet, though no poet bred:
And if I find they’ll bear my nicer view,
I’ll recommend your poetry—and you.’

Shocked at his civil impudence, I start,
Pocket my poem, asnd in hast depart;
Resolved no more to offer up my wit,
Where footmen in the seat of critics sit.

Is there a Lord whose great unspotted soul,
Not places, persons, ribbons can control;
Unlaced, unpowdered, almost unobserved,
Eats not on silver while his train are starved;
Who, though to nobles or to kings allied,
Dares walk on foot, while slaves in coaches ride;
With merit humble, and with greatness free,
Has bowed to Freeman, and has dined with me;
Who, bred in foreign courts, and early known,
Has yet to learn the cunning of his own;
To titles born, yet heir to no estate,
And harder still, too honest to be great;
If such an one there be, well-bred, polite,
To him I’ll dedicate, for him I’ll write.

Peace to the rest—I can be no man’s slave;
I ask for nothing, though I nothing have.
By fortune humbled, yet not sunk so low
To shame a friend, or fear to meet a foe.
Meanness, in ribbons or in rags, I hate;
And have not learned to flatter ev’n the great.
Few friends I ask, and those who love me well;
What more remains, these artless lines shall tell.

Of honest parents, not of great, I came;
Not known to fortune, quite unknown to fame.
Frugal and plain, at no man’s cost I eat,
Nor knew a baker’s or a butcher’s debt.
O be their precepts ever in my eye!
For one has learned to live, and one to die.
Long may her widowed age by heaven be lent
Among my blessings! and I’m well content.
I ask no more, but in some calm retreat
To sleep in quiet and in quiet eat.
No noisy slaves attending round my room;
My viands wholesome, and my waiters dumb.
No orphans cheated, and no widow’s curse,
No household lord, for better or for worse.
No monstrous sums to tempt my soul to sin,
But just enough to keep me plain and clean.
And if sometimes, to smooth the rugged way,
Charlot should smile, or you approve my lay,
Enough for me—I cannot put my trust
In lords, smile lies, eat toads, or lick the dust.
Fortune her favours much too dear may hold:
An honest heart is worth its weight in gold.

Mary Jones (d. 1778)

A New Prologue Spoken at the Representation of Comus

Ye patriot crowds, who burn for England’s fame,
Ye nymphs, whose bosoms beat at Milton’s name,
Whose generous zeal, unbought by flattering rhymes,
Shames the mean pensions of Augustan times;
Immortal patrons of succeeding days,
Attend this prelude of perpetual praise!
Let wit, condemned the feeble war to wage
With close malevolence, or public rage;
Let study, worn with virtue’s fruitless lore,
Behold this theatre, and grieve no more.
This night, distinguished by your smile, shall tell,
That never Briton can in vain excel;
The slighted arts futurity shall trust,
And rising ages hasten to be just.
At length our mighty bard’s victorious lays
Fill the loud voice of universal praise,
And baffled spite, with hopeless anguish dumb,
Yields to renown the centuries to come.
With ardent haste, each candidate of fame
Ambitious catches at his towering name:
He sees, and pitying sees, vain wealth bestow
Those pageant honours which he scorned below:
While crowds aloft the laureate bust behold,
Or trace his form on circulating gold,
Unknown, unheeded, long his offspring lay,
And want hung threatening o’er her slow decay.
What though she shine with no Miltonian fire,
No favouring Muse her morning dreams inspire;
Yet softer claims the melting heart engage,
Her youth laborious, and her blameless age:
Hers the mild merits of domestic life,
The patient sufferer and the faithful wife.
Thus graced with humble virtue’s native charms
Her grandsire leaves her in Britannia’s arms,
Secure with peace, with competence, to dwell,
While tutelary nations guard her cell.
Yours is the charge, ye fair, ye wise, ye brave!
‘Tis yours to crown desert—beyond the grave!

Samuel Johnson (1709–1784)

Bartleme Fair

While gentlefolks strut in their silver and satins,
We poor folks that tramp it in straw hats and pattens,
As merrily old English ballads can sing-o,
As they in their opperores’ outlandish lingo;
Calling out, bravo, encoro, and caro,
Though I will sing nothing but Bartleme Fair-o.

Here first of all, crowds against other crowds driving,
Like wind and tide meeting, each contrary striving;
Here’s fiddling and fluting, and shouting and shrieking,
Fifes, trumpets, drums, bag-pipes, and barrow-girls squeaking;
My ware round and sound, here’s a chance of fine ware-o,
Though all is not sound bought at Bartleme Fair-o.

Here are drolls, hornpipe dancing, and showing of postures;
Plum-porridge, black puddings, and op’ning of oysters;
The tap-house guests swearing, and gall’ry folks squalling,
With salt-boxes, solos, and mouth-pieces bawling;
Pimps, pick-pockets, strollers, fat landladies, sailors,
Bawds, bullies, jilts, jockies, thieves, tumblers, and tailors.

Here’s Punch’s whole play of the gunpowder-plot, Sir,
Wild beasts all alive, and pease-porridge hot, Sir;
Fine sausages fried, and the Black on the wire;
The whole court of France, and nice pig at the fire,
The ups-and-downs, who’ll take a seat in the chair-p?
There are more ups-and-downs than at Bartleme Fair-o.

Here’s Whittington’s cat, and tall dromedary,
The chaise without horses, and Queen of Hungary;
The merry-go-rounds, come who rides? come who rides?
Wine, beer, ale, and cakes, fire-eating besides;
The famed learned dog that can tell all his letters,
And some men, as scholars, art not much his betters.

This world’s a wide fair, where we ramble ’mong gay things;
Our passions, like children, are tempted by play-things;
By sound and by show, by trash and by trumpery,
The fal-lals of fashion, and Frenchified frumpery.
Life is but a droll, rather wretched than rare-o,
And thus ends the ballad of Bartleme Fair-o.


George Alexander Stevens (1710–1784)

Bartleme> pronounced Bartle-me, a contraction of Bartholomew; opperores> operas

On Lord Holland’s Seat Near Margate, Kent

Old and abandoned by each venal friend,
Here Holland took the pious resolution
To smuggle some few years and strive to mend
A broken character and constitution.

On this congenial spot he fixed his choice,
Earl Godwin trembled for his neighbouring sand;
Here seagulls scream and cormorants rejoice,
And mariners though shipwrecked dread to land.

Here reign the blustering north and blighting east,
No tree is heard to whisper, bird to sing,
Yet nature cannot furnish out the feast,
Art he invokes new horrors still to bring.

Now mouldering fanes and battlements arise,
Arches and turrets nodding to their fall,
Unpeopled palaces delude his eyes,
And mimic desolation covers all.

Ah, said the sighing peer, had Bute been true
Nor Shelburn’s, Rigby’s, Calcraft’s friendship vain,
Far other scenes than these had blessed our view,
And realized the ruins that we feign.

Purged by the sword and beautified by fire,
Then had we seen proud London’s hated walls,
Owls might have hooted in St. Peter’s choir,
And foxes stunk and littered in St. Paul’s.

Thomas Gray (1716–1771)

A Lament for Flodden

I’ve heard them lilting at our ewe-milking,
Lasses a-lilting before dawn o’ day;
But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning:
The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away.

At bughts in the morning, nae blythe lads are scorning,
Lassies are lonely and dowie and wae;
Nae daffing, nae gabbing, but sighing and sabbing:
Ilk ane lifts her leglin and hies her away.

In hairst, at the shearing, nae youths now are jeering,
Bandsters are lyart, and runkled, and gray:
At fair or at preaching, nae wooing, nae fleeching—
The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away.

At e’en, in the gloaming, nae swankies are roaming
’Bout stacks wi’ the lasses at bogle to play;
But ilk ane sits earie, lamenting her dearie—
The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away.

Dool and wae for the order sent our lads to the Border!
The English, for ance, by guile wan the day;
The Flowers of the Forest, that fought aye the foremost,
The prime of our land, lie cauld in the clay.

We’ll hear nae mair lilting at our ewe-milking;
Women and bairns are heartless and wae;
Sighing and moaning on ilka green loaning—
The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away.


Jean Elliot (1727–1805)

ane > one;   bandsters > binders;   bogle > bogy, hide-and-seek;   bughts > sheep-folds;  
daffing > joking;   dool > grief;   dowie > sad;   eerie > dreary;  
fleeching > coaxing;   hairst > harvest;   ilk > each;   ilka > each;  
leglin > milk-pail;   loaning > lane, field track;   lyart > gray-haired;  
runkled > wrinkled;   swankies > lusty lads;   wae > wretched;   wede > weeded.

Hob upon a Holiday

Hob yawned three times and rubbed his eyes,
Dreaming ’twas near his time to rise;
By instinct knew that day was broke,
And up he got, and then he woke;
Bethought him well ’twas holiday,
And reached him down his best array.

His frock from the same piece was ta’en
That is the tilt upon his wain;
His doublet underneath must be,
So we’ll suppose what we can’t see,
A leathern thong each knee did grace,
Two more were shoe-strings by their place;
The shoes themselves those shoe-strings tie
With Dobbin’s might, or Whitworth’s, vie;
Of iron they wore an equal load,
Not Grecian chiefs were better shod.
Happy ’t had been for Thetis’ son,
Had in those days Hob’s shoes been known.
Lank locks of black, at t’ other end,
Beneath a beaver white depend:
The ribbon on’t, true blue, some say
Had bound Doll’s hose her wedding-day.
Kind Nature, and the sun as kind,
To fit him well with gloves had joined.
He worse no band of point, indeed,
But a stiff collar was instead.
His belt was buff; the same of old
At the Nemean fair were sold;
Hob won him at the wake hard by,
Owned chief in feats of chivalry.

His person did his garb so fit,
It seemed to have been made for it;
His legs were massy and well freight,
And the ground witnessed to the weight:
His head walked foremost as the best,
But they soon followed with the rest.
Brown as his bread a face he wore,
Summers long ceased to bake it more.
Smut was his joke, loud laugh his smile,
And box the teeth he showed the while.
Fat, though most days to god of heat
He sacrificed a pound of sweat;
Hence sav’ry fumes disperse in air,
Hence Towzer scents his lord so far.
Such Hob, and, without help of glass,
He scoured his fist upon his face,
New-combed him, and then scratched his head
To know which way his luck would lead.
A crab-tree in his hand he took,
And issued out in his best look.

Beware, ye lassies every one,
Bridget and Nancy, Nell and Joan!
The god of love’s abroad this day,
And ev’ry girl he finds is prey:
Trust not your hearts, your ears, your eyes,
He means to take you by surprise,
For Hob is Cupid in disguise.

Anonymous (1776)

Charles Churchill, “The Dedication to the Sermons”

HEALTH to great Gloster—from a man unknown,
Who holds thy health as dearly as his own,
Accept this greeting—nor let modest fear
Call up one maiden blush—I mean not here
To wound with flattery—‘tis a villain’s art,
And suits not with the frankness of my heart.
Truth best becomes an Orthodox Divine
And, spite of hell, that Character is mine;
To speak e’en bitter truths I cannot fear;
But truth, my Lord, is panegyric here.

Health to great Gloster—nor, through love of ease,
Which all Priests love, let this address displease
I ask no favor, nor one note I crave,
And, when this busy brain rests in the grave,
(For till that time it never can have rest)
I will not trouble you with one bequest.
Some humbler friend, my mortal journey done,
More near in blood, a Nephew or a Son,
In that dread hour Executor I’ll leave;
For I, alas, have many to receive,
To give but little—To great Gloster Health;
Nor let thy true and proper love of wealth
Here take a false alarm—in purse though poor,
In spirit I’m right proud, nor can endure
The mentionof a bribe—thy pocket’s free,
I, though a Dedicator, scorn a fee.
Let thy own offspring all thy fortunes share;
I would not Allen rob nor Allen’S heir.

Think not a Thought unworthy thy great soul,
Which pomps of this world never could control,
Which never offered up at Power’s vain shrine,
Think not that Pomp and Power can work on mine.
‘Tis not thy Name, though that indeed is great,
‘Tis not thy tinsel trumpery of state,
‘Tis not thy Title, Doctor though thou art,
’Tis not thy Mitre, which hath won my heart.
State is a farce, Names are but empty Things,
Degrees are bought, and by mistaken kings,
Titles are oft misplaced; Mitres, which shine
So bright in other eyes, are dull in mine,
Unless set off by Virtue; who deceives
Under the sacred sanction of Lawn-Sleeves,
Enhances guilt, commits a double sin,
So fair without, and yet so foul within.
‘Tis not thy outward form, thy easy mien,
Thy sweet complacency, thy brow serene,
Thy open front, thy Love-commanding eye,
Where fifty Cupids, as in ambush, lie,
Which can from sixty to sixteen impart
The force of Love, and point his blunted dart;
‘Tis not thy Face, though that by Nature’s made
An Index to thy soul, though there displayed;
We see thy mind at large, and through thy skin
Peeps out that Courtesy which dwells within;
‘Tis not thy Birth—for that is low as mine,
Around our heads no lineal glories shine—
But what is Birth, when, to delight mankind,
Heralds can make those arms they cannot find;
When Thou art to Thyself, thy Sire unknown,
A whole Welsh genealogy alone?
No, ’tis thy inward Man, thy proper Worth,
Thy right just Estimation here n earth,
Thy Life and Doctrine uniformly joined,
And flowing from that wholesome source thy mind,
Thy known contempt for Persecution’s rod,
Thy Charity for Man, thy Love of God,
Thy faith in Christ, so well approved ’mongst men,
Which now gives life and utterance to my pen’
Thy Virtue, not thy Rank, demands my lays;
‘Tis not the Bishop, but the Saint I praise
Raised by that Theme, I soar on wings more strong,
And burst forth into praise withheld too long.

Much did I wish, e’en while I kept those sheep
Which, for my curse, I was ordained to keep;
Ordained, alas! To keep through need, not choice,
Those sheep which never heard their shepherd’s voice,
Which did not know, yet would not learn their way,
Which strayed themselves, yet grieved that I should stray,
Those sheep, which my good father (on his bier
Let filial duty drop the pious tear)
Kept well, yet starved himself, e’en at that time
Whilst I was pure, and innocent of rime,
Whilst, sacred Dullness ever in my view,
Sleep at my bidding crept from pew to pew,
Which did I wish, though little could I hope,
A Friend in him, who was the Friend of Pope.

His hand, said I, my youthful steps shall guide,
And lead me safe where thousands fall beside;
His Temper, his Experience shall control,
And hush to peace the tempest of my soul;
His judgment teach me, from the Critic school,
How not to err, and how to err by rule;
Instruct me, mingling profit with delight,
Where Pope was wrong, where Shakespeare was not right;
Where they are justly praised, and where through whim,
How little’s due to them, how much to him
Raised ’bove the slavery of common rules,
Of Commonsense, of modern, ancient schools,
Those feelings banished, which mislead us all,
Fools as we are, and which we Nature call,
He, by his grand example, might impart
A better something, and baptize it Art;
He all the feelings of my youth forgot,
Might show me what is Taste, by what is not;
By him supported, with a proper pride,
I might hold all mankind as fools beside;
He (should a World, perverse and peevish grown,
Explode his maxime, and assert their own)
Might teach me, like himself, to be content,
And let their folly be their punishment;
Might, like himself, teach his adopted Son,
‘Gainst all the World, to quote a Warburton.
Fool that I was, could I so much deceive
My soul with lying hopes; could I believe
That he, the servant of his Maker sworn,
The servant of his Saviour, would be torn
From their embrace, and leave that dear employ,
The cure of souls, his duty and his joy,
For toys like mine, and waste his precious time,
On which so much depended, for a rime?
Should he forsake the task he undertook,
Desert his flock, and break his pastoral crook?
Should he (forbid it Heaven) so high in place,
So rich in knowledge, quit the world of Grace,
And, idly wandering o’er the Muses’ hill,
Let the salvation of mankind stand still?

Far, far be that from Thee—yes, far from Thee
Be such revolt from Grace, and far from me
The skill to think it—Guilt is in the Thought—
Not so, Not so, hath Warburton been taught,
Not so learned Christ—recall that day, well-known,
When (to maintain God’s honor—and his own)
He called Blasphemers forth—Methinks I now
See stern Rebuke enthroned on his brow,
And armed with tenfold terrors—from his tongue,
Where fiery zeal, and Christian fury hung,
Methinks I hear the deep-toned thunders roll,
And chill with horror every sinner’s soul—
In vain They strive to fly—flight cannot save,
And Potter trembles even in his grave—
With all the conscious pride of innocence,
Methinks I hear him, in his own defense,
Bear witness to himself, whilst all Men knew,
By Gospel-rules, his witness to be true.

O Glorious Man, thy zeal I must commend,
Though it deprived me of my dearest friend,
The real motives of thy anger known,
Wilkes must the justice of that anger own;
And, could thy bosom have been bared to view,
Pitied himself, in turn had pitied you.

Bred to the law, You wisely took the gown,
Which I, like Demas, foolishly laid down,
Hence double strength our Holy Mother drew;
Me she got rid of, and made prize of you.
I, like an idle Truant, fond of play,
Doting on toys, and throwing gems away,
Grasping at shadows, let the substance slip;
But you, my Lord, renounced Attorneyship
With brutal purpose, and more noble aim,
And wisely played a more substantial game
Nor did Law mourn, blessed in her younger son,
For Mansfield does what Gloster would have done.

Doctor, Dean, Bishop, Gloster, and My Lord,
If haply these high Titles may accord
With thy meek Spirit, if the barren sound
Of pride delights Thee, to the topmost round
Of Fortune’s ladder got, despise not One,
For want of smooth hypocrisy undone,
Who, far below, turns up his wandering eye,
And, without envy, sees The placed so high,
Let not thy Brain (as Brains less potent might,
Dizzy, confounded, giddy with the height,
Turn round and lose distinction, lose her skill
And wonted powers of knowing good from ill,
Of sifting Truth from falsehood, friends from foes,
Let Gloster well remember, how he rose,
Nor turn his back on men who made him great;
Let him not, gorged with power and drunk with state,
Forget what once he was, though now so high,
How low, how mean, and fall as poor as I.

Cetera desunt [The rest is missing.]

Charles Churchill (1731–1784)

Sweet Meat has Sour Sauce; or, The Slave-Trader in the Dumps.

A trader I am to the African shore,
But since that my trading is like to be o’er,
I’ll sing you a song that you ne’er heard before,
Which nobody can deny, deny,
Which nobody can deny.

When I first heard the news it gave me a shock,
Much like what they call an electrical knock,
And now I am going to sell off my stock,
Which nobody can deny.

’Tis a curious assortment of dainty regales,
To tickle the Negroes with when the ship sails—
Fine chains for the neck, and a cat with nine tails,
Which nobody can deny.

Here’s supple-jack plenty, and store of rattan
That will wind itself round the sides of a man
As close as a hoop round a bucket or can,
Which nobody can deny.

Here’s padlocks and bolts, and screws for the thumbs
That squeeze them so lovingly till the blood comes;
They sweeten the temper like comfits or plums,
Which nobody can deny.

When a Negro his head from his victuals withdraws
And clenches his teeth and thrusts out his paws,
Here’s a notable engine to open his jawa,
Which nobody can deny.

Thus going to market, we kindly prepare
A pretty black cargo of African ware,
For what they must meet with when they get there,
Which nobody can deny.

’Twould do your heart good to see ’em below
Lie flat on their backs all the way as we go
Like sprats on a gridiron, scores in a row,
Which nobody can deny.

But ah! if in vain I have studied an art
So gainful to me, all boasting apart,
I think it will break my compassionate heart,
Which nobody can deny.

For oh, how it enters my soul like an awl;
This pity, which some people self-pity call,
I’m sure the most heart-piercing pity of all,
Which nobody can deny.

So this is my song, as I told you before;
Come buy off my stock, for I must no more
Carry Caesars and Pompeys to sugar-cane shore,
Which nobody can deny, deny,
Which nobody can deny.

William Cowper (1731–1800)

Epitaph on Dr. Samuel Johnson

Here Johnson lies—a sage by all allow’d
Whom to have bred may well make England proud.
Whose Prose was eloquence by Wisdom taught,
The graceful vehicle of virtuous thought;
Whose Verse may claim, grave, masculine, and strong
Superior praise to the mere Poet’s song;
Who many a noble gift from Heav’n possessed,
And Faith at last—Alone, worth all the rest.
Oh Man immortal by a double prize,
On Earth by Fame, by Favor in the skies!

William Cowper (1731–1800)

To My Dearest Cousin on her Removal of us from Silver End to Weston

Who gave me grassy lawns for miry ways,
These silent shades for dull and noisy streets,
For rustics who can only gape and gaze,
Good neighbourhood with all its social sweets?

Who took me from my dwelling old and drear
As prisons or inclosures of the dead,
By vermin haunted, sinking every year,
And threatening downfall on its tenant’s head?

Placed me, when least I hoped so fair a change,
In this neat mansion furnished by her care,
And gave me, for yon marshy flats, to range
These pleasant heights, and breathe this purer air?

No patron praised ’till his relenting hands
Forgot their gripe, no poem-pampered peer,
But liberal as the showers on thirsty lands
And true as day-spring, Harriet has been here.

She stooped from yon great city, from the sight
Of proud Hyde-Park was happy to descend
Winged with benevolence, into the night
Of infant-thronged, thief harbouring, Silver End.

She took me thence, and my departure shaped
From scenes of filth, to Weston’s verdant scene;
So by an angel’s conduct Lot escaped
From Sodom’s fires to Zoar fresh and green.

Sweet Cousin! With whom so oft at early day,
While many a homely lass lay slumbering still,
Chearful and happy I was wont to stray
Through ducal Bedford’s fields to Primrose-Hill.

I little thought that pleasures dead so long
Should yet revive, that I should hear again
The once familiar music of that tongue
So oft employed to mitigate my pain.

And would’st thou now that after many a year
With sadness of the deepest gloom o’ercast,
The evening of my life should open clear,
And Mary taste, and I, some ease at last?

Come then—frequent what thou hast made so fair,
Thy converse add to all thy gifts beside,
Else thou shalt leave the want we least can bear,
Still, after all thy kindness, unsupplied.

William Cowper (1731–1800)

An Old Cat’s Dying Soliloquy

Years saw me still Acasto’s mansion grace,
The gentlest, fondest of the tabby race;
Before him frisking through the garden glade,
Or at his feet in quiet slumber laid;
Praised for my glossy back of zebra streak,
And wreaths of jet encircling round my neck;
Soft paws that ne’er extend the clawing nail,
The snowy whisker and the sinuous tail,
Now feeble age each glazing eyeball dims,
And pain has stiffened these once supple limbs;
Fate of eight lives the forfeit gasp obtains,
And e’en the ninth creeps languid through my veins.

Much sure of good the future has in store,
When on my master’s hearth I bask no more,
In those best climes, where fishes oft forsake
The winding river and the glassy lake;
There, as our silent-footed race behold
The crimson spots and fins of lucid gold,
Venturing without the shielding waves to play,
They gasp on shelving banks, our easy prey:
While birds unwinged hop careless o’er the ground,
And the plump mouse incessant trots around,
Near wells of cream that mortals never skim,
Warm marum creeping round their shallow brim;
Where green valerian tufts, luxuriant spread,
Cleanse the sleek hide and form the fragrant bed.

Yet, stern dispenser of the final blow,
Before thou lay’st an aged grimalkin low,
Bend to her last request a gracious ear,
Some days, some few short days to linger here;
So to the guardian of his tabby’s weal
Shall softest purrs these tender truths reveal.

“Ne’er shall thy now expiring puss forget
To thy kind care her long-enduring debt,
Nor shall the joys that painless realms decree
Efface the comforts once bestowed by thee;
To countless mice thy chicken-bones preferred,
Thy toast to golden fish and wingless bird;
O’er marum borders and valerian bed
Thy Selima shall bend her moping head,
Sigh that no more she climbs, with grateful glee,
The downy sofa and thy cradling knee;
Nay, e’en at founts of cream shall sullen swear,
Since thou, her more loved master, art not there.”

Anna Seward (1742–1809)

The Lady’s Diary

Lectured by Pa and Ma o’er night,
Monday at ten quite vexed and jealous,
Resolved in future to be right,
And never listen to the fellows:
Stitched half a wristband, read the text,
Received a note from Mrs Racket:
I hate that woman, she sat next
All church-time to sweet Captain Clackit.

Tuesday got scolded, did not care,
The toast was cold, ’twas past eleven;
I dreamed the Captain through the air
On Cupid’s wings bore me to heaven:
Pouted and dined, dressed, looked divine,
Made an excuse, got Ma to back it;
Went to the play, what joy was mine!
Talked loud and laughed with Captain Clackit.

Wednesday came down no lark so gay,
“The girl’s quite altered,” said my mother;
Cried Dad, “I recollect the day
When, dearee, thou wert such another!”
Danced, drew a landscape, skimmed a play,
In the paper read that widow Flackit
To Gretna Green had run away,
The forward minx, with Captain Clackit.

Thursday fell sick: “poor soul she’ll die”;
Five doctors came with lengthened faces;
Each felt my pulse; “ah me!” cried I,
“Are these my promised loves and graces?”
Friday grew worse; cried Ma, in pain,
“Our day was fair, heaven do not black it;
Where’s your complaint, love?”—In my brain.”
“What shall I give you?”—“Captain Clackit.

Early next morn a nostrum came
Worth all their cordials, balms and spices;
A letter, I had been to blame;
The Captain’s truth brought on a crisis.
Sunday, for fear of more delays,
Of a few clothes I made a packet,
And Monday morn stepped in a chaise
And ran away with Captain Clackit.

Charles Dibdin (1745–1814)

A Town and Country Life Contrasted

In London I never know what I’d be at,
Enraptured with this, and enchanted with that;
I’m wild with the sweets of variety’s plan,
And life seems a blessing too happy for man.

But the country, God help me! sets all matters right,
So calm and composing from morning to night;
Oh! it settles the spirits when nothing is seen
But an ass on a common, a goose on a green.

In town if it rains, why it damps not our hope,
The eye has her choice, and the fancy her scope;
What harm though it pour whole nights or whole days?
It spoils not our prospects, or stops not our ways.

In the country what bliss, when it rains in the fields,
To live on the transports that shuttlecock yields;
Or go crawling from window to window, to see
A pig on a dunghill or crow on a tree.

In London how easy we visit and meet.
Gay pleasure’s the theme, and sweet smiles are our treat;
Our morning’s a round of good-humored delight,
And we rattle, in comfort, to pleasure at night.

In the country, how sprightly! our visits we make
Through ten miles of mud, for formality’s sake;
With the coachman in drink, and the moon in a fog,
And no thought in your head but a ditch or a bog.

In London, if folks ill together are put,
A bore may be dropped, and a quiz may be cut:
We change without end; and if lazy or ill,
All wants are at hand, and all wishes at will.

In the country you’re nailed, like a pale in the park,
To some stick of a neighbour that’s crammed in the ark;
And ’tis odds, if you’re hurt, or in fits tumble down,
You reach death ere the doctor can reach you from town.

I have heard, though, that love in a cottage is sweet,
When two hearts in one link of soft sympathy meet:
That’s to come—for as yet I, alas! am a swain
Who requires, I own it, more links to my chain.

Your magpies and stock-doves may flirt among trees,
And chatter their transports in groves, if they please;
But a house is much more to my taste than a tree,
And for groves, oh! a good grove of chimneys for me.

In town let me live then, in town let me die,
For in truth I can’t relish the country, not I.
If one must have a villa in summer to dwell,
Oh, give me the sweet shady side of Pall Mall!


Charles Morris (1745–1838)

Erotica Romana (sel.)


Here’s where I’ve planted my garden and here I shall care for love’s blossoms—
As I am taught by my muse, carefully sort them in plots:
Fertile branches, whose product is golden fruit of my lifetime,
Set here in happier years, tended with pleasure today.
You, stand here at my side, good Priapus—albeit from thieves I’ve
Nothing to fear. Freely pluck, whosoever would eat.
—Hypocrites, those are the ones! If weakened with shame and bad conscience
One of those criminals comes, squinting out over my garden,
Bridling at nature’s pure fruit, punish the knave in his hindparts,
Using the stake which so red rises there at your loins.


Tell me ye stones and give me O glorious palaces answer.
Speak O ye streets but one word. Genius, art thou alive?
Yes, here within thy sanctified walls there’s a soul in each object,
ROMA eternal. For me, only, are all things yet mute.
Who will then tell me in whispers and where must I find just the window
Where one day she’ll be glimpsed: creature who’ll scorch me with love?
Can’t I divine yet the paths through which over and over
To her and from her I’ll go, squandering valuable time?
Visiting churches and palaces, all of the ruins and the pillars,
I, a responsible man, profit from making this trip.
With my business accomplished ah then shall only one temple,
AMOR’s temple alone, take the initiate in.
Rome, thou art a whole world, it is true, and yet without love this
World would not be the world, Rome would cease to be Rome.


More than ever I dreamed, I have found it: my happy good fortune!
Cupid sagaciously led past those palazzos so fine.
He of course knows very well (and I have also discovered)
What, beneath tapestries rich, gilded boudoirs conceal.
One may if one wishes call him a blind, wanton boy—but I know you,
Clever Cupid, too well! O, incorruptible god!
We were by no means inveigled to enter façades so majestic;
Somber cortile\é we passed, balcony high and gallant,
Hastening onward until an humble but exquisite portal
Offered a refuge to both, ardent seeker and guide.
Here he provides me with ev’rything, sees that I get what I call for;
Each day that passes he spreads freshly plucked roses for me.
—Isn’t that heaven on earth? Say, beautiful Lady Borghese,
What would you give to me more?—You, Nipotina, what yours?
Banquets and game tables, operas, balls, promenades down the Corso?
These but deprive my sweet boy of his most opportune times.
Finery, haughtiness do not entice me. Does one not one lift a
Gown of the finest brocade just as one lifts common wool?
If she’s to press in comfort a lover against that soft bosom,
Doesn’t he want her to be free from all brooches and chains?
Must not the jewelry, and then the lace and the bustles and whalebone
All of it come off entire, if he’s to learn how she feels?
I encounter no troubles like those. Simple dress of rough homespun,
At but a lover’s mere touch, tumbles in folds to the floor.
Quickly he carries the girl as she’s clad in chemise of coarse linen—
Just as a nursemaid might, playfully up to her bed.
Drapings of satin are absent; the mattress is quite unembroidered.
Large is this room where the bed offers its comfort for two.
Jupiter’s welcome to more than his Juno if he can get it;
Let any mortal find rest, softer, wherever he can.
We are content with Cupid’s delights, authentic and naked—
And with the exquisite creak/crack of the bed as it rocks.


Do not, beloved, regret that you yielded to me so quickly:
I entertain no base, insolent thoughts about you.
Arrows of Cupid work divers effects. Some do but scratch us:
Slow and insidious these poison our hearts over years.
Yet with a head freshly honed and cunningly fledged, certain others
Pierce to the marrow, inflame rapidly there our blood.
When gods and goddesses in days of heroes made love, then
Lust followed look and desire, with no delay, was indulged.
Surely you don’t think the goddess of love lost a moment reflecting
When, in Idean grove, Anchises caught her eye.
Nor did Luna delay about kissing that beautiful dreamer—
Jealous Aurora had else hastily wakened the lad.
At the loud banquet Hero regarded Leander—then promptly
Into dark waters he plunged, ardently swam toward his love.
When Rhea Silvia, princess and virgin, came down to the Tiber
Just to fetch water, a god seized her and that is the way
Mars begat himself sons, a pair of twins whom a she wolf
Suckled. Today a proud Rome claims to be queen of the world


Happily now on classical soil I feel inspiration.
Voices from present and past speak here evocatively.
Heeding ancient advice, I leaf through the works of the Ancients
With an assiduous hand. Daily the pleasure’s renewed.
Throughout the night, in a different way, I’m kept busy by Cupid—
If erudition is halved, rapture is doubled that way.
Do then I not become wise where I trace with my eye her sweet bosom’s
Form, and the line of her hips stroke with my hand? I acquire,
As I reflect and compare, my first understanding of marble,
See with an eye that feels, feel with a hand that sees.
While my beloved, I grant it, deprives me of moments of daylight,
She in the nighttime hours gives compensation in full.
And we do more than just kiss, we prosecute reasoned discussions
(Should she succumb to sleep, that gives me time for my thoughts).
In her embrace—it’s by no means unusual—I’ve composed poems
And the hexameter’s beat gently tapped out on her back,
Fingertips counting in time with the sweet rhythmic breath of her slumber.
Air from deep in her breast penetrates mine and there burns.
Cupid while stirring the flame in out lamp, no doubt thinks of those days when
For the triumvirs he similar service performed.


I cannot think I’d have gone with Julius Caesar to Britain:
To the Popina right here, Florus would tug me with ease.
Fogs of the dreary north remain a more baleful remembrance
Than in the kitchens of Rome tribes of assiduous fleas.
After today, I’ll remember you even more kindly, tavernas,
You osterias, as you are called, aptly by those here in Rome.
That was the place I encountered my mistress today with the uncle
Whom she so often deceives, so that she can have me.
Here’s where I sat at a table surrounded by good-natured Germans;
Over on that side the girl, finding a seat for herself
Next to her mother where, frequently shifting her bench, she arranged
Nicely for me to perceive profile and curve of her neck;
Speaks just a little more loudly than women in Rome are accustomed;
Significant glance as she pours—misses the glass with the wine
So that it spills on the table, and she with a delicate finger
Over its surface can draw circles in damp arabesque:
Her name entwining in mine, while my eyes most eagerly follow
All that her fingertip writes. She is of course well aware
That I am watching, so finally makes the V of the Roman
Five, with a virgule before. Quickly, as soon as I’ve seen,
She interlaces the circles, reducing them all to ornatest
Patterns—but still the sweet IV stood as engraved in my eye.
I sat there mutely and biting my passionate lips almost bloody
Half from delight at the ruse, partly from stifled desire:
Such a long time until dark, then another four hours of waiting.
—Sun, who tarries on high, contemplating Rome:
Greater never you’ve seen nor shall you in future see greater
Than Rome, O sun, as your priest, Horace, enraptured foretold.
Tarry no longer today. Go seek other realms beneath heaven.
Sooner depart and leave Rome’s seven famed hills to me.
Please do the poet a favor and shorten the glorious hours
Which the painter devours, eagerly filling his eyes.
Cast now but one ardent glance, while descending, on noble façades and
Cupolas, pillars, and —last—up at the obelisks. Then
Hastily plunge to the ocean. Come view all the sooner tomorrow
That which, for centuries now, gods have let you enjoy:
Italy’s shoreline so long overgrown with moist reeds, elevations
Somberly rising to shades cast by the bushes and trees.
First were but few simplr dwellings here, suddenly sunlight discovered
Nations enlivening hills teeming with fortunate thieves.
Onto this spot they assembled such plunder, in your eye so splendid,
All earth’s remaining orb scarcely was worthy of note.
You watched a world being born here, watched the same world sink to ruin,
And from those ruins yet arise world again greater, perhaps.
O may I long by your light now behold this Rome. May the Parcae
Spin the fine thread of my life slowly, taking great care.
O but come rushing the moment my love designated so sweetly.
Wonderful! Sound already the chimes?—No, but I heard at least three.
Thus, my dear muses, again you’ve beguiled the monotony for me
Of this long interval while I was apart from my love.
All of you now, farewell! I’ll be going now—don’t be offended.
For though you’re proud, you’ll concede: Cupid in my heart comes first.


I in the back of the garden, the last of the gods, in a corner,
Ineptly formed, must I stand. Evil the inroads of time.
Cucumber vines grow entwining about this primeval lingam,
Cracking it almost in two under the weight of the fruit.
Faggots are heaped all about me against the cold of the winter,
Which I so hate for the crows settling then down on my head,
Which they befoul very shamefully. Summer’s no better: the servants
Empty their bowels and show insolent, naked behinds.
Filth above and below! I was clearly in danger of turning
Into filth myself, toadstool, rotten wood!
Now by your efforts, O noblest of artists, I shall recover
With fellow gods my just place. And it’s no more than my due.
Jupiter’s throne, so dishonestly won, it was I who secured it:
Color and ivory, marble and bronze, not to mention the poems.
Now all intelligent men look upon me in kindness. They like to
Form their own image of me, just as the poet has done.
Nor do the girls take offense when they see me—by no means the matrons.
None finds me ugly today, though I am monstrously strong.
Half a foot long, as reward, your glorious rod (dear poet)
Proudly shall strut from your loins, when but your dearest commands,
Nor shall your member grow weary until you’ve enjoyed the full dozen
Artful positions the great poet Philainis describes.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)
Tr. J.W. Worthy. For all twenty-four poems, see

To the Principal and Professors of the University of St Andrews,
on their Superb Treat to Dr Samuel Johnson

See Glossary/a>

St Andrews town may look right gawsy,
Nae grass will grow upon her cawsey,
Nor wa’-fowers of a yellow dye,
Glour dowy o’er her ruins high,
Sin Sammy’s head weel pang’d si’ lear,
Has seen the Alma Mater there:
Regents, my winsome billy boys!
’Bout him you’ve made an unco noise;
Nae doubt for him your bells wad clink
To find him upon Eden’s brink,
An’ a’ things nicely set in order,
Wad kep him on the Fifan border:
I’se warrant now frae France an’ Spain,
Baith cooks and scullions mony ane
Wad gar the pats an’ kettles tingle
Around the college kitchen ingle,
To fleg frae a’ your craigs the roup,
Wi’ reeking het and crieshy soup;
And snails and puddocks mony hunder
Wad beeking lie the hearth-stane under,
Wi’ roast and boild, an’ a’ kin kind,
To heat the body, cool the mind.
But hear me lads! gin I’d been there,
How I wad trimm’d the bill o’ fare!
For ne’er sic surly wight as he
Had met wi’ sic respect frae me.
Mind ye what Sam, the lying loun!
Has in his Dictionar laid down?
That aits in England are a feast
To cow an’ horse, an’ sican beast,
While in Scots ground this growth was common
To gust the gab o’ man and woman.
Tak tent, ye Regents! Then, an’ hear
My list o’gudely hamel gear,
Sic as ha’e often rax’d the wyme
O’ blyther fallows mony time;
Mair hardy, souple, steive an’ swank,
That ever stood on Samy’s shank.
Imprimis, then, a haggis fat,
Weel tottled in a scything pat,
Wi’ spice and ingans weel ca’d thro’,
Had help’d to gust the sirrah’s mow,
And plac’d itsel in truncher clean
Before the gilpy’s glowrin een.
Secundo, then a gude sheep’s head
Whase hide was singit, never flead,
And four black trotters cled wi’ girsle,
Bedown his throat had learn’d to hirsle.
What think ye neist, o’ gude fat brose
To clag his ribs? a dainty dose!
And white and bloody pudding routh,
To gar the Doctor skirl, O Drouth!
Whan he cou’d never houp to merit
A cordial o’ reaming claret,
But thraw his nose, and brize and pegh
O’er the contents o’ sma’ ale quegh:
Then let his wisdom girn and snarl
O’er a weel-tostit girdle farl,
An’ learn, that maugre o’ his wame,
Ill bairns are ay best heard at hame.
Drummond, lang syne, o’ Hawthornden,
The wyliest an’ best o’ men,
Has gi’en you dishes ane or mae,
That wad ha’ gard his grinders play,
Not to roast beef, old England’s life,
But to the auld east nook of Fife,
Whare Creilian crafts cou’d weel ha’e gi’en
Skate-rumples to ha’e clear’d his een;
Than neist what Samy’s heart was faintin,
He’d lang’d for scate to mak him wanton.
Ah! willawins, for Scotland now,
Whan she maun stap ilk birky’s mow
Wi’ eistacks, grown as ’tward in pet
In foreign land, or green-house het,
When cog o’ brose an’ cutty spoon
Is a’ our cottar childer’s boon,
Wha thro’ the week, till Sunday’s speal,
Toil for pease-clods an’ gude lang kail.
Devall then, Sirs, and never send
For daintiths to regale a friend,
Or, like a torch at baits ends burning,
Your house ’ll soon grow mirk and mourning.
What’s this I hear some cynic say?
Robin, ye loun! it’s nae fair play;
Is there nae ither subject rife
To clap your thumb upon but Fife?
Gi’e o’er, young man, you’ll meet your corning,
Than caption war, or charge o’ horning;
Some canker’d surly sour-mow’d carline
Bred near the abbey o’ Dumfarline,
Your shoulders yet may gi’e a lounder,
And be of verse the mal-cofounder.
Come on, ye blades! But ’ere ye tulzle,
Or hack our flesh wi’ sword or gulzie,
Ne’er shaw your teeth, nor look like stink,
Nor o’er an empty bicker blink:
What weets the wizen an’ the wyme,
Will mend your prose and heal my rhyme.

Robert Fergusson (1750–1774)

Lord Randal


“O where hae ye been, Lord Randal, my son?
O where hae ye been, my handsome young man?”
“I hae been to the wild wood; mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m weary wi’ hunting, and fain wald lie down.”


“Where gat ye your dinner, Lord Randal, my son?
Where gat ye your dinner, my handsome young man?”
“I din’d wi’ my true-love; mither, make my bed soon,
For I’m weary wi’ hunting, and fain wald lie down.”


“What gat ye to your dinner, Lord Randal, my son?
What gat ye to your dinner, my handsome young man?”
“I got eels boil’d in broo’; mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m weary wi’ hunting, and fain wald lie down.”


“What became of your bloodhounds, Lord Randal, my son?
What became of your bloodhounds, my handsome young man?”
“O they swell’d and they died; mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m weary wi’ hunting, and fain wald lie down.”


“O I fear ye are poison’d, Lord Randal, my son!
O I fear ye are poison’d, my handsome young man!”
O yes! I am poison’d; mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wald lie down.”

Anonymous (from Scott’s Minstrelsy)

Mary Hamilton

Word’s gane to the kitchen,
And word’s gane to the ha,
That Marie Hamilton gangs wi bairn
To the hichest Stewart of a’.

He’s courted her in the kitchen,
He’s courted her in the ha,
He’s courted her in the laigh cellar,
And that was warst of a’.

She’s tyed it in her apron
And she’s thrown it in the sea;
Says, Sink ye, swim ye, bonny wee babe!
You’l neer get mair o me.

Down then cam the auld queen,
Goud tassels tying her hair:
“O Marie, where’s the bonny wee babe
That I heard greet sae sair?”

“There never was a babe intill my room,
As little designs to be;
It was but a touch o my sair side,
Come oer my fair bodie.”

“O Marie, put on your robes o black,
Or else your robes o brown,
For ye maun gang wi me the night,
To see fair Edinbro town.”

“I winna put on my robes o black,
Nor yet my robes o brown;
But I’ll put on my robes o white,
To shine through Edinbro town.”

When she gaed up the Cannogate,
She laughd loud laughters three;
But whan she cam down the Cannogate
The tear blinded her ee.

When she gaed up the Parliament stair,
The heel cam aff her shee;
And lang or she cam down again
She was condemnd to dee.

When she cam down the Cannogate,
The Cannogate sae free,
Many a ladie lookd oer her window,
Weeping for this ladie.

“Ye need nae weep for me,” she says,
“Ye need nae weep for me;
For had I not slain mine own sweet babe,
This death I wadna dee.

“Bring me a bottle of wine,” she says,
“The best that eer ye hae,
That I may drink to my weil-wishers,
And they may drink to me.

“Here’s a health to the jolly sailors,
That sail upon the main;
Let them never let on to my father and mother
But what I’m coming hame.

Here’s a health to the jolly sailors,
That sail upon the sea;
Let them never let on to my father and mother
That I cam here to dee.

“Oh little did my mother think,
The day she cradled me,
What lands I was to travel through,
What death I was to dee.

“Oh little did my father think,
The day he held up me,
What lands I was to travel through,
What death I was to dee.

“Last night I washd the queen’s feet,
And gently laid her down;
And a’ the thanks I’ve gotten the nicht
To be hangd in Edinbro town !

“Last nicht there was four Maries,
The nicht there’l be but three;
There was Marie Seton, and Marie Beton,
And Marie Carmichael, and me.”


William Bond

I wonder whether the Girls are mad,
And I wonder whether they mean to kill.
And I wonder if William Bond will die,
For assuredly he is very ill.

He went to Church on a May morning
Attended by Fairies, one, two and three;
But the Angels of Providence drove them away,
And he return’d home in Misery.

He went not out to the Field nor Fold,
He went not out to the Village nor Town,
But he came home in a black, black cloud,
And took to his Bed and there lay down.

And an Angel of Providence at his Feet,
And an Angel of Providence at his Head,
And in the midst a Black, Black Cloud,
And in the midst the Sick Man on his Bed.

And on his Right hand was Mary Green,
And on his Left hand was his Sister Jane,
And their tears fell thro’ the black, black Cloud
To drive away the sick man’s pain.

O William, if thou dost another Love,
Dost another Love better than poor Mary,
Go and take that other to be thy Wife,
And Mary Green shall her Servant be.

Yes, Mary, I do another Love,
Another I love far better than thee,
And Another I will have for my Wife;
Then what have I to do with thee?

For thou are Melancholy Pale,
And on thy Head is the cold Moon’s shine,
But she is ruddy and bright as day,
And the sun beams dazzle from her eyne.

Mary trembled and Mary chill’d
And Mary fell down on the right hand floor,
That William Bond and his Sister Jane
Scarce could recover Mary more.

When Mary woke and found her Laid
On the Right hand of her William dear,
On the Right hand of his loved Bed,
And saw her William Bond so near,

The Fairies that fled from William Bond
Danced around her Shining Head;
They danced over the Pillow white,
And the Angels of Providence left the Bed.

I thought love liv’d in the hot sun shine
But O, he lives in the Moony light!
I thought to find Love in the heat of day,
But sweet Love is the comforter of Night.

Seek Love in the Pity of others’ Woe,
In the gentle relief of another’s care,
In the darkness of night and the winter’s snow,
In the naked and outcast, Seek Love there!

William Blake (1757–1827)

Elegy on Capt. Matthew Henderson,
A Gentleman who held the Patent for his Honours immediately from Almighty God!

O Death! thou tyrant fell and bloody!
The meikle devil wi’ a woodie
Haurl thee hame to his black smiddie,
O’er hurcheon hides,
And like stock-fish come o’er his studdie
Wi’ thy auld sides!

He’s gane! he’s gane! he’s frae us torn.
The ae best fellow e’er was born!
Thee, Matthew, Nature’s sel shall mourn
By wood and wild,
Where, haply, Pity strays forlorn,
Frae man exil’d.

Ye hills, near neebors o’ the starns,
That proudly cock your cresting cairns;
Ye cliffs, the haunts of sailing yearns,
Where Echo slumbers;
Come join, ye Nature’s sturdiest bairns,
My wailing numbers.

Mourn, ilka grove the cushat kens;
Ye hazly shaws and briery dens;
Ye burnies, wimplin down your glens,
Wi’ toddlin din,
Or foaming, strang, wi’ hasty stens,
Frae lin to lin.

Mourn, little harebells o’er the lee;
Ye stately foxglovs fair to see;
Ye woodbines hanging bonnilie,
In scented bowers,
Ye roses on yon thorny tree,
The first o’flowers.

At dawn, when every grassy blade
Droops with a diamond at his head,
At even, when beans their fragrance shed,
I’ th’ rustling gale,
Ye maukins whiddin thro’ the glade,
Come join my wail.

Mourn, ye wee songsters o’ the wood;
Ye grouse that crap the heather bud;
Ye curlews calling thro’ a clud;
Ye whistling plover;
And mourn, ye whirring paitrick brood;
He’s gane for ever!

Mourn, sooty coots, and speckled teals;
Ye fisher herons, watching eels;
Ye duck and drake, wi’ airy wheels
Circling the lake;
Ye bitterns, till the quagmire reels,
Rair for his sake.

Mourn, clamouring craiks at close o’day,
‘Mang fields o’flowering clover gay;
And when ye wing your annual way
Frae our cauld shore,
Tell thae far warlds, wha lie in clay,
Wham we deplore.

Ye houlets, frae your ivy bower,
In some auld tree, or eldritch tower,
What time the moon, we’ silent glowr,
Sets up her horn,
Wail thro’ the dreary midnight hour
Till waukrife morn.

O, rivers, forests, hills, and plains!
Oft have ye heard my canty strains:
But now, what else for me remains
But tales of woe;
And frae my een the drapping rains
Maun ever flow.

Mourn, spring, thou darling of the year;
Ilk cowslip cup shall kep a tear:
Thou, Simmer, while each corny spear
Shoots up its head,
Thy gay, green, flowery tresses shear,
For him that’s dead.

Thou Autumn, wi’ thy yellow hair,
In grief thy sallow mantle tear;
Thou, Winter, hurling thro’ the air
The roaring blast,
Wide o’er the naked world declare
The worth we’ve lost.

Mourn him thou Sun, great source of light;
Mourn, Empress of the silent night;
And you, ye twinkling starnies bright,
My Matthew mourn;
For through your orbs he’s taen his flight,
Ne’er to return.

O, Henderson! the man! the brother!
And art thou gone, and gone for ever!
And hast thou crost that unknown river,
Life’s dreary bound!
Like thee, where shall I find another,
The world around!

Go to your sculptur’d tombs, ye Great,
In a’ the tinsel trash o’state!
But by thy honest turf I’ll wait,
Thou man of worth!
And weep the ae best fellow’s fate
E’er lay in earth.

Robert Burns (1759–1796)

haur> drag; woodie> halter; hurcheon> hedgehog; smiddie> smithy; studdie> anvil;
cushat> wood-pigeon; hazly> with hazel-bushes (?); shaws> small woods;
wimplin> twisting; toddling> hurrying; lin> waterfall; maukins> hares;
whiddin> slipping; paitrick>partridge; craiks> corn-crakes; waukrife> watchful

The Lass that Made the Bed to Me

When Januar wind was blawing cauld
As to the north I took my way,
The mirksome night did me enfauld,
I knew na whare to lodge till day—

By my gude luck a maid I met,
Just in the middle o’ my care;
And kindly she did me invite
To walk into a chamber fair.—

I bow’d fu’ low unto this maid,
And thank’d her for her courtesie;
I bow’d ful’ low unto this maid,
And bade her mak a bed for me.—

She made the bed baith large and wide,
Wi’ twa white hands she spread it down;
She put the cup to her rosy lips
And drank, “Young man now sleep ye sound.”—

She snatch’d the candle in her hand,
And frae my chamber went wi’ speed;
But I call’d her quickly back again
To lay some mair below my head.—

A cod she laid below my head,
And servèd me wi’ due respect;
And to salute her wi’ a kiss,
I put my arms about her neck.—

Haud off your hands young man, she says,
And dinna sae uncivil be;
Gin ye hae ony luve for me,
O wrang nat my virginitie!—

Her hair was like the links o’ gowd,
Her teeth were like the ivorie,
Her cheeks like lllies dipt in wine,
The lass that made the bed to me.—

Her bosom was the driven snaw,
Twa drifted heaps sae fair to see;
Her limbs the polish’d marble stane,
The lass that made the bed to me.—

I kiss’d her o’er and o’er again,
And ay she wist na what to say;
I laid her between me and the wa’,
The lassie thought na lang till day.—

Upon the morrow when we rase,
I thank’d her for her courtesie;
But ay she blush’d, and ay she sigh’d,
And said, Alas, ye’ve ruin’d me.—

I clasp’d her waist and kiss’d her syne,
While the tear stood twinkling in her e’e;
I said, My lassie dinna cry,
For ye ay shall mak the bed to me.—

She took her mither’s Holland sheets
And made them a’ in sarks to me.—
Blithe and merry may she be,
The lass that made the bed to me.—

The bonie lass made the bed to me;
The braw lass made the bed to me;
I’ll ne’er forget till the day I die
The lass that made the bed to me.—

Robert Burns (1759–1796)

cod> pillow; sark> shirt

Johnie Cope

Sir John Cope trode the north right far,
Yet ne’er a rebel he cam naur,
Until he landed at Dunbar
Right early in a morning.
Hey Johnie Cope are ye wauking yet,
Or are ye sleeping I would wit;
O haste ye get up for the drums do beat,
O fye Cope rise in the morning.

He wrote a challenge from Dunbar,
Come fight me Charlie an ye daur;
If it be not by the chance of war
I’ll give you a merry morning.
Hey Johnie Cope &c.

When Charlie look’d the letter upon
He drew his sword the scabbard from—
“So Heaven restore to me my own,
“I’ll meet you, Cope, in the morning.”
Hey Johnie Cope &c.

Cope swore with many a bloody word
That he would fight them gun and sword,
But he fled from his nest like an ill scar’d bird,
And Johnie he took wing in the morning.
Hey Johnie Cope &c.

It was upon an afternoon,
Sir Johnie march’d to Preston town;
He says, my lads come lean you down,
And we’ll fight the boys in the morning.
Hey Johnie Cope &c.

But when he saw the Highland lads
Wi’ tartan trews and white cokauds,
Wi’ swords and guns and rungs and gauds,
O Johnie he took wing in the morning.
Hey Johnie Cope &c.

On the morrow when he did rise,
He look’d between him and the skies;
He saw them wi’ their naked thighs,
Which fear’d him in the morning.
Hey Johnie Cope &c.

O then he flew into Dunbar,
Crying for a man of war;
He thought to have pass’d for a rustic tar,
And gotten awa in the morning.
Hey Johnie Cope &c.

Sir Johnie into Berwick rade,
Just as the devil had been his guide;
Gien him the warld he would no stay’d
To foughten the boys in the morning.
Hey Johnie Cope &c.

Says the Berwickers unto Sir John,
O what’s become of all your men,
In faith, says he, I dinna ken,
I left hem a’ this morning.
Hey Johnie Cope &c.

Says Lord Mark Car, ye are na blate
To bring us the news o’ your ain defeat;
I think you deserve the back o’ the gate,
Get out o’ my sight this morning.

Robert Burns (1759–1796)

rungs> cudgels; gauds> iron bars; Just as the devil> As though the devil;
Gien> Given; blate>bashful

Sodger Laddie

I once was a Maid, tho’ I cannot tell when,
And still my delight is in proper young men:
Some one of a troop of Dragoons was my dadie,
No wonder I’m fond of a Sodger Laddie.

The first of my Loves was a swaggering blade,
To rattle the thundering drum was his trade;
His leg was so tight and his cheek was so ruddy,
Transported I was with my Sodger Laddie.

But the godly old Chaplain left him in the lurch,
The sword I forsook for the sake of the church;
He ventur’d the Soul and I ventur’d the Body,
‘Twas then I prov’d false to my Sodger Laddie.

Full soon I grew sick of my sanctified Sot,
The Regiment at large for a Husband I got;
From the gilded Spontoon to the Fife I was ready;
I asked no more but a Sodger Laddie.

But the Peace it reduc’d me to beg in despair,
Till I met my old boy in a Cunningham fair;
His Rags Regimental they flutter’d so gaudy,
My heart it rejoic’d at a Sodger Laddie.

And now I have lived—I know not how long,
And still I can join in a cup and a song;
But whilst with both hands I can hold the glass steady,
Here’s to thee, my Hero, my Sodger Laddie.

Robert Burns (1759–1796)

spontoon> half-pike

What Can a Young Lassie Do wi’ an Auld Man?

What can a young lassie, what shall a young lassie,
What can a young lassie do wi’ an auld man?
Bad luck on the pennie, that tempted my Minnie
To sell her poor Jenny for siller and lan’!

He’s always complainin frae morning to e’enin,
He hosts and he hirples the wary day lang;
He’s doyl’t and he’s dozin, his blude it is frozen,
O, dreary’s the night wi’ a crazy old man!

He hums and he hankers, he frets and he cankers,
I never can please him, do a’ that I can;
He’s peevish, and jealous of a’ the young fellows,
O, dool on the day I met wi’ an auld man!

My auld auntie Katie upon me taks pity,
I’ll do my endeavour to follow her plan;
I’ll cross him, and wrack him until I heartbreak him,
And then his auld brass wll buy me a new pan.—

Robert Burns (1759–1796)

The Groves of Blarney

The groves of Blarney they look so charming,
Down by the purling of sweet silent streams,
Being banked with posies that spontaneous grow there,
Planted in order by the sweet rock close.
‘Tis there’s the daisy and the sweet carnation,
The blooming pink and the rose so fair,
The daffydowndilly, likewise the lily,
All flowers that scent the sweet fragrant air.

’T is Lady Jeffers that owns this station;
Like Alexander, or Queen Helen fair,
There’s no commander in all the nation,
For emulation, can with her compare.
Such walls surround her, that no nine-pounder
Could dare to plunder her place of strength;
But Oliver Cromwell he did her pommel,
And made a breach in her battlement.

There’s gravel walks there for speculation
And conversation in sweet soltude.
’Tis there the lover may hear the dove, or
The gentle plover in the afternoon;
And if a lady would be so engaging
As to walk alone in those shady bowers,
’Tis there the courtier he may transport her
Into some fort, or all under ground.

For ‘tis there’s a cave where no daylight enters,
But cats and badgers are for ever bred;
Being mossed by nature, that makes it sweeter
Than a coach-and-six or a feather bed.
’Tis there the lake is, well stored with perches,
And comely eels in the verdant mud;
Besides the leeches, and groves of beeches,
Standing in order for to guard the flood.

There’s statues gracing this noble place in—
All heathen gods and nymphs so fair;
Bold Neptune, Plutarch, and Nicodemus,
All standing naked in the open air!
So now to finish this bold narration,
Which my poor geni’ could not entwine;
But were I Homer or Nebuchadnezzar,
’Tis in every feature I would make it shine.

Richard Alfred Milliken (1767–1815)


It’s Lamkin was a mason good
As ever built wi stane;
He built Lord Wearie’s castle,
But payment got he nane.

“O pay me, Lord Wearie,
Come, pay me my fee:”
“I canna pay you, Lamkin,
For I man gang oer the sea.”

“O pay me now, Lord Wearie,
Come, pay me out o hand:”
“I canna pay you, Lamkin,
Unless I sell my land.”

“O gin ye winna pay me,
I here sall mak a vow,
Before that ye come hame again,
Ye sall hae cause to rue.”

Lord Wearie got a bonny ship,
To sail the saut sea faem;
Bade his lady weel the castle keep,
Ay till he should come hame.

But the nourice was a fause limmer
As ever hung on a tree;
She laid a plot wi Lamkin,
Whan her lord was oer the sea.

She laid a plot wi Lamkin,
When the servants were awa,
Loot him in at a little shot-window,
And brought him to the ha.

“O whare’s a’ the men o this house,
That ca’ me Lamkin?”
“They’re at the barn-well thrashing;
’Twill be lang ere they come in.”

“And where’s the women o this house,
That ca me Lamkin?”
“They’re at the far well washing;
’Twill be lang ere they come in.”

“And whare’s the bairns o this house,
That ca me Lamkin?”
They’re at the school reading;
’Twill be night or they come hame.”

“O whare’s the lady o this house,
That ca’s me Lamkin?”
“She’s up in her bower sewing,
But we soon can bring her down.”

Then Lamkin’s tane a sharp knife,
That hang down by his gaire,
And he has gien the bonny babe
A deep wound and a sair.

Then Lamkin he rocked,
And the fause nourice sang,
Till frae ilka bore o the cradle
The red blood out sprang.

Then out it spak the lady,
As she stood on the stair:
“What ails my bairn, nourice,
That he’s greeting sae sair?”

“O still my bairn, nourice,
O still him wi the pap!”
“He winna still, lady,
For this nor for that.”

“O still my bairn, nourice,
O still him wi the wand!”
“He winna still, lady,
For a’ his father’s land.”

“O still my bairn, nourice,
O still him wi the bell!”
“He winna still, lady,
Till ye come down yoursel.”

O the firsten step she steppit,
She steppit on a stane;
But the neisten step she steppit,
She met him Lamkin.

“O mercy, mercy, Lamkin,
Hae mercy upon me!
Though you’ve taen my young son’s life,
Ye may let myself be.”

“O sall I kill her, nourice,
Or sall I lat her be?”
“O kill her, kill her, Lamkin,
For she never was good to me.”

“O scour the bason, nourice,
And mak it fair and clean,
For to keep this lady’s heart’s blood,
For she’s come o noble kin.”

“There need nae bason, Lamkin,
Lat it run through the floor;
What better is the heart’s blood
O the rich than o the poor?”

But ere three months were at an end,
Lord Wearie came again;
But dowie, dowie was his heart
When first he came hame.

“O wha’s blood is this,” he says,
“That lies in the chamer?”
“It is your lady’s heart’s blood;
’Tis as clear as the lamer.”

“And wha’s blood is this,” he says,
“That lies in my ha?”
“It is your young son’s heart’s blood;
’Tis the clearest ava.”

O sweetly sang the black-bird
That sat upon the tree;
But sairer grat Lamkin,
When he was condemned to die.

And bonny sang the mavis,
Out o the thorny brake;
But sairer grat the nourice,
When she was tied to the stake.



Will ye gang wi’ me, lassie,
To the braes o’ Birniebouzle?
Baith the yird an’ sea, lassie,
Will I rob to fend ye.
I’ll hunt the otter an’ the brock,
The hart, the hare, an’ heather cock,
An’ pu’ the limpet off the rock,
To batten an’ to mend ye.

If ye’ll gang wi’ me, lassie,
To the braes o’ Birnibouzle,
Till the day you dee, lassie,
Want shall ne’er come near ye.
The peats I’ll carry in a skull,
The cod an’ link wi’ hooks I’ll pull,
An’ reave the eggs o’ mony a gull,
To please my denty dearie.

Sae canty will we be, lassie,
At the braes o’ Birniebouzle,
Donald Gun and me, lassie,
Ever sall attend ye.
Though we hae nowther milk nor meal,
Nor lamb nor mutton, beef nor veal,
We’ll fank the porpy and the seal,
And that’s the way to fend ye.

An’ ye sall gang sae braw, lassie,
At the kirk o’ Birniebouzle,
Wi’ littit brogues an’ a’, lassie,
Wow but ye’ll be vaunty!
An’ you sall wear, when you are wed,
The kirtle an’ the Heeland plaid,
An’ sleep upon a heather bed,
Sae cozy an’ sae canty.

If ye’ll but marry me, lassie,
At the kirk o’ Birniebouzle,
A’ my joy sall be, lassie,
Ever to content ye.
I’ll bait the line and bear the pail,
An’ row the boat and spread the sail,
An’ drag the larry at my tail,
When mussel hives are plenty.

Then come awa wi’ me, lassie,
To the braes o’ Birniebouzle;
Bonny lassie, dear lassie,
You shall ne’er repent ye,
For you shall own a bught o’ ewes,
A brace o’ gaits, and byre o’ cows,
An’ be the lady o’ my house,
An’ lads an’ lassies plenty.

James Hogg (1770–1835)

My Possession

The autumn day rests in its fullness now
Grapes gleam pure and the orchard is red
With fruit, though to the earth a few
Fair blossoms fell as a thanksgiving.

And out in the country, where I walk a peaceful
Path, crops are ripe to the satisfaction
Of men who won them; blithe toil,
Plenteous too, this wealth is bringing.

From heaven the light looks mildly down and through
Their trees upon the busy people, sharing
Their joy, for the fruits ripened
Not by handiwork of people only.

And do you shine also for me, O golden light?
Breeze, do you blow my way again, blessing
As once you did, a joy of mine,
And flutter my heart as for the fortunate?

Fortune was mine once, yet that gentle life
Was fleeting like the rose, ah! And the sweet
Blossoming stars that remain to me
Tell me of this, and all too often.

Fortune is his who, loving his gentle wife,
Lives in his home at peace and in an honored land;
That much the lovelier, for his safe being
On sure terrain, his heaven shines.

For, like a plant, if it has sunk no root
In ground of its own, the mortal soul must wither,
Man being poor and daylight all
That moves with him on the holy earth.

Too potent, ah! You haul me, heavenly altitudes,
Upward, battering gales on a calm day—
And I feel you chop and change, consuming
Me in my depths, you powers divine!

But let me walk today the quiet familiar path
To the orchard where leaves that are dying crown
Every tree with gold; sweet memories,
Weave for my brow a garland also.

And that, like others, I too may find a place
To abide and save my mortal heart in, lest
My soul, unhoused, clean gone
Above what’s living, pine away,

Be you, O song, my welcoming refuge, bringer
Of my felicity, the garden kept
With careful love, where underneath
Ageless blossoms I shall walk,

Living in sure simplicity, and hear the surge
Of potent changeful time that roars far off
With all its waves, and the calmer sun
Helps everything I do to prosper.

O heavenly powers who bless, benign, above
All mortal things, each mortal’s own possession,
Bless also mine, and let not fate
Bring too soon to the dream an ending.

(Autumn 1799)

Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843)
Tr. Christopher Middleton

Der Mensch

Kaum sproßten aus den Wassern, o Erde, dir
Der jungen Berge Gipfel und dufteten
Lustatmend, immergrüner Haine
Voll, in des Ozeans grauer Wildnis

Die ersten holden Inseln; und freudig sah
Des Sonnengottes Auge die Neulinge,
Die Pflanzen, seiner ewgen Jugend
Lächelnde Kinder, aus dir geboren.

Da auf der Inseln schönster, wo immerhin
Den Hain in zarter Ruhe die Luft umfloß,
Lag unter Trauben einst, nach lauer
Nacht, in der dämmernden Morgenstunde

Geboren, Mutter Erde ! dein schönstes Kind;-
Und auf zum Vater Helios sieht bekannt
Der Knab, und wacht und wählt, die süßen
Beere versuchend, die heilge Rebe

Zur Amme sich; und bald ist er groß; ihn scheun
Die Tiere, denn ein anderer ist, wie sie,
Der Mensch; nicht dir und nicht dem Vater
Gleicht er, denn kühn ist in ihm und einzig

Des Vaters hohe Seele mit deiner Lust,
O Erd ! und deiner Trauer von je vereint;
Der Göttermutter, der Natur, der
Allesumfassenden möchte er gleichen !

Ach ! darum treibt ihn, Erde ! vom Herzen dir
Sein Übermut, und deine Geschenke sind
Umsonst und deine zarten Bande;
Sucht er ein Besseres doch, der Wilde !

Von seines Ufers duftender Wiese muß
Ins blütenlose Wasser hinaus der Mensch,
Und glänzt auch, wie die Sternenacht, von
Goldenen Früchten sein Hain, doch gräbt er

Sich Höhlen in den Bergen und späht im Schacht,
Von seines Vaters heiterem Lichte fern,
Dem Sonnengott auch ungetreu, der
Knechte nicht liebt und der Sorge spottet.

Denn freier atmen Vögel des Walds, wenn schon
Des Menschen Brust sich herrlicher hebt, und der
Die dunkle Zukunft sieht, er muß auch
Sehen den Tod, und allein ihn fürchten.

Und Waffen wider alle, die atmen trägt
In ewigbangem Stolze der Mensch; im Zwist
Verzehrt er sich und seines Friedens
Blume, die zärtliche, blüht nicht lange.

Ist er von allen Lebensgenossen nicht
Der seligste ? Doch tiefer und reißender
Ergreift das Schicksal, allausgleichend,
Auch die entzündbare Brunst dem Starken.

Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843)


When scarcely from the waters, O Earth, for you
Young mountain peaks had sprouted and, breathing joy,
The first delightful islands, full of
Evergreen copses, gave out their fragrance

Amid the sea’s grey desert; and glad of them
The Sun-God’s eye looked down at the newly-raised,
The plants, the smiling children of his
Weariless youth, and of you, their mother—

Then on the loveliest island where delicate
And calm the air flowed ceaselessly round the copse,
One morning, born in early half-light
After a temperate night, and bedded

Beneath the clustered grapes, lay your loveliest child,
And up to Father Helios now, the boy
Turns eyes that know him, wakes and, tasting
Berries for sweetness, as nurse he chooses

The holy vine; and soon is grown up. He’s shunned
By animals, for different from them is Man.
Not you, his mother, nor his father
Does he resemble, for in him, boldly

Uniquely blended, live both his father’s soul
And, Earth, your joy, your sadness, inveterate;
He longs to be like her, like Nature,
Mother of gods and the all-embracing!

O that is why his arrogance drives him far
From your safe-keeping, Earth, and in vain are all
Your gifts and all your gentle fetters—
Little to him who wants more, the wild one!

Beyond his fragrant river-side meadows, out
Into the flowerless waters is Man impelled
And though with golden fruit his orchard
Gleams like the star-jewelled night, yet caves for

Himself he digs in mountains and scans the shaft,
Remote from his great father’s untroubled light,
Disloyal also to the Sun-God,
Scorner of cares never fond of drudges,

For woodland birds more freely draw breath, and though
Man’s breast more grandly, proudly expands, his gaze
Can penetrate the future’s darkness
Death he sees too and alone must fear it.

And arms against all creatures that live and stir
In pride for ever anxious he bears; consumes
Himself in discord; and not long the
Delicate bloom of his peace contents him.

Is man not blessed, not blissful compared to all
His fellow creatures? Yet with a tighter hold,
More deeply Fate, all levelling, grips the
Strong one’s inflammable heart to wrench it.

Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843)
Tr. Michael Hamburger, Friedrich Hölderlin; Selected Poems and Fragments,
tr, and introd, Michael Hamburger (Penguin Classics, 1998)

To the Fates

One summer only grant me, you powerful Fates,
And one more autumn only for mellow song,
So that more willingly, replete with
Music’s late sweetness, my heart may die there.

The soul in life denied its god-given right
Down there in Orcus also will find no peace;
But when what’s holy, dear to me, the
Poem’s accomplished, my art perfected,

Then welcome, silence, welcome cold world of shades!
I’ll be content, though here I must leave my lyre
And songless travel down, for once I
Lived like the gods, and no more is needed.

Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843)
Tr. Michael Hamburger, Friedrich Hölderlin; Selected Poems and Fragments,
tr, and introd, Michael Hamburger (Penguin Classics, 1998)

Hälfte des Lebens

Mit gelben Birnen hänget
Und voll mit wilden Rosen
Das Land in den See,
Ihr holden Schwäne,
Und trunken von Küssen
Tunkt ihr das Haupt
Ins heilignüchterne Wasser.

Weh mir, wo nehm ich, wenn
Es Winter ist, die Blumen, and wo
Den Sonnenschein,
Und Schatten der Erde?
Die Mauern stehn
Sprachlos und kalt, im Winde
Kirren die Fahnen.

Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843)

Half of Life

Brimful with yellow pears,
and wild roses, the land hangs down
into the lake,
and drunk with kisses,
O you lovely swans,
you dip your heads
in the pellucid holy water.

But I… I…,
where, oh where, when it is winter,
do I find the flowers,
and the sunlight and shadows,
of Earth?
Walls stand there,
voiceless and cold;
in the wind
weathervanes clatter.

Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843)
Tr. JF

Ireland Never was Contented

Ireland never was contented.
Say you so? You are demented.
Ireland was contented when
All could use the sword and en,
And when Tara rose so high
That her turrets split the sky,
And about her courts were seen
Liveried angels robed in green,
Wearing, by St Patrick’s bounty,
Emeralds big as half the county.

Walter Savage Landor (1775–1864)

Nell Flaherty’s Drake

My name it is Nell, quite candid I tell,
And I lived near Cootehill, I will never deny.
I had a large drake, the truth for to speak,
That my grandmother left me and she goin’ to die.
He was wholesome and sound and he weighed twenty pound,
And the universe round I would rove for his sake.
Bad cess to the robber, both drunken and sober,
That murdered Nell Flaherty’s beautiful drake!

His neck it was green and most rare to be seen,
He was fit for a queen of the highest degree,
His body was white that would you delight,
He was plump, fat, and heavy, and brisk as a bee,
The dear little fellow his legs they were yellow,
He’d fly like a swallow or dive like a hake;
But some wicked savage to grease his white cabbage
Has murdered Nell Flaherty’s beautiful drake.

May his pig never grunt, may his cat never hunt,
That a ghose may him haunt in the dead of the night,
May his hen never lay, may his ass never bray,
May his goat fly away like an old paper kite.
That the flies and the fleas may the wretch ever tease,
And a bitter north breeze make him tremble and shake.
May a four-year-old bug make a nest in the lug
Of the monster that murdered Nell Flaherty’s drake.

May his pipe never smoke and his tea-pot be broke,
And to add to the joke may his kettle ne’er boil,
May he ne’er rest in bed till the hour he is dead,
May he always be fed on lobscouse and fish oil,
May he swell with the gout till his grinders fall out,
May he roar, bawl, and shout with a horrible toothache,
May his temples wear horns and all his toes corns,
The monster that murdered Nell Flaherty’s drake.

May his spade never dig, may his sow never pig,
May each nit in his wig be as large as a snail,
May his door have no latch, may his house have no thatch,
May his turkey not hatch, may the rats eat his kale,
May every old fairy from Cork to Dunleary,
Dip him snug and airy in some pond or lake,
Where the eel and the trout may dine on the snout
Of the monster that murdered Nell Flaherty’s drake.

May his dog yelp and growl with hunger and cold,
May his wife always scold till his brain goes astray,
May the curse of each hag who e’er carried a bag
Light on the wag till his beard turns to grey;
May monkeys still bite him and mad apes stil fight him,
And everyone slight him asleep and awake;
May weasels still gnaw him and jackdaws still claw him,
The monster that murdered Nell Flaherty’s drake.

The only good news that I have to diffuse
Is that long Peter Hughes, and blind piper McPeak,
That big-nosed Bob Manson and buck-toothed Bob Hanson,
Each man has a grandson of my darling drake,
My bird he had dozens of nephews and cousins,
And one I must get or my poor heart would break,
To keep my mind easy or else I’ll go crazy,
There ends the whole tale of Nell Flaherty’s drake.


The Night Before Larry Was Stretched

The night before Larry was stretched,
The boys they all paid him a visit;
A bit in their sacks, too, they fetched;
They sweated their duds till they riz it;
For Larry was ever the lad,
When a boy was condemned to the squeezer,
Would fence all the duds that he had
To help a poor friend to a sneezer,
And warm his gob ’fore he died.

The boys they came crowding in fast,
They drew all their stools round about him,
Six glims round his trap-case were placed,
He couldn’t be well waked without ‘em.
When one of us asked could he die
Without having truly repented,
Says Larry, “That’s all in my eye,
And first by the clergy invented,
To get a fat bit for themselves.”

“I’m sorry, dear Larry,” says I,
“To see you in this situation;
And, blister my limbs if I lie,
I’d as lieve it had been my own station.”
“Ochone! it’s all over,” says he,
“For the neck-cloth I’ll be forced to put on,
And by this time tomorrow you’ll see
Your poor Larry as dead as a mutton,
Because why, his courage was good.

“And I’ll be cut up like a pie,
And my nob from my body be parted.”
“You’re in the wrong box, then,” says I,
“For blast me if they’re so hard-hearted;
A chalk on the back of your neck
Is all that Jack Ketch dares to give you;
Then mind not such trifles a feck,
For why should the likes of them grieve uou?
And now, boys, come tip us the deck.”

The cards being called for, they played,
Till Larry found one of them cheated;
A dart at his napper he made
(The boy being easily heated);
“O, by the hokey, you thief,
I’ll scuttle your nob with my daddle!
You cheat me because I’m in grief,
But soon I’ll demolish your noddle,
And leave you your claret to drink.”

Then the clergy came in with his book,
He spoke him so smooth and so civil,
Larry tipped him a Kilmainham look,
And pitched his big wig to the devil;
Then sighing, he threw back his head,
To get a sweet drop of the bottle,
And pitiful sighing, he said:
“Oh, the hemp will be soon round my throttle,
And choke my poor windpipe to death.”

“Though sure it’s the best way to die,
O! the devil a better a-livin’!
For when the gallows is high
Your journey is shorter to heaven”:
But what harasses Larry the mst
And makes his poor soul melancholy,
Is that he thinks of the time when his ghost
Will come in a sheet to sweet Molly;
“O, sure it will kill her alive!”

So moving these last words he spoke,
We all vented our tears in a shower;
For my part, I thought my heart broke,
To see him cut down like a flower.
On his travels we watched him next day;
O! the throttler I thought I could kill him;
But Larry not one word did say,
Nor changed till he came to King William,
Then, musha, his colour grew white.

When we came to the numbing chit,
He was tucked up so neat and so pretty,
The rumbler jogged off from his feet,
And he died with his face to the city;
He kicked, too—but that was all pride,
For soon you might see ’twas all over;
Soon after the noose was untied,
And at darkey we waked him in clover,
And sent him to take a ground sweat.

Anonymous (c 1814)

sweated their duds> pawned their clothes; squeezer> gallows or rope;
sneezer> drink; neckcloth> halter; glims> candles; Kilmainham> a gaol near Dublin;
King William> statue on College Green commemorating the Battle of the Boyne;
rambler> cart; darkeye> nighttime; sent him to take a ground sweat> buried him

The Maniac’s Song

Bring me a garland, bring me a wreath;
Bring me a flower from the dank stream side;
Bring me a herb smelling sweetly of death,
Wet with the drowsy tide.

Haste to the pool with the green-weed breast,
Where the dark wave crawls through the sedge;
Where the bittern of the wilderness builds her nest,
In the flags of its oozy edge;

Where no sun shines through the live-long day,
Because of the blue-wreathed mist,
Where the cockatrice creeps her foul eggs to lay,
And the speckled snake has hissed:

And bring me the flag that is moist with the wave,
And the rush where the heath-winds sigh,
And the hemlock plant, that flourishes so brave,
And the poppy, with its coal-black eye;

And weave them tightly, and weave them well,
The fever of my head to allay;—
And soon shall I faint with the death-weed smell,
And sleep these throbbings away.

And my hot, hot heart, that is fluttering so fast,
Shall shudder with a strange, cold thrill,
And the damp hand of death o’er my forehead shall be passed,
And my lips shall be stiff and still.

And crystals of ice on my bosom shall arise,
Prest out from the shivering pore;
And oft shall it struggle with pent-up sighs,
But soon it shall struggle no more.

For the poppy on my head shall her cool breath shed,
And wind through the blue, blue tide;
And the bony wand of Death shall draw my last breath,
All by the dark stream side.

Ann Taylor (1782–1866)


We took our work, and went, you see,
To take an early cup of tea.
We did so now and then, to pay
The friendly debt, and so did they.
Not that our friendship burnt so bright
That all the world could see the light;
‘’Twas of the ordinary genus,
And little love was lost between us:
We lov’d, I think, about as true
As such near neighbours mostly do.

At first, we all were somewhat dry;
Mamma felt cold, and so did I:
Indeed, that room, sit where you will,
Has draught enough to turn a mill.
“I hope you’re warm,” says Mrs. G.
“O, quite so,” says mamma, says she;
“I’ll take my shawl off by and by.”
“This room is always warm,” says I.

At last the tea came up, and so,
With that, our tongues began to go.
Now, in that house you’re sure of knowing
The smallest scrap of news that’s going;
We find it there the wisest way
To take some care of what we say.
—Says she, “there’s dreadful doings still
In that affair about the will;
For now the folks in Brewer’s Street
Don’t speak to James’s, when they meet.
Poor Mrs. Sam sits all alone,
And frets herself to skin and bone.
For months she manag’d, she declares,
All the old gentleman’s affairs;
And always let him have his way,
And never left him night and day;
Waited and watch’d his every look,
And gave him every drop he took.
Dear Mrs. Sam, it was too bad!
He might have left her all he had.”

“Pray, ma’am,” says I, “has poor Miss A.
Been left as handsome as they say?
“My dear,” says she, “’tis no such thing,
She’s nothing but a mourning ring.
But is it not uncommon mean
To wear that rusty bombazine!”
“She had,” says I, “the very same
Three years ago, for—what’s his name?”—
“The Duke of Brunswick,—very true,
And has not bought a thread of new,
I’m positive,” said Mrs. G.—
So then we laugh’d, and drank our tea.

“So,” says mamma, “I find it’s true
What Captain P. intends to do;
To hire that house, or else to buy—“
“Close to the tan-yard, ma’am, “ says I;
“Upon my word it’s very strange,
I wish they mayn’t repent the change!”
“My dear,” says she, “’tis very well
You know, if they can stand the smell.”

“Miss F.” says I, “is said to be
A sweet young woman, is not she?”
“O, excellent! I hear,” she cried,
“O, truly so!” mamma replied.
“How old should you suppose her, pray?
She’s older than her looks they say.”
“Really,” says I, “she seems to me
No more than twenty-two or three.”
“O, then you’re wrong,” says Mrs. G.
“Their upper servant told our Jane,
She’ll not see twenty-nine again.”
“Indeed, so old! I wonder why
She does not marry then,” says I;
“So many thousands to bestow,
And such a beauty, too, you know.”
“A beauty! O, my dear Miss B,
You must be joking now,” says she;
“Her figure’s rather pretty,”—“Ah!
That’s what I say,” replied mamma.

“Miss F.” says I, “I’ve understood,
Spends all her time in doing good:
The people say her coming down
Is quite a blessing to the town.”
At that our hostess fetch’d a sigh,
And shook her head; and so, says I
“It’s very kind of her, I’m sure,
To be so generous to the poor.”
“No doubt,” says she, “’tis very true:
Perhaps there may be reasons too:—
You know some people like to pass
For patrons with the lower class.”

And here I break my story’s thread,
Just to remark, that what she said,
Although I took the other part,
Went like a cordial to my heart.

Some inuendos more had pass’d,
Till out the scandal came at last.
“Come then, I’ll tell you something more,”
Says she,—“Eliza, shut the door.—
I would not trust a creature here,
For all the world, but you, my dear.
Perhaps it’s false—I wish it may,
—But let it go no further, pray!”
“O,” says mamma, “You need not fear,
We never mention what we hear.”
And so, we draw our chairs the nearer,
And whispering, less the child should hear her,
She told a tale, at least too long
To be reported in a song;
We, panting every breath between,
With curiosity and spleen.
And how we did enjoy the sport!
And echo every faint report,
And answer every careful doubt,
And turn her motives inside out,
And holes in all her virtues pick,
Till we were sated, almost sick.
—Thus having brought it to a close,
In great good-humour, we arose.
Indeed, ’twas more than time to go,
Our boy had been an hour below.
So, warmly pressing Mrs. G.
To fix a day to come to tea,
We muffled up in cloak and plaid,
And trotted home behind the lad.

Jane Taylor (1783–1824)

The Squire’s Pew

A slanting ray of evening light
Shoots through the yellow pane;
It makes the faded crimson bright,
And gilds the fringe again;
The window’s gothic frame-work falls
In oblique shadow on the walls.

And since those trappings first were new,
How many a cloudless day,
To rob the velvet of its hue,
Has come and passed away!
How many a setting sun hath made
That curious lattice-work of shade!

Crumbled beneath the hillock green
The cunning hand must be,
That carved this fretted door, I ween,
Acorn and fleur-de-lis;
And now the worm hath done her part
In mimicking the chisel’s art.

In days of yore (that now we call)
When the first James was king,
The courtly knight from yonder hall
Hither his train did bring;
All seated round in order due,
With broidered suit and buckled shoe.

On damask cushions, set in fringe,
All reverently they knelt:
Prayer-books, with brazen hasp and hinge,
In ancient English spelt
Each holding in a lily hand,
Responsive at the priest’s command.

—Now, streaming down the vanished aisle,
The sunbeam, long and lone,
Illumes the characters awhile
Of their inscription stone;
And there, in marble hard and cold,
The knight and all his train behold.

Outstretched together, are expressed
He, and my lady fair,
With hands uplifted on the breast,
In attitude of prayer;
Long visaged, clad in armour, he,—
With ruffled arm and bodice, she.

Set forth, in order as they died,
The numerous offspring bend;
Devoutly kneeling side by side,
As though they did intend
For past omissions to atone,
By saying endless prayers in stone.

Those mellow days are past and dim,
But generations new,
In regular descent from him
Have filled the stately pew;
And in the same succession go,
To occupy the vault below.

And now the polished modern squire,
And his gay train appear,
Who duly to the hall retire,
A season, every year,—
And fill the seat with belle and beau,
As ’twas so many years ago.

Perchance, all thoughtless as they tread
The hollow sounding floor,
Of that dark house of kindred dead,
Which shall, as heretofore,
In turn, receive to silent rest,
Another and another guest,—

The leathered hearse and sable train,
In all its wonted state,
Shall wind along the village lane,
And stand before the gate;
—Brought many a distant county through,
To join the final rendezvous.

And when the race is swept away,
All to their dusty beds,
Still shall the mellow evening ray
Shine gaily o’er their heads;
While other faces, fresh and new,
Shall occupy the squire’s pew.

Jane Taylor (1783–1824)

La Jeune Châtelaine

“Je vous défends, châtelaine,
De courir seule au grand bois.”
M’y voici, tout hors de haleine,
Et pour le seconde fois.
J’aurais manqué de courage
Dans ce long sentier perdu;
Mais que j’en aime l’ombrage!
Mon seigneur l’a défendu.

“Je vous défends, belle mie,
Ce rondeau vif et moqueur.”
Je n’étais pas endormie
Que je le savais par coeur.
Depuis ce jour je le chante,
Pas un refrain n’est perdu;
Dieu! que ce rondeau m’enchante!
Mon seigneur l’a défendu.

“Je vous défend sur mon page
De jamais lever les yeux.”
Et voilà que son image
Me suit, m’obsède en tous lieux.
Je l’entends qui, par mégarde,
Au bois s’est aussi perdu:
D’où vient que je le regarde/
Mon seigneur l’a defendu.

Mon seigneur défende encore
Au pauvre enfant de parler;
Et sa voix douce et sonore
Ne dit plus rien sans trembler.
Qu’il doit souffre de se taire!
Pour causer quel temps perdu!
Mais, mon page, comment faire;
Mon seigneur l’a défendu.

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786–1859)

The Young Chatelaine/ La Jeune Châtelaine

“I forbid you, chatelaine,
To wander alone in the big wood.”
There I was, all out of breath,
For the second time.
I’d have been scared
On that long, untrodden track,
But how I love its leafy shade!
My noble lord has forbidden it.

“I forbid you, beautiful girl,
To sing that mocking roundelay.”
By the time I went to sleep
I had got it all by heart.
Since then I’ve gone on singing it,
Not missing a single bar.
Heavens, how it enraptures me.
My noble lord has forbidden it.

“I forbid you to raise your eyes
And let them rest upon my page.”
Now his image everywhere
Follows me, obsesses me.
I understand him, for, by chance,
He too got lost in that same wood.
Why do I keep on glancing at him?
My noble lord has forbidden it.

My noble lord has forbidden
The poor kid to talk at all;
And his sweet clear voice
Can’t say anything without trembling;
How he must suffer from his silence.
So much time for communing lost!
But, my page, what’s to be done?
My noble lord has forbidden it.

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786–1859)
©Tr. JF

Les Séparés/ Apart

N'écris pas. Je suis triste, et je voudrais m'éteindre.
Les beaux étés sans toi, c'est la nuit sans flambeau.
J'ai refermé mes bras qui ne peuvent t'atteindre,
Et frapper à mon coeur, c'est frapper au tombeau.
N'écris pas!

N'écris pas. N'apprenons qu'à mourir à nous-mêmes.
Ne demande qu'à Dieu . . . qu'à toi, si je t'aimais!
Au fond de ton absence écouter que tu m'aimes,
C'est entendre le ciel sans y monter jamais.
N'écris pas!

N'écris pas. Je te crains; j'ai peur de ma mémoire;
Elle a gardé ta voix qui m'appelle souvent.
Ne montre pas l'eau vive à qui ne peut la boire.
Une chère écriture est un portrait vivant.
N'écris pas!

N'écris pas ces doux mots que je n'ose plus lire:
Il semble que ta voix les répand sur mon coeur;
Que je les vois brûler à travers ton sourire;
Il semble qu'un baiser les empreint sur mon coeur.
N'écris pas!

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786–1859)

Apart / Les Séparés

Do not write. I am sad, and want my light put out.
Summers in your absence are as dark as a room.
I have closed my arms again. They must do without.
To knock at my heart is like knocking at a tomb.
Do not write!

Do not write. Let us learn to die, as best we may.
Did I love you? Ask God. Ask yourself. Do you know?
To hear that you love me, when you are far away,
Is like hearing from heaven and never to go.
Do not write!

Do not write. I fear you. I fear to remember,
For memory holds the voice I have often heard.
To the one who cannot drink, do not show water,
The beloved one's picture in the handwritten word.
Do not write!

Do not write those gentle words that I dare not see,
It seems that your voice is spreading them on my heart,
Across your smile, on fire, they appear to me,
It seems that a kiss is printing them on my heart.
Do not write!

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786–1859)
©Tr. Louis Simpson

Ma chambre

Ma demeure est haute,
Donnant sur les cieux ;
La lune en est l'hôte,
Pâle et sérieux :
En bas que l'on sonne,
Qu'importe aujourd'hui
Ce n'est plus personne,
Quand ce n'est plus lui !

Aux autres cachée,
Je brode mes fleurs ;
Sans être fâchée,
Mon âme est en pleurs ;
Le ciel bleu sans voiles,
Je le vois d'ici ;
Je vois les étoiles
Mais l'orage aussi !

Vis-à-vis la mienne
Une chaise attend :
Elle fut la sienne,
La nôtre un instant ;
D'un ruban signée,
Cette chaise est là,
Toute résignée,
Comme me voilà !

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786–1859)

My Room

My abode is high up,
With a view of the heavens,
The moon is the landlord,
Pale and serious;
Below, when the doorbell rings,
What does it matter?
There’s nobody there
When it isn’t him.

Hidden from others,
I embroider my flowers;
Though I seem calm,
My soul is in tears;
From here I look at
The clear blue sky;
I can see the stars,
But also storms.

Opposite mine,
A chair waits;
It was his;
For a short while, ours;
Marked with a ribbon,
The chair sits there,
Like myself.

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786–1859)
©Tr. JF

Cantique des Mères

Reine pieuse aux flancs de mère,
Ecoutez la supplique amère
Des veuves aux rares deniers
Dont les fils sont vos prisonniers.
Si vous voulez que Dieu vous aime
Et pardonne au geôlier lui-même,
Priez d' un salutaire effroi
Pour tous les prisonniers du roi !

On dit que l' on a vu des larmes
Dans vos regards doux et sans armes ;
Que Dieu fasse tomber ces pleurs
Sur un front gros de nos malheurs.
Soulagez la terre en démence,
Faites-y couler la clémence ;
Et priez d' un céleste effroi
Pour tous les prisonniers du roi !

Car ce sont vos enfants, madame,
Adoptés au fond de votre âme,
Quand ils se sont, libres encor,
Rangés sous votre rameau d' or ;
Rappelez aux royales haines
Ce qu' ils font un jour de leurs chaînes,
Et priez d' un prudent effroi
Pour tous les prisonniers du roi !

Ne sentez-vous pas vos entrailles
Frémir des fraîches funérailles
Dont nos pavés portent le deuil ?
Il est déjà grand le cercueil !
Personne n' a tué vos filles ;
Rendez-nous d' entières familles !
Priez d' un maternel effroi
Pour tous les prisonniers du roi !

Comme Esther s' est agenouillée
Et saintement humiliée
Entre le peuple et le bourreau,

Rappelez le glaive au fourreau.
Vos soldats vont la tête basse,
Le sang est lourd, la haine lasse :
Priez d' un courageux effroi
Pour tous les prisonniers du roi !

Madame ! Les geôles sont pleines,
L’air y manque pour tant d' haleines,
Nos enfants n' en sortent que morts !
Où commence donc le remords ?
S' il est plus beau que l' innocence,
Qu' il soit en aide à la puissance,
Et priez d' un ardent effroi

Pour tous les prisonniers du roi !

C'est la faim, croyez-en nos larmes,
Qui fiévreuse aiguisa leurs armes.
Vous ne comprenez pas la faim :
Elle tue, on s' insurge enfin !
O vous ! Dont le lait coule encore,
Notre sein tari vous implore :
Priez d' un charitable effroi
Pour tous les prisonniers du roi !

Voyez comme la providence
Confond l' oppressive imprudence,
Comme elle ouvre avec ses flambeaux,
Les bastilles et les tombeaux !
La liberté, c' est son haleine
Qui d' un rocher fait une plaine :

Priez d' un prophétique effroi
Pour tous les prisonniers du roi !

Quand nos cris rallument la guerre,
Coeur sans pitié n' en trouve guère ;
L' homme qui n' a rien pardonné
Se voit par l' homme abandonné ;
De noms sanglants, dans l' autre vie,
Sa terreur s' en va poursuivie :
Priez d' un innocent effroi
Pour tous les prisonniers du roi !

Reine ! Qui dites vos prières,
Femme ! Dont les chastes paupières
Savent lire au livre de Dieu ;
Par les maux qu' il lit en ce lieu,
Par la croix qui saigne et pardonne,
Par le haut pouvoir qu' il vous donne,
Reine ! Priez d' un humble effroi
Pour tous les prisonniers du roi !

Avant la couronne qui change,
Dieu grava sur votre front d’ange,
Comme un imperissable don:
“Amour! Amour! pardon! Pardon!”
Colombe envoyee dans leur courage
Et priez de tout notre effroi.
Pour tous les prisonieres du roi !

Redoublez vos divins exemples,
Madame ! Le plus beau des temples,
C’ est le coeur du peuple ; entrez-y !
Le roi des rois l' a bien choisi.
Vous ! Qu' on aimait comme sa mère,
Pesez notre supplique amère,
Et priez d' un sublime effroi.
Pour tous les prisonniers du roi !

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786–1859)

Canticle of the Mothers

Pious queen with a mother’s breasts,
Hear the bitter supplication
Of widows down to their last sou,
Whose sons are now your prisoners.
If you want the Lord to love you,
With pardon even for a jailer,
Pray with a humane concern
For all the prisoners of the king.

It’s said that tears have been perceived
In those compassionate eyes of yours.
May the Lord let those tears be shed
Upon the heart of our misfortunes.
Bring calm to this demented land,
Start the springs of mercy flowing,
And pray with a devout concern
For all the prisoners of the king.

For these, Madam, are your own children,
Adopted from the depths of your soul
When, while they still possessed their freedom
They gathered under your golden boughs.
Recall in the face of royal hatreds
What they did earlier with their chains,
And pray with a practical concern
For all the prisoners of the king.

Don’t you feel your woman’s bowels
Trembling as each day’s funerals
Transport their griefs along our streets?
The final grave has grown so large!
Nobody’s tried to kill your daughters.
Restore to us our families.
Pray with a motherly concern
For all the prisoners of the king.

Like Queen Esther kneeling down,
Saintly in her humiliation,
Between the hangman and her people,
Return the sword into in its sheath.
Your soldiers’ eyes are downcast now,
Blood is heavy, hatred tiring;
Pray with a courageous concern
For all the prisoners of the king.

Madame! the jails are full to bursting.
There isn’t air there for so many,
Our children only come out dead!
When, then, will remorse set in?
More beautiful than innocence,
Let it come now and chasten power.
Pray with a passionate concern
For all the prisoners of the king!

It’s hunger—you can trust our tears—
Which feverishly honed the weapons.
You simply can’t imagine hunger.
It kills. Finally, one revolts.
O you, whose milk is flowing still,
Our dried-up breasts cry out to you,
Pray with a womanly concern
For all the prisoners of the king.

Observe how a just Providence
Deals with an unjust oppression,
How she opens, with her torches,
All the fortresses and tombs!
Liberty is the air she breathes,
Who grinds a rock down to a plain.
Pray with a prophetic concern
For all the prisoners of the king.

If our cries rekindle war,
A hard heart will receive no pity.
He who’s never displayed forgiveness
Will find himself cast out by man.
His cruelty will be pursued
In the afterlife with hateful names.
Queen! pray with an innocent concern
For all the prisoners of the king.

O queen, who devoutly say your prayers,
O woman, who with downturned eyes
Know how to read the book of God;
By the ills we see displayed there,
By the Cross that bleeds and pardons,
By the high power that’s given you,
Queen! pray with self-denying concern
For all the prisoners of the king.

Before you donned your temporal crown,
God wrote on your angelic forehead
As an imperishable gift.
“Love! Love! Mercy! Mercy!”
Like a dove sent into the storm,
Breathe these words aloud in their goodness.
And pray, with our intense concern,
For all the prisoners of the king.

Redouble your divine example.
Madame! the loveliest of temples
Is the heart of the people. Go there!
The King of Kings selected it well.
O you! beloved like our own mother,
Ponder our bitter supplication,
And pray, with your own sublime concern,
For all the prisoners of the king.

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786–1859)
©Tr. JF

Un arc de triomphe

Tout ce qu'ont dit les hirondelles
Sur ce colossal bâtiment,
C'est que c'était à cause d'elles
Qu'on élevait un monument.

Leur nid s'y pose si tranquille,
Si près des grands chemins du jour,
Qu'elles ont pris ce champ d'asile
Pour causer d'affaire, ou d'amour.

En hâte, à la géante porte,
Parmi tous ces morts triomphants,
Sans façon l'hirondelle apporte
Un grain de chanvre à ses enfants.

Dans le casque de la Victoire
L'une, heureuse, a couvé ses oeufs,
Qui, tout ignorants de l'histoire,
Eclosent fiers comme chez eux.

Voulez-vous lire au fond des gloires,
Dont le marbre est tout recouvert ?
Mille doux cris à têtes noires
Sortent du grand livre entr'ouvert.

La plus mince qui rentre en France
Dit aux oiseaux de l'étranger
"Venez voir notre nid immense.
Nous avons de quoi vous loger."

Car dans leurs plaines de nuages
Les canons ne s'entendent pas
Plus que si les hommes bien sages
Riaient et s'entr'aimaient en bas.

La guerre est un cri de cigale
Pour l'oiseau qui monte chez Dieu ;
Et le héros que rien n'égale
N'est vu qu'à peine en si haut lieu.

Voilà pourquoi les hirondelles,
A l'aise dans ce bâtiment,
Disent que c'est à cause d'elles
Que Dieu fit faire un monument.

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786–1859)

A Triumphal Arch

All that the swallows have to say
About this colossal edifice
Is that it was because of them
That such a monument was raised.

Their nests sit there so peacefully,
Despite the bustling roads below,
That they’ve turned the top into their club
For gossiping about life and love.

Swiftly, through this gigantic gate
Displaying the triumphant dead,
A swallow carries without fanfare
A grain of hemp to her little ones.

Inside the helmet of Victory,
Another sits happily on her eggs,
Which, knowing nothing of history,
Proudly hatch as if in their home.

Do you want to read what lies below
The exploits covering the marble?
The gentle cries of a host of heads
Come from the great half-open book.

The smallest bird, returning to France
Says to others along the route,
“Come and see our mighty nest.
We’ll have somewhere for you to stay.”

For when one’s high up in the clouds,
The cannons are no more audible
Than sensible people laughing below,
And enjoying each other's company.

The war is like a cricket’s chirp
For a bird who's soaring nearer God.
And even the most prodigious hero,
Can’t be seen from so high up.

So that is why the host of swallows,
Taking their ease on the edifice,
Say that it was because of them
That God had such a monument built.

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786–1859)
©Tr. JF

The Tinkler’s Waddin’

In June, when broom in bloom was seen,
And bracken waved fu’ fresh and green,
And warm the sun, wi’ silver sheen,
The hills and glens did gladden, O;
Ae day, upon the Border bent,
The tinklers pitch’d their gypsy tent,
And auld and young, wi’ ae consent,
Resolved to haud a waddin’, O.

Dirrim day doo a day,
Deirrim doo a da dee, O,
Dirrim day doo a day,
Hurrah for the tinklers’ waddin’, O.

The bridegroom was wild Norman Scott,
Wha thrice had broke the nuptial knot,
And ance was sentenced to be shot
For breach o’ martial orders, O.
His gleesome joe was Madge MaKell,
A spaewife, match for Nick himsel’,
Wi’ glamour, cantrip, charm, and spell,
She frichted baith the Borders.

Nae priest was there, wi’ solemn face,
Nae clerk to claim o’ crowns a brace;
The piper and fiddler played the grace
To set their gabs a-steerin’, O.
Mang beef and mutton, pork and veal,
Mang paunches, plucks, and fresh cow-heel,
Fat haggises, and cauler jeel,
They clawed awa’ careerin’, O.

Fresh salmon, newly taen in Tweed,
Saut ling and cod o’ Shetland breed,
They worried, till kytes were like to screed,
Mang flagons and flasks o’ gravy, O.
There was raisin-kail and sweet-milk saps,
And ewe-milk cheese in whangs and flaps,
And they rookit, to gust their gabs and craps,
Richt mony a cadger’s cavie, O.

The drink flew round in wild galore,
And soon upraised a hideous roar
Blithe Comus ne’er a queerer core
Saw seated round his table, O.
They drank, they danced, they swore, they sang,
They quarrel’d and greed the hale day lang,
And the wranglin’ that rang amang the thrang
Wad match’d the tongues o’ Babel, O.

The drink gaed dune before their drooth,
That vex’d baith mony a maw and mooth,
It damp’d the fire o’ age and youth
And every breast did sadden, O:
Till three stout loons flew ower the fell,
At risk o’ life, their drouth to quell,
And robb’d a neebourin’ smuggler’s stell,
To carry on the waddin’, O.

Wi thunderin’ shouts they hail’d them back
To broach the barrels they werena slack,
While the fiddler’s plane-tree leg they brak’
For playin’ “Farewell to Whisky, O”.
Delirium seized the roarous thrang,
The bagpipes in the fire they flang,
And sowtherin’ airns on riggin’s rang,
The drink play’d siccan a plisky, O.

The sun fell laich owre Solway banks,
While on they plied their roughsome pranks,
And the stalwart shadows o’ their shanks,
Wide ower the muir were spreadin’, O.
Till, heads and thraws, amang the whins,
They fell wi’ broken brows and shins,
And sair craist banes filled mony skins,
To close the tinkler’s waddin’, O.

William Watt (1792–1859)

Spaewife > fortune-teller; cantrip > spell, charm; gabs a-steerin’ > mouths a-working;
plucks > herrings damaged by the net; cauler jeel > cool or fresh jelly;
kytes were like to screed > bellies wee like to rip;
milk saps > food soaked in milk; whangs and flaps > chunks and slices;
rookit, to gust their gabs and craps > stole, to stuff their mouths and bellies;
cadger’s cave > grumbler’s hen-coop; drooth, drouth > thirst;
sowtherin’ airns > soldering irons; siccan a plisky > such a trick; sair craist > badly cracked.

Text of poem from Wilma Paterson, ed., Songs of Scotland (1996). Glossary from the Web.

Abide with Me

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Henry F. Lyte (1793–1847)

A Letter of Advice

From Miss Medora Trevillian, at Padua,
to Miss Araminta Vavasour, in London

You tell me you’re promised a lover,
My own Araminta, next week;
Why cannot my fancy discover
The hue of his coat, and his cheek?
Alas! if he look like another,
A vicar, a banker, a beau,
Be deaf to your father and mother,
My own Amarinta, say “No!”

Miss Lane, at her Temple of Fashion,
Taught us both how to sing and to speak,
And we loved one another with passion
Before we had been there a week;
You gave me a ring for a token,
I wear it wherever I go;
I gave you a chain—is it broken?
My own Araminta, say “No!”

Oh! think of our favorite cottage,
And think of our dear Lalla Rookh;
How we shared with the milkmaids their pottage,
And drank of the stream from the brook;
How fondly our loving lips faltered—
“What farther can grandeur bestow?”
My heart is the same—is yours altered?
My own Araminta, say “No!”

Remember the thrilling romances
We read on the bank in the glen;
Remember the suitors our fancies
Would picture for both of us then;
They wore the red cross on their shoulders,
They had vanquished and pardoned their foe—
Sweet friend, are you wiser or colder?
My own Araminta, say “No!”

You know, when Lord Rigmarole’s carriage
Drove off with your cousin Justine,
You wept, dearest girl, at the marriage,
And whispered “How base she has been!”
You said you were sure it would kill you
If ever your husband looked so;
And you will not apostatize—will you?
My own Amarinta, say “No!”

When I heard I was going abroad, Love,
I thought I was going to die;
We walked arm-in-arm to the road, Love,
We looked arm-in-arm to the sky;
And I said, “When a foreign postillion
Has hurried me off to the Po,
Forget not Medora Trevilian;—
My own Amarinta, say “No!”

We parted! but sympathy’s fetters
Reach far over valley and hill;
I muse o’er your exquisite letters,
And feel that your heart is mine still.
And he who would share it with me, Love,
The richest of treasures below,
If he’s not what Orlando should be, Love,
My own Amarinta, say “No!”

If he wears a top boot in his wooing,
If he comes to you riding a cob,
If he talks of his baking or brewing,
If he puts up his feet on the hob,
If he ever drinks port after dinner,
If his brow or his breeding is low,
If he calls himself “Thompson” or “Skinner,”
My own Amarinta, say “No!”

If he studies the news in the papers,
While you are preparing the tea,
If he talks of the damps or the vapors,
While moonlight lies soft on the sea,
If he’s sleepy while you are capricious,
If he has not a musical “Oh!”
If he does not call Werther delicious,
My own Amarinta, say “No!”

If he ever sets foot in the city,
Among the stockbrokers and Jews,
If he has not a heart full of pity,
If he don’t stand six feet in his shoes,
If his lips are not redder than roses,
If his hands are not whiter than snow,
If he has not the model of noses,
My own Amarinta, say “No!”

If he speaks of a tax or a duty,
If he does not look grand on his knees,
If he’s blind to a landscape of beauty,
Hills, valleys, rocks, waters, and trees,
If he dotes not on desolate towers,
If he likes not to hear the blast blow,
If he knows not the language of flowers,
My own Amarinta, say “No!”

He must walk like a god of old story,
Come down from the home of his rest;
He must smile like the sun in his glory,
On the buds he loves ever the best;
And oh, from its ivory portal,
Like music his soft speech must flow!—
If he speak, smile, or walk like a mortal,
My own Amarinta, say “No!”

Don’t listen to tales of his bounty,
Don’t hear what they say of his birth,
Don’t look at his seat in the county,
Don’t calculate what he is worth;
But give him a theme to write verse on,
And see if he turns out his toe;—
If he’s only an excellent person,
My own Amarinta, say “No!”

Winthrop Mackworth Praed (1802–1839)

Arrivals at a Watering Place

SCENE—A Conversation at Lady Crampton’s—Whist and weariness, Caricatures and Chinese Puzzle—Young Ladies making tea, and Young Gentlemen making the agreeable—The Stable-Boy handing rout-cakes—Music expressive of there being nothing to do.

I play a spade:—Such strange new faces
Are flocking in from near and far:
Such frights—Miss Dobbs holds all the aces—
One can’t imagine who they are!
The lodgings at enormous prices,
New Donkeys, and another fly;
And Madame Bonbon out of ices,
Although we’re scarcely in July:
We’re quite as sociable as any,
But our old horse can scarcely crawl;
And really where there are so many,
We can’t tell where we ought to call.

Pray who has seen the odd old fellow
Who took the Doctor’s house last week?—
A pretty chariot,—livery yellow,
Almost as yellow as his cheek:
A widower, sixty-five, and surly,
And stiller than a poplar tree;
Drinks rum and water, gets up early
To dip his carcass in the sea:
He’s always in a monstrous hurry,
And always talking of Bengal;
They say his cook makes noble curry,—
I think, Louisa, we should call.

And so Miss Jones, the mantua-maker,
Has let her cottage on the hill?—
The drollest man, a sugar-baker,—
Last year imported from the till:
Prates of his ’orses and his ’oney,
Is quite in love with fields and farms;
A horrid Vandal,—but his money
Will buy a glorious coat of arms;
Old Clyster makes him take the waters;
Some say he means to give a ball;
And after all, with thirteen daughters,
I think, Sir Thomas, you might call.

That poor young man!—I’m sure and certain
Despair is making up his shroud;
He walks all night beneath the curtain
Of the dim sky and murky cloud:
Draws landscapes,—throws such mournful glances!—
Writes verses,—has such splendid eyes;
An ugly name,—but Laura fancies
He’s some great person in disguise!—
And since his dress is all the fashion,
And since he’s very dark and tall,
I think that, out of pure compassion,
I’ll get Papa to go and call.

So Lord St Ives is occupying
The whole of Mr Ford’s Hotel;
Last Saturday his man was trying
A little nag I want to sell.
He brought a lady in the carriage;
Blue eyes,—eighteen, or thereabouts;—
Of course, you know, we hope it’s marriage!
But yet the femme de chambre doubts.
She look’d so pensive when we met her;
Poor thing! And such a charming shawl!—
Well! Till we understand it better,
It’s quite impossible to call!

Old Mr. Fund, the London banker,
Arrived to-day at Premium Court;
I would not, for the world, cast anchor
In such a horrid dangerous port;
Such dust and rubbish, lath and plaster,—
(Contractors play the meanest tricks)—
The roof’s as crazy as its master,
And he was born in fifty-six;
Stairs creaking—cracks in every landing—
The colonnade is sure to fall,—
We shan’t find post or pillar standing
Unless we make great hast to call.

Who was that sweetest of sweet creature,
Last Sunday, in the Rector’s seat?
The finest shape,—the loveliest features,—
I never saw such tiny feet.
My brother,—(this is quite between us)
Poor Arthur,—‘’twas a sad affair!
Love at first sight,—she’s quite a Venus,—
But then she’s poorer far than fair:
And so my father and my mother
Agreed it would not do at all;
And so,—I’m sorry for my brother!—
It’s settled that we’re not to call.

And there’s an Author, full of knowledge;
And there’s a Captain on half-pay;
And there’s a Baronet from college,
Who keeps a boy, and rides a bay;
And sweet Sir Marcus from the Shannon,
Fine specimen of brogue and bone;
And Doctor Calipee, the canon,
Who weighs, I fancy, twenty stone:
A maiden Lady is adorning
The faded front of Lily Hall—
Upon my word, the first fine morning,
We’ll make a round, my dear, and call.

Alas! disturb not, maid and matron,
The swallow in my humble thatch;
Your son may find a better patron,
Your niece may meet a richer match:
I can’t afford to give a dinner,
I never was on Almack’s list;
And since I seldom ride a winner,
I never like to play at whist;
Unknown to me the stocks are falling;
Unwatched by me the glass may fall;
Let all the world pursue its calling—
I’m not at home if people call.

Winthrop Mackworth Praed (1802–1839)

The Belle of the Ball-Room

Years, years ago,—ere yet my dreams
Had been of being wise or witty;—
Ere I had done with writing themes,
Or yawned o’er this infernal Chitty;
Years, years ago,—while all my joy
Was in my fowling-piece and filly,—
In short, while I was yet a boy,
I fell in love with Laura Lily.

I saw her at the Country-Ball:
There, when the sounds of flute and fiddle
Gave signal sweet in that old hall,
Of hands across and down the middle,
Hers was the subtlest spell by far
Of all that set young hearts romancing;
She was our queen, our rose, our star;
And then she danced,—Oh heaven, her dancing!

Dark was her hair; her hand was white;
Her voice was exquisitely tender;
Her eyes were full of liquid light;
I never saw a waist so slender;
Her every look, her every smile,
Shot right and left a score of arrows;
I thought ’twas Venus from her isle,
And wondered where she’d left her sparrows.

She talked—of politics, or prayers;
Of Southey’s prose, or Wordsworth’s sonnets;
Of danglers, or of dancing bears,
Of battles, or the last new bonnets:
By candlelight, at twelve o’clock,
To me it mattered not a tittle;
If those bright lips had quoted Locke,
I might have thought they murmured Little.

Through sunny May, through sultry June,
I loved her with a love eternal;
I spoke her praises to the moon,
I wrote them to the Sunday Journal:
My mother laughed;—I soon found out
That ancient ladies have no feeling;
My father frowned;— but how should gout
See any happiness in kneeling.

She was the daughter of a Dean,
Rich, fat, and rather apoplectic;
She had one brother, just thirteen,
Whose colour was extremely hectic:
Her grandmother for many a year
Had fed the parish with her bounty;
Her second cousin was a peer,
And Lord Lieutenant of the county.

But titles, and the three per cents,
And mortgages, and grave relations,
And India bonds, and tithes, and rents,
Oh, what are they to love’s sensations!
Black eyes, fair forehead, clustering locks,
Such wealth, such honours, Cupid chuses;
He cares as little for the Stocks,
As Baron Rothschild for the Muses.

She sketched,—the vale, the wood, the beach
Grew lovelier from her pencil’s shading:
She botanized—I envied each
Young blossom in her boudoir fading;
She warbled Handel; it was grand;
She made the Catalani jealous;
She touched the organ;—I could stand
For hours and hours to blow the bellows.

She kept an Album too at home,
Well filled with all an Album’s glories;
Paintings of butterflies and Rome,
Patterns for trimmings, Persian stories;
Soft songs to Julia’s cockatoo,
Fierce odes to Famine and to Slaughter;
And autographs of Prince Leboo,
And recipes for elder-water.

And she was flattered, worshipped, bored;
Her steps were watched, her dress was noted;
Her poodle dog was quite adored,
Her sayings were extremely quoted.
She laughed, and every heart was glad,
As if the taxes were abolished;
She frowned, and every look was sad,
As if the Opera were demolished.

She smiled on many just for fun,—
I knew that there was nothing in it;
I was the first,—the only one,
Her heart had thought of for a minute.
I knew it, for she told me so,
In phrase which was divinely moulded;
She wrote a charming hand,—and oh!
How sweetly all her notes were folded!

Our love was like most other loves,—
A little glow, a little shiver,
A rose-bud, and a pair of gloves,
And “Fly not yet” upon the river;
Some jealousy of some one’s heir,
Some hopes of dying broken-hearted;
A miniature, a lock of hair,
The usual vows, and then we parted.

We parted—months and years rolled by;
We met again four summers after;
Our parting was all sob and sigh;
Our meeting was all mirth and laughter:
For in my heart’s most secret cell
There had been many other lodgers;
And she was not the Ball-Room’s Belle,
But only Mrs Something Rogers.

Winthrop Mackworth Praed (1802–1839)

Good-Night to the Season

Good-night to the Season! ‘tis over!
Gay dwellings no longer are gay;
The courtier, the gambler, the lover,
Are scatter’d like swallows away;
There’s nobody left to invite one,
Except my good uncle and spouse;
My mistress is bathing at Brighton,
My patron is sailing at Cowes;
For want of a better employment,
Till Ponto and Don can get out,
I’ll cultivate rural enjoyment,
And angle immensely for trout.

Good-night to the Season!—the lobbies,
Their changes and rumours of change,
Which startled the rustic Sir Bobbies,
And made all the Bishops look strange;
The breaches, and battles, and blunders
Perform’d by the Commons and Peers;
The Marquis’s eloquent thunders,
The Baronet’s eloquent ears;
Denouncings of Papists and treasons
Of foreign dominion and oats;
Misrepresentations of reasons,
And misunderstandings of notes.

Good-night to the Season!—the buildings
Enough to make Inigo sick;
The paintings, and plasterings, and gildings
Of stucco, and marble, and brick;
The orders deliciously blended,
From love of effect into one;
The club-houses only intended,
The palaces only begun;
The hell where the fiend, in his glory,
Sits staring at putty and stones,
And scrambles from story to story
At midnight to rattle his bones.

Good-night to the Season!—the dances,
The fillings of hot little rooms,
The glancings of rapturous glances,
The fancyings of fancy costumes;
The pleasures which Fashion makes duties,
The praisings of fiddles and flutes,
The luxury of looking at beauties,
The tedium of talking to mutes;
The female diplomatists, planners
Of matches for Laura and Jane,
The ice of her Ladyship’s manners,
The ice of his Lordship’s champagne.

Good-night to the Season!—the rages
Led off by the chiefs of the throng,
The Lady Matilda’s new pages,
The Lady Eliza’s new song;
Miss Fennel’s macaw, which at Boodle’s
Is held to have something to say;
Miss Splenetic’s musical poodles,
Which bark “Batti Batti” all day;
The pony Sir Araby sported
As hot and as black as a coal,
And the Lion his mother imported,
In bearskin and grease, from the Pole.

Good-night to the Season!—the Toso,
So very majestic and tall;
Miss Ayton, whose singing was so-so,
And Pasta, divinest of all;
The labour in vain of the Ballet,
So sadly deficient in stars;
The foreigners thronging the Alley,
Exhaling the breath of cigars;
The “loge” where some heiress, how killing,
Environ’d with exquisites sits,
The lovely one out of her drilling,
The silly one out of her wits.

Good-night to the Season!—the splendour
That beam’d in the Spanish Bazaar;
Where I purchased—my heart was so tender
A card-case,—a pasteboard guitar,—
A bottle of perfume,—a girdle,—
A lithograph’d Riego full-grown,
Whom bigotry drew on a hurdle
That artists might draw him on stone,—
A small panorama of Seville,—
A trap for demolishing flies,—
A caricature of the Devil,—
And a look from Miss Sheridan’s eyes.

Good-night to the Season!—the flowers
Of the grand horticultural fête,
When boudoirs were quitted for bowers,
And the fashion was not to be late;
When all who had money and leisure
Grew rural o’er ices and wines,
All pleasantly toiling for pleasure,
All hungrily pining for pines,
And making of beautiful speeches,
And marring of beautiful shows,
And feeding on delicate peaches,
And treading on delicate toes.

Good-night to the Season!—another
Will come with its trifles and toys,
And hurry away, like its brother,
In sunshine, and colour, and noise.
Will it come like a rose or a briar?
Will it come with a blessing or curse?
Will its bonnets be lower or higher?
Will its morals be better or worse?
Will it find me grown thinner or fatter,
Or fonder of wrong or of right,
Or married,—or buried?—no matter,
Good-night to the Season, Good-night.

Winthrop Mackworth Praed (1802–1839)

The Last Quadrille

Not yet, not yet—it’s hardly four;
Not yet—we’ll send the chair away;
Mirth still has many smiles in store;
And love has fifty things to say;
Long leagues the weary Sun must drive
E’er pant his hot steeds o’er the hill;
The merry stars will dance till five;—
One more Quadrille—one more Quadrille!

‘Tis only thus, ‘tis only here,
That maids and minstrels may forget
The myriad ills they feel or fear,
Ennui, taxation, cholera, debt—
With daylight busy cares and schemes
Will come again to chafe or chill
This is the fairyland of dreams—
One more Quadrille—one more Quadrille!

What tricks the French in Paris play—
And what the Austrians are about—
And whether that tall knave Lord Grey
Is staying in or going out—
And what the House of Lords will do,
At last with that Eternal Bill,
I do not care a rush—do you?
One more Quadrille, one more Quadrille!

My book don’t sell, my play don’t draw,
My garden gives me only weeds,
And Mr. Quirk has found a flaw—
Deuce take him—in my title deeds;
My Aunt has scratched her nephew’s name
From that sweet corner in her will;
My dog is dead, my horse is lame—
One more Quadrille, one more Quadrille!

Not yet, not yet—it is not late;
Don’t whisper so to sister Jane;
Your brother, I am sure, will wait,
Papa will go to cards again.
Not yet, not yet; your eyes are bright,
Your step is like a woodnymph’s still;
Oh no, you can’t be tired tonight—
One more Quadrille, one more Quadrille!

Winthrop Mackworth Praed (1802–1839)

Similes for Two Political Characters of 1819


As from an ancestral oak
Two empty ravens sound their clarion,
Yell by yell, and croak by croak,
When they scent the noonday smoke
Of fresh human carrion:—


As two gibbering night-birds flit
From their bowers of deadly yew
Through the night to frighten it,
When the moon is in a fit,
And the stars are none, or few:—


As a shark and dog-fish wait
Under an Atlantic isle
For the negro-ship, whose freight
Is the theme of their debate,
Wrinkling their red gills the while—


Are ye, two vultures sick for battle,
Two scorpions under one wet stone.
Two bloodless wolves whose dry throats rattle,
Two crows perched on the murrained cattle,
Two vipers tangled into one.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)

How Can I Forget?

That farewell voice of Love is never heard again,
Yet I remember it and think on it with pain:
I see the place she spoke when passing by,
The flowers were blooming as her form drew nigh,
That voice is gone, with every passing tone—
Loved but one moment and the next alone.
“Farewell” the winds repeated as she went
Walking in silence through the grassy bent;
The wild flowers—they ne’er looked so sweet before—
Bowed in farewell to her they’ll see no more.
In this same spot the wild flowers bloom the same
In scent and hue and shape, ay, even name.
’Twas here she said farewell and no one yet
Has so sweet spoken—How can I forget?

John Clare (1793–1864)

Decay: a Ballad

O poesy is on the wane,
For fancy’s visions all unfitting;
I hardly know her face again,
Nature herself seems on the flitting.
The fields grow old and common things—
The grass, the sky, the winds a-blowing
And spots where still a beauty clings—
Are sighing “Going! All a-going!”
O poesy is on the wane,
I hardly know her face again.

The bank with brambles overspread
And little molehills round about it
Was more to me than laurel shades
With paths and gravel finely clouted,
And streaking here and streaking there
Through shaven grass and many a border
With rutty lanes had no compare
And heaths were in a richer order.
But poesy is on the wane,
I hardly know her face again.

I sat with love by pasture streams—
Ay, beauty’s self was sitting by—
Till fields did more than Edens seem
Nor could I tell the reason why
I often drank when not a-dry
To pledge her health in draughts divine;
Smiles made it nectar from the sky
Love turned e’en water into wine
O poesy is on the wane,
I cannot find her face again.

The sun those mornings used to find
When clouds were other-country mountains
And heaven looked upon the mind
With groves and rocks and mottled fountains.
Those heavens are gone, the mountains grey
Turned mist, the sun a homeless ranger
Pursuing on a naked way
Unnoticed like a very stranger.
O poesy is on the wane
Nor love nor joy is mine again.

Love’s sun went down without a frown;
For very joy it used to grieve us.
I often think that west is gone;
Ah, cruel time, to undeceive us!
The stream it is a naked stream,
Where we on Sundays used to ramble;
The sky hangs o’er a broken dream,
The brambles dwindled to a bramble.
O poesy is on the wane
I cannot find her haunts again.

Mere withered stalks and fading trees
And pastures spread with hills and rushes
Are all my fading vision sees.
Gone gone is raptures’s flooding gushes
When mushrooms they were fairy bowers,
Their marble pillars overswelling,
And danger paused to pluck the flowers
That in their swarthy rings were dwelling
But poesy’s spells are on the wane,
Nor joy nor fear is mine again.

Ah, poesy hath passed away
And fancy’s visions undeceive us;
The night hath ta’en the place of day
And why should passing shadows grieve us?
I thought the flowers upon the hills
Were flowers from Adam’s open gardens,
And I have had my summer thrills
And I have had my heart’s rewardings
So poesy is on its wane,
I hardly know her face again.

And friendship it hath burned away
Like to a very ember cooling,
A make-believe on April day
That sent the simple heart a-fooling,
Mere jesting in an earnest way,
Deceiving on and still deceiving,
And hope is but a fancy play
And joy the art of true believing
For poesy is on the wane
O could I feel her faith again.

John Clare (1793–1864)

I love such white and slender bodies

I love such white and slender bodies,
For tender souls the fitting shrine,
Such large wild eyes under a forehead
Where tumbling raven locks entwine.

You are indeed the type of woman
Whom I have sought in every land;
And my own worth, it must be granted,
Your kind could always understand.

You found in me the very lover
You need and whom you will repay
With showers of ardent love and kisses,
And then, as usual, betray.

Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)
Tr. Ernst Feise

The Silesian Weavers

No tears they shed from eyes of doom
Gnashing their teeth they sit at the loom:
“A shroud for Germany we weave
With a triple curse—and no reprieve!
We are weaving, we are weaving.

“A curse on the God to whom we prayed,
Who left us hungry, cold and dismayed;
We trusted and waited and hoped in vain,
He duped and fooled us again and again—
We are weaving, we are weaving!

“A curse on the King of the rich, whose ear
Was deaf to our grief and blind to our tear,
Who took the last penny out of our purse
And had us shot like mangy curs.
We are weaving, we are weaving!

“A curse on the fatherland, where apace
Grow the wealth of the rich, and our shame and disgrace,
Where every bud is felled by a blight,
Where rot and decay feed the parasite—
We are weaving, we are weaving!

“The loom groans with the shuttle’s flight,
We are busy weaving by day and by night—
A shroud for Old Germany we weave
With a triple curse—and no reprieve!
We are weaving, we are weaving!”

Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)
Tr. Ernst Feise

Gone cold

And when you’re dead you have to lie
Such ages in the ground. Well, I
Am worried that before they raise
Us up, there will be long delays.

Just once, before my spark stops winking
And heart begins its final pinking,
Once more, I’d like, while I’m still human,
To court the favours of a woman.

And it must be a blonde, with eyes
As soft as moonlight makes the skies—
For in the end I cannot bear
Wild suntanned ladies with brown hair.

Young people crammed with vital force
Want passion turned up full, of course,
With all that racket, raving, swearing,
Mutual heart-rending and soul-tearing…

Not young—well into my third score—
And hardly healthy any more,
May I love once again, and be,
Lucky in love—but quietly!

Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)
© Tr. Alistair Elliot

Mrs. Worry

In my lucky time of radiance
The midges juggled their light dance.
My dear friends, full of love, would make
Sure I got some of my best steak,
Fraternally handing round
Fair shares of my last pound.

Now luck’s gone off, the wallet’s flat,
The friends have disappeared like that—
My sunny days are up the spout,
The midges are sitting this one out:
When luck has come and gone,
Midges and friends pass on.

Beside my bed in the winter night
Worry, my nurse, sits bolt upright.
She wears a waistcoat of white stuff,
A black cap, always, and takes snuff.
The snuffbox hinge creaks sadly.
The old neck wobbles badly.

Sometimes I dream that luck’s migrating
Back to me with a May of mating.
Midges in swarms and friends with purses—
The box creaks—Hope of heavenly mercies
Pops like a bubble—The old one blows
Her nicotine-stained nose.

Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)
© Tr. Alistair Elliot

Last will and testament

Now it’s time to be a ghost,
Better get my will engrossed.
Like a Christian I’ll devise
Presents for my enemies.

That respected opposition
Must inherit some fine day
All my sickness and decay,
My complete de-composition.

I bequeath you then the gripes
That inflate and pinch the tripes;
Simple pissing-pains; the wiles
Of perfidious Prussian piles.

You shall have my cramps and jerks,
Twitching limbs and running spittle,
Spine a kiln where bones burn brittle—
God the Giver’s purest works.

Postscript to the inheritance:
The Lord shall dowse when you have gone,
Your memory in oblivion,
And obliterate your monuments.

Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)
© Tr. Alistair Elliot

I saw them laugh

I saw them laugh, I saw them smile,
I saw their whole lives fall apart;
I heard their cries, death-rattles, while
I looked on with an easy heart.

I walked behind their coffins too,
Right to the churchyard, dressed in black.
And then, I won’t conceal from you
I took my lunch with some attack.

Now, all at once, I think with sadness
On the old crowd of long-dead forms:
As if in flares of amorous madness,
My heart turns over in strange storms.

It’s Julia’s tears that, bright and burning,
Run in my memory most of all;
The sorrow changes to wild yearning
And day and night it’s her I call.

Often she comes in fever-dreams,
The dead flower, posthumously now
Granting my ardour, as it seems,
A licence life would not allow.

Oh hold me, tender ghostly lover,
Hold me with all your fading power:
Press your sweet mouth to mine and cover
The bitterness of my last hour!

Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)
© Tr. Alistair Elliot


Nobody will sing a mass,
And no kaddish will be said.
Nothing said and nothing sung
In the first days I am dead.

But perhaps some later day
When the weather’s mild and clean,
Frau Mathilde will go walking
On Montmartre with Pauline,

With a crown of everlastings
Come to decorate and sigh
Pauvre homme! to my grave,
Sadness welling in her eye.

Pity, I live too high up
And I can’t produce a seat
For my darling here. Oh. she’s
Tottering on her tired feet.

Sweet, fat child, no, no, you mustn’t
Think of walking home. Ah, wait:
There’s a cab-rank—can you see?—
At the cemetery gate.

Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)
© Tr. Alistair Elliot

The Charming Woman

So Miss Myrtle is going to marry?
What a number of hearts she will break!
There’s Lord George, and Tom Brown, and Sir Harry
Who are dying of love for her sake!
‘Tis a match that we all must approve —
Let gossips say all that they can!
For indeed she’s a charming woman,
And he’s a most fortunate man!

Yes, indeed, she’s a charming woman,
And she reads both Latin and Greek—
And I’m told that she solved a problem
In Euclid before she could speak!
Had she been but a daughter of mine,
I’d have taught her to hem and to sew,—
But her mother (a charming woman)
Couldn’t think of such trifles, you know!

Oh, she’s really a charming woman!
But perhaps a little too thin:
And no wonder such very late hours
Should ruin her beautiful skin!
And her shoulders are rather too bare,
And her gown’s nearly up to her knees,
But I’m told that these charming women
May dress themselves as they please!

Yes, she’s really a charming woman!
But I thought I observed, by the bye,
A something—that’s rather uncommon,—
In the flash of that very bright eye?
It may be a mere fancy of mine,
Tho’ her voice has a very sharp tone,—
But I’m told that these charming women
Are inclined to have wills of their own!

She sings like a bullfinch or linnet,
And she talks like an Archbishop too;
Can play you a rubber and win it,—
If she’s got nothing better to do!
She can chatter of Poor-Laws and Tithes,
And the value of labour and land,—
‘Tis pity when charming women
Talk of things which they don’t understand.

I’m told that she hasn’t a penny,
Yet her gowns would make Maradan stare;
And I feel her bills must be many,—
But that’s only her husband’s affair!
Such husbands are very uncommon,
So regardless of prudence and pelf,—
But they say such a charming woman
Is a fortune, you know, in herself!

She’s brothers and sisters by dozens,
And all charming people, they say!
And several tall Irish cousins
Whom she loves in a sisterly way.
O young men, if you’d take my advice,
You would find it an excellent plan,—
Don’t marry a charming woman,
If you are a sensible man.

Helen Sheridan (1807–1867)

Death in the Kitchen

“Are we not here now?”—continued the corporal (striking the end of his stick perpendicular to the floor, so as to give an idea of health and stability)—“and are we not” (dropping his hat upon the ground) “gone!—in a moment?”


Trim, thou art right!—’Tis sure that I,
And all who hear thee, are to die.
The stoutest lad and wench
Must lose their places at the will
Of Death, and go at last to fill
The sexton’s gloomy trench.

The dreary grave!—Oh, when I think
How close ye stand upon its brink,
My inward spirit groans!
My eyes are filled with dismal dreams
Of coffins, and the kitchen seems
A charnel full of bones!

Yes, jovial butler, thou must fail,
As sinks the froth on thine own ale;
Thy days will soon be done!
Alas! the common hours that strike
Are knells; for life keeps wasting, like
A cask upon the run.

Ah, hapless scullion! ’tis thy case:
Life travels at a scouring pace,
Far swifter than thy hand.
The fast decaying frame of man
Is but a kettle, or a pan,
Time wears away—with sand!

Thou needst not, mistress cook! be told,
The meat to-morrow will be cold
That now is fresh and hot:
E’en this our flesh will, by the by,
Be cold as stone:—Cook, thou must die!
There’s death within the pot!

Susannah, too, my lady’s maid!
Thy pretty person once must aid
To swell the buried swarm!
The “glass of fashion” thou wilt hold
No more, but grovel in the mould
That’s not the “mould of form”!

Yes, Jonathan, that drives the coach,
He too will feel the fiend’s approach—
The grave will pluck him down:
He must in dust and ashes lie,
And wear the churchyard livery,
Grass-green, turn’d up with brown.

How frail is our uncertain breath!
The laundress seems full hale, but Death
Shall her “last linen” bring.
The groom will die, like all his kind;
And e’en the stable-boy will find
His life no stable thing.

Nay, see the household dog—e’en that
The earth shall take!—The very cat
Will share the common fall;
Although she hold (the proverb saith)
A ninefold life, one single death
Suffices for them all!

Cook, butler, Susan, Jonathan,
The girl that scours the pot and pan,
And those that tend the steeds—
All, all shall have another sort
Of service after this—in short,
The one the parson reads!

The dreary grave!—Oh, when I think
How close ye stand upon its brink,
My inward spirit groans!
My ears are fill’d with dismal dreams
Of coffins, and this kitchen seems
A charnel full of bones!

Thomas Hood (1799–1845)

She is far from the land

Cables entangling her,
Shipspars for mangling her,
Ropes sure of strangling her,
Blocks over-dangling her,
Tiller to batter her,
Tobacco to spatter her,
Boreas blustering,
Boatswain quite flustering,
Thunder clouds mustering
To blast her with sulphur—
If the deep don’t engulf her;
Sometimes fear’s scrutiny
Pries out a mutiny,
Sniffs conflagration,
Or hints at starvation
All the sea dangers
Buccaneers, rangers,
Pirates and Sallee-men,
Algerine galleymen,
Tornadoes and typhons,
And horrible syphons,
And submarine travels
Thro’ roaring sea-navels;
Every thing wrong enough,
Long-boat not long enough,
Vessel not strong enough;
Pitch marring frippery,
The deck very slippery,
And the cabin—built sloping,
The Captain a-toping,
And the Mate a blasphemer,
That names his Redeemer,—
With inward uneasiness;
The cook known by greasiness,
The victuals beslubber’d,
Her bed—in a cupboard;
Things of strange christening,
Snatch’d in her listening,
Blue lights and red lights
And mention of dead-lights,
And shrouds made a theme of,
Things horrid to dream of,—
And buoys in the water
To fear all exhort her;
Her friend no Leander,
Herself no sea gander,
And ne’er a cork jacket
On board of the packet,
The breeze still a stiffening,
The trumpet quite deafening;
Thoughts of repentance,
And doomsday and sentence;
Every thing sinister,
Not a church minister,—
Pilot a blunderer,
Coral reefs under her,
Ready to sunder her;
Trunks tipsy-topsy,
The ship in a dropsy;
Waves oversurging her,
Sirens a-dirgeing her;
Sharks all expecting her,
Sword-fish dissecting her,
Crabs with their hand-vices
Punishing land vices;
Sea-dogs and unicorns,
Things with no puny horns,
Mermen carnivorous—
“Good Lord, deliver us.”

Thomas Hood (1799–1845)

Ode on a Distant Prospect of Clapham Academy

Ah me! those old familiar bounds!
That classic house, those classic grounds
My pensive thought recalls!
What tender urchins now confine,
What little captives now repine,
Within yon irksome walls!

Ah, that’s the very house! I know
Its ugly windows, ten a-row!
Its chimneys in the rear!
And there’s the iron rod so high,
That drew the thunder from the sky
And turn’d our table-beer!

There I was birch’d! there I was bred!
There like a little Adam fed
From Learning’s woeful tree!
The weary tasks I used to con!—
The hopeless leaves I wept upon!
Most fruitless leaves to me!—

The summon’d class!—the awful bow!—
I wonder who is master now
And wholesome anguish sheds!
How many ushers now employs,
How many maids to see the boys
Have nothing in their heads!

And Mrs. S***—Doth she abet
(Like Pallas in the pantry) yet
Some favour’d two or three,—
The little Crichtons of the hour,
Her muffin-medals that devour,
And swill her prize—bohea?

Ay, there’s the play-ground! there’s the lime,
Beneath whose shade in summer’s prime
So wildly I have read!—
Who sits there now, and skims the cream
Of young Romance, and weaves a dream
Of Love and Cottage-bread?

Who struts the Randall of the walk?
Who models tiny heads in chalk?
Who scoops the light canoe?
What early genius buds apace?
Where’s Poynter? Harris? Bowers? Chase?
Hal Baylor? Blithe Carew?

Alack! they’re gone—a thousand ways!
And some are serving in “the Greys,”
And some have perish’d young!—
Jack Harris weds his second wife;
Hal Baylis drives the wane of life;
And blithe Carew—is hung!

Grave Bowers teaches A B C
To savages in Owhyee;
Poor Chase is with the worms!—
All, all are gone—the olden breed!—
New crops of mushroom boys succeed,
“And push us from our forms!”

Lo! where they scramble forth, and shout,
And leap, and skip, and mob about,
At play where we have play’d!
Some hop, some run, (some fall,) some twine
Their crony arms; some in the shine,
And some are in the shade!

Lo there what mix’d conditions run!
The orphan lad; the widow’s son;
And Fortune’s favour’d care—
The wealthy born, for whom she hath
Mac-Adamized the future path—
The Nabob’s pamper’d heir!

Some brightly starr’d—some evil born,—
For honours some, and some for scorn,—
For fair or foul renown!
Good, bad, indiff’rent—none may lack!
Look, here’s a White, and there’s a Black!
And there’s a Creole brown!

Some laugh and sing, some mope and weep,
And wish their frugal sires would keep
Their only sons at home;—
Some tease the future tense, and plan
The full-grown doings of the man,
And pant for years to come!

A foolish wish! There’s one at hoop;
And four at fives! and five who stoop
The marble taw to speed!
And one that curvets in and out,
Reining his fellow Cob about,—
Would I were in his steed!

Yet he would gladly halt and drop
That boyish harness off, to swop
With this world’s heavy van—
To toil, to tug. O little fool!
While thou canst be a horse at school
To wish to be a man!

Perchance thou deem’st it were a thing
To wear a crown,—to be a king!
And sleep on regal down!
Alas! thou know’st not kingly cares;
Far happier is thy head that wears
That hat without a crown!

And dost thou think that years acquire
New added joys? Dost think thy sire
More happy than his son?
That manhood’s mirth?—Oh, go thy ways
To Drury lane when —— plays,
And see how forced our fun!

Thy taws are brave!—thy tops are rare!—
Our tops are spun with coils of care,
Our dumps are no delight!
The Elgin marbles are but tame,
And ’tis at best a sorry game
To fly the Muse’s kite!

Our hearts are dough, our heels are lead,
Our topmost joys fall dull and dead
Like balls with no rebound!
And often with a faded eye
We look behind, and send a sigh
Towards that merry ground!

Then be contented. Thou hast got
The most of heaven in thy young lot;
There’s sky-blue in thy cup!
Thou’lt find thy Manhood all too fast—
Soon come, soon gone! And Age at last
A sorry breaking-up!


Thomas Hood (1799–1845)


Rise, squirrel, up the great oak, rise,
Climb the branch nearest to the skies,
Which bends and buckles like a reed.
Stork, ancient towers’ sentinel,
Fly up from spire and parish bell
To mighty keep and citadel—
Wing your way with the utmost speed!

Old eagle, from your aerie home
Soar to the age-old mountain-dome
Whitened with everlasting snow.
Lark that, in your unquiet nest,
No sunrise ever saw at rest,
Go up, go, zestful lark, go, zest-
ful lark, go up to heaven, go!

And tell me now, from the tree’s height,
From the stone towers’ topmost flight,
From bright sky and high bivouac,
On the horizon, through the haze,
O can you see a plume that sways,
A galloping horse that steams and sprays,
And my beloved coming back?

Victor Hugo (1802–1885)
Tr. E.H. and A.M. Blackmore

The Imperial Cloak

You honeybees whose work is play,
Who never look for any prey
But scents, breaths of celestial grace,
O you that flee the wintry hours,
And stealing amber from the flowers,
Make bounty for the human race,

Visiting on your way, like brides,
The lilies of the mountainsides,
You virtuous dew-drinking folk,
Daughters and sisters of the day
And scarlet petals, come away—
Rise up, fly from this cloak!

And hurl yourselves against the man!
You things of purity and plan,
Workers of good, wagers of war,
You wings of gold, you darts of fire,
Whirl round and round the shameful liar!
Tell him: “What do you take us for?

Accursed wretch, we are the bees!
Where vines cast shady draperies
On chalet walls, we build our nest;
Born in the azure, we repose
On the mouth of the parted rose,
On Plato’s lips we rest.

What comes from slime goes back again.
Go join Tiberius in his den,
Charles IX on his balcony.
Go! On your purple robe should strut,
Not the bees of Hymettus, but
The black flies of the gallows-tree!”

And sting the fellow, one and all.
Put to shame those who cringe and crawl;
Blind the deceitful renegade,
Hunt him down in a savage rout,
And let the insects drive him out,
Since men are too afraid!

Victor Hugo (1802–1885)
Tr. E.H. and A.M. Blackmore

“Be off!” say Winter’s snows…”

“Be off!” say Winter’s snows;
“Now it’s my turn to sing!”
So, startled, quivering,
Not daring to oppose

(Our fortitude grows dim in
The face of a Quos ego),
Away, my songs, must we go
Before those virile women!

Rain. We are forced to fly,
Everywhere, utterly.
End of the comedy.
Come, swallows, it’s good-bye.

Wind, sleet. The branches sway,
Writhing their stunted limbs,
And off the white smoke swims
Across the heavens’ gray.

A pallid yellow lingers
Over the chilly dale.
My keyhole blows a gale
Onto my frozen fingers.

Victor Hugo (1802–1885)
Tr. E.H. and A.M. Blackmore

“Beware of pretty girls …”

Beware of pretty girls, and shun
The Eden where those angels fall.
Evade every Parisian shawl;
From all Madrid’s mantillas run.

Fear for your threads, you marionette;
You bird, be anxious for your wings.
Mistrust the glance Calypso flings—
Still more, the gazings of Jeannette.

When girls’ affections have been gained,
Then we begin our slavery.
Friend, would you learn their ABC?
It spells adored, bekissed, and chained.

Glorious sunlight gilds a jail,
And roses scent a prison cell;
And by that method—know it well!—
The human female snares the male.

Your heart, when caught, beats to her wiles,
And dismal tunes are in your soul,
And very often, tears must roll
Before there had been time for smiles.

Turn to the meadows: the grass beams,
The woods are smiling and at ease,
Glad springtime shakes the great oak trees;
Come, let us sing of limpid streams!

Victor Hugo (1802–1885)
Tr. E.H. and A.M. Blackmore

Pretty Girls: Sonnet for an Album

You write them sonnets (sometimes pretty good);
You kiss the hands they deign to offer you;
You go with them to church, or through the wood;
You become Damis, and Clitandre too;

At the balls where they shine, you urge your suit;
You dance and laugh; and while you waltz around
Accompanied by oboe or by lute,
You hear them murmuring this lovely sound:

“Warfare is pious, power is everything;
Knowledge is dangerous; hanging is good;
More jails, and fewer schools, need to be built;

Our forts should be munitioned to the hilt
To stop the plebs from stirring.”—These doves would
Set dead-and-buried skeletons shuddering.

Victor Hugo (1802–1885)
Tr. E.H. and A.M. Blackmore

“Marble and night created me …”

Marble and night created me.
I, like the black feet of a tree,
Delve through the darkness underground.
Now I am listening. From below
I am telling the thunder: “No!
Wait! Not a single sound!”

I am the esoteric flight
Of stairs down in the silent night,
And Poet is my name;
I am the Stairway Tenebrae;
The dark opens dim eyes to see
My deathly spiral frame.

Torch-flame will turn to candle-glow.
Respect my virgin steps, and go,
If you prefer the light of day!
My steps were never meant to bear
The nude feet of a love affair,
Or the winged feet of play.

Before my livid depth the hosts
Are trembling and the very ghosts
Are seeping perspiration.
I come from the dead tomb; before
My upper limit, at this door,
Shines an illumination.

The revels laugh, the revels flare.
Leaders on bloodstained thrones are there,
Rejoicing in their own success.
All grovel to them, and all cower;
Every girl to their sovereign power
Imparts her nakedness.

No, leave the doorbolt and the key;
I am the Stair; the penalty
Is pondering; the time will end;
Someone surrounded by the shades
Will mount my somber balustrades,
And someone will descend.

Victor Hugo (1802–1885)
Tr. E.H. and A.M. Blackmore

To France

Wind, blow this book from me
To France, where I was bred!
From the uprooted tree,
See! The dead leaf is shed.

Victor Hugo (1802–1885)
Tr. E.H. and A.M. Blackmore

A Young Girl

I’m in love, and the plains are scented.
Blow on—blow away winter, breeze!
The birds within the woods of Asher
Seem to be souls among the trees.

See, the beloved seeks her lover;
He sings of me, and I of him.
And how delightful sleep is, shaded
Beneath a hanging cedar limb!

I sing of him when I awaken;
He wakens, and he sings of me;
And from the sound, the sunrise fancies
Each of us is a murmuring bee.

We hurry out to meet each other.
“O fairest of the fair,” he sings,
“Roses are underneath your footsteps,
And stars are trembling in your wings.”

I say: Earth has a hundred rulers
And lads past reckoning, O glade;
Yet of them all, he is my lover:
He is the light, and I the shade.

Again he sings, “Come wth me, vanish
Deep in the valleys: pass from sight
In the bedazzlement and terror
Of a mysterious starry night.”

I would die for his lips, I answer;
I would die for a single kiss;
The forests with their savage rustlings,
Well do they know the truth of this!

The skies are clear, the streams are flowing;
Our songs are scattered by the breeze
And intermingle in the heavens
Like arrows from two companies.

Victor Hugo (1802–1885)
Tr. E.H. and A.M. Blackmore


Dans Sainte-Pélagie,
Sous ce règne élargie,
Où, rêveur et pensif,
Je vis captif,

Pas une herbe ne pousse
Et pas un brin de mousse
Le long des murs grillés
Et frais taillés!

Oiseau qui fends l’espaceÚ
Et toi, brise, qui passé
Sur l’étroit horizon
De la prison,

Dans votre vol superbe,
Apportez-moi quelque herbe,
Quelque gramen, mouvant
Sa tête au vent!

Qu’à mes pieds tourbillonne
Une feuille d’automne
Peint de cent couleurs
Comme les fleurs!

Pour que mon âme triste
Sache encor qu’il existe
Une nature, un Dieu
Dehors ce lieu,

Faites-moi cette joie,
Qu’un instant je revoie
Quelque chose de vert
Avant l’hiver!


Gérard de Nerval (1808–1855)


In Sainte-Pélagie prison,
Under this liberal regime,
Where, dreaming and thoughtful,
I languish a captive,

Not a blade of grass,
And no moss grows,
Along the recently constructed
Barred walls!

O bird cleaving space…
And breeze passing over
The narrow horizon
Of our prison,

In your proud flight
Bring me some weed,
Or blade of grass that has stirred
Its head in the wind!

Let an autumn leaf
Whirl at my feet
Painted with hundreds of colours
Like the flowers!

So my unhappy soul
May know there still are
Nature and God
Beyond this prison,

Permit me this pleasure,
Let me see for a moment
Something that is green
Before winter!


Gérard de Nerval (1808–1855)
© Tr. Geoffrey Wagner

Noblemen and Lackeys/ Nobles et Valets

Those noblemen old days you read of in books,
Mighty men with faces like beef and figures out of Dante,
Their bodies fashioned from huge bones,
Seemed to stem, root and stock, from the soil.

If they came back to earth and took into their heads
To see who had inherited their immortal names,
A Laridon progeny, cringing, greedy, and degraded,
Who clutter the mansions of our ministers today,

Frail fellows, corseted, wearing chest-pads and false calves:
Surely then those noble men would know
That since their days their daughters had mingled much
Of the blood of lackeys with that of aristocracy.

Gérard de Nerval (1808–1855)
© Tr. Geoffrey Wagner

The Cousin/ La Cousine

Winter has its pleasures, and often, on Sunday
When a little sunshine yellows the white ground,
One goes out for a walk with a girl cousin …
—Now don’t you make us have to wait dinner,

Says her mother. And when one’s had a good look
Outside the Tuileries at the flowered dresses under the black trees,
The young girl feels cold … and points out to you
That the evening mist is starting to rise.

And one goes back, talking about the lovely day
That one’s sorry has ended so soon (flirting discreetly),
And you smell from the bottom of the stairs,
Coming in with a big appetite, the roasting turkey.

[ca 1830–32]

Gérard de Nerval (1808–1855)
Tr. JF

Fantasy/ Fantaisie

There is a melody for which I would give
All Rossini, all Mozart, all of Weber,
An ancient tune, languishing and funereal,
Which has for me its special secret charms.

And every time that I happen to hear it,
My soul becomes a couple of centuries younger;
It’s the age of Louis the Thirteenth, and stretching before me
Is a green slope, gilded by the setting sun.

Then a brick chateau, with stone quoins
And window-panes tinged with reddish hues,
Surrounded by great parks, and with a river
Laving its feet and gliding between flowers.

Then a lady in her high window,
Fair, with dark eyes, in an old-fashioned dress,
Whom perhaps, in another existence,
I have seen before and am now remembering.

Gérard de Nerval (1808–1855)
Tr. JF


Myrtho, I think of you, O divine enchantress,
On lofty Pausillipe, aglow with a thousand fires,
Your brows drenched with the lights of the Orient,
And dark grapes mingling with the gold of your tresses.

It is from your cup too that I have drunk rapture,
And from the secret glints of your smiling eye
When I was found praying at the feet of Dionysus,
The Muse having made me one of the sons of Greece.

I know why the volcano has reopened down there…
It is because your nimble feet touched it yesterday.
And suddenly the horizon has been covered with ashes.

Since the time when a Norman duke broke your clay idols,
Always, under the branches of Virgil’s laurel,
The pale hydrangea joins with the green myrtle.


Gérard de Nerval (1808–1855)
Tr. JF

To Juana

Wonderful! So you’re back, madame,—
Of all the lovers in my life,
You the tenderest and the first!
Do you remember our affair?
I’ve treasured it in my memory:—
It was, I believe, in the late summer.

Ah, Marquise, when one thinks about it ,
The days that one consumes in frenzy
Give us the slip and fly away. !
But really and truly, my long-lost love,
Though no-one knows it, in the winter,
I’m twenty still, and you eighteen.

Ah yes! my Love—and cross my heart!—,
If the rose is a little paler now,
It’s still retained all of its beauty.
Never was any Spanish head
So beautiful, so crazy-wild.
You remember that summer, don’t you?

All those evenings? that big quarrel?
You gave me— how I remember it!—
Your golden necklace to calm me down,
And for three nights, I swear to you,
I woke up every quarter-hour
To gaze on it and give it kisses.

And your duenna, oh cursed duenna,
And that diabolical day
When, O my Andalusian pearl
You did your best to blow away
Your ancient spouse with jealousy,
And your young lover with delight.

Be careful, though, madame marquise;
Such love, whatever people say,
Can resurrect itself sometimes.
When a heart has filled itself with you,
Juana, the space simply become
Too big for any other love.

But what am I saying? so goes the world.
How can I fight against the tide
With waves that never cease advancing?
So close your eyes, your arms, your soul;
Adieu, my life,—adieu, madame.
That’s the way of the world down here.

Time carries off upon its wings
The springtime and the darting swallows,
And life and the departed days.
All of it vanishes like smoke,
And so does hope, and so renown—,
And I, who felt such love for you,
And you, who don’t remember it.

Alfred de Musset (1810–1857)
Tr. JF

To Pépa

Pépa, when the night has come
And your mama has said goodnight
And half undressed under the lamp
You’re bowing your head to say your prayers;

At the hour when the troubled spirit
Yields to the wisdom of the night,
At the moment of taking off your cap
And having a look under the bed;

When sleep has flooded in and covered
Your family out there around you’
O Pépita, you charming girl,
What, my love, are you thinking of?

Who knows? Perhaps of the heroine
Of some unfortunate romance;
Of all the things that hope foretells
And cruel reality denies;

Perhaps of those majestic mountains
That give birth only to a mouse;
Of lovers in romantic Spain;
Of candies; of, perhaps, a spouse;

Perhaps of the tender confidences
Of a heart naïve as your own;
Of your dress; of airs that you dance to;
Perhaps of me—perhaps of nothing.

Alfred de Musset (1810–1857)
Tr. JF

À Julie

On me demande, par les rues,
Pourquoi je vais bayant au grues,
Fumant mon cigare au soleil,
À quoi se passe ma jeunesse,
Et depuis trois ans de paresse,
Ce qu’ont fait mes nuits sans sommeil.

Donne-moi tes lèvres, Julie;
Les folles nuit qui t’ont palie
Ont seché leur corail luisant.
Parfume-les de ton haleine,
Donne-les-moi, mon Africaine,
Tes belles lèvres de pur sang.

Mon imprimeur crie à tue-tête
Que sa machine est toujours prête,
Et que la mienne n’en peut mais.
D’honnêtes gens, qu’un club admire,
N’ont pas dédaigne de prédire
Que je n’en reviendrai jamais.

Julie, as-tue du vin d’Espagne?
Hier, nous battions la campagne;
Va donc voir s’il en reste encor.
Ta bouche est brûlante, Julie;
Inventons donc quelque folie
Qui nous perde l’âme et le corps.

On dit que mon gourme me rentre;
Que je n’ai plus rien dans le ventre,
Que je suis vide à faire peur;
Je crois, si j’en valais la peine,
Qu’on m’enverrait à Saint-Hélène,
Avec un cancer dans le coeur.

Allons, Julie, il faut t’attendre
A me voir quelque jour en cendre,
Comme Hercule sur son rocher.
Puisque c’est par toi que j’expire,
Ouve ta robe, Dejanire,
Que je monte sur mon bucher.

Alfred de Musset (1810–1857)

To Julie

They ask me on the boulevards
Why I’m out gaping at the tarts,
Puffing on my cigar in the sun,
And what’s happened to my youth,
What’s come of all those wakeful nights
During three years of idleness.

Julie, give me your lips again.
The wild nights that exhausted you
Have dulled the lustre of their coral.
Sweeten them with your breath again.
Give them to me, my dark-skinned lovely,
Give me your pure-blooded lips.

My printer yells at the top of his voice
That his machine stands always ready
And that mine can’t do a thing.
Snug in their admiring cliques,
Worthy citizens announce
That, oh dear! I’m all washed up.

Julie, do you have any Spanish red?
Yesterday we were out of our minds;
Go and see if there’s still some left.
Your mouth is burning, burning, Julie.
Let’s think of something quite fantastic
To waste us utterly, body and soul.

They say that my wild oats are finished,
That I have nothing left in my guts,
That I’m so empty it’s alarming.
I think that if I were worth the effort,
They’d ship me off to St. Helena,
Bearing a cancer in my heart.

Well, my Julie, you’d better expect
To see my ashes one of these days.
Like Hercules upon his rock.
Since it’s of you that I’m perishing,
Open your robe, O Deianira,
So that I can mount my pyre.

Alfred de Musset (1810–1857)
Tr. JF

Hercules’ wife Deianira unintentionally poisoned him,
and his body was burned.


Carmen est maigre,– un trait de bistre
Cerne son oeil de gitana.
Ses cheveux sont d'un noir sinistre,
Sa peau le diable la tanna.

Les femmes disent qu'elle est laide,
Mais tous les hommes en sont fous:
Et l'archevéque do Tolede
Chante la messe à ses genoux;

Car sur sa nuque d'ambre fauve
Se tord un énorme chignon
Qui, dénoué, fait dans l'alcove
Une mante à son corps mignon.

Et, parmi sa pâleur, éclate
Une bouche aux rires vanqueurs;
Piment rouge. fleur écarlate
Qui prend sa pourpre au sang des coeurs.

Ainsi faite, la moricaude
Bat les plus altières beautés,
Et de ses yeux la lueur chaude
Rend la flamme aux satiétés.

Elle a dans sa laideur piquante
Un grain de sel de cette mer
D'ou jaillit, nue et provocante,
L'âcre Venus du gouffre amer.

Théophile Gautier (1813–1872)


Carmen is thin; a yellow brown
Bistre rings each gypsy eye.
Her hair’s a sinister-looking black;
The Devil tanned that hide of hers.

The other women say she’s ugly,
But all the men are driven wild;
And Toledo’s own Archbishop
Sings a mass on his knees before her;

For on the nape of her tawny neck
Is twisted an immense chignon,
Which, when unfastened in her room,
Forms a cloak for her little body.

And from that nakedness explodes
Her mouth with its triumphant laugh;
A burning pepper, a scarlet flower,
Coloured with the blood of hearts.

Thus it is that the mulatto
Beats the loveliest high-born ladies,
And with the fiery light of her eyes
Restores the flame of the satiated.

In her piquant ugliness she has
A grain of salt from the ancient sea
Where Venus, pungent and alluring,
Rose naked from the bitter gulf.

Théophile Gautier (1813–1872)
Tr. JF

Solitude (Gautier)

I’ve such a hard-on. From my britches
I take my prick out, which discloses
Its mushroom top.
Alone up in one’s room at noon,
Dialoguing with a dong’s
No fun at all.

My pecker wacks against my belly.
Somehow or other it must enter
Arse, mouth, or quim.
But I don’t see my pretty neighbour
Flashing those killer looks of hers
From her balcony.

In vain Sir Cock displays his crest,
There isn’t any skirt in the house,
Not a bonnet.
With prick in hand, ambiguously,
Lacking a cunt, I call upon
The Widow Fist.

Great Venus, masturbationist,
The solitary consolation
Of lovers,
Since I am stuck here mistress-less
Grant me at least in my distress,
Your airy pleasures.

Grant to me a skillful hand
Which knows how with a firm caress
To grasp the organ.
And set the semen-pump to work
Between the fingers gripping it
Like a vagina.

Teach me, I’m a novice here,
This sport which Tissot calls a vice,
This hidden game,
Which the little Cupid plays,
Blunting his erotic arrow,
Far from Psyche.

Resting my feet on the window sill,
Slowly at first I start to jerk
And then, hey presto!
I’m off en route to ecstacy,
Squeezing the pillar from its base
Up to its peak.

But the Chimera opens the door,
A woman enters, what a bosom,
What a waist,
Who pulls her gown and petticoat up,
Shoves her great mound beneath my nose,
With its curly bush,

Then smiling at me, turns around,
Not knowing where I like to plant it,
And offers her hole.
Rubens, you simply must admit
That by the grandeur of her arse,
Your art’s surpassed.

But I grab hold of her by her haunches,
And open those white thighs of hers
With my knee.
Already my triumphant rod,
Finding the slit in the apricot,
Makes it a hole.

Gripping my cheeks, raising her bum,
Her feet in the air, like in a group
By Clodion,
She absorbs the whole of my rod,
And brings to life the wring-and-twist
Of Messalina.

A flood of warm prostatic liquor
Wetting the temple’s portico,
Foams copiously.
Beneath the shock of the thrusting cock,
She cries with every jolt she gets,
“Faster, faster.”

Her eyes roll up in ecstacy ,
She impales herself up to the hilt
As formerly
Deep in the lair of god Priapus,
Girls embedded in their bellies
The wooden tool.

My weapon runs her through and through.
The spasm comes, a jet of jism,
A burning jet spouts,
Pouring from my prick like lava,
Spouts, subsides and, from its slather
Ejects my gland.

When I have thoroughly drained my tube,
I see the succubus soar away,
With her lovely boobs.
I become flaccid, I go limp,
And I regret my offering
To the false Venus.

On my fingers like a sheet,
Already cold, the white stuff spreads.
Game over.
And you can turn your microscope
Upon the product of my syncope,
Spallanzani !

Théophile Gautier (1813–1872)
Tr. JF

Samuel Auguste Tissot (1738–1797), a Swiss doctor, “published in 1760 a booklet ‘Onanism - a Treatise on the Illnesses caused by Masturbation’. He enumerated as consequences: TB, loss of vision, digestive problems, impotence and madness. His views were soon accepted as established medical opinion.” (Web)

“The French sculptor Clodion (1738–1814) is best known for small terra-cotta groups in the rococco style, depicting nymphs and fauns in an erotic and playful manner.” (Web)

Valeria Messalina (AD 22?–48), wife of Emperor Claudius, “once challenged the famous Roman prostitute Scylla to an all-night sex-athon, whereby the winner was the one who copulated with the most men. Messalina won. She copulated all night and although Scylla gave up at dawn, exhausted, Messalina continued zealously, all through the morning.” (Web)

Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729–1799). “Italian physiologist who made important contributions to the experimental study of bodily functions and animal reproduction.” (Web)

The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fatal lightning of his terrible swift sword:
His Truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read his righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps.
His Day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel, writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on!

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before his judgment seat:
Oh! be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant my feet!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me:
Ad he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.
While God is marching on.

Julia Ward Howe (1819–1910)

The Hand and Foot

The hand and foot that stir not, they shall find
Sooner than all the rightful place to go:
Now in their motion free as roving wind,
Though first no snail so limited and slow;
I mark them full of labor all the day,
Each active motion made in perfect rest;
They cannot from their path mistaken stray,
Though ‘tis not theirs, yet in it they are blest;
The bird has not their hidden track found out,
The cunning fox though full of art he be;
It is the way unseen, the certain route,
Wherever bound, yet thou art eve free;
The path of Him, whose perfect law of love
Bids spheres and atoms in just order move.

Jones Very (1813–1889)

The Lost

The fairest day that ever yet has shone,
Will be when thou the day within shalt see;
The fairest rose that ever yet has blown,
When thou the flower thou lookest on shalt be;
But thou art far away among Time’s toys;
Thyself the day thou lookest for in them,
Thyself the flower that now thine eye enjoys,
But wilted now thou hang’st upon thy stem.
The bird thou hearest on the budding tree,
Thou hast made sing with thy forgotten voice,
But when it swells again to melody,
The song is thine in which thou wilt rejoice;
And thou new risen ‘midst these wonders live
That now to them dost all thy substance give.

Jones Very (1813–1889)

The Created

There is naught for thee by thy haste to gain;
‘Tis not the swift with Me that win the race;
Through long endurance of delaying pain,
Thine opened eye shall see thy Father’s face;
Nor here nor there, where now thy feet would turn,
Thou wilt find Him who ever seeks for thee;
But let obedience quench desires that burn,
And where thou art, thy Father too will be!
Behold! as day by day the spirit grows,
Thou see’st by inward light things hid before;
Till what God is, thyself His image shows;
And thou dost wear the robe that first thou wore,
When bright with radiance from His forming hand,
He saw thee lord of all His creatures stand.

Jones Very (1813–1889)

From Moby Dick, chapter 133

Like noiseless nautilus shells, their light prows sped through the sea; but only slowly they neared the foe. As they neared him, the ocean grew still more smooth; seemed drawing a carpet over its waves; seemed a moon-meadow, so serenely it spread. At length the breathless hunter came so nigh his seemingly unsuspecting prey, that his entire dazzling hump was distinctly visible, sliding along the sea as if an isolated thing, and continually wet in a revolving ring of finest, fleecy, greenish foam. He saw the vast, involved wrinkles of the slightly projecting head beyond. Before it, far out on the soft Turkish-rugged waters, went the glistening white shadow from his broad, milky forehead, as musical rippling playfully accompanied the shade; and behind, the blue water interchangeably flowed over into the moving valley of his steady wake; and on either hand bright bubbles arose and danced by his side. But these were broken again by the light toes of hundreds of gay fowls softly feathering the sea, alternate with their fitful flight; and like to some flag-staff rising from the painted hull of an argosy, the tall but shattered pole of a recent lance projected from the white whale’s back, and at intervals one of the cloud of soft-footed fowls hovering, and to and fro skimming like a canopy over the fish, silently perched and rocked on this pole, the long tail feathers streaming like pennons.

Herman Melville (1819–1891)

And me my winter’s task is drawing over

And me my winter’s task is drawing over,
Though night and winter shake the drifted door.
Critic or friend, dispraiser or approver,
I come not now nor fain would offer more.
But when buds break and round the fallen limb
The wild weeds crowd in clusters and corymb,
When twilight rings with the red robin’s plaint,
Let me give something—though my heart be faint—
To thee, my more than friend!—believer! lover!
The gust has fallen now, and all is mute—
Save pricking on the pane the sleety showers,
The clock that ticks like a belated foot,
Time’s hurrying steps, the twanging of the hours:
Wait for those days, my friend, or get thee fresher flowers.

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1821–1873)

And change with hurried hand has swept these scenes

And change with hurried hand has swept these scenes:
The woods have fallen, across the meadow-lot
The hunter’s trail and trap-path is forgot,
And fire has drunk the swamp of evergreens;
Yet for a moment let my fancy plant
These autumn hills again: the wild dove’s haunt,
The wild deer’s walk. In golden umbrage shut,
The Indian river runs, Quonecktacut!
Here, but a lifetime back, where falls tonight
Behind the curtained pane a sheltered light
On buds of rose or vase of violet
Aloft upon the marble mantel set,
Here in the forest-heart, hung blackening
The wolfbait on the bush beside the spring.

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1821–1873)

And faces, forms and phantoms, numbered not

And faces, forms and phantoms, numbered not,
Gather and pass like mist upon the breeze,
Jading the eye with uncouth images:
Women with muskets, children dropping shot
By fields half harvested or left in fear
Of Indian inroads, or the Hessian near;
Disaster, poverty, and dire disease.
Or from the burning village through the trees
I see the smoke in reddening volumes roll,
The Indian file in shadowy silence pass
While the last man sets up the trampled grass,
The Tory priest declaiming, fierce and fat,
The Shay’s man with the green bough in his hat,
Or silent sagamore, Shaug or Wassahoale.

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1821–1873)

The Cricket


The humming bee purrs softly o’er his flower;
From lawn and thicket
The dogday locust singeth in the sun
From hour to hour:
Each has his bard, and thou, ere day be done,
Shalt have no wrong.
So bright that murmur mid the insect crowd,
Muffled and lost in bottom grass, or loud
By pale and picket:
Shall I not take to help me in my song
A little cooing cricket?


The afternoon is sleepy; let us lie
Beneath these branches while the burdened brook,
Muttering and moaning to himself, goes by;
And mark our minstrel’s carol while we look
Toward the faint horizon swooning blue,
Or in a garden bower,
Trellised and trammeled with deep drapery
Of hanging green,
Light glimmering through—
There let the dull hop be,
Let bloom, with poppy’s dark refreshing flower:
Let the dead fragrance round our temples beat,
Stunning the sense to slumber, whilst between
The falling water and fluttering wind
Mingle and meet,
Murmur and mix,
No few faint pipings from the glades behind,
Or alder-thicks:
But louder as the day declines,
From tingling tassel, blade, and sheath,
Rising from nets of river vines,
Winnows and ricks,
Above, beneath,
At every breath,
At hand, around, illimably,
Rising and falling like the sea,
Acres of cricks.


Dear to the child who hears thy rustling voice
Cease at his footstep, though he hears thee still,
Cease and resume with vibrance crisp and shrill,
Thou sittest in the sunshine to rejoice.
Night lover too; bringer of all things dark
And rest and silence, yet thou bringest to me
Always that burthen of the unresting Sea,
The moaning cliffs, the low rocks blackly stark;
These upland inland fields no more I view,
But the long flat seaside beach, the wild seamew,
And the overturning wave!
Thou bringest, too, dim accents from the grave
To him who walketh when the day is dim,
Dreaming of those who dream no more of him,
With edged remembrances of joy and pain;
And heyday looks and laughter come again:
Forms that in happy sunshine lie and leap,
With faces where but now a gap must be,
Renunciations and partitions deep
And perfect tears and crowning vacancy!
And to thy poet at the twilight’s hush,
No chirping touch of lips and laugh and blush,
But wringing arms, hearts wild with love and woe,
Closed eyes, and kisses that would not let go!


So wert thou loved in that old graceful time
When Greece was fair,
While god and hero harkened to thy chime,
Softly astir
Where the long grasses fringed Cayester’s lip;
Long-drawn, with glimmering sails of swan and ship,
And ship and swan;
Or where
Reedy Eurotas ran.
Did that low warble teach thy tender flute
Its breathings mild?/ say!, did the grasshopper
Sit golden in thy purple hair
O Psammathe?
Or wert thou mute,
Grieving for Pan amid the alders there?
And by the water and along the hill
That thirsty tinkle in the herbage still,
Though the lost forest wailed to horns of Arcady?


Like the Enchanter old—
Who sought mid the dead water’s weeds and scum
For evil growth beneath the moonbeam cold,
Or mandrake or dorcynium;
And touched the leaf that opened both his ears,
So that articulate voices now he hears
In cry of beast, or bird, or insect’s hum—
Might I but find thy knowledge in thy song!
That twittering tongue,
Ancient as light, returning like the years.
So might I be,
Unwise to sing, thy true interpreter
Through denser stillness and in sounder dark,
Than ere thy notes have pierced to harrow me.
So might I stir
The world to hark
To thee my lord and lawgiver,
And cease my quest:
Content to bring thy wisdom to the world;
Content to gain at last some low applause,
Now low, now lost
Like thine from mossy stone, amid the stems and stones,
Or garden gravemound tricked and dressed—
Powdered and pearled
By stealing frost—
In dusky rainbow beauty of euphorbias!
For larger would be less indeed, and like
The ceaseless simmer in the summer grass
To him who toileth in the windy field,
Or where the sunbeams strike,
Naught in innumerable numerousness.
So might I much possess,
So much must yield;
But failing this, the dell and grassy dike,
The water and the waste shall still be dear,
And all the pleasant plots and places
Where thou hast sung, and I have hung
To ignorantly hear.
Then Cricket, sing thy song! or answer mine!
Thine whispers blame, but mine has naught but praises.
It matters not. Behold! the autumn goes,
The shadow grows,
The moments take hold of eternity;
Even while we stop to wrangle or repine
Our lives are gone—
Like thinnest mist,
Like yon escaping color in the tree;
Rejoice! rejoice! whilst yet the hours exist—
Rejoice or mourn, and let the world swing on
Unmoved by cricket song of thee or me.

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1821–1873)


See Note

I see her stand with arms akimbo,
A blue and blonde sub aureo nimbo;
She scans her literary limbo,
The reliques of her teens;
Things like the chips of broken stilts,
Or tatters of embroidered quilts,
Or nosegays tossed away by jilts,
Notes, ballads, tales, and scenes.

Soon will she gambol like a lamb
Fenced, but not tethered, near the Cam.
Maybe she’ll swim where Byron swam,
And chat between the limes,
Where Arthur, Alfred, Fitz, and Brooks
Lit thought by one another’s looks,
Embraced their jests and kicked their books
In England’s happier times.

Ere magic poets felt the gout,
Ere Darwin whelmed the Church in doubt,
Ere Apologia had found out
The round world must be right;
When Gladstone, bluest of the blue,
Read all Augustine’s folios through;
When France was tame, and no one knew
We and the Czar would fight.

“Sixty years since” (said dear old Scott;
We’re bound, you know, to quote Sir Wat)
This isle had not a sweeter spot
Than Neville’s Court by Granta;
No Newnham then, no kirtled scribes,
No Celia to harangue the tribes,
No race for girls, no apple bribes
To tempt an Atalanta.

We males talked fast, we meant to be
World-betterers all at twenty-three,
But somehow failed to level thee,
Oh battered fort of Edom!
Into the breach our daughters press,
Brave patriots in unwarlike dress,
Adepts at thought-in-idleness,
Sweet devotees of freedom.

And now it is your turn, fair soul,
To see the fervent car-wheels roll,
Your rivals clashing past the goal,
Some sly Milanion leading.
Ah! with them may your Genius bring
Some Celia, some Miss Mannering;
For youthful friendship is a thing
More precious than succeeding.

William Cory (1823–1892)

The Queen of Hearts

How comes it, Flora, that, whenever we
Play cards together, you invariably,
However the pack parts,
Still hold the Queen of Hearts?

I’ve scanned you with a scrutinizing gaze,
Resolved to fathom these your secret ways:
But, sift them as I will,
Your ways are secret still.

I cut and shuffle; shuffle, cut, again;
But all my cutting, shuffling, prove in vain:
Vain hope, vain forethought too;
That Queen still falls to you.

I dropped her once, prepense, but ere the deal
Was dealt, your instinct seemed her loss to feel:
“There should be one card more,”
You said, and searched the floor.

I cheated once; I made a private notch
In Heart-Queen’s back, and kept a lynx-eyed watch;
Yet such another back
Deceived me in the pack:

The Queen of Clubs assumed by arts unknown
An imitative dint that seemed my own;
This notch, not of my doing,
Misled me to my ruin.

It baffles me to puzzle out the clue,
Which must be skill, or craft, or luck in you:
Unless, indeed, it be
Natural affinity.

Christina Rossetti (1830–1894)

Good morning, Midnight

Good morning, Midnight,
I’m coming home;
Day got tired of me;
How could I of him?

Sunshine was a sweet place;
I liked to stay;
But Morn didn’t want me now,
So goodnight Day!

I can look, can’t I,
When the East is red?
The hills have a way then,
That puts the heart abroad.

You are not so fair, Midnight;
I chose Day.
But please take a little girl;
He turned away.

Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)

It was not death

It was not death, for I stood up,
And all the dead lie down;
It was not night, for all the bells
Put out their tongues for noon.

It was not frost, for on my flesh
I felt siroccos crawl,
Nor fire, for just my marble feet
Could keep a chancel cool.

And yet it tasted like them all;
The figures I have seen
Set orderly, for burial,
Reminded me of mine—

As if my life were shaven,
And fitted to a frame,
And could not break without a key,
And ‘twas like midnight, some,

When everything that ticked has stopped,
And space stares all around,
Or grisly frosts, first autumn morns,
Repeal the beating ground;

But most like Chaos, stopless, cool,
Without a chance or spar,
Or even a report of land,
To justify despair.

Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)

What shall I do?

What shall I do when the summer troubles,
What when the rose is ripe?
What when the eggs fly off in music
From the maple keep?

What shall I do when the skies a-chirrup
Drop a tune on me?
When the bee hangs all noon in the buttercup,
What will become of me?

Oh, when the squirrel fills his pockets
And the berries stare,
How can I bear their jocund faces,
Thou from here so far?

‘Twouldn’t afflict a robin,
All his goods have wings.
I do not fly, so wherefore
My perennial things?

Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)

These are the days

These are the days when birds come back—
A very few, a bird or two—
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies resume
The old, old sophistries of June,
A blue and gold mistake.

Oh fraud that cannot cheat the bee,
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief,

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear,
And softly through the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf.

O sacrament of summer days,
O last communion in the haze,
Permit a child to join;

Thy sacred emblems to partake,
Thy consecrated bread to take,
And thine immortal wine.

Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)

He touched me

He touched me, so I live to know
That such a day, permitted so,
I groped upon his breast;
It was a boundless place to me
And silenced, as the awful sea
Puts minor streams to rest.

And now, I’m different from before,
As if I breathed superior air,
Or brushed a royal gown;
My feet, too, that had wandered so,
My gypsy face, transfigured now,
To tenderer renown.

Into this port, if I might come,
Rebecca to Jerusalem,
Would not so ravished turn;
Nor Persian, baffled at her shrine,
Lift such a crucifixal sign
To her imperial sun.

Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)

Twas warm at first

‘Twas warm at first like us
Until there crept thereon
A chill, like frost upon a glass,
Till all the scene be gone.

The forehead copied stone,
The fingers grew too cold
To ache, and like a skater’s brook,
The busy eye congealed.

It straightened—that was all;
It crowded cold to cold;
It multiplied indifference
As pride were all it could.

And even when with cords
‘Twas lowered like a freight,
It made no signal, nor demurred,
But dropped like adamant.

Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)

Les Corbeaux

De la Germanie à l’Ukraine,
Ils ouvrent leur ailes au vent;
Ils s’en vont jetant dans la plaine
Leurs voix en rauque râlement.
Pour leur la moisson est superbe;
Les morts sont là, semés dans l’herbe,
O noirs oiseaux, comme un froment.

Allez et dans les yeux pleins d’ombre
Ainsi qu’en des coupes, buvez;
Allez, corbeaux, allez sans nombre,
Vous serez tous désaltérés
Puis, revenant à tire d’aile,
Au nid portez la chair nouvelle;
Vos doux petits sont affamés.

Allez, corbeaux, prenez sans crainte
Ses affreux et sacrés lambeaux;
Contre vous n’ira nulle plainte;
Vous êtes purs, ô noirs oiseaux.
Allez vers les peuples esclaves,
Allez, semant le sang des braves;
Qu’il germe pour les temps nouveaux.

Louise Michel (1830–1905)

The Crows

From Germany to the Ukraine,
They’re spreading their wings upon the wind,
And casting down over the fields
Their raucous, rasping, rattling cries.
For them the harvest is superb;
The dead are there, oh you black birds,
Strewn among the grass like wheat.

Go, and from eyes brimmed with darkness
Drink your fill as though from cups;
Go, you crows, you numberless crows,
You’ll all find your thirst is quenched.
Then, up again on beating wings,
Carry the new flesh to your nests;
Your little ones are hungry there.

Go, you crows, take without fear
Those terrible and sacred scraps;
Against you there’ll be no complaints
You are pure, you black, black birds.
Go to the peoples now enslaved
Go, sowing the blood of the brave;
May it spring up in days to come.

Louise Michel (1830–1905)
Tr. JF

Chanson du Cirque; Les Courses de Taureaux

Les hauts barons blasonnés d’or,
Les duchesses de similor,
Les viveuses toutes hagardes,
Les crevés aux faces blafardes,
Vont s’égayer. Ah! oui, vraiment,
Jacques Bonhomme est bon enfant.

C’est du sang vermeil qu’ils vont voir.
Jadis, comme un rouge abattoir,
Paris ne fut pour eux qu’un drame;
Et ce souvenir les affame;
Ils en ont soif. Ah! oui, vraiment,
Jacques Bonhomme est bon enfant.

Peut-être qu’ils visent plus heureux.
Aprés le cirque l’échafaud;
La morgue corsera la fête.
Aujourd’hui seulement la bête
Et demain l’homme. Ah! oui, vraiment,
Jacques Bonhomme est bon enfant.

Les repus ont le rouge aux yeux,
Et cela fait songer les gueux,
Les gueux expirant de misère;
Tant mieux! au fainéants la guerre;
Ils ne diront plus si longtemps:
Jacques Bonhomme est bon enfant.

Louise Michel (1830–1905)

Circus Song: Bullfights

The high-and-mighty gilded barons,
The duchesses in their pinchbeck finery,
The wild-eyed keep-it-coming girls,
The debauchees with livid faces,
Want a good time. Ah! yes, indeed.
Jack the clown’s a decent lad.

It’s crimson blood they’re out to see.
Before, as a red slaughter-house,
Paris for them was only theatre;
And now they’re hankering after more;
They’re thirsty for it. Ah! yes, indeed.
Jack the clown’s a decent lad.

Maybe they’re looking even further.
After the circus comes the scaffold;
With the morgue rounding out the fun.
Today, it’s simply animals;
Tomorrow, men. Ah! yes, indeed.
Jack the clown’s a decent lad.

The jaded rich are after blood,
Which puts ideas in beggars’ heads,
Beggars dying in misery.
All the better! Let there be war!
They won’t be saying for much longer,
Jack the clown’s a decent lad.

Louise Michel (1830–1905)
Tr. JF

V’la le choléra

Parait qu’on attend le cholera
La chose est positive
On n’sait quand il arriv’ra
Mais on sait qu’il arrive

Les pharmaciens vont répétant
Il vient la chose est sûre
Ach’tez-nous désinfectants
Du sulfur de chloride.

Les sacristans et les abbés
Répétent des cantiiques
Pour attirer les macchabées
Dans leurs sacrées boutiques

On rassemble des capitaux
Pour fabriquer des bières
On viendra des cerceuils
À la port’ des cimitières

Tous les matins avant midi
Dans une immense fosse
On apport’ra les refroids
Qu’on empl’ra par grosse

L’bon Dieu du haut du sacré coeur
Chant’ avec tout sa clique
Et les cagots reprennent en coeur
Crève la république

V’la l’choléra v’la la choléra
V’la l’choléra qu’arrive
De l’une à l’autre riv’
Tout l’monde en crév’ra

Louise Michel (1830–1905)

Hey, cholera

Seems they’re expecting cholera
It’s absolutely certain
Don’t know just when
But they know it’s coming.

The pharmacists keep repeating
It’s coming for sure
Buy our disinfectants
Sulphur and chloride

The sextons and clerics
Keep up their chanting
To lure dummies
Into their holy booths

Capital’s being assembled
To manufacture coffins
They’ll sell coffins
At the cemetery gates.

Every day before noon
Stiffs will be brought
To a huge trench
Filled up by the gross.

High over Sacré Coeur
The good Lord chants with his clique
And the bigots take up the refrain
Death to the Republic

Hey cholera hey cholera
Hey cholera’s coming
You’ll all die of it
From end to end of the city

Louise Michel (1830–1905)
Tr. JF

Down to the Derby
With Rhymes on the Road

Waggon and cart, ready to start,
Early in morning at six, six;
Gallons of beer, stowed away here,
Twiggery, swiggery, quick sticks.
Empty before, fill ’em once more;
Women look trim in their caps, caps;
Screaming in fun, never say done,
Joking and poking the chaps, chaps.
Sweeps in a truck, swells out of luck,
Laughery, chaffery, grin, grin;
Traveling show, dwarf hid below,
Eye on his giantess’ gin, gin.

Twiggery, swiggery, shiners, finery, laughery.
chaffery, pokery, jokery;
Down to the Derby as all of us go,
These are the sights that we each of us know;
Yet off to the Downs as we often have been,
Still every year is some novelty seen.

Ten of the clock, carriages flock
Round to the doors at the West-end;
People who seem, skimming the cream,
To have laid hold of life at the best end.
Phaeton and pair, baronet there,
Lovely young girl with a smile, smile;
Look all about, splendid turn out,
Everything done in grand style, style.
Hampers retain lots of champagne,
Hungerly, vulgarly, prog, prog,
Nothing more seek, nice little shriek,
Missing him, kissing him, dog, dog.

Flunkeydom, monkeydom, finery, whinery, livery,
Shivery, fowlery, growlery—
Down to the Derby, etc.

Clapham we pass, schools in a mass,
Up at the windows we go by,
Playful as mice, governess nice,
Thinkery, winkery, oh, fie!
Balham the dull, vote it a null,
Marchery, starchery, slow, slow’
Tooting the next, sticks to its text,
Travelly, gravelly, oh! oh!
Sutton a whet, thirsty we get,
Palery alery, take, take;
Smart four-in-hand comes to a stand,
Legs of the longest ones ache, ache.

Drinkery, winkery, palery alery, laughery,
chaffery, crash along, dash along—
Down to the Derby, etc.

Trudging along, two dozen strong,
Wearily, drearily, riff-raff,
Swells at them stare, singing the air
Of Saturday’s opera, “Piff, paff.”
Handful of coin all of them join,
Rambling, scrambling, pick up;
Rowing for more, won’t have “encore,”
Frightening, tightening, stick up.
Posturers two come into view,
Rummer set, summerset throwing;
Over they turn (don’t try and learn),
All that they get for it owing.

Palery alery, smokery, jokery, rambling,
Scrambling, crash along, clash along—
Down to the Derby, etc.

Under the trees, beautiful breeze,
Lilacs in blossom we smell, smell;
May at last out (long while about),
Country looks charming we tell, tell,
Everything seen, looking so green,
Picture of verdure and so on;
Wonder if we green, too, shall be,
As to the horse we should go on.
Pike and “no trust,” up comes the dust—
Pay away, dray away, got, got;
Dustman before, oaths by the score,
Fit for the drawing-room not, not.

Flurrying, worrying, holloing, following;
Lay away, pay away, crash along, dash along—
Down to the Derby, etc.

Epsom at last, nearing it fast,
Smackery, crackery, whip, whip;
There’s the Grand Stand, now close at hand,
Think it a nice little trip, trip.
Get a good view, this one will do,
Squeezing it, seizing it, rush, rush;
Downs looking smooth, CARELESS’S Booth,
Go in and get a good brush, brush.
Everyone here, seems to appear,
“How d’ye do?” “How are you? nod, nod;
Some friends about, can’t find ’em out,
Look for them, hook for them, odd, odd.

Smackery, snackery, scenery, greenery,
Leger bit, hedge a bit, look about,
Shook about—
Down to the Derby, etc.

Now take your place, this the race,
Universe, tune a verse, fame, fame;
Cards to be sold, everything told,
Colours of riders and name, name.
Buzz! off they go, galloping so,
Bothery, dothery, eye, eye;
Look as they pass, out with the glass,
Can’t find the focus to spy, spy.
Yonder they run, some horse has won,
Up with the number and see, see;
Whichever is in, hundreds may win,
But thousands will diddled like me be.

Cantering, bantering, cheering ’em, nearing ‘’em,
Spy away, fly away, dothery, bothery—
Down to the Derby, etc.

Derby complete, something to eat;
Out with the provender, crush, crush;
Somebody walks off with the forks,
Bring out the bottles and lush, lush.
Plenty of pie, salad is nigh,
Lettuces, let us seize, cool, cool;
POPKINS an ass, broken a glass
Grittling, victualling, fool, fool;
Take to the wine, our health and mine,
Drinkery, thinkery, nice, nice’
Off with the cup, finish it up.
Sopping it, mopping it, trice, trice.

Readily, saidily, rather unsteadily, trickling,
Prickling, toiletry, spoilery—
Down to the Derby, etc.

Stroll on the course—one of the force,
Piping and wiping his brow, now;
Handkerchief missed, called to assist,
Robbery, bobbery, row, row.
Off with a watch, guard but a botch,
Tickery, quickery, fled, fled;
Fortune to tell, know it too well,
Gipsying, tipsying, head, head.
Ground seems to turn, throat seems to burn,
Whirl about, twirl about, steer, clear;
Find out the drag, quizzed by a wag,
Jokery, smokery, queer, queer.

Robbery, bobbery, watchery, bothery, dangling,
wrangling, mumblng, grumblng—
Down to the Derby, etc.

Eaten a snack, time to be back,
Hurrying, scurrying, start, start;
Road as before, crammed but the more,
With carriage and phaeton and cart, cart.
Out come the stars, light up cigars,
Brandy and soda you must must;
Road dry again, where was the rain?
Smokery chokery, dust, dust.
Come to a block, just at “The Cock,”
Famous inn, same as in past time;
Pale ale to boot, take a cheroot,
“Dal be, it shall be the last time.”

Hurrying, scurrying, hampering, scampering,
smokery, jokery, crash along, dash along—
Up from the Derby, etc.

Come to a pike, just what you like,
Ticketing, stick it in, stop, stop;
Plenty of fun, never say done,
Hatttery, flattery, drop, drop.
Driving along, let’s ’ave a song,”
Mystery, history, none, none.
Dozens of keys, take what you please,
Blowing horns, showing horns—Lon-don.
Lamps down the road, near your abode,
Flare away, glare away, far, far;
Kennington-gate, longer to wait,
Loud din and crowding at bar, bar.

Ticketing, stick it in, battery, battery,
flare away, stare away, splashery, dashery—
Up from the Derby, etc.

Home get at last, going it fast,
Lifery, wifery, look, look:
Had no excess, buy a new dress,
Made it all right with your “book, book.”
Wake the next day, think of the way,
How will the debts you incur be;
Or more to your mind, glad that you find,
You did pretty wel on the Derby.
Anyhow you think it will do,
Not going now to be vexed here;
Hoping to spend with a “party” or friend,
A holiday, jolly day, next year.

Theatre, be at a, upper room, supper rooms,
choppery, moppery, steakery, rakery,
singing too, bringing too, holiday, jolly day:
Fun thus we see as of old on the road,
This is the channel through which it has flowed;
Often to Epsom as people have been,
These are the fancies that freshen the scene.

W.S. Gilbert (1836–1911)

The trudging group of “riff-raff” are doing the singing.
rowing>pronounced as in “stop making such a row.”
summersets>somersaults (by acrobats)
pike> turnpike, toll-road
guard> watch-guard; device for preventing pickpockets from
removing watches from waistcoat pockets.
“book” >bookmaker

By an Ex-Enthusiast

Oh, that my soul its gods could see
As years ago they seemed to me
When first I painted them;
Invested with the circumstance
Of old conventional romance:
Exploded theorem!

The bard who could, all men above,
Inflame my soul with songs of love,
And, with his verse, inspire
The craven soul who feared to die,
With all the glow of chivalry
And old heroic fire;

I found him in a beerhouse tap
Awaking-from a gin-born nap,
With pipe and sloven dress,
Amusing chums, who fooled his bent,
With muddy maudlin sentiment,
And tipsy foolishness.

The novelist whose painting pen
To legions of fictitious men
A real existence lends,
Brain-people whom we rarely fail,
When e’er we hear their names, to hail
As old and welcome friends;

I found in clumsy snuffy suit,
In seedy glove, and blucher boot,
Uncomfortably big;
Particularly commonplace,
With vulgar, coarse, stockbroking face,
And spectacles and wig.

My favourite actor who, at will,
With mimic woes my eyes could fill
With unaccustomed brine:
A being who appeared to me
(Before I knew him well) to be
A song incarnadine;

I found a coarse, unpleasant man
With speckled chin—unhealthy, wan—
Of self-importance full:
Existing in an atmosphere
That reeked of gin and pipes and beer—
Conceited, fractious, dull.

The warrior whose ennobled name
Is woven with his country’s fame,
Triumphant over all,
I found weak, palsied, bloated, blear;
His province seemed to be, to leer
At bonnets in Pall Mall.

Would that ye always shone, who write,
Bathed in your own innate limelight,
And ye who battles wage,
Or that in darkness I had died
Before my soul had ever sighed
To see you off the stage.

W.S. Gilbert (1836–1911)

tap>tap-room, barroom
snuffy>snuff-colured; discoloured with snuff?
blucher boot> high shoe or half-boot

An Ancient to Ancients

Where once we danced, where once we sang,
The floors are sunken, cobwebs hang,
And cracks creep; worms have fed upon
The doors. Yea, sprightlier times were then
Than now, with harps and tabrets gone,

Where once we rowed, where once we sailed,
And damsels took the tiller, veiled
Against too strong a stare (god wot
Their fancy, then or anywhen!)
Upon that shore we are clean forgot,

We have lost somewhat, afar and near,
The thinning of our ranks each year
Affords a hint we are nigh undone,
That we shall not be ever again
The marked of many, loved of one,

In dance the polka hit our wish,
The paced quadrille, the spry schottische,
“Sir Roger”.—And in opera spheres
The “Girl” (the famed “Bohemian”),
And “Trovatore”, held the ears,

This season’s paintings do not please,
Like Etty, Mulready, Maclise;
Throbbing romance has waned and wanned;
No wizard wields the witching pen
Of Bulwer, Scott, Dumas, and Sand,

The bower we shrined to Tennyson,
Is roof-wrecked; damps there drip upon
Sagged seats, the creeper-nails are rust,
The spider is sole denizen;
Even she who voiced those rhymes is dust,

We who met sunrise sanguine-souled,
Are wearing weary. We are old;
These younger press; we feel our rout
Is imminent to Aldes’ den,—
That evening shades are stretching out,

And yet, though ours be failing frames,
So were some others’ history names,
Who trode their track light-limbed and fast
As these youth, and not alien
From enterprise, to their long last,

Sophocles, Plato, Socrates,
Pythogaras, Thucydides,
Herodotus, and Homer,—yea,
Clement, Augustine, Origen,
Burnt brightlier towards their setting-day,

And ye, red-lipped and smooth-browed; list,
Much is there waits you we have missed;
Much lore we leave you worth the knowing,
Much, much has lain outside our ken:
Nay, rush not: time serves: we are going,

Thomas Hardy (1840–1928)

Sea Breeze

The flesh is sad, alas! – and I’ve read all the books.
Let’s go! Far off. Let’s go! I sense
That the birds, intoxicated, fly
Deep into unknown spume and sky!
Nothing – not even old gardens mirrored by eyes –
Can restrain this heart that drenches itself in the sea,
O nights, or the abandoned light of my lamp,
On the void of paper, that whiteness defends,
No, not even the young woman feeding her child.
I shall go! Steamer, straining at your ropes
Lift your anchor towards an exotic rawness!

A Boredom, made desolate by cruel hope
Still believes in the last goodbye of handkerchiefs!
And perhaps the masts, inviting lightning,
Are those the gale bends over shipwrecks,
Lost, without masts, without masts, no fertile islands…
But, oh my heart, listen to the sailors’ chant!

Stéphane Mallarmé (1842–1898)
Tr. A.S. Klein

Weary of Bitter Ease

Weary of bitter ease in which my indolence
Offends a glory for which I fled the charm long since
Of childhood rose-embowered under a natural arch
Of blue, and wearier sevenfold of this my harsh
Compact to dig each night a furrow once again
Into the cold and stingy soil of my brain,
Gravedigger with no pity for sterility,
—What can I tell this Dawn, by roses companied,
O Dreams, when out of terror for its ashen rose
The vast graveyard will merge these empty holes?

I would forsake the ravenous Art of cruel lands
And with a smile for all the age-old reprimands
Delivered by my friends and genius and the past
And by my lamp which knows my agony at last,
Would imitate the Chinese of limpid, delicate bent,
Whose purest ecstasy is but to paint the end
Upon his cups of snow new ravished from the moon
Of some exotic flower that constantly perfumed
His life, transparent flower he smelled in infancy,
Grafting itself upon the soul’s blue filigree.
And like to death within the sage’s only dream,
Serene, I’ll choose a landscape young and evergreen
Which I also will paint on cups, preoccupied.
A line of azure, thin and pale, will signify
A lake, amid a sky of naked porcelain;
A shining crescent lost behind a white cloudscape
Will dip its tranquil horn in the water’s glassy sheet
Not far from three long emerald eyelashes—reeds.

Stéphane Mallarmé (1844–1898)

Tr, Hubert Creekmore, in Angel Flores, ed., An Anthology
of French Poetry from Nerval to Valéry in English
, rev. ed. (Anchor Books, 1958)

Le Pitre Châtié

Pour ses yeux—pour nager dans ces lacs, dont les quais
Sont plantés de beaux cils qu’un matin bleu pénètre,
J’ai, Muse, moi, ton pitre—enjambé la fenêtre
Et fui notre baraque où fument tes quinquets.

Et d’herbes enivré, j’ai plongé comme un traitre
Dans ces lacs defendu, et, quand tu m’appelais,
Baigné mes membres nus dans l’onde aux blancs galets,
Oubliant mon habit de pitre au tronc de hêtre.

Le soleil du matin séchait mon corps nouveau
Et je sentais fraîchir loin de ta tyrannie
La neige des glaciers dans ma chair assainie,

Ne sachant pas, hélas ! quand s’en allait sur l’eau
Le suif de mes cheveux et le fard de mon peau,
Muse, que cette crasse était tout la génie.

Stéphane Mallarmé (1842–1898)

The Chastened Clown (earlier version)

For her eyes—to bathe in those lakes whose banks
Are planted with lovely lashes which a blue morning penetrates—,
I, I your clown, Muse, hopped through the window
And fled our booth where your lamps smoke.

Intoxicated by the grass, I plunged like a traitor
Into those forbidden lakes, and, when you called me,
Laved my naked limbs in the water over the white pebbles,
Forgetting my clown’s costume on the trunk of a beech tree.

The morning sun dried my new-found body
And, far from your tyranny, I felt the snow of glaciers
Cooling my cleansed flesh,

Not knowing, alas! as the hair-grease and make-up
Floated away on the water, oh Muse,
That that muck was all part of genius.

Stéphane Mallarmé (1842–1898)
Tr. JF


A nun takes the veil

I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889)

Bruxelles: Chevaux de bois

Par saint Gille,
Mon agile

(V. Hugo)

Tournez, tournez, bons chevaux de bois,
Tournez cent tours, tournez mille tours,
Tournez souvent et tournez toujours,
Tournez, tournez au son de hautbois.

Le gros soldat, la plus grosse bonne
Sont sur vos dos comme dans leur chambre,
Car en ce jour au bois de Cambre
Les maîtres sont tous deux en personne.

Tournez, tournez, chevaux de leur coeur.
Tandis qu’autour de tous vos tournois
Clignote l’oeil du filou sournois,
Tournez au son du piston vainqueur.

C’est ravissant comme ça vous soûle
D’aller ainsi dans ce cirque bête:
Bien dan le ventre et mal dane la tête,
Du mal en masse et du bien en foule.

Tournez, tournez sans qu’il soit besoin
D’user jamais de nulls éperons
Pour commander à vos gallops ronds,
Tournez, tournez sans espoir de foin.

Et dépéchez, chevaux de leur âme:
Déjà voici qu la nuit qui tombe
Va réunir pigeon et colombe
Loin de la foire et loin de madame.

Tournez, tournez! Le ciel en velours
D’astres en or se vêt lentement.
Voici partir l’amante et l’amant.
Tournez au son joyeux des tambours!

Paul Verlaine(1844–1896)

Faut Hurler avec les Loups!!

Théâtre des Folies-Hainaut
Chansonnette par M. Pablo de Herlañes,
Chantée par Edmond Lepelletier


Je m’suis marié le cinq ou l’six
D’Avril ou d’Mai d’l’anné’ dergnière,
Je devins veuf le neuf ou l’dix
D’Juin ou d’Juillet, j’m’en souviens guère…
—Ah! mon bonhomm’, me direz-vous,
Quel malheur! que j’te trouve à plaindre!
—Il faut hurler avec les loups!
J’vas geindre!


Bien que la pert’ de moi moitié
Fût pour mon âme un coup bien rude,
Quéqu’temps après j’me suis r’marié,
Histoir’ d’en pas perdr’ l’habitude…
—Ah! mon bonhomm’, me direz-vous,
C’te fois-ci, ton étoil’ va r’luire…
—Il faut hurler avec les loups !!
J’vas rire !!


Mais à part qu’elle est chauv’ tandis
Qu’l’aut’ s’contentait d’un g’nou modeste,
Joséphin’ c’est, quand je vous l’dis,
L’mêm’ caractèr’ que feu Céleste…
Ah! mon bonhomm’, me direz-vous,
Pour le coup, c’est d’un veine à r’vendre,
—J’veux plus hurler avec les loups!
J’vas m’pendre!

Paul Verlaine(1844–1896)

Howling with the Wolves

Théâtre des Folies-Hainaut.
Music by M. Pablo de Herlañes.
Sung by Edmond Lepelletier

Got married on the fifth or sixth
Of April or May in the past year.
Was widowed on the ninth or tenth
Of July, can hardly remember it
—Oh my dear chap! you’re going to say,
What rotten luck! How I pity you!
—One has to howl with the wolves, you know!
I’ll whine a bit.

Although the loss of my better half
Was a pretty tough blow for me to take,
After a bit I got hitched again,
Just so as not to lose the habit
—Oh my dear chap! you’re going to say,
This time it’ll be your lucky star…
—One has to howl with the wolves, you know!
I’ll laugh.

But apart from liking to bare it all
While the other stopped with a modest knee,
Josephine has, I’m telling you,
The same nature as dead Céleste…
—Oh my dear chap! you’re going to say,
This time you’ve really got luck to spare.
—Well, I don’t want to howl with the wolves.
I’ll hang myself.

Paul Verlaine(1844–1896)
Tr. JF


L’une avait quinze ans, l’autre en avait seize;
Toutes deux dormaient dans la même chambre.
C’était par un soir très lourde de septembre.
Frêles, des yeux bleues, des rougeurs de fraise.

Chacune a quitté, pour se mettre à l’aise,
La fine chemise au frais parfum d’ambre.
La plus jeune étend les bras, et se cambre,
Et sa soeur, les main sur ses seins, la baise,

Puis tombe à genoux, pluis devient farouche
Et tumultueuse et folle, et sa bouche
Plonge sous l’or blond, dans des ombres grises;

Et l’enfant, pendant ce temps là, recense
Sur ses doigts mignons des valses promises,
Et, rose, sourit avec innocence.

Paul Verlaine(1844–1896)

Boarding School Girls

One of them was fifteen, the other one sixteen,
The two of them slept in the same room.
It was a sultry evening in September:
Slender, blue-eyed, their skins a delicate pink.

They’ve each removed, so as to be more comfortable,
Their thin nightgowns, delicately scented with amber.
The younger one spreads her arms and arches her back,
And her sister, putting her hands on her breasts, kisses her,

Then falls on her knees, and goes absolutely wild,
And her mouth plunges tumultuously
Below the pale gold, into the mysterious darkness;

And the younger one, while this is going on, tots up
On her charming little fingers the waltzes promised,
For the coming dance, and, a little pinker, smiles gently.

Paul Verlaine(1844–1896)
Tr. JF

Impression Fausse

Dame souris trotte,
Noir dans le gris du soir,
Dame souris trotte,
Grise dans le noir.

On sonne la cloche,
Dormez, les bons prisonniers;
On sonne la cloche:
Faut que vous dormiez.

Pas de mauvais rêve,
Ne pensez qu’à vos amours.
Pas de mauvais rêve;
Les belles toujours!

La grand clair de lune!
On ronfle ferme à côté
Le grand clair de lune
En réalité.

Un nuage passe,
Il fait noir comme en un four.
Un nuage passe.
Tiens, le petit jour!

Dame souris trotte,
Rose dans le rayons bleu.
Dame souris trotte;
Debout, paresseux!

Paul Verlaine(1844–1896)

False Impression

Lady Mouse trots,
Dark in the twilight,
Lady Mouse trots,
Grey in the dark.

They’ve rung the bell,
Sleep, little prisoners!
They’ve rung the bell:
Time for beddy-byes.

No bad dreams:
Just think of your loves.
No bad dreams:
Only pretty girls.

The brilliant moonlight…!
Deep snores from near me.
The brilliant moonlight,
For real.

A cloud passes;
It’s black as a coal-cellar,
A cloud passes.
Look, daybreak.

Lady Mouse trots,
Pink in the azure rays.
Lady Mouse trots:
On your feet, lazybones!

Paul Verlaine(1844–1896)
Tr. JF

Lettre du Mexique
La Vera-Cruz, 10 fevrier.

“Vous m’avez confié le petit.—Il est mort.
Et plus d’un camarade avec, pauvre cher être.
L’équipage … y en a plus. Il reviendra peut-être
Quelques-uns de nous.— C’est le sort—

Rien n’est beau comme ça—Matelot—pour un homme;
Tout le monde en voudrait à terre—C’est bien sûr.
Sans le désagrément. Rien que ça: Voyez comme
Déjà l’apprentissage est dur.

Je pleure en marquant ça, moi, vieux Frère-la-cote.
J’aurais donné ma peau joliment sans façon
Pour vous le renvoyer … Moi, ce n’est pa ma faute:
Ce mal-là n’a pas de raison.

La fièvre est ici comme Mars en carême.
Au cimitière on va toucher sa ration.
Le zouave à nommé ça—Parisien quand-même—
Le jardin d’acclimatation.

Consolez-vous. Le monde y crève comme mouches.
… J’ai trouvé dans son sac des souvenirs de coeur:
Un portrait de fille, et deux petites barbouches,
Et: marqué—Cadeau pour ma soeur.—

Il fait dire à maman: qu’il a fait sa prière.
Au père: qu’il serait mieux mort dans un combat.
Deux anges étaient la sur son heure dernière:
Un matelot. Un vieux soldat.

Toulon, 24 mai

Tristan Corbière (1845–1875)

Letter from Mexico
Veracruz, February 10

“You put the kid in my care. He’s dead.
And more than one of his pals with him, poor dear soul.
The crew … there ain’t any more. A few of us,
Maybe, will get back.—It’s fate—

“Nothing as beautiful as that—Sailor—for a man,
They’d all like to be one on land—you bet.
Without the discomfort. Nothing but: You can see
How already the apprenticeship’s tough.

“I weep to be writing it, me, old Shore-Brother.
I’d gladly have given my skin, without ado,
To send him back to you … Me, it ain’t my fault:
You can’t argue with the sickness.

“The fever here is regular as Lent in March.
You go to the cemetery to get your ration.
The Zouave called it—Parisian at that—
‘The Garden of Acclimatization.’

“Console yourselves. They’re dropping off here like flies.
… I found in his satchel some souvenirs of his heart:
A girl’s picture, and two little babouches,
And: marked—Gift for my sister.”

“He wants his Mom to be told: that he said his prayers.
And his Dad: that he’d rather have died in a war.
Two angels were with him in his last hour:
A sailor. An old sailor.”

Tristan Corbière (1845–1875)

Tr. Kate Flores, in Angel Flores, ed.,
An Anthology of French Poetry from Nerval to Valéry,
rev. ed. (Doubleday Anchor Books, 1958)

To the Memory of Zulma
and twenty gold francs
wild virgin beyond the barricade

She had youth’s twenty golden years
I had the youth of twenty francs,
And we put them into the same bag,
Invested them in a joint venture
In an untrustworthy spring night.

The moon made a hole in that,
Round as a five-franc piece,
Through which our fortune ebbed…
Twenty years! twenty francs!—and the moon!

Small change, alas, those twenty francs,
And small change, too, those twenty years!
And the moon made hole upon hole
In one joint venture after another…
—It was like a joint fate.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

I found her again—many springtimes,
Many twenty years, many twenty francs,
Many holes and many moons—
Still a virgin, still only twenty
And —a colonel in the Commune.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Then later: chasing passers-by
For twenty sous, no twenty francs now…
And afterwards: a common grave,
A free night with no moon holes.

Tristan Corbière (1845–1875)

©Tr. JF

Blind Man’s Cries
To the Low Breton tune of “Ann hini goz”

The slaughtered eye’s not dead
By a beam still riveted
Without a coffin I am nailed
My eye upon the nail impaled
The nailed eye is not dead
By a brain still riveted

Deus misericors my head
Deus misericors my head
The hammer beats my head of wood
The hammer that iron shod the rood
Deus misericors my head
Deus misericors my head

Do deathmute birds feel dread
At my body overhead
Unfinished is my Cavalry
Lamma lamma sabacthami
The Doves of Death thirst red
For my body overhead

Ringed as a porthole red
The wound in my side’s bled
Like slavering gums and toothless laugh
Of some old crone upon her staff
Ringed as a porthole red
The wound in my side’s bled

I notice gold rings spread
White sun bites my head
Two holes pierce me from a blade
Hell-forged and red-hot made
I notice gold rings spread
Heaven’s fire bites my head

Out of my marrow fed
Twists a tear that’s shed
I see Paradise in this
Miserere, De profundis
Wrung from my skull-bone thread
Tears of brimstone shed

Blessèd the good and dead
The dead safe in his bed
Blessèd each martyr, chosen one,
With the Virgin and her Son
O blessed are the dead
Judged at rest in bed

A Knight sleeps like lead
No remorse in his head
In the hallowed burial ground
In his granite siesta sound
The stone man sleeps like lead
Remorseless eyes in his head

Oh still felt in my head
Armor’s yellow spread
I feel my rosary in my fingers
Christ in bone on wood lingers
I gape on you long-sped
O skies of Armor fled

Forgive the wild prayers said
Lord if it’s fate ahead
My eyes are holy water bowls
Where the devil poked his finger-holes
Forgive the cries of dread
Lord against fate ahead

I hear the north wind spread
The horn call for the dead
It is the mort of those who’re gone
In my turn I’m baying on
I hear the north wind head
Hear the horn knell spread

Tristan Corbiére (1845–1875)

Tr. Peter Dale, in Tristan Corbière, Wry-Blue Loves: Les Amours Jaunes and other poems, trans. and introd. Peter Dale (Anvil Press Poetry, 2005)


Tu dors sous les panais, capitaine Bambine
Du remorqueur havrais l’Aimable Proserpine,
Qui, vingt-huit ans, fis voir au Parisien béant,
Pour vingt sous L’OCÉAN! L’OCÉAN !! L’OCÉAN!!!

Train de plaisir au large.—on double la jetée—
En rade: y a-z-un peu d’gomme…—Une mer démontée—
Et la cargaison râle:—Ah! commandant! assez!
Assez, pour notre argent, de tempête! cessez!—

Bambine ne dit mot. Un bon coup de mer passe
Sur les infortunés:—Ah, capitaine! grâce!…
—C’est bon… si ces messieurs et dam’s ont leur content?…
C’est pas pour mon plaisir, moi, v’s’êtes mon chargement:
Pare à virer:

Malheur! le coquin de navire
Donne en grand sur un banc…—Stoppe!—Fini de rire…
Et talonne à tout rompre, et roule bord sur bord
Belayé par la lame:—à la fin, c’est trop fort!…—

Et la cargaison rend des cris…rend tout! rend l’âme.
Bambine fait les cent pas.
Un ange, une femme
Le prend:—C’est ennuyeux ça, conducteur! cessez!
Faites-moi mettre à terre, à la fin! c’est assez!—

Bambine l’élongeant d’un long regard austère:
—À terre! q’vous avez-dit?…vous avez dit: à terre…
À terre! pas dégoûtaî!…Moi-z’aussi, foi d’mat’lot,
J’voudrais ben!…attendu q’si t’-ta-l’heure l’prim’flot
Ne soulag’ pas la coque: vous et moi, mes princesses,
J’bérons ben, sauf respect, la lavure éd’nos fesses!—

Il reprit ses cent pas, tout à fait mal bordé:
—À terre!…j’crâis f…tre ben! Les femm’s!…pas dégoûté!

Tristan Corbière (1845–1875)


You’re pushing up the daisies, Captain Bambine,
Ex-the le-Havran-tug The Sweet Proserpine, keen
For twenty-eight years to offer gaping Paris a notion

Excursion train at sea.—It smoothly rounds the pier—
In the roadstead: a bit upper crust… —Seas rear.—
The cargo’s at its death rattle:— “Ah, captain, enough!
Enough; we’re had our money’s worth of this rough stuff.”—

Bambine says nothing. On the luckless ones a sea breaks:—
“Ah captain! have mercy, have mercy for our sakes!”
—“Fair-do’s…if these ladies and gents have had their share?…
It’s no pleasure of mine. You’re my shipment. Prepare
To go about!”…—

Bad luck! The rogue of a boat planks
Itself down slap on a shoal…—“Stop now! No more pranks…”
She bottoms enough to break up and rolls gunwale down,
Swept by the waves—“Give over; too much of this, clown!…”

The cargo hawks up screams…hawks everything! and spirit next.
Bambine paces to and fro.

An angel, a woman, vexed,
Collars him—“All this is irritating, driver! Drop it!
Have me put ashore. That’s enough now! Stop it!”

Bambine lay alongside her with a long hard stare:
—“Ashore? You said?…You said “Ashore”! Ashore… Spare
Me, you don’t want much!… On my word as sailor, me too.
I’d like it a lot!… since if the first breaker don’t slew

Her off, then you and me, princesses, will get,
Most likely, no disrespect, our arses swilling wet!”—

Absolutely sprung, he went on pacing to and fro:
“Ashore!… Bugger me! Women!… they don’t want much.
Oh no!”

Tristan Corbière (1845–1875)
Tr. Peter Dale, in Tristan Corbière,
Wry-Blue Loves; Les Amours Jaunes and other poems,
tr. and introd. Peter Dale (Anvil Press 2005)

La Noire

La Noire est fille du canton
Qui se fout du qu’en dira-t-on.
Nous nous foutons de ses vertus,
Puisqu’elle a les tétons pointus.
Voilà pourquoi nous chantons:
Vive la Noire et ses tétons!

Elle a deux soucils et deux yeux
Qui sont plus noirs que ses cheveux.
Dans les yeux brille un éclair blanc
Qui vout fait pétiller le sang!
Voila pourquoi nous la chantons:
Vive la Noire et ses tétons!

Son haleine, comme sa peau,
A des senteurs de fruit nouveau.
Quand on aspire, entre ses dents,
On croit respire du printemps.
Voilà pourquoi nous la chantons:
Vive la Noire et ses tétons!

La Noire n’a qu’un seul amant
Qui s’appelle le Régiment.
Et le Régiment le sait bien,
La Noire a remplacé le chien…
Voilà pourquoi nous la chantons:
Vive la Noire et ses tétons!

Frères, jurons, sur ses appas,
Que Bismarck n’y touchera pas.
Pour elle, a l’ombre du Drapeau,
Nous nous ferons crever la peau.
Voilà pourquoi nous la chantons:
Vive la Noire et ses tétons.

Aristide Bruant (1851–1925)


Blackie’s a good old country girl
Who doesn’t care what people say,
And we’re not worried about her morals.
Not with that pair of pointed tits!
And so we sing as we march along,
“Hooray for Blackie and her tits.”

She has two eyebrows and two eyes
Blacker than the black of her hair,
And flashes of lightning in her eyes
That bring your blood up to the boil.
And so we sing as we march along,
“Hooray for Blackie and her tits.”

Her breath, just like her country skin,
Has the fragrance of new fruit.
When you inhale it between her teeth,
You think you’re breathing in the spring.
And so we sing as we march along,
“Hooray for Blackie and her tits.”

Blackie has only one true love,
Her lover is the Regiment,
And the Regiment knows it well.
Blackie has become our mascot.
And so we sing as we march along,
“Hooray for Blackie and her tits.”

Comrades, we swear upon her charms,
Bismarck won’t lay a finger on her.
For her, in the shadow of the Flag,
We’ll simply bump the bastard off.
And so we sing as we march along,
“Hooray for Blackie and her tits.”

Aristide Bruant (1851–1925)
Tr. JF

A’s sont des tas

A’s sont des tas
Qu’ont plus d’appas
Et qui n’ont pas
L’sous dans leur bas.
A’s marchent l’soir,
Quand il fait noir,
Sur le trottoir.
Les ch’veux frisés,
Les seins blasés,
Les pieds usés,
Christ aux yeux doux,
Qu’es mort pour nous,
Chauff’ la terre oùs-
qu’on fait leurs trous.

Aristide Bruant (1851–1925)

They are those

They are those
Who’ve turned into hags
Not a penny
In their hose or bags
They walk at night,
When there’s no more light,
Do all the streets in sight.
Hair in a frizz of hay
Sagging breasts a-sway,
Sagging breasts a-sway,
Feet worn away.
Christ with mild eyes,
Who died for our lives,
Make the earth warm
In their last dorm.

Aristide Bruant (1851–1925)
Tr. Lisa Appignanesi

Ah ! les Salauds ! :

I's sont des tin', i's sont des tas,
Des fils de race et de rastas,
Qui descendent des vieux tableaux,
Ah ! les salauds !

I's sont presque tous décorés,
I's ont des bonn's ball's de curés,
On leur-z'y voit pus les calots,
Ah ! les salauds !

I's sont presque tous mal bâtis ;
I's ont les abattis, trop p'tits
Et des bidons comm' des ballots,
Ah ! les salauds !

Rapport que tous ces dégoûtants
I's pass'nt leur vie, i's pass'nt leur temps
A s'empiffrer des bons boulots,
Ah ! les salauds !

Le soir i's vont dans des salons,
Pour souffler dans leurs pantalons,
Oùsqu' i' s envoy'nt des trémolos,
Ah ! les salauds !

Après i's s'en vont vadrouiller
Picter, pinter, boustifailler,
Et pomper à tous les goulots,
Ah ! les salauds !

Ensuite i's vont dans les endroits
Oùsqu' i' va les ducs et les rois,
Là où qu' y a qu' les volets d' clos,
Ah ! les salauds !

Quand on les rapporte, l' matin,
I's sent'nt la vinasse et l' crottin
Qu'i's ont bu' dans les caboulots,
Ah ! les salauds !

Eh bien ! c'est tous ces cochons-là
Qui font des magn' et du flafla
Et c'est nous qu' i's appell'nt soulauds,
Ah ! les salauds !

I's sont des tin', i's sont des tas,
Des fils de race et de rastas,
Qui descendent des vieux tableaux,
Ah ! les salauds !

Aristide Bruant (1851–1925)

Oh, the bastards!

They’ve real shithouse and dungheap souls,
With stale old blood or shyster dads,
And snooty old hags on family walls,
Oh, the bastards!

They almost all have honours ribbons
And prissy mugs like country priests,
They never did any barracks time,
Oh, the jerks!

Almost all have puny builds,
With darling little hands and feet,
And bellies popping out like bags,
Oh, the wankers!

Word has it that these repulsive types
Single-mindedly spend their days
Jockeying for status at the trough,
Oh, the swine!

At night they do their salon time,
Breaking wind in their fancy pants,
With tremolos like muted horns,
Oh, the oafs!

After which they’re off on a spree,
Stuffing themselves voraciously,
Sucking it up from all the bottles,
Oh, the scumbags!

And then they’re into curious holes,
Cheek by jowl with dukes and kings
Behind the shutters of bordellos,
Oh, the lowlifes!

Next day while being driven home,
Their mouths still taste the pisspot wine
Which they were swilling in the dives,
Oh, the rotters!

So, then, it’s absolute swine like these,
Poncing around all la-di-da.
Who have the gall to call us drunkards?
Oh, the slimeballs!

They’ve real shithouse and dungheap souls,
With stale old blood or shyster dads,
And snooty old hags on family walls,
Oh, the bastards!

Aristide Bruant (1851–1925)
Tr. JF

Fantaisie triste

I' bruinait… L'temps était gris,
On n'voyait pus l'ciel… L'atmosphère,
Semblant suer au d'ssus d'Paris,
Tombait en bué' su' la terre.

I' soufflait quéqu'chose… on n'sait d'où,
C'était ni du vent ni d'la bise,
Ça glissait entre l'col et l'cou
Et ça glaçait sous not' chemise.

Nous marchions d'vant nous, dans l'brouillard,
On distinguait des gens maussades,
Nous, nous suivions un corbillard
Emportant l'un d'nos camarades.

Bon Dieu ! qu'ça faisait froid dans l'dos !
Et pis c'est qu'on n'allait pas vite
La moell' se figeait dans les os,
Ça puait l'rhume et la bronchite.

Dans l'air y avait pas un moineau,
Pas un pinson, pas un' colombe,
Le long des pierr' i' coulait d'l'eau,
Et ces pierr's-là… c'était sa tombe.

Et je m'disais, pensant à lui
Qu' j'avais vu rire au mois d'septembre
Bon Dieu ! qu'il aura froid c'tte nuit !
C'est triste d'mourir en décembre.

Aristide Bruant (1851–1925)

Sad Notion

It drizzled, weather grey on grey,
No glimpse of sky… The atmosphere,
Oozing out above the City,
Fell in a mist on where we were.

Something was blowing, no direction,
Not North, not a familiar kind.
It slithered between neck and collar
And turned to ice upon our shirts.

We plodded onward through the fog,
Just making out other gloomy forms,
We were following behind a hearse
Bearing a departed friend.

Christ! how cold your back became,
Made worse because of the slow pace;
The marrow clotted in your bones,
Colds and bronchitis fouled the air.

There wasn’t a sparrow anywhere,
Not a chaffinch, not a dove;
Water was running down the tombs,
And over there—that one was his.

And I told myself, thinking about him,
Whom I’d seen laughing in September,
Christ, how cold he’d be tonight!
It’s sad dying in December.

Aristide Bruant (1851–1925)
Tr. JF

After Trinity

We have done with dogma and divinity
Easter and Whitsun past,
The long, long Sundays after Trinity
Are with us at last;
The passionless Sundays after Trinity,
Neither feast-day nor fast.

Christmas comes with plenty,
Lent spreads out its pall,
But these are five and twenty,
The longest Sundays of all;
The placid Sundays after Trinity,
Wheat-harvest, fruit-harvest, Fall.

Spring with its burst is over,
Summer has had its day,
The scented grasses and clover
Are cut, and dried into hay;
The singing-birds are silent,
And the swallows flown away.

Post pugnam pausa fiet;
Lord, we have made our choice;
In the stillness of autumn quiet,
We have heard the still, small voice.
We have sung Oh where shall Wisdom?
Thick paper, folio, Boyce.

Let it not all be sadness,
Nor omnia vanitas,
Stir up a little gladness
To lighten the Tibi cras;
Send us that little summer
That comes with Martinmas.

When still the cloudlet dapples
The windless cobalt-blue,
And the scent of gathered apples
Fills all the store-rooms through,
The gossamer silvers the bramble,
The lawns are gemmed with dew.

And end of tombstone Latinity,
Stir up with sober mirth,
Twenty-fifth after Trinity,
Kneel with the listening earth,
Behind the Advent trumpets
They are singing Emmanuel’s birth.

John Meade Falkner (1858–1922)

Ballade of Return

Time stows September in his sack,
Goodbye to cloudless summer mornings!
Waiting, Winter coughs and shivers
Inside his overcoat of snow.
When the casinos have put on
Their final café-concert shows,
The beach is melancholy indeed!
Come back to us, you Paris girls.

Always the sobbing ocean breaking
Against the irritated groyns,
The winds of autumn muttering
Ad nauseam their lamentations,
A sky perpetually grey,
Rain pouring down torrentially,
It really isn’t very gay!
Come back to us, you Paris girls.

Whoops! the train whistles and jolts, you’re off.
Ahead awaits enchanted Paris
And all its winter-long delights,
The opera, the bouquets, the tea-hours,
Oh, all the thrills of worldliness.
Let’s go. Open again the shutters
Of the deserted sad hotel!
Come back to us, you Paris girls.

Queens of gracefulness and beauty,
Come, you delicate enchanters.
Resume your proper regal sway:
Come back to us, you Paris girls.

Jules Laforgue (1860–1887)
Tr. JF

Lament of Pianos Overheard in Wealthy Neighbourhoods

Pianos, pianos in wealthy neighborhoods
Tug at a soul nourished by Literature.
First spring nights, no topcoat, chaste strolls,
To the tune of nerves misunderstood or shot.

These children, what are they dreaming of,
Playing those boring ritournellos?

—“Evening schoolyard confidences,
Bare Christs on dormitory walls!

“You go away and you leave us,
You leave us and you go away.
Putting up and letting down our hair,
Doing endless embroideries.”

Pretty or bland? Sad or sensible? Still pure?
Days, it’s all one to me? Or World, I want you now?
And if still virgins, at least as to The Wound,
Knowing what beddings are lily-white at confession?

Good Lord, what do they dream about?
Gallant knights? Expensive lace?

—“Hearts in prison,
Sluggish seasons!

“You go away and you leave us,
You leave us and you go away,
Grey convents, Sulamites yearning in chorus,
Arms crossed over our little breasts.”

With Nature’s spigot turned one fatal day,
Hey, physiology and its peculiar ferments,
In the unending ball of our strange streets:
Boarding-schools, theatres, newspapers, novels.

Goodbye, sterile ritournellos,
Life is real and criminal.

—“Cubicle curtains …
May one come in …?

“You go away and you leave us,
You leave us and you go away.
Maidenly rose blushes fade,
Truly! And when is he coming … ?

He’ll come. And some of you will feel, poor dears,
Always as if failing test after test,
While others complacently want nothing more
Than the daily round of snobbery and couture.

Bored to death? Embroidering suspenders
For a rich uncle with a dowry?

—“Never! Never!
If you only knew! …

“You go away and you leave us,
You leave us and you go away,
But you’ll really come back soon
To take care of my problem—won’t you?”

And it’s true, the Ideal drives them crazy,
That bohemian vine, even in wealthy quarters.
Life’s there; the intoxicating flask
Will be (of course) diluted with clean water.

Also, they’ll soon be playing
More precise ritournellos.

—“A solitary pillow,
A too-familiar bedroom wall.

You go away and you leave us,
You leave us and you go away.
Why didn’t I die at Mass?
O months, O underwear, O meals!”

Jules Laforgue (1860–1887)
Tr. JF

Complainte du Pauvre Corps Humain

L’Homme et sa compagne sont serfs
De corps, tourbillonnants cloaques
Aux mailes de harpes de nerfs
Serves de tout et que détraque
Un fier répertoire d’attaques

Voyez l’homme, voyez!
Si ça n’fait pas pitié!

Propre et correct en ses ressorts
S’asasisonnant de modes vaines,
Il s’admire, ce brave corps,
Et s’endimanche pour sa peine,
Quand il a bien sué la semaine.

Et sa compagne! Allons,
Ma bell’, nous nous valons.

Faudrait le voir, touchant et nu
Dans un décor d’oiseaux, de roses;
Ses tics reflexes d’ingénu,
Son plis pris de mondaines poses;
Bref, sur beau fond vert, sa chlorose.

Voyez l’Homme, voyez!
Si ça n’fait pas pitié.

Les Vertus et les Voluptés
Détraquant d’un rien sa machine,
Il ne vit que pour disputer
Ce domaine à rentes divines
Aux lois de mort que le paquinent:

Et sa compagne! Allons,
Ma bell’, nous nous valons.

Il se soutient de mets pleins d’art,
Se drogue, se tond, se parfume,
Se truffe tant, qu’il meurt trop tard;
Et la cuisine se résume
En mille infections posthume.

Oh! ce coute, voyez!
Non, ça fait trop pitié.

Mais ce microbe subversif
Ne compte pas pour la Substance,
Dont les deluges corrosifs
Renoient vite pour l’Innocence
Ces fols germes de conscience.

Nature est sans pitié
Pour son petit dernier.

Jules Laforgue (1860–1887)

Complaint Concerning the Poor Human Body

Man and his wife: to the body
Slaves, whirlpooling sewers
Webbed with harp-string nerves,
Serfs to all and jumping their tracks
Under miscellaneous attacks.

That’s man, all right!
Sorry sight!

Proper and sure in its reactions,
Sparked with the latest chic,
This body’s proud of its attractions,
Eager to dress up Sunday sleek
When it has sweated out the week.

And his wife! between us two,
Girl, either will do.

You should see it, touching and nude,
In a decor of birds and roses,
Ingenuous reflexes, its tics,
Gestures copied from worldly poses,
On a green background, jaundice-hued.

That’s man, all right!
Sorry sight!

Virtuous and voluptuous Vice
Are poisonous to his machine,
Living only for the fight
Between its divinely established domain
And the death-clause fingering its brain.

And his wife! between us two,
Girl, either will do

Supported by artistic corrections,
Drugs, hairdressers, perfumes,
It stuffs itself for a belated defection;
And then the cooking resumes
In a thousand posthumous infections.

Oh! look at this pair!
No, a pitiful affair.

But that brief subversive microbe
Doesn’t matter to the Whole
Whose corrosive inundations
Drown quickly again for Innocence
Those crazy sprouts of cerebration.

Nature has only scorn
For her last-born.

Jules Laforgue (1860–1887)
Tr. Patricia Terry, in Essential Poems and Prose of Jules Laforgue,
trans. and introd. Patricia Terry (Black Widow Press, 2010).

Lament about Forgetting the Dead

Ladies and gents,
Whose mother’s dead,
That’s the old gravedigger
Scratching at your door.

The dead
Are under the ground;
They hardly ever
Come out.

You’re smoking into your beer,
You’re winding up an affair,
Out there the cock’s crowing,
The poor dead, away in the country.

Grandpa sat bent,
Finger to temple,
Sister was crocheting,
Mama was trimming the lamp.

The dead
Are discreet,
They sleep a lot,
In the cooler.

You had a good dinner?
How did the affair go?
Ah well, the still-born
Don’t require TLC.

Make a precise entry
In the account-book
Between a couple of dances:
Mass and upkeep of tomb.

It’s gay,
This life;
Eh, sweetie?

Ladies and gents,
Whose sister’s dead,
Open up to the gravedigger,
Knocking on your door.

If you don’t pity him
He’ll come (no hard feelings)
And drag you off by your feet
One night when the moon’s full.

Importunate wind
Raging away!
The deceased?
They get around…

Jules Laforgue (1860–1887)
Tr. JF

Complainte de l’Époux Outragé

Sur l’air populaire:
« Qu’allais-tu faire à la fontaine ? »

—Qu’alliez-vous faire à la Mad’leine,
Corbleu, ma moitié.
Qu’alliez-vous faire à la Mad’leine ?

—J’allais prier pour qu’un fils nous vienne,
Mon Dieu, mon ami;
J’allais prier pour qu’un fils nous vienne.

—Vous vous teniez dans un coin, debout,
Corbleu, ma moitié!
Vous vous teniez dans un coin debout.

—Pas d’chaise économis’ trois sous,
Mon Dieu, mon ami;
Pas d’chaise économis’ trois sous.

—D’un officier, j’ai vu la tournure,
Corbleu, ma moitié!
D’un officier, j’ai vu la tournure.

—C’était ce Christ grandeur nature,
Mon Dieu, mon ami;
C’était ce Christ grandeur nature.

—Les Christs n’ont pas la croix d’honneur,
Corbleu, ma moitié!
Les Christs n’ont pas la croix d’honneur.

—C’était la plaie du Calvaire au cœur.
Mon Dieu, mon ami;
C’était la plaie du Calvaire, au Coeur.

—Les Christs n’ont qu’au flanc seul la plaie,
Corbleu, ma moitié!
Les Christs n’ont qu’au flanc seul la plaie!

—C’était une goutte envolée,
Mon Dieu, mon ami;
C’était une goutte envolée.

—Aux Crucifix on n’ parl’ jamais,
Corbleu, ma moitié!
Aux Crucifix on n’ parl’ jamais!

—C’était du trop d’amour qu’j'avais,
Mon Dieu, mon ami,
C’était du trop d’amour qu’j'avais!

—Et moi j’te brûl’rai la cervelle,
Corbleu, ma moitié,
Et moi j’te brûl’rai la cervelle!

—Lui, il aura mon âme immortelle,
Mon Dieu, mon ami,
Lui, il aura mon âme immortelle!

Jules Laforgue (1860–1887)

Complaint of the Outraged Husband

On the popular tune:
“Qu’allais-tu faire à la fontaine?”

—Why did you go to the church today,
By God! spouse,
Why did you go to the church today?

—That we’d have a son I went to pray,
Really, my dear,
That we’d have a son I went to pray.

—You were standing in a corner there,
By God! spouse,
You were standing in a corner there.

—It costs three cents to have a chair,
Really, my dear;
It costs three cents to have a chair.

—I saw an officer, tall and lean,
By God! spouse,
I saw an officer, tall and lean.

—It was the life-size Christ you mean,
Really, my dear,
It was the life-size Christ you mean.

—Christs don’t wear the Silver Star,
By God, spouse!
Christs don’t wear the Silver Star!

—Of Calvary it was a scar,
Really, my dear;
Of Calvary it was a scar.

—The wound of Christ is in His side,
By God, spouse!
The wound of Christ is in His side

—On His heart a drop of blood had dried,
Really, my dear;
On His heart a drop of blood had dried.

—Who ever talks to the Crucifix,
By God, spouse!
Who ever talks to the Crucifix?

—Too much love made me prolix,
Really, my dear,
Too much love made me prolix!

—Through your head I’ll drill a hole,
By God, spouse,
Through your head I’ll drill a hole!

—Then He’ll have my immortal soul,
Really, my dear,
Then He’ll have my immortal soul!

Jules Laforgue (1860–1887)
Tr. Patricia Terry, in Essential Poems and Prose of Jules Laforgue,
trans. and introd. Patricia Terry (Black Widow Press, 2010).


(Scene courte mais typiqus)

Il me faut vos yeux! Des que je perds leur étoile,
Le mal des calmes plats s’engouffre dans ma voile,
Le frisson du Vae soli ! gargouille en mes moelles.

Vous auriez du me voir après cette querelle!
J’errais dans l’agitation la plus cruelle,
Criant au murs: Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! Que dira-t-elles?

Mais aussi, vrai, vous me blessâtes aux antennes
De l’âme, avec les mensonges de votre traine,
En votre tas de complications mondaines.

Je voyais que vos yeux me lançaient sur les pistes,
Je songeais: oui, divins, ces yeux! mais rien n’existe
Derrière! Son âme est affaire d’oculiste.

Moi, je suis laminé d’esthétiques loyales!
Je hais les trémolos, les phrases nationales;
Bref, le violet gros deuil est ma couleur locale.

Je ne suis point “ce gaillard-la” ni Le Superbe!
Mais mon âme, qu’un cri un peu crus exacerbe,
Est au fond distinguée et franche comme une herbe.

J’ai des nerfs encor sensible au son des cloches,
Et je vais en plein air sans peur et sans reproche,
Sans jamais me sourire en un miroir de poche

C’est vrai, j’ai bien roulé! J’ai râlé dans des gîtes
Peu vous, mais, n’en ai-je plus de mérite
A en avoir sauvé le foi en vos yeux? dites …
—Allons, faisons la paix, Venez, que je vous berce,
Enfant. Eh bien?
—C’est que, votre pardon me verse
Un mélange (confus) d’impressions … diverses …


Jules Laforgue (1860–1887)


From the French of Jules Laforgue
(Scene courte mais typique)

Your eyes! Since I lost their incandescence
Flat calm engulphs my jibs,
The shudder of Vae soli gurgles beneath my ribs.

You should have seen me after the affray,
I rushed about in the most agitated way
Crying: My God, my God, what will she say?!

My soul’s antennae are prey to such perturbations,
Wounded by your indirectness in these situations
And your bundle of mundane complications.

Your eyes put me up to it.
I thought: Yes, divine, these eyes, but what exists
Behind them? What’s there? Her soul’s an affair for oculists.

And I am sliced with loyal aesthetics.
Hate tremolos and national frenetics.
In brief, violet is the ground tone of my phonetics.

I’m not “that chap there” nor yet “The Superb”
But my soul, the sort which harsh sounds disturb,
Is, at bottom, distinguished and fresh as a March herb.

My nerves still register the sounds of contra-bass,
I can walk about without fidgeting when people pass,
Without smirking into a pocket looking-glass.

Yes, I have rubbed shoulders and knocked off my chips
Outside your set but, having kept faith in your eyes,
You might pardon such slips.
Eh, make it up?
Soothings, confessions:
These new concessions
Hurl me into such a mass of divergent impressions.

Jules Laforgue (1860–1887)
Tr. Ezra Pound, 1917

The Approach of Winter

Blockade of the senses! Mail steamers from the Levant! …
O downpour of rain! O downpour of night,
O! the wind!
All Hallows Eve, Christmas, and the New Year,
Oh, in the drizzling, all my chimneys! …
Of factories …

It is impossible to sit down any more, all the benches are wet,
Believe me, everything is over until next year,
All the benches are wet, the woods are so mildewed,
And the horns have so many times sounded your note, your sound of ton and taine! …

Ah! storm clouds flocking here from the shores of the Channel,
You have spoiled our last Sunday.

It drizzles.
In the wet forest, spider webs
Bend under the drops of water, and it is their ruin.

Plenipotentiary suns panning the golden river-sands
Of country fairs
Where are you buried?
This evening a wretched sun lies helpless at the top of the slope,
Lies on the hillside, in the broom, on his cloak.
A sun white as spittle on a barroom floor
Lies on a litter of yellow broom,
The yellow broom-flowers of Autumn.
And the horns call him!
May he come back …
May he come to himself again!
Tallyho! Tallyho! And the horn at the kill.
O sad refrain, are you done?
And they fool around!…
And he lies there, the sun, like a gland torn out of a neck,
And he shivers, without a friend! …

Forward, forward, and the horn at the kill!
It is familiar Winter blowing in;
Oh! the turnings, the bends of the highroads,
And without Little Red Riding Hood making her way!
Oh! their ruts from the wagons of another month,
Ascending like don-quixotic rails
Towards the patrols of fleeing storm clouds
Which the wind thrusts towards the transatlantic sheep-folds! …
Let us hasten, hasten, it is the familiar season, this time.

And the wind, this night, has made beautiful clouds!
O havoc, O nests, O modest little gardens!
My heart and my drowsiness: O echoes of axes!

All those branches still had their green leaves.
The underbrush is now nothing but a midden of dead leaves;
Leaves, leaves, may a fair wind carry you away
In swarms towards the ponds,
Or for the gamekeeper’s fire,
Or for the mattresses of ambulances for soldiers far from France.

It is the season, it is the season, rust spreads over the masses,
Rust gnaws in their kilometric spleens
The telegraph wires on the highroads where no-one comes.

The horns, the horns, the horns—melancholy!…
Melancholy! …
They depart, changing their tone,
Changing their tone and their music,
Your note, your sound of ton and taine and ton!…
The horns, the horns, the horns!…
Have departed with the north wind.

I cannot leave this tone; such echoes!…
It is the season, it is the season, the grape harvest is over! …
Here come the rains with their angels’ patience,
The business is over and done with, farewell,
Grape harvests and all the baskets,
All the Watteau baskets of the peasant dances under the chestnut trees,
It is the coughing in high-school dormitories which returns,
It is herb tea without a hearth, far from home,
Pulmonary consumption saddening the neighborhood,
And all the misery concentrated in great cities.

But, woolens, rubber overshoes, pharmacy, dream,
Parted curtains on balconies high up above the riverbanks
Facing the sea of roofs of the quarters of the city,
Lamps, engravings, tea, petits fours
(Oh! and then, are you versed in, beside the plants,
The sober and vespertime weekly mystery
Of the sanitation statistics
In the newspapers?)

No, no! it is the queer season of the planet!
May the south wind, may the south wind
Unravel the old slippers which Time knits!
It is the season, oh heartbreaks! It is the season1
Every season, every year,
In chorus I will try to give it its due.

Jules Laforgue (1860–1887)
Tr. Joseph Bennett, in Angel Flores, ed., An Anthology of French Poetry from Nerval to Valéry, rev. ed. (Doubleday Anchor Books, 1958)

Chanson sans Paroles

In the deep violet air,
Not a leaf is stirred;
There is no sound heard,
But afar, the rare
Trilled voice of a bird.

Is the wood’s deep heart,
And the fragrant pine,
Incense, and a shrine
Of her coming? Apart,
I wait for a sign.

What the sudden hush said,
She will hear, and forsake,
Swift, for my sake,
Her green, grassy bed:
She will hear and awake!

She will hearken and glide,
From her place of deep rest,
Dove-eyed, with the breast
Of a dove, to my side:
The pines bow their crest.

I wait for a sign:
The leaves to be waved,
The tall tree-tops laved
In a flood of sunshine,
This world to be saved!

In the deep violet air,
Not a leaf is stirred;
There is no sound heard,
But afar, the rare
Trilled voice of a bird.

Ernest Dowson (1867–1900)


My life is like a music hall
Where, in the impotence of rage,
Chained by enchantment to my stall,
I see myself upon the stage
Dance to amuse a music-hall.

‘Tis I that smoke this cigarette,
Lounge here, and laugh for vacancy,
And watch the dancers turn, and yet
It is my very self I see
Across the cloudy cigarette,

My very self that turns and trips,
Painted, pathetically gay,
An empty song upon the lips
In make-believe of holiday:
I, I this thing that turns and trips!

The light flares in the music hall,
The light, the sound, that weary us;
Hour follows hour, I count them all,
Lagging, and loud, and riotous:
My life is like a music-hall.

Arthur Symons (1865–1945)


Beloved, may your sleep be sound
That have found it where you fed.
What were all the world’s alarms
To mighty Paris when he found
Sleep upon a golden bed
That first dawn in Helen’s arms?

Sleep, beloved, such a sleep
As did that wild Tristram know
When, the potion’s work being done,
Roe could run or doe could leap
Under oak and beechen bough,
Roe could leap or doe could run;

Such a sleep and sound as fell
Upon Eurotas’ grassy bank
When the holy bird, that there
Accomplished his predestined will,
From the limbs of Leda sank
But not from her protecting care.

W.B. Yeats (1865–1939)

John Kinsella’s Lament for Mrs. Mary Moore

A bloody and a sudden end,
Gunshot or a noose,
For Death who takes what man would keep,
Leaves what man would lose.
He might have had my sister,
My cousins by the score,
But nothing satisfied the fool
But my dear Mary Moore,
None other knows what pleasures man
At table or in bed
What shall I do for pretty girls
Now my old bawd is dead?

Though stiff to strike a bargain,
Like an old Jew man,
Her bargain struck we laughed and talked
And emptied many a can;
And O! but she had stories,
Though not for the priest’s ear,
To keep the soul of man alive,
Banish age and care,
And being old she put a skin
On everything she said.
What shall I do for pretty girls
Now my old bawd is dead?

The priests have got a book that says
But for Adam’s sin
Eden’s Garden would be there
And I there within.
No expectation fails there,
No pleasing habit ends.
No man grows old, no girl grows cold,
But friends walk by friends.
Who quarrels over halfpennies
That plucks the trees for bread?
What shall I do for pretty girls
Now my old bawd is dead?

W.B. Yeats (1865–1939)


Mishka is poet among the beasts.
When roots are rotten, and rivers weep,
The bear is at play in the land of sleep.
Though his head be heavy between his fists,
The bear is poet among the beasts.


Wide and large are the monster’s eyes,
Nought saying, save one word alone:
Mishka! Mishka, as turned to stone,
Hears no word else, nor in anywise
Can see aught save the monster’s eyes.

Honey is under the monster’s lips;
And Mishka follows into her lair,
Dragged in the net of her yellow hair,
Knowing all things when honey drips
On his tongue like rain, the song of the hips

Of the honey-child, and of each twin mound.
Mishka! There screamed a far bird-note,
Deep in the sky, when round his throat
The triple coil of her hair she wound,
And stroked his limbs with a humming sound.

Mishka is white like a hunter’s son;
For he knows no more of the ancient south
When the honey-child’s lips are on his mouth,
When all her kisses are joined in one,
And his body is bathed in grass and sun.

The shadows lie mauven beneath the trees,
And purple stains where the finches pass,
Leap in the stalks of the deep, rank grass.
Flutter of wing, and the buzz of bees,
Deepen the silence, and sweeten ease.

The honey-child is an olive tree,
The voice of birds and the voice of flowers,
Each of them all and all the hours.
The honey-child is a wingèd bee,
Her touch is a perfume, a melody.

John Gray (1866–1934)

Il va neiger…

Il va neiger dans quelques jours. Je me souviens
de l’an dernier. Je m’en souviens de mes tristesses
au coin du feu. Si l’on m’avait demandé: qu’est-ce?
J’aurais dit: laissez-moi tranquille. ce n’est rien.

J’ai bien réfléchi, l’année avant, dans ma chambre,
pendant que la neige lourde tombait dehors.
J’ai réfléchi pour rien. A présent comme alors
je fume une pipe en bois avec un bout d’ambre.

Ma vieille commode en chêne sent toujours bien.
Mais moi, j’étais bête parce que ces choses
ne pouvaient pas changer et que c’est une pose
de vouloir chasser les choses que nous savons.

Pourquoi donc pensons-nous et parlons-nous? C’est drôle,
nos larmes et nos baisers, eux, ne parlent pas,
et cependant nous les comprenons, et les pas
d’un ami sont plus doux que de douces paroles.

On a baptisé les étoiles sans penser
qu’elles n’avaient pas besoin de nom et les nombres
qui preuvent que les belles comètes dans l’ombre
passeront, ne les forceront pas à passer.

Et maintenant même, ou sont les vieilles tristesses
de l’an dernier? A peine si je m’en souviens.
Je dirais: Laissez-moi tranquille, ce n’est rien,
si dans ma chambre on venait me demander: qu’est-ce?

Francis Jammes (1868–1938)

It’s going to snow…

It’s going to snow in a few days. I remember
the previous year. I remember my unhappiness
beside the fire. If someone had asked, ”What is it?”
I’d have said, “Don’t worry. It’s nothing.”

I thought a lot last year, up in my room,
while the heavy snow was falling outside.
Nothing came of it. Now, like then,
I smoke a wooden pipe with an amber mouthpiece.

My old oak chest-of-drawers always smells good.
But I was being stupid, because things
couldn’t change, and it’s make-believe
to want to drive away the things that we know.

So why do we think and talk? It’s curious;
our tears and our kisses, they don’t talk,
and we understand them all the same, and the footsteps
of a friend are sweeter than sweet words.

We’ve christened the stars without considering
that they’re not in need of names, and the numbers
that prove that the lovely comets out in the dark
will miss us, won’t make them pass by.

And even now, where are my old unhappinesses
from last year? I can hardly remember them.
I’d say, “Don’t worry. It’s nothing,”
if someone came to my room to ask, “What is it?”

Francis Jammes (1868–1938)
Tr. JF

J’aime dans les temps…

J’aime dans les temps Clara d’Ellébeuse,
l’écolière des anciens pensionnats,
qui allait, les soirs chauds, sous les tilleuls
lire les magazines d’autrefois.

Je n’aime qu’elle, et je sens sur mon coeur
la lumière bleue de sa gorge blanche.
Où est-elle? où était donc ce bonheur?
Dans sa chambre claire il entrait des branches.

Elle n’est peut-être pas encore morte
—ou peut-être que nous l’étions tous deux.
La grande cour avait des feuilles mortes
dans le vent froid des fins d’Eté trés vieux.

Te souviens-tu de ces plumes de paon,
dans un grand vase, auprès de coquillages?…
on apprenait qu’on avait fait naufrage,
on appelait Terre-Neuve: le Banc.

Viens, viens ma chère Clara d’Ellebeuse;
Aimions-nous encore, si tu existes.
Le vieux jardin a de vieilles tulipes.
Viens toute nue, ô Clara d’Ellebeuse.

Francis Jammes (1868–1938)

La jeune fille …

La jeune fille est blanche,
elle a des veines vertes
au poignets, dans sa manches

On ne sait pas pourquoi
elle rit. Par moment
elle crie et cela
est perçant.

Est-ce qu’elle se doute
qu’elle vous prend le coeur
en cuillant sur la route
des fleurs?

On dirait quelquefois
qu’elle comprend des choses.
Par toujours. Elle cause
tout bas.

“Oh! ma chère! oh! là là…
je l’ai vu…j’ai rri.” Elle dit
comme ça.

Quand un jeume homme souffre,
d’abord elle se tait
et ne rit plus, tout

Dans les petits chemins
elle remplit ses mains
des piquants de bruyères,
de fougères.

Elle est grande, elle est blanche,
elle a des bras tres doux.
Elle est très droite et penche
le cou.

Francis Jammes (1868–1938)

The young girl…

The young girl is white,
she has blue veins
on her wrists, in her open

You don’t know why
she laughs. For a moment
she cries, and that
is piercing.

Is it that she doubts
that she captivates you
while picking flowers
along the road?

Sometimes you’d think
that she understands things.
Not always. She speaks

“Oh my dear! oh! la! la!
… Just imagine … Tuesday
I saw … I tried…” She talks
like that.

When a young man’s suffering,
at first she’s silent
and doesn’t laugh at all, quite

On the back roads
she fills her hands
with prickly heather,
and ferns.

She’s tall, she’s fair-skinned,
she has very soft arms.
She stands straight and bends
her neck.

Francis Jammes (1868–1938)
Tr. JF


Your birds that call from tree to tree
Just overhead, and whirl and dart,
Your breeze fresh-blowing from the sea,
And your sea singing on, Sweetheart.

Your salt scent on the thin sharp air
Of this grey dawn’s first drowsy hours,
While on the grass shines everywhere
The yellow sunlight of your flowers.

At the road’s end your strip of blue
Beyond that line of naked trees—
Strange that we should remember you
As if you would remember these!

As if your spirit, swaying yet
To the old passions, were not free
Of Spring’s wild magic, and the fret
Of the wilder wooing of the sea!

What threat of old imaginings,
Half-haunted joy, enchanted pain,
Or dread of unfamiliar things
Should ever trouble you again?

Yet you would wake and want, you said,
The little whirr of wings, the clear
Gay notes, the wind, the golden bed
Of the daffodil: and they are here!

Just overhead, they whirl and dart
Your birds that call from tree to tree,
Your sea is singing on—Sweetheart,
Your breeze is blowing from the sea.

Beyond the line of naked trees
At the road’s end, your stretch of blue—
Strange if you should remember these
As we, ah! God! Remember you.

Charlotte Mew (1869–1928)

The Three Musicians

Along the path that skirts the wood,
The three musicians wend their way,
Pleased with their thoughts, each other’s mood,
Franz Himmel’s latest roundelay,
The morning’s work, a new-found theme, their breakfast and the summer day.

One’s a soprano, lightly decked
In cool white muslin that just shows
Her brown silk stockings gaily clocked,
Plump arms and elbows tipped with rose,
And frills of petticoats and things, and outlines as the warm wind blows.

Beside her a slim, gracious boy
Hastens to mend her tresses fall,
And dies her favour to enjoy,
And dies for réclame and recall
At Paris and St Petersburg, Vienna and St James’s Hall.

The third’s a Polish Pianist
With big engagements everywhere,
A light heart and an iron wrist,
And shocks and shoals of yellow hair,
And fingers that can trill on sixths and fill beginners with despair.

The three musicians stroll along
And pluck the ears of ripened corn,
Break into odds and ends of song,
And mock the woods with Siegfried’s horn,
And fill the air with Gluck, and fill the tweeded tourist’s soul with scorn.

The Polish genius lags behind,
And, with some poppies in his hand,
Picks out the strings and wood and wind
Of an imaginary band,
Enchanted that for once his men obey his beat and understand.

The charming cantatrice reclines
And rests a moment where she sees
Her château’s roof that hotly shines
Amid the dusky summer trees,
And fans herself, half shuts her eyes, and smoothes the frock about her knees.

The gracious boy is at her feet,
And weighs his courage with his chance;
His fears soon melt in noonday heat.
The tourist gives a furious glance,
Red as his guidebook grows, moves on, and offers up a prayer for France.

Aubrey Beardsley (1872–1898)

St. Louis Blues

I hate to see de ev’nin’ sun go down,
Hate to see de ev’nin’ sun go down.
‘’Cause my baby, he done lef dis town.

Feelin’ tomorrow lak ah feel today,
Feel tomorrow lak ah feel toay,
I’ll pack my trunk, make my getaway.

St. Lous woman, wid her diamon’ rings,
Pulls dat man roun’ by her apron strings.
’Twasn’t for powder an’ her store-bought hair,
De man ah love would not have gone nowhere.

Got de St. Louis Blues jes as blue as ah can be,
Dat man gt a heart lak a rock cast in the sea,
Or else he wouldn’t have gone so far from me.

Been to de Gypsy to get mah fortune tole,
To de Gypsy done got ma fortune tole,
‘Cause I’m most wile ‘bout my Jelly Roll.

Gypsy done tole me, “Don’t you wear no black.”
Yes she done tole me, “Don’t you wear no black,
Go to St. Louis. You can win him back.”

Help me to Cairo, make St. Louis by myself,
Git to Cairo, find me my ole friend Jeff.
Gwin to pin maself close to his side,
If ah flag his train, I sho’ can ride.

I loves dat man lak a schoolboy loves his pie,
Lak a Kentucky Col’nel loves his mint an’ rye,
I’ll love ma baby till the day ah die.

You ought to see dat stovepipe brown of mine,
Lak he owns de Dimon Joseph line,
He’d make a cross-eyed ’oman go stone blin’.

Blacker than midnight, teeth lak flags of truce,
Blackest man in de whole St. Louis,
Blacker de berry, sweeter am de juice.

About a crap game, he knows a pow’ful lot,
But when work-time comes, he’s on de dot.
Gwine to ask him for a cold ten-spot,
What it takes to get it, he’s cert’nly got.

A black-headed gal makes a freight train jump the track,
Said a black-headed gal makes a freight train jump the track,
But a long tall gal makes a preacher ball the jack.

Lawd, a blonde-headed woman makes a good man leave the town,
I said blonde-headed woman makes a good man leave the town,
But a red-headed woman makes a boy slap his papa down.

Oh ashes to ashes and dust to dust,
I said ashes to ashes and dust to dust,
If ma blues don’t get you my jazzing must.

William Handy (1873–1958)

Loveless Love

Love is like a gold brick in a bunco game,
Like a banknote with a bogus name,
Both have caused many downfalls
Love has done the same.
Love has for its emblem Cupid with his bow,
Loveless love has lots and lots of dough,
So carry lots of jack and pick ‘’em as you go.

For Love, oh love, oh loveless love
Has set our hearts on goalless goals,
From milk-less milk, and silkless silk
We are growing used to soul-less souls.
Such grafting times we never saw,
That’s why we have a pure food law,
In everything we find a flaw,
Even love, oh love, oh loveless love.

Love is like a hydrant, it turns off and on,
Like some friendships when your money’s gone,
Love stands in with the loan sharks when your heart’s in pawn.
If I had some strong wings like an aeroplane,
Had some broad wings like an aeroplane,
I would fly away for ever, never to come again.

For Love, oh love, oh loveless love,
You set our hearts on goalless goals
With dreamless dreams and scheme-less schemes,
We wreck our love boats on the shoals.
We S.O.S. by wireless wire,
And in the wreckage of desire,
We sigh for wings like Noah’s dove
Just to fly away from loveless love.

William Handy (1873–1958)

The Most of It

He thought he kept the universe alone;
For all the voice in answer he could wake
Was but the mocking echo of his own
From some tree-hidden cliff across the lake.
Some morning from the boulder-broken beach
He would cry out on life, that what it wants
Is not its own love back in copy speech,
But counter-love, original response.
And nothing ever came of what he cried
Unless it was the embodiment that crashed
In the cliff’s talus on the other side,
And then in the far distant water splashed,
But after a time allowed for it to swim,
Instead of proving human when it neared
And someone else additional to him,
As a great buck it powerfully appeared,
Pushing the crumpled water up ahead,
And landed pouring like a waterfall,
And stumbled through the rocks with horny tread,
And forced the underbrush—and that was all.

Robert Frost (1874–1963)

Orpheus, Eurydice, Hermes
Orpheus, Euridike, Hermes

That was the deep uncanny mine of souls
Like veins of silver ore, they silently
moved through its massive darkness. Blood welled up
among the roots, on its way to the world of men.
And in the dark it looked as hard as stone.
Nothing else was red.

There were cliffs there,
and forests made of mist. There were bridges
spanning the void, and that great gray blind lake
which hung above its distant bottom
like the sky on a rainy day above a landscape.
And through the gentle, unresisting meadows
one pale path unrolled like a strip of cotton.

Down this path they were coming.

In front, the slender man in the blue cloak—
mute, impatient, looking straight ahead.
In large, greedy, unchewed bites his walk
devoured the path, his hands hung at his sides,
tight and heavy, out of the falling folds,
no longer conscious of the delicate lyre
which had grown into his left arm, like a slip
of roses grafted onto an olive tree.
His senses felt as though they were split in two;
his sight would race ahead of him like a dog,
stop, come back, then rushing off again
would stand, impatient, at the path’s next turn,—
but his hearing, like an odor, stayed behind.
Sometimes it seemed to him as though it reached
back to the footsteps of those other two
who were to follow him, up the long path home.
But then, once more, it was just his own steps’ echo,
or the wind inside his cloak, that made the sound.
He said to himself, they had to be behind him,
said it aloud and heard it fade away.
They had to be behind him, but their steps
were ominously soft. If only he could
turn around, just once (but looking back
would ruin this entire work, so near
completion), then he could not fail to see them,
those other two, who followed him so softly.

The god of speed and distant messages,
a traveler’s hood above his shining eyes,
his slender staff held out in front of him,
and little wings fluttering at his ankles;
and on his left arm, barely touching it: she.

A woman so loved that from one lyre there came
more lament than from all lamenting women;
that a whole world of lament arose, in which
all nature reappeared: forest and valley,
road and village, field and stream and animal;
and that around this lament-world, even as
around the other earth, a sun revolved
and a silent star-filled heaven, a lament-
heaven, with its own disfigured stars—:
So greatly was she loved.

But now she walked beside the graceful god,
her steps constricted by the trailing graveclothes,
uncertain, gentle, and without impatience.
She was deep within herself, like a woman heavy
with child, and did not see the man in front
or the path ascending steeply into life.
Deep within herself. Being dead
filled her beyond fulfillment. Like a fruit
suffused with its own mystery and sweetness,
she was filled with her vast death, which was so new,
she could not understand that it had happened.

She had come into a new virginity
and was untouchable; her sex had closed
like a young flower at nightfall, and her hands
had grown so unused to marriage that the god’s
infinitely gentle touch of guidance
hurt her, like an undesired kiss.

She was no longer that woman with blue eyes
who once had echoed through the poet’s songs,
no longer the wide couch’s scent and island,
and that man’s property no longer.

She was already loosened like long hair,
poured out like fallen rain,
shared like a limitless supply.

She was already root.

And when, abruptly,
the god put out his hand to stop her, saying,
with sorrow in his voice: He has turned around—
she could not understand, and softly answered

Far away,

dark before the shining exit-gates,
someone or other stood, whose features were
unrecognizable. He stood and saw
how, on the strip of road among the meadows,
with a mournful look, the god of messages
silently turned to follow the small figure
already walking back along the path,
her steps constricted by the trailing graveclothes,
uncertain, gentle, and without impatience.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926)
Tr. Stephen Mitchell

Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of
Rainer Maria Rilke
, ed. and trans. Stephen Mitchell (Modern Library, 1995).


Look up …
From bleakening hills
Blows down the light, first breath
Of wintry wind … Look up, and scent
The snow

Adelaide Crapsey (1878–1914)

Roma Aeterna

The sun
Is warm to-day,
O Romulus, and on
Thine olden Palatine the birds
Still sing.

Adelaide Crapsey (1878–1914)


Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Edward Thomas (1878–1917)

Gone, Gone Again

Gone, gone again,
May, June, July,
And August gone,
Again gone by,

Not memorable
Save that I saw them go,
As past the empty quays
The rivers flow.

And now again,
In the harvest rain,
The Blenheim oranges
Fall grubby from the trees

As when I was young
And when the lost one was here
And when the war began
To turn young men to dung.

Look at the old house,
Outmoded, dignified,
Dark and untenanted,
With grass growing instead

Of the footsteps of life,
The friendliness, the strife;
In its beds have lain
Youth, love, age, and pain:

I am something like that;
Only I am not dead,
Still breathing and interested
In the house that is not dark:—

I am something like that:
Not one pane to reflect the sun,
For the schoolboys to throw at—
They have broken every one.

Edward Thomas (1878–1917)

Lul de Faltenin

Sirens I have crawled towards
Your grottos you stuck out your tongues
At the seas as you danced before the breakers
Then beat those angel wings of yours
And I listened to the conflicting songs

A weapon O my troubled head
I shook a branch stripped of its leaves
To drive away the tepid breath
Exhaled against my excited cries
By your terrible silent mouths

Off yonder is that marvellous thing
Compared with it what are you worth
The blood spurts from my lances’ tips
It is my nature and I confess
To the murder of my double pride

If the boatmen have rowed far off
From your lips above the surface,
Thousands of enchanted creatures
Scent the trail to the rendezvous
With my well-belovèd wounds

Their starry animal wild eyes
Light up my powers of sympathy
What does it matter if I equal
The wisdom of the constellations
Since Night it’s I who make you starred

Sirens I am at last descending
Into a gaping hole Your eyes
I love The steps are slippery
Far away you look like dwarves
Who didn’t lure the passer-by

In the careful and cultivated
I’ve seen our forests burst with green
And the sun crow above the waves
As sailors yearn for spars and masts
To put on foliage once again

I descend and the firmament
Suddenly stings like a medusa
I’m burning now atrociously
My arms alone are the excuses
And the torches for my torment

Birds you stuck out tongues at the waves
Yesterday’s sun is back with me
The lance-heads cover us with blood
In the lair of the Sirens far
From the flock of oblong stars

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918)
Tr. JF

The Mirabeau Bridge

Under the Mirabeau Bridge the Seine
Flows and our love
Must I be reminded again
How joy came always after pain

Night comes the hour is rung
The days go I remain

Hands within hands we stand face to face
While underneath
The bridge of our arms passes
The loose wave of our gazing which is endless

Night comes the hour is rung
The days go I remain

Love slips away like this water flowing
Love slips away
How slow life is in its going
And hope is so violent a thing

Night comes the hour is rung
The days go I remain

The days pass the weeks pass and are gone
Neither time that is gone
Nor love ever returns again
Under the Mirabeau Bridge flows the Seine

Night comes the hour is rung
The days go I remain

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918)
©Tr. W.S. Merwin

The Synagogue

Ottomar Scholem and Abraham Loewerin
On the Sabbath morning in their green felt hats
Walk to the synagogue along the Rhine
Past the slopes where the vines are reddening

They are arguing and yelling things one would hardly dare translate
Bastard conceived during a forbidden time or May the Devil poke your father
The old Rhine lifts his streaming face and turns away to smile
Ottomar Scholem and Abraham Loeweren are in a rage

Because during the Sabbath you can’t smoke
And Christians are passing by with their lit cigars
And because Ottomar and Abraham both love
Lia with her sheep’s eyes and a tummy that sticks out a little

Nevertheless in the synagogue one after the other
They’ll kiss the Torah while raising their fine hats
Among the foliage of the Feast of Tabernacles
Ottomar will smile at Abraham as they sing

They’ll lower the key freely and the sonorous male voices
Will make a Leviathan groan in the depths of the Rhine like a voice of autumn
And in the synagogue full of hats they’ll shake their four sacred switches
Hanoten ne Kamoth bagoim tholahoth baleoumim*

[*”He who wreaks vengeance on the Gentiles and punishment on peoples.”]

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918)
Tr. JF

The Seasons/ Les Saisons

That was a great time we were on the beaches
Got there early in the morning barefoot and hatless
And quick as the flick of a toad’s tongue
Love skewered crazies just like it does the wise

Did you know galloping Gui
When he was in the army
Did you know galloping Gui
When he was a gunner
In the war

That was a great time The time of the baggage-master
We were packed together tighter than in a bus
And stars passed overhead singed by the shells
When the horse-drawn battery arrived at night

Did you know galloping Gui
When he was in the army
Did you know galloping Gui
When he was a gunner
In the war

That was a great time Days vague and nights vague
The big shells created scraps for our log dugouts
Some aluminum where you concentrated
On polishing until evening amazing rings

Did you know galloping Gui
When he was in the army
Did you know galloping Gui
When he was a gunner
In the war

That was a great time The war keeps going
The gun-crew have polished rings now for months
The leader listens in the shelter of the woods
To the repeated song of an unknown star

Did you know galloping Gui
When he was in the army
Did you know galloping Gui
When he was a gunner
In the war

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918)
Tr. JF

A Bird is Singing

A bird is singing I don’t know where
I think it’s your soul that watches
Among all the tuppenny soldiers
And the bird charms my ear

Listen it’s singing tenderly
I don’t know on what branch
And everywhere it enchants me
Night and day weekdays and Sundays

But what to say about this bird
About the metamorphosis
Of the soul into a song in the shrubbery
Of a heart into sky and sky into roses

The bird of soldiers is love
And my love is a girl
More perfect than a rose and for
Me alone the blue bird sings

Bird blue like the blue heart
Of my love whose heart is heavenly
Sing your sweet song again
To the deadly machine-guns

Which chatter on the horizon and then
Are maybe stars that someone is sowing
So the days and the nights pass
With love blue as the heart itself

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918)
Tr. JF

The Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
There's a land that's fair and bright
Where the handouts grow on bushes
And you sleep out every night
Where the boxcars are all empty
And the sun shines every day
On the birds and the bees
And the cigarette trees
Where the lemonade springs
Where the bluebird sings
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
All the cops have wooden legs
And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth
And the hens lay soft boiled eggs
The farmer's trees are full of fruit
And the barns are full of hay
Oh, I'm bound to go
Where there ain't no snow
Where the rain don't fall
And the wind don't blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
You never change your socks
And the little streams of alcohol
Come a-trickling down the rocks
The brakemen have to tip their hats
And the railroad bulls are blind
There's a lake of stew
And of whiskey too
You can paddle all around 'em
In a big canoe
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
The jails are made of tin
And you can walk right out again
As soon as you are in
There ain't no short handled shovels,
No axes saws or picks
I'm a goin to stay
Where you sleep all day
Where they hung the jerk
That invented work
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

Harry McClintock (1882–1957)

A Dublin Ballad—1916

O write it up above your hearth
And troll it out to sun and moon,
To all true Irishmen on earth
Arrest and death come late or soon.

Some boy-o whistled Ninety-eight
One Sunday night in College Green,
And such a broth of love and hate
As Dublin town had never seen.

And god-like forces shocked and shook
Through Irish hearts that lively day,
And hope it seemed no ill could brook.
Christ! For that liberty they took
There was the ancient deuce to pay!

The deuce in all his bravery,
His girth and gall grown no whit less,
He swarmed in from the fatal sea
With pomp of huge artillery
And brass and copper haughtiness.

He cracked up all the town with guns
That roared loud psalms to fire and death,
And houses hailed down granite tons
To smash our wounded underneath.

And when at last the golden bell
Of liberty was silenced—then
He learned to shoot extremely wll
At unarmed Irish gentlemen!

Ah! where were Michael and gold Moll
And Seumus and my drowsy self?
Why did fate blot us from the scroll?
Why were we left upon the shelf,

Fooling with trifles in the dark
When the light struck so wild and hard?
Sure our hearts were as good a mark
For Tommies up before the lark
At rifle practice in the yard!

Well, the last fire is trodden down,
Our dead are rotting fast in lime,
We all can sneak back into town,
Stavange about as in old time,

And stare at gaps of grey and blue
Where Lower Mount Street used to be,
And where flies hum round muck we knew
For Abbey Street and Eden Quay.

And when the devil’s made us wise
Each in his own peculiar hell,
With desert hearts and drunken eyes
We’re free to sentimentalize
By corners where the martyrs fell.

Dermot O’Byrne (1883–1953)

The Catholic Bells

Tho’ I’m no Catholic
I listen hard when the bells
in the yellow-brick tower
of their new church

ring down the leaves
ring in the frost upon them
and the death of the flowers
ring out the grackle

toward the south, the sky
darkened by them, ring in
the new baby of Mr. and Mrs.
Krantz which cannot

for the fat of its cheeks
open well its eyes, ring out
the parrot under its hood
jealous of the child

ring in Sunday morning
and old age which adds as it
takes away. Let them ring
only ring ! over the oil

painting of a young priest
on the church wall advertising
last week’s Novena to St.
Anthony, ring for the lame

young man in black with
gaunt cheeks and wearing a
Derby hat, who is hurrying
to 11 o’clock Mass (the

grapes still hanging to
the vines along the nearby
Concordia Halle like broken
teeth in the head of an

old man) Let them ring
for the eyes and ring for
the hands and ring for
the children of my friend

who no longer hears
them ring but with a smile
and in a low voice speaks
of the decisions of her

daughter and the proposals
and betrayals of her
husband’s friends. O bells
ring for the ringing!

the beginning and the end
of the ringing! Ring ring
ring ring ring ring ring!
Catholic bells—!

William Carlos Williams (1883–1963)

Nervous Prostration

I married a man of the Croydon class
When I was twenty-two.
And I vex him, and he bores me
Till we don’t know what to do!
It isn’t good form in the Croydon class
To say you love your wife,
So I spend my days with the tradesmen’s books
And pray for the end of life.

In green fields are blossoming trees
And a golden wealth of gorse,
And young birds sing for joy of worms:
It’s perfectly clear, of course,
That it wouldn’t be taste in the Croydon class
To sing over dinner or tea:
But I sometimes wish the gentleman
Would turn and talk to me!

But every man of the Croydon class
Lives in terror of joy and speech,
“Words are betrayers,” “Joys are brief”
The maxims their wise ones teach.
And for all my labour of love and life
I shall be clothed and fed,
And they’ll give me an orderly funeral
When I’m still enough to be dead.

I married a man of the Croydon class
When I was twenty-two.
And I vex him and he bores me
Till we don’t know what to do!
And as I sit in his ordered house,
I feel I must sob or shriek,
To force a man of the Croydon class
To live, or to love, or to speak.

Anna Wickham (1884–1947)

The Maid in the Rice-Fields

Until the day when thou and I are wed
How shall my life be fed!
But first this rice that’s newly sown
Must rise and multiply and be
A full crop in the granary
Before thou art my own.

Last night I dreamt that I walked out at dusk
And heard the first dry husk
Fall rustling from the ripened ear.
But now to-day I wake and weep
To see the fields no man may reap
In the cold early year.

O passing clouds, have pity on my need.
Water the thirsting seed;
O mighty sun, find out this plain,
Call up the stalk, hasten the leaf;
O bare fields, harken to my grief,
Foster the holy grain.

Weeping I stand above the seed and say
Why do you hide away?
Do you fear the storm if you leave your rest?
I have taken the storm into my breast.
Why do you still delay?
O if the cloud you wait to rain forbears,
Here are a maiden’s tears.
And if the sun you seek denies his dart,
Behold my burning heart.

Viola Meynell (1885–1956)

Does It Matter?

Does it matter?—losing your legs?…
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When the others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.

Does it matter?—losing your sight?
There’s such splendid work for the blind,
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.

Does it matter?—those dreams from the pit?
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won’t say that you’re mad,
For they’ll know you’ve fought for your country
And no one will worry a bit.

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)

To Any Dead Officer

Well, how are things in Heaven? I wish you’d say,
Because I’d like to know that you’re all right.
Tell me, have you found everlasting day,
Or been sucked in by everlasting night?
For when I shut my eyes your face shows plain;
I hear you make some cheery old remark—
I can rebuild you in my brain,
Though you’ve gone out patrolling in the dark.

You hated tours of trenches; you were proud
Of nothing more than having good years to spend;
Longed to get home and join the careless crowd
Of chaps who work in peace with Time for friend.
That’s all washed out now. You’re beyond the wire:
No earthly chance can send you crawling back;
You’re finished with machine-gun fire—
Knocked over in a hopeless dud-attack.

Somehow I always thought you’d get done in,
Because you were so desperate keen to live:
You were all out to try and save your skin,
Well knowing how much the world had got to give.
You joked at shells and talked the usual “shop,”
Stuck to your dirty job and did it fine:
With “Jesus Christ! When will it stop?
Three years … It’s hell unless we break their line”

So when they told me you’d been left for dead,
I wouldn’t believe them, feeling it must be true.
Next week the bloody Roll of Honour said
“Wounded and missing”—(That’s the thing to do
When lads are left in shell-holes dying slow,
With nothing but blank sky and wounds that ache,
Moaning for water till they know
It’s night, and then it’s not worth while to wake!)

Good-bye, old lad! Remember me to God,
And tell Him that our Politicians swear
They won’t give in till Prussian Rule’s been trod
Under the Heel of England… Are you there?…
Yes … and the War won’t end for at least two years;
But we’ve got stacks of men … I’m blind with tears,
Staring into the dark. Cheero!
I wish they’d killed you in a decent show.

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)

March 21

The wood’s alive to-day—
Warm power all round
Breathes like a beast of prey
Waiting to bound.…

It was no timid bird,
Nor harmless snake,
The rustle that I heard
In the birch-brake;

It was no fair red bud
On the larch-bough
That I saw, but drawn blood—
The warning now

Of bliss that will not bide,
Of need too full,
Too fierce to be denied,
Wild, terrible.…

Elizabeth Daryush (1887–1977)

John Henry

See Note

John Henry was a li’l baby, uh-huh, *
Sittin’ on his mama’s knee, oh, yeah, *
Said: “De Big Bend Tunnel on the C. & O. road
Gonna cause de death of me,
Lawd, Lawd, gonna cause de death of me.”

John Henry, he had a woman,
Her name was Mary Magdalene,
She would go to the tunnel and sing for John,
Jes’ to hear John Henry’s hammer ring,
Lawd, Lawd, jes’ to hear John Henry’s hammer ring.

John Henry had a li’l woman,
Her name was Lucy Ann,
John Henry took sick an’ had to go to bed,
Lucy Ann drove steel like a man,
Lawd, Lawd, Lucy Ann drove steel like a man.

Cap’n says to John Henry,
“Gonna bring me a steam drill ’round,
Gonna take dat steam drill out on de job,
Gonna whop dat steel on down,
Lawd, Lawd, gonna whop dat steel on down.”

John Henry tol’ his cap’n,
Lightnin’ was in his eye:
“Cap’n, bet yo’ las’ red cent on me,
Fo’ I’ll beat it to de bottom or I’ll die,
Lawd, Lawd, I’ll beat it to de bottom or I’ll die.”

Sun shine hot an’ burnin’,
Weren’t no breeze at-all,
Sweat ran down like water down a hill,
Dat day John Henry let his hammer fall,
Lawd, Lawd, dat day John Henry let his hammer fall.

John Henry went to de tunnel,
An’ dey put him in de lead to drive;
De rock so tall an’ John Henry so small,
That he lied down his hammer an’ he cried, Lawd, Lawd,
dat he lied down his hammer an’ he cried.

John Henry started on de right hand,
De steam drill started on de lef’—
“Before I’d let dis steam drill beat me down,
I’d hammer my fool self to death,
Lawd, Lawd, I’d hammer my fool self to death.”

White man tol’ John Henry,
“Nigger, damn yo’ soul,
You might beat dis steam an’ drill of mine,
When de rocks in de mountain turn to gol’, Lawd, Lawd,
when de rocks in dis mountain turn to gol’.”

John Henry said to his shaker,
“Nigger, why don’ you sing?
I’m throwin’ twelve poun’s from my hips on down,
Jes’ listen to the col’ steel ring,
Lawd, Lawd, jes’ listen to de col’ steel ring.”

Oh, de captain said to John Henry,
“I b’lieve this mountain’s sinkin’ in.”
John Henry said to his captain, oh my!
“Ain’ nothin’ but my hammer suckin’ win’,
Lawd, Lawd, ain’ nothin’ but my hammer suckin’ win’.”

John Henry tol’ his shaker,
“Shaker, you better pray,
For if I miss dis six-foot steel,
Tomorrow’ll be yo’ buryin’ day,
Lawd, Lawd, tomorrow’ll be yo’ buryin’ day.”

John Henry tol’ his captain,
“Look yonder what I see—
Yo’ drill’s done broke an’ yo’ hole’s done choke,
An you cain’ drive steel like me,
Lawd, Lawd, an’ you cain’ drive steel like me.”

De man dat invented de steam drill,
Thought he was mighty fine.
John Henry drove his fifteen feet,
An’ de steam drill only made nine,
Lawd, Lawd, an’ de steam drill only made nine.

De hammer dat John Henry swung,
It weighed over twelve pound;
He broke a rib in his lef’-han’ side,
An’ his intrels fell on de groun’,
\Lawd, Lawd, an’ his intrels fell on de’ groun’.

John Henry was hammerin’ on de mountain,
An’ his hammer was strikin’ fire,
He drove so hard till he broke his pore heart,
An’ he lied down his hammer an’ he died,
Lawd, Lawd, he lied down his hammer an’ he died.

All de women in the Wes’,
When dey heard of John Henry’s death,
Stood in de rain, flagged de eas’-boun’ train,
Goin’ where John Henry fell dead,
Lawd, Lawd, goin’ where John Henry fell dead.

John Henry’s lil mother,
She was all dressed in red,
She jumped in bed, covered up her head,
Said she didn’ know her son was dead,
Lawd, Lawd, didn’t know her son was dead.

John Henry had a pretty lil woman,
An’ de dress she wore was blue,
An’ de las’ words she said to him:
“John Henry, I’ve been true to you,
Lawd, Lawd, John Henry, I’ve been true to you.”

“Oh, who’s gonna shoe yo’ lil feetses,
An’ who’s gonna glub yo’ hans,
An’ who’s gonna kiss yo’ rosy, rosy lips,
An’ who’s gonna be yo’ man,
Lawd, Lawd, an’ who’s gonna be yo’ man?”

“Oh, my mama’s gonna shoe my lil feetsies,
An’ my papa’s gonna glub my lil hans,
An’ my sister’s gonna kiss my rosy, rosy lips,
An’ I don’ need no man,
Lawd, Lawd, an’ I don’ need no man.”

Dey took John Henry to de graveyard,
An’ dey buried him in de san’,
An’ every locomotive come roarin’ by,
Says, “Dere lays a steel-drivin’ man,
Lawd, Lawd, dere lays a steel drivin’ man.”


“The syllables ‘uh-huh’ and ‘oh, yeah’ are to be repeated in each stanza.”

Nocht o’ Mortal Sicht (1943)

A’ day aboot the hoose I work,
My hands are rouch, my banes are sair,
Though it’s a ghaist comes doon at daw,
A ghaist at nicht that climbs the stair.

For nocht o’ mortal sicht I see—
But warrin tanks on ilka hand,
And twistit men that lie sae still
And sma’, upon the desert sand.

And nocht I hear the leelang day
But skirl o’ shell and growl o’ gun,
And owre my heid the bombers roar
Red-hot aneath the Libyan sun.

But when the licht is on the wane,
And antrin winds gae whinnerin by,
It’s snaw comes swirlin round my feet
And drifts in cluds across the sky.

And syne it’s straikit owre wi’ bluid,
And syne the wind is hairse wi’ cries,
And syne abune the Russian snaws
I see the Kremlin towers rise.

While round the city, mile on mile,
The grim battalions take their stand,
And deid men streik from aff the grund
To grup their comrades by the hand.

And sae it haps that ilka day
Frae mornin’ licht to gloamin’ fa’,
It is a ghaist that walks the hoose
And casts its shadow on the wa’.

Bessie J.B. MacArthur (1889–1983)

daw>dawn; rouch>rough, sore; antrin>strange; cluds>clouds; syne>soon; straikit>streaked; abune>above; streik>stretch; ilka>every (Catherine Kerrigan ed., with Gaelic translations by Meg Bateman, An Anthology of Scottish Women Poets (1991))


The deer which lives
On the evergreen mountain
Where there are no autumn leaves
Can know the coming of autumn
Only by his own cry.

Onakatomi Yoshinobu
Tr. Arthur Waley (1889–1966)

May the men who are born
From my time onwards
Never, never meet
With a path of love-making
Such as mine has been.

Tr. Arthur Waley (1889–1966)

“If you are dying of love,
Well, die of love”; that seems to be what
My Sister means
When she walks right past my door.

Tr. Arthur Waley (1889–1966)

When dawn comes
With the flicker flicker
Of sunrise,
How sad the helping each other
To put on our clothes.

Tr. Arthur Waley (1889–1966)

If only, when one heard
That Old Age was coming
One could bolt the door,
Answer “not at home”
And refuse to meet him!

Tr. Arthur Waley (1889–1966)

Halting in front of it, I look
At the reflection which is in the depths
Of my clear mirror,
It gives me the impression of meeting
An unknown old gentleman.

Tr. Arthur Waley (1889–1966)

On Seeing Swift in Laracor - Note

I saw them walk that lane again
And watch the midges cloud a pool,
Laughing at something in the brain—
The Dean and Patrick Brell, the fool.

Like Lear he kept his fool with him
Long into Dublin’s afterglow,
Until the wits in him grew dim
And Patrick sold him for a show.

Here were the days before Night came,
With Stella and the other—“slut,”
Vanessa, called by him—that flame
When Laracor was Lilliput!

And here, by walking up and down,
He made a man called Gulliver,
While bits of lads came out from town
To have a squint at him and her.

Still, was it Stella that they saw,
Or else some lassie of their own?
For in his story that’s the flaw,
The secret no-one since has known.

Was it some wench among the corn
Had set him from the other two,
Some tenderness that he had torn,
Some lovely blossom that he knew?

For when Vanessa died of love,
And Stella learned to keep her place,
His Dublin soon the story wove
That steeped them in the Dean’s disgrace.

They did not know, ’twas he could tell!
The reason of his wildest rages,
The story kept by Patrick Brell,
The thing that put him with the ages.

Now when they mention of the Dean
Some silence holds them as they talk;
Some things there are unsaid, unseen,
That drive me to this lonely walk.

To meet the mighty man again,
And yet no comfort comes to me.
Although sometimes I see him plain,
That silence holds the Hill of Bree.

For, though I think I’d know her well,
I’ve never seen her on his arm,
Laughing with him, nor heard him tell
She had forgiven all the harm.

And yet I’d like to know ’twere true,
That here at last in Laracor,
Here in the memory of a few,
There was this rest for him and her.

Brinsley MacNamara (1890–1963)

Backwater Blues

When it rains five days and the skies turn dark as night
When it rains five days and the skies turn dark as night
Then trouble’s takin’ place in the lowlands at night

I woke up this mornin’, can’t even get out of my door
I woke up this mornin’, can’t even get out of my door
That’s enough trouble to make a poor girl wonder where she wanna go

Then they rowed a little boat about five miles ‘cross the pond
Then they rowed a little boat about five miles ‘cross the pond
I packed all my clothes, throwed ‘em in and they rowed me along

When it thunders and lightnin’, and that wind begins to blow
When it thunders and lightnin’, and the wind begin to blow
There’s thousands of people ain’t got no place to go

Then I went and stood upon some high old lonesome hill
Then I went and stood on some high old lonesome hill
Then looked down at the house where I used to live

Backwater blues done caused me to pack my things and go
Backwater blues done caused me to pack my things and go
’Cause my house fell down and I can’t live there no mo’

Bessie Smith (1894–1937)

Spider Man Blues

Early in the mornin’ when it’s dark and dreary outdoors
Early in the mornin’ when it’s dark and dreary outdoors
Spider man makes a web and hides while you sleeps and snores

Never try to sleep, mean eyes watch me day and night
Never try to sleep, mean eyes watch me day and night
Catch every fly as fast as she can light

That black man of mine sure has his spider ways
That black man of mine sure has his spider ways
Been crawlin’ after me all of my natural days

I’m like a poor fly, spider man, please let me go
I’m like a poor fly, spider man, please let me go
You’ve got me locked up in your house and I can’t break down your door

Somebody please kill me and throw me in the sea
Somebody please kill me and throw me in the sea
This spider man of mine is going to be the death of poor me

Bessie Smith (1894–1937), with H. Gray

It Makes My Love Come Down

When I see two sweethearts spoon
Underneath the silvery moon
It makes my love come down
I wanna be around
Kiss me, honey, it makes my love come down

Cuddle close, turn out the light
Do just what you did last night
It makes my love come down, I wanna be in town
Sweet, sweet daddy, it makes my love come down

Wild about my toodle-oh
When I get my toodle-oh
It makes my love come down, want every pound
Hear me cryin’, it makes my love come down

Like my coffee, like my tea
Daffy about my stingaree
It makes my love come down, I wanna be around
Oh, sweet papa, it makes my love come down

If you want to hear me rave
Honey, give me what I crave
It makes my love come down, actin’ like a clown
Can’t help from braggin’, it makes my love come down

Come on and be my desert sheik
You so strong and I’m so weak
It makes my love come down, to be loveland bound
Red hot papa, it makes my love come down

If you want me for your own
Kiss me nice or leave me alone
It makes my love come down, it makes my love come down
Take me bye bye, it makes my love come down

When you take me for a ride
When I’m close up by your side
It makes my love come down, ridin’ all around
Easy ridin’ makes my love come down

Bessie Smith (1894–1937)

The Door

When she came suddenly in
It seemed the door could never close again,
Nor even did she close it—she, she—
The room lay open to a visiting sea
Which no door could restrain.

Yet when at last she smiled, tilting her head
To take her leave of me,
Where she had smiled, instead
There was a dark door closing endlessly,
The waves receded.

Robert Graves (1895–1905)

Not to Sleep

Not to sleep all the night long, for pure joy,
Counting no sheep and careless of chimes,
Welcoming the dawn confabulation
Of birds, her children, who discuss idly
Fanciful details of the promised coming—
Will she be wearing red, or russet, or blue,
Or pure white?—whatever she wears, glorious:
Not to sleep all the night long, for pure joy,
This is given to few but at last to me,
So that when I laugh and stretch and leap from bed
I shall glide downstairs, my feet brushing the carpet
In courtesy to civilized progression,
Though, did I wish, I could soar through the open window
And perch on a branch above, acceptable ally
Of the birds still alert, grumbling gently together.

Robert Graves (1895-1905)


Since that autumnal yesterday is heard
No sound of insect things.
No trace of Pan is here, and every bird
Has flown on silent wings.

No butterfly glides on its wavering way
Through the now-silent woods.
No voice of anything, since yesterday,
Disturbs these solitudes.

The sedges, bleached and dry, bend trembling low
Where the dark pools are still.
An icy wind steals past the winter meadow
And over the winter hill.

Maurine Smith (1896–1919)

The Keen Edge

The keen edge of my pride
Has cut the shroud that bound me
And I have come forth,
Flawless, Aphrodite.

Maurine Smith (1896–1919)

Unoccupied Zone/ Zone Libre

Fade-out of forgotten grief
The sound of heartbreak dwindled
And embers whitened in the ashes
I drank the summer like a gentle wine
I dreamed away that month of August
In a rose-coloured château in Corrèze

But what was that
That deep sob in the garden
That muffled reproach upon the breeze
Oh don’t awaken me too soon
Just a little bel canto
Demobilizes despair

For an instant I’d seemed to hear
Amid the standing corn
Confusedly the din of battle
Where did that grief come from
Neither pinks nor rosemary
Carried the scent of tears

I had lost sight I don’t know how
Of the dark cause of my distress
The shadows went on subdividing
I was still wandering uselessly
In this sadness without memory
When September dawned

My love I was in your arms
Outside somebody murmured
An old song of France
My sickness finally knew itself
And the refrain like a naked foot
Rippled the green water of silence.

Louis Aragon (1897–1982)
Tr. JF

Beer-hall Magick Germany

Beer-hall Magick Germany
And sweet as almond-milk
Mina and Linda greedy lips
Who so much want to be coarse
And whose voices are still childish
Persist in humming to themselves
The tune Ach du lieber Augustin
Which a passer-by whistles in the street.

Sofienstrasse: my memory
Brings back the room and wardrobe
The water singing in the kettle
The mottoes on the embroidered cushions
The skylight of fake opaline
Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead
And the mousseline peignoir
Which opens and gives ideas

Pleasure taken and always ready
O Gaense-Liesel of defeats
Suddenly you turn your head
And offer me
The tempting nape of your neck
Girl of Sarrebrück
Who lowered herself to turn a trick
For a piece of chocolate

And I who judge her what am I
Tacky happinesses tacky highs
There’s such a loss of wonder
That I don’t recognize myself
Quicky encounters quicky exits
Is this the way men live
And their kisses follow them afar
Like suns in orbit

It’s all a matter of decor
Change beds change bodies
But to what end since it is still
I who betray myself
I who fritter myself away
And my shadow bares itself
In the all-alike arms of girls
Where I thought I’d find a home

Light heart fickle heart heavy heart
The time for dreaming is so short
What should I do with my days
What should I do with my nights
I didn’t have love or a dwelling place
Anywhere to live or die
I wandered like a rumour
I slept like a tumult.

It was a senseless time
They’d brought the dead to the table
They were building sand-castles
They mistook wolves for dogs
Everything was topsy-turvy
Was the play meant to be funny
If I performed my role badly
It was because nothing made sense

In the Hohenzollern quarter
Between the Sarre and the barracks
Like flowering alfalfa
The breasts of Lola bloomed
She had the heart of a swallow
On the couch in the brothel
I’d stretch out beside her
While the pianola hiccupped

She was brunette and white
Her hair fell down over her hips
And during the week and on Sundays
She opened her bare arms to all
She had eyes blue like faience
And toiled valiantly
For an artilleryman from Mayence
Who never got over it

There are other soldiers in town
And at night civilians show themselves
Put more mascara on your eyelashes
You’ll be leaving soon Lola
Another glass of liqueur
It was in April at five a.m.
That into your heart
A dragoon plunged his knife

The sky was grey with clouds
There were wild geese flying
Announcing death in their passage
Over the houses on the quais
I saw them through the window
Their sad song pierced my heart
And I thought I recognized there
Something of Rainer Maria Rilke

Louis Aragon (1897–1982)
Tr. JF

L’Amour qui n’est-pas un mot

Mon Dieu jusqu'au dernier moment
Avec ce coeur débile et blême
Quand on est l'ombre de soi-même
Comment se pourrait-il comment
Comment se pourrait-il qu'on aime
Ou comment nommer ce tourment

Suffit-il donc que tu paraisses
De l'air que te fait rattachant
Tes cheveux ce geste touchant
Que je renaisse et reconnaisse
Un monde habité par le chant
Elsa mon amour ma jeunesse

O forte et douce comme un vin
Pareille au soleil des fenêtres
Tu me rends la caresse d'être
Tu me rends la soif et la faim
De vivre encore et de connaître
Notre histoire jusqu'à la fin

C'est miracle que d'être ensemble
Que la lumière sur ta joue
Qu'autour de toi le vent se joue
Toujours si je te vois je tremble
Comme à son premier rendez-vous
Un jeune homme qui me ressemble

M'habituer m'habituer
Si je ne le puis qu'on m'en blâme
Peut-on s'habituer aux flammes
Elles vous ont avant tué
Ah crevez-moi les yeux de l'âme
S'ils s'habituaient aux nuées

Pour la première fois ta bouche
Pour la première fois ta voix
D'une aile à la cime des bois
L'arbre frémit jusqu'à la souche
C'est toujours la première fois
Quand ta robe en passant me touche

Prends ce fruit lourd et palpitant
Jettes-en la moitié véreuse
Tu peux mordre la part heureuse
Trente ans perdus et puis trente ans
Au moins que ta morsure creuse
C'est ma vie et je te la tends

Ma vie en vérité commence
Le jour que je t'ai rencontrée
Toi dont les bras ont su barrer
Sa route atroce à ma démence
Et qui m'as montré la contrée
Que la bonté seule ensemence

Tu vins au coeur du désarroi
Pour chasser les mauvaises fièvres
Et j'ai flambé comme un genièvre
A la Noël entre tes doigts
Je suis né vraiment de ta lèvre
Ma vie est à partir de toi

Louis Aragon (1897–1982)

Love Which Isn’t a Word

My God right up to the last minute
With this feeble bloodless heart
When one’s a shadow of oneself
How how to how is
How is love possible
Or even giving this torment a name

Yet it’s enough for you to appear
With that special look
While you adjust your hair
For me to revive and know again
A world inhabited by song
Elsa my love my time of youth.

O strong and gentle as a wine
Like the sun against the windows
You restore Being’s caresses
You restore a thirst a hunger
To live once more and know again
Our story right up to the end.

It’s a miracle being together
With the light shining on your cheek
With the breeze playing around you
Every time I see you I tremble
As if this were the first date
For a young man who resembles me

And as to getting used to it
If I can’t if that’s a fault
Can one ever get used to flames
They’ve burned you up before you do
Oh may the eyes of my soul burst
If they ever take the clouds for granted

Your mouth for the first time
Your voice for the first time
Soaring to the highest spot of the wood
The tree trembled to its roots
It’s always the first time
When your dress touches me in passing

Take this heavy throbbing fruit
Toss away the rotten half
You can bite the lucky part
Thirty years gone and thirty more
Bite deep bite deep
My life is in your hands.

Truly my life begins
On the day when I met you
You whose arms knew how to steer
Through the dreadful ways of my madness
And show me the region
That only virtue could make fertile.

You came to a disordered heart
To drive away the evil fevers
And I blazed like a holly berry
At Christmas between your fingers.
Truly I was born from your lips
My life begins with you.

Louis Aragon (1897–1982)
Tr. JF

Frankie and Johnny

Frankie and Johnny were lovers.
O my Gawd how they did love!
They swore to be true to each other,
As true as the stars above.
He was her man but he did her wrong.

Franie and Johnny were walking,
Johnny in a brand new suit.
Frankie went walking with Johnny,
Said: “O Gawd don’t my Johnny look cute.”
He was her man but he did her wrong.

Frankie went down to Memphis,
Went on the morning train,
Paid a hundred dollars,
Bought Johnny a watch and chain.
He was her man but he did her wrong.

Frankie lived in a crib-house,
Crib-house with only two doors,
Gave her money to Johnny,
He spent it on those parlour whores.
He was her man but he did her wrong.

Frankie went down to the hock-shop,
Went for a bucket of beer,
Said: “O Mr. Bartender
Has my loving Johnny been here?
He is my man but he’s doing me wrong.”

“I don’t want to make you no trouble,
I don’t want to tell you no lie,
But I saw Johnny an hour ago
With a girl name Nelly Bly.
He is your man but he’s doing you wrong.”

Frankie went down to the hotel.
She didn’t go there for fun,
‘’Cause underneath her kimona
She toted a 44 gun.
He was her man but he did her wrong.

Frankie went down to the hotel.
She rang the front door bell.
Said: “Stand back all you chippies
Or I’ll blow you all to hell.
I want my man for he’s doing me wrong.”

Frankie looked in through the key-hole
And there before her eye
She saw her Johnny on the sofa
A-loving up Nelly Bly.
He was her man; he was doing her wrong.

Frankie threw back her kimona,
Took out that big 44,
Root-a-toot-toot, three times she shoot
Right through that hard-wood door.
He was her man but was doing her wrong.

Johnny grabbed up his Stetson,
Said: “O my Gawd Frankie don’t shoot”
But Frankie pulled hard on the trigger
And the gun went root-a-toot-toot.
She shot her man who was doing her wrong.

“Roll me over easy,
Ross me over slow,
Roll me over on my right side
’Cause my left side hurts me so.
I was her man but I did her wrong.”

Johnny he was a gambler,
He gambled for the gain;
The very last word he ever said
Were—“High-low Jack and the game.”
He was her man but he did her wrong.

“Bring out your rubber-tired buggy,
Bring out your rubber-tired hack;
I’ll take my Johnny to the graveyard
But I won’t bring him back.
He was my man but he did me wrong.

Lock me in that dungeon,
Lock me in that cell,
Lock me where the north-east wind
Blows from the corner of Hell.
I shot my man ’cause he did me wrong.”

Frankie went down to the Madame,
She went down on her knees.
“Forgive me Mrs. Halcombe,
Forgive me if you please
For shooting my man ’cause he did me wrong.”

“Forgive you Frankie darling,
Forgive you I never can,
Forgive you Frankie darling
For shooting your only man,
For he was your man though he did you wrong.”

It was not murder in the first degree,
It was not murder in the third.
A woman simply shot her man
As a hunter drops a bird.
She shot her man, ’cause he did her wrong.

Frankie said to the Sheriff
“What do you think they’ll do?”
The Sheriff said to Frankie
“It’s the electric chair for you.
You shot your man ’cause he did you wrong.”

Frankie sat in the jail-house,
Had no electric fan,
Told her little sister:
“Don’t you marry no sporting man.
I had a man but he did me wrong.”

Frankie heard a rumbling
Away down in the ground;
Maybe it was little Johnny
Where she had shot him down.
He was her man but he did her wrong.

Once more I saw Frankie,
She was sitting in the chair
Waiting for to go and meet her God
With the sweat dripping out of her hair.
He was her man but he did her wrong.

This story has no moral,
This story has no end,
This story only goes to show
That there ain’t no good in men.
He was her man, but he did her wrong.


Grey Goose

Last Sunday morning, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
Last Sunday morning, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
My daddy went a-huntin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
My daddy went a-huntin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
Well, along came a grey goose, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
Along came a grey goose, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
Well up to his shoulder, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
It’s up to his shoulder, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
And ram back the hammer, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
It’s ram back the hammer, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
Well, the gun went off aboola, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
The gun went off aboola, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
And down he came a-fallin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
It’s down he came a-fallin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
He was 6 weeks a-fallin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
He was 6 weeks a-fallin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
He was 6 weeks a-haulin, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
6 weeks a-haulin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
The wimmen was a–twitterin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
The wimmen was a–twitterin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
Yes, your wife and my wife, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
Yes, your wife and my wife, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
They all was a-twitterin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
They all was a-twitterin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
They gave a feather pickin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
They gave a feather pickin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
He was 6 weeks a-pickin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
6 weeks a-pickin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
Well, they put him on a-cookin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
They put him on a-cookin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
They put him on to parboil, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
They put him on to parboil, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
He was 6 weeks a-parboilin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
6 weeks a-parboilin’, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
Well, they put him on the table, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
They put him on the table, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
The fork couldn’t stick him, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
The fork couldn’t stick him, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
And the knife couldn’t cut him, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
The knife couldn’t cut him, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
They throwed him in the hog pen, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
They throwed him in the hog pen, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
He broke old Jerry’s jaw bone, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
Broke old Jerry’s jaw bone, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
So they took him to the sawmill, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
They took him to the sawmill, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
He broke the saw’s teeth out, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
He broke the saw’s teeth out, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
Well, the last time I seed him, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
The last time I seed him, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
He was flyin’ over the ocean, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
Flyin’ over the ocean, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
With a long string of goslins, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
A long string of goslins, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.
They was all goin’ quick-quack, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd,
All goin’ quick-quack, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd.


Legend of the Dead Soldier/ Die Ballade von dem Soldaten

And when the fifth springtime of war
No sign of peace brought forth
The soldier said: you can go to hell,
And died a hero’s death.

Because the war was not quite done
It made the Kaiser blue
To think the soldier lay there dead
Before his time came due.

Summer flowed across the graves
And the soldier he slept on.
And then one day came a mil-
itary medical commission.

The medical commission trailed out
To the little acre of God
And with sanctified spades they dug up the fallen
Soldier out of the sod.

The doctor looked him over well
Or what was left to see.
The doctor found he was O.K.,
A shirking coward he.

They took the soldier along with them,
The night was blue and fine.
You could—without a helmet on—
Have seen the stars of home.

With fiery schnapps they tried to rouse
His rotted limbs to life.
They hung two nurses on his arms
And his half-naked wife.

And since the soldier stank of rot
A priest limped on before
Who waved an incense burner about
So he should stink no more.

In front the music with tzing-boom-boom
Played a jolly march
And the soldier, the way he was taught,
Swung his legs from the arse.

Arms linked in his, two whitewings walked
And held him tenderly
For he would have slipped down in the mud
And that must never be.

They painted colors on his shroud,
Red, white, and black,
And carried the colors on before
So no one saw the muck.

A man in tails strode on ahead,
His chest was bulging, too,
For as a German citizen
He knew just what to do.

And marching then with tzing-boom-boom
Down the dark high road they go
And the soldier reeled as in a storm
Like a pale flake of snow.

The cats and dogs began to howl,
The field rats squeaked at him.
They wouldn’t think of being French
Because it was a sin.

And when they passed through villages
The women all were there.
The trees bowed low. The full moon shone.
And all cried out: hurrah!

With tzing-boom-boom and fare-thee-well,
With priest and dog and dame—
And in the middle like a drunken ape
The fallen soldier came.

And when they passed through villages
The crowd it left no room
To see the soldier, so many ran
With hurrah and tzing-boom-boom.

Around him so many danced and howled
That none could him espy.
You could only see him from above
Where stars looked down from the sky.

Not always do the stars remain:
There comes a dawn at length.
Yet the soldier as he was taught
Pursued his hero’s death.


Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956)
Tr. H.R. Hays

Apfelböck or the Lily of the Field / Apfelböck oder die Lilie auf dem Felde

In the mild daylight Jacob Apfelböck
Struck his father and his mother down
And shut them both into the laundry chest
And he stayed in the house, he was alone.

Clouds swam up and down beneath the sky,
Around the house a summer wind blew, warm and mild,
And in the house he himself sat
Who seven days ago was still a child.

The days went by and the nights as well,
Though much was changed yet nothing changed at all.
By his parents Jacob Apfelböck simply
Waited for whatever might befall.

And when the bodies reeked within the chest
Then Jacob bought an azalia plant and he,
Jacob Apfelböck, that poor child,
From that day slept on the settee.

The milkwoman still delivered mlk,
Skimmed buttermilk, sweet, rich and cool.
What he did not drink he emptied out
For Jacob’s appetite was very small.

The newsboy still delivered papers,
With heavy tread at twilight when the day was done
And flung them into the mailbox slot
But Jacob Apfelböck he read not one.

And as the corpses stank through all the house
It made Jacob sick and then he wept
And, weeping, out upon the porch
To sleep, from then on Jacob crept.

Said the newsboy who came each day:
What do I smell? What is this stench?
In the mild daylight Jacob Apfelböck said:
It is the laundry in the laundry chest.

Said the milkwoman who came each day:
What do I smell? It reeks like something dead.
It is some veal spoiling in the icebox,
In the mild daylight Jacob said.

When at length they looked in the chest
And asked him why he struck the blow,
Jacob Apfelböck stood in the mild daylight
And Jacob said: I do not know.

The milkwoman wondered if, sooner or later,
When she spoke of it next day,
Jacob Apfelböck would yet once more
Visit the grave where his poor parents lay.


Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956)
Tr. H.R. Hays

The Ballad of Mack the Knife

Oh the shark has pretty teeth dear
And he shows them pearly white
Just a jackknife has Macheath dear
And he keeps it out of sight

When the shark bites with his teeth dear
Scarlet billows start to spread
Fancy gloves though wears Macheath dear
For there’s not a trace of red

On the sidewalk Sunday morning
Lies a body oozing life
Someone’s sneaking round the corner
Is the someone Mack the Knife

From a tugboat by the river
A cement bag’s dropping down
The cement’s just for the weight dear
Bet you Mackie’s back in town

Louis Miller disappeared dear
After drawing out his cash
And Macheath spends like a sailor
Did our boy do something rash

Sukey Tawdry, Jenny Diver
Polly Peachum, Lucy Brown
Oh the line forms on the right dear
Now that Mackie’s back in town.


Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956)
Tr. Marc Blitzstein

Pirate Jenny

You people can watch while I’m scrubbing these floors
And I’m scrubbin’ the floors while you’re gawking
Maybe once ya tip me and it makes ya feel swell
In this crummy Southern town
In this crummy old hotel
But you’ll never guess to who you’re talkin’.
No. You couldn’t ever guess to who you’re talkin’.

Then one night there’s a scream in the night
And you’ll wonder who could that have been
And you see me kinda grinnin’ while I’m scrubbin’
And you say, “What’s she got to grin?”
I’ll tell you.

There’s a ship
The Black Freighter
with a skull on its masthead
will be coming in

You gentlemen can say, “Hey gal, finish them floors!
Get upstairs! What’s wrong with you! Earn your keep here!
You toss me your tips
and look out to the ships
But I’m counting your heads
as I’m making the beds
Cuz there’s nobody gonna sleep here, honey

Then one night there’s a scream in the night
And you say, “Who’s that kicking up a row?”
And ya see me kinda starin’ out the winda
And you say, “What’s she got to stare at now?”
I’ll tell ya.

There’s a ship
The Black Freighter
turns around in the harbor
shootin’ guns from her bow

You gentlemen can wipe off that smile off your face
Cause every building in town is a flat one
This whole frickin’ place will be down to the ground
Only this cheap hotel standing up safe and sound
And you yell, “Why do they spare that one?”
That’s what you say.
“Why do they spare that one?”

All the night through, through the noise and to-do
You wonder who is that person that lives up there?
And you see me stepping out in the morning
Looking nice with a ribbon in my hair

And the ship
The Black Freighter
runs a flag up its masthead
and a cheer rings the air

By noontime the dock
is a-swarmin’ with men
comin’ out from the ghostly freighter
They move in the shadows
where no one can see
And they’re chainin’ up people
and they’re bringin’ em to me
askin’ me,
“Kill them NOW, or LATER?”
Askin’ ME!
“Kill them now, or later?”

Noon by the clock
and so still by the dock
You can hear a foghorn miles away
And in that quiet of death
I’ll say, “Right now.
Right now!”

Then they’ll pile up the bodies
And I’ll say,
“That’ll learn ya!”

And the ship
The Black Freighter
disappears out to sea


Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956)
Tr. Marc Blitzstein

Garden Abstract

The apple on its bough is her desire,—
Shining suspension, mimic of the sun.
The bough has caught her breath up, and her voice,
Dumbly articulate in the slant and rise
Of branch on branch above her, blurs her eyes.
She is prisoner of the tree and its green fingers.

And so she comes to dream herself the tree,
The wind possessing her, weaving her young veins,
Holding her to the sky and its quick blue,
Drowning the fever of her hands in sunlight.
She has no memory, nor fear, nor hope
Beyond the grass and shadows at her feet.

Hart Crane (1899–1932)

In the Egyptian Museum

Under the lucent glass,
Closed from the living air,
Clear in electric glare
That does not change nor pass,
Armlet and amulet
And woven gold are laid
Beside the turquoise braid
With coral flowers inset.

The beetle, lapis, green,
Graved with the old device,
And linen brown with spice,
Long centuries unseen,
And this most gracious wreath,
Exiled from the warm hair,
Meet now the curious tare—
All talismans of death.

All that the anguished mind
Most nobly could invent,
To one devotion bent,
That death seem less unkind;
That the degraded flesh,
Grown spiritless and cold,
Be housed in beaten gold,
A rich and rigid mesh.

Such pain is garnered here
In every close-locked case,
Concentrate in this place
Year after fading year,
That, while I wait, a cry,
As from beneath the glass,
Pierces me with “Alas
That the beloved must die!”

Janet Lewis (1899–1998)

Lines with a Gift of Herbs

The summer’s residue
In aromatic leaf,
Shrunken and dry yet true
In fragrance, their belief,

These from the hard earth drew
Essence of rosemary,
Lavender, faintly blue,
While unconfused nearby

From the same earth distilled
Grey sage and savory,
Eash one distinctly willed,—
Stoic morality.

The Emperor said, “Though all
Conspire to break thy will,
Clear stone, thou emerald, shall
Be ever emerald still.”

And these, small, unobserved,
Through summer chemistry,
Have all their might conserved
In treasure, finally.

Janet Lewis (1899–1998)

Helen Grown Old

We have forgotten Paris, and his fate.
We have not much inquired
If Menelaus from the Trojan gate
Returning found the long desired
Immortal beauty by his hearth. Then late

Late, long past the morning hour,
Could even she recapture from the dawn
The young delighted love? When the dread power
That forced her will was gone,
When fell the last charred tower,

When the last flame had faded from the cloud,
And by the darkening sea
The plain lay empty of the armed crowd,
Then was she free
Who had been ruled by passion blind and proud?

Then did she find with him whom first she chose
Before the desperate flight
At last repose
In love still radiant at the edge of night,
As fair as in the morning? No one knows.

No one has cared to say. The story clings
To the tempestuous years, by passion bound,
Like Helen. No one brings
A tale of quiet love. The fading sound
Is blent of falling embers, weeping kings.

Janet Lewis (1899–1998)

A Summer Commentary

When I was young, with sharper sense,
The farthest insect cry I heard
Could stay me; through the trees, intense,
I watched the hunter and the bird.

Where is the meaning that I found?
Or was it but a state of mind,
Some old penumbra of the ground,
In which to be but not to find?

Now summer grasses, brown with heat,
Have crowded sweetness through the air;
The very roadside dust is sweet;
Even the unshaded earth is fair.

The soft voice of the nesting dove,
And the dove in soft erratic flight
Like a rapid hand within a glove,
Caress the silence and the light.

Amid the rubble, the fallen fruit,
Fermenting in its rich decay,
Smears brandy on the trampling boot
And sends it sweeter on its way.

Yvor Winters (1900–1968)

The Marriage

Incarnate for our marriage you appeared,
Flesh living in the spirit and endeared
By minor graces and slow sensual change.
Through every nerve we made our spirits range.
We fed our minds on every mortal thing:
The lacy fronds of carrots in the spring,
Their flesh sweet on the tongue, the salty wine
From bitter grapes, which gathered through the vine
The mineral drouth of autumn concentrate,
Wild spring in dream escaping, the debate
Of flesh and spirit on those vernal nights,
Its resolution in naïve delights,
The young kids bleating softly in the rain—
All this to pass, not to return again.
And when I found your flesh did not resist,
It was the living spirit that I kissed,
It was the spirit’s change in which I lay:
Thus mind in mind we waited for the day.
When flesh shall fall away, and, falling, stand
Wrinkling with shadow over face and hand,
Still I shall meet you on the verge of dust
And know you as a faithful vestige must.
And, in commemoration of our lust,
May our heirs seal us in a single urn,
A single spirit never to return.

Yvor Winters (1900–1968)

The California Oaks

Spreading and low, unwatered, concentrate
Of years of growth that thickens, not expands,
With leaves like mica and with roots that grate
Upon the deep foundations of these lands,
In your brown shadow, on your heavy loam
—Leaves shrinking to the whisper of decay—
What feet have come to roam,
                                                     what eyes to stay?
Your motion has o’ertaken what calm hands?

Quick as a sunbeam when a bird divides
The lesser branches, on impassive ground,
Hwai-Shan, the ancient, for a moment glides,
Demure with wisdom, and without a sound,
Brown feet that come to meet him, quick and shy,
Move in the flesh, then, browner, dry to bone;
The brook-like shadows lie
                                                where sun had shone;
Ceaseless, the dead leaves gather mound on mound.

And where they gather, darkening the glade,
In hose and doublet, and with knotty beard,
Armed with the musket and the pirate’s blade,
Stern as the silence by the savage feared,
Drake and his seamen pause to view the hills,
Measure the future with a steady gaze.
But when they go naught fills
                                                     the patient days;
The bay lies empty where the vessels cleared.

The Spaniard, learning caution from the trees,
Building his dwelling from the native clay,
Took native concubines; the blood of these
Calming his blood, he made a longer stay,
Longer, but yet recessive, for the change
Came on his sons and their sons to the end;
For peace may yet derange
                                                and earth may bend
The ambitious mind to an archaic way.

Then the invasion! And the soil was turned,
The hidden waters drained, the valleys dried;
And whether fire or purer sunlight burned,
No matter! One by one the old oaks died.
Died or are dying! The archaic race—
Black oak, live oak, and valley oak—ere long
Must crumble on the place
                                                which they made strong
And in the calm they guarded now abide.

Yvor Winters (1900–1968)

[Author’s note: “There is a brief account of Hwui-Shan on pages 24-5 of A History of California; the Spanish Period, by Charles Edward Chapman. Hwui-Shan was a Chinese Buddhist priest, who may have come to California in 499 A.D. According to Chapman, the story is found in Volume 231 of the great Chinese Encyclopedia and is found in other works and has long been known to Chinese scholars. Chapman believes that there were other Chinese voyages to the west coast of North America at very early dates.”]

Two Old-Fashioned Songs

I. Danse Macabre

Who was who and where were they
Scholars all and bound to go
Iambs without heel or toe
Something one would never say
Moving in a certain way.

Students with an empty book
Poets neither here nor there
Critics without face or hair
Something had them on the hook
Here was neither king nor rook

This is something someone said
I was wrong and he was right
Indirection in the night
Every second move was dead
Though I came I went instead

II.  A Dream Vision

What was all the talk about?
This was something to decide.
It was not that I had died.
Though my plans were new, no doubt.
There was nothing to decide.

I had grown away from youth,
Shedding error where I could;
I was now essential wood,
Concentrating into truth:
What I did was small but good.

Orchard tree beside the road,
Bare to core, but living still!
Moving little was my skill.
I could hear the farting toad
Shifting to observe the kill.

Spotted sparrow spawn of dung,
Mumbling on a horse’s turd,
Bullfinch, wren, or mockingbird
Screaming with a pointed tongue
Objurgation without word.

Yvor Winters (1900–1968)

Rent Day Blues

I says to my baby
“Baby, but de rent is due;
Can’t nowadays figger
What we ever gonna do.”

My baby says, “Honey,
Dontcha worry ‘bout de rent.
Looky here, daddy,
At de money what de good Lord sent.”

Says to my baby,
“Baby, I been all aroun’;
Never knowed de good Lord
To send no greenbacks down.”

Baby says, “Dontcha
Bother none about de Lord;
Thing what I’m figgerin’
Is how to get de next month’s board.”

Says to my baby,
“I’d best get me on a spell;
Get your rent from heaven,
Maybe get your food from hell.”

Baby says, “One old
Miracle I never see,
Dat a man lak you
Can ever get away from me.”

I says, “Ain’t no magician,
Baby, dat’s a sho-Gawd fact;
But jest you watch me
Do de disappearin’ act.”

“Ef you do, you’re better
Dan de devel or de Lord on high”;
An’ I stayed wid my baby
Fo’ a devilish good reason why.

Sterling A. Brown (1901–1989)

Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown, ed. Michael S. Harper (TriQuarterly Books, 1989)

Market Street Woman

Market Street woman is known fuh to have dark days,
Market Street woman noted fuh to have dark days,
Life do her dirty in a hundred onery ways.

Let her hang out de window and watch de busy worl’ go pas’,
Hang her head out de window and watch de careless worl’ go pas’,
Maybe some good luck will come down Market Street at las’.

Put paint on her lips, purple powder on her choklit face,
Paint on her lips, purple powder on her choklit face,
Take mo’ dan paint to change de luck of dis dam place.

Gettin’ old and ugly, an’ de sparks done lef’ her eye,
Old an’ ugly an’ de fire’s out in her eye,
De men may see her, but de men keep passin’ by—

Market Street woman have her hard times, oh my Lawd,
Market Street woman have her hard times, oh my Lawd,
Let her git what she can git, ‘fo dey lays her on de coolin’ board.

Sterling A. Brown (1901–1989)

Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown, ed. Michael S. Harper (TriQuarterly Books, 1989)

Puttin’ on Dog

Look at old Scrappy puttin’ on dog,
Puttin’ on dog, puttin’ on dog,
Look at old Scrappy puttin’ on dog,
Steppin’ like nobody’s business.

With a brandnew silk shirt pink as a sunset,
With a pair of suspenders blue as the sky,
With bulldog brogans red as a clay road—
Pull up, mule wagons, let the mail train by.

Look at old Scrappy puttin’ on dog,
Puttin’ on dog, puttin’ on dog,
Look at old Scrappy puttin’ on dog,
Todle-oh-in’ with his Jane.

Rared back at the wheel with his arm around his baby,
Heads his old flivver out of the town,
And Buck’s mad enough to chew a fistful of staples,
And drink Sloan’s liniment to wash ’em down.

Look at old Scrappy puttin’ on dog,
Puttin’ on dog, puttin’ on dog,
Look at old Scrappy puttin’ on dog,
Down in Pap Silas’ poolroom.

He’s about to use English on the lonesome eight ball
Stops short when he hears what Buck has said,
Winds up like Babe Ruth aimin’ for a homer
And bends his cuestick around Buck’s head.

Look at old Scrappy puttin’ on dog,
Puttin’ on dog, puttin’ on dog,
Look at old Scrappy puttin’ on dog,
Bustin’ rock on the county road.

He laughed with his lawyers, and he winked at the judge,
Stuck his fingers up his nose at the jury in the dock,
Waved good-by to the gals when they sent him to the workgang,
And even had his own way of bustin’ up rock.

Look at old Scrappy puttin’ on dog,
Puttin’ on dog, puttin’ on dog,
Look at old Scrappy puttin’ on dog,
Callin’ for the bad man Buck.

Buck saw him comin’, pulled his thirty-two forty,
Got him once in the arm, and twice in the side;
Scrappy switched his gat like they do it in the Western,
And let the daylight into Buck’s black hide.

Look at old Scrappy puttin’ on dog,
Puttin’ on dog, puttin’ on dog,
Look at old Scrappy puttin’ on dog,
Waitin’ for the undertaker’s wagon.

In his box-back coat and his mutt-leg britches,
And a collar high enough for to choke a ox;
And the girls stopped cryin’ when they saw how Scrappy
Was a-puttin’ on dog in a pinewood box.

O you rascal, puttin’ on dog,
Putting on dog, puttin’ on dog,
O you rascal, puttin’ on dog,
Great Gawd, but you was a man!

Sterling A. Brown (1901–1989)


Don’t want no yaller gal, that’s a color will not stay,
Don’t want no yaller, yaller nevah known to stay,
Git caught in a storm, de yaller sho’ will fade away.

Don’t want no pretty pink, pink isn’t de shade fo’ me,
Don’t want no pretty pink, pink it ain’t de shade fo’ me,
When you think you’s got her, ain’t nuffin’ but yo’ used to be.

Don’t want no black gal, gums blue lak de sea,
Don’t want no blue gums, blue jus’ lak’ de deep blue sea,
Fraid that when I kiss her, bluine run all over me.

Don’t want no brownskin, choklit to de bone,
Don’t want no brownskin, choklit to de bone,
Choklit melts jes lak vanilla, and runs all out de cone.

Don’t want no charcoal, soot’s a mess what I despise,
Don’t want no charcoal, soot’s a mess what I despise,
Want to know whah my gal’s at, anytime she shets her eyes.

Don’t want no Geechie gal, talkin’ lak a nachel zoo,
Don’t want no Geechie, talkin’ lak a nachel zoo,
Jabber lak a monkey, make a monkey outa you.

Don’ care for de Ofays, got no dealins wif Miss Ann,
Don’ care for de Ofay, got no dealins wif Miss Ann,
Don’t lak her brother Hemp, nor her cousin Mr. Cool Oil Can.

Don’t want me no Injun, no Injun squaw of red,
Don’t want me no Injun, no Injun squaw of red,
Don’t got much hair, want it left on top my frazzly head.

Don’t want no blue woman, moanin’ wid de lonesome blues,
Don’t want no blue woman, moanin’ wid de graveyard blues,
Got mo’ blues myself now dan a man could evah use.

Gonna get me a green gal, if a green gal’s to be found,
Git me a green gal, if a green gal is to be found,
But I spec’ she ain’t born yet, and her mama she is in de ground.

Sterling A. Brown (1901–1989)

Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown, ed. Michael S. Harper (TriQuarterly Books, 1989)

Ofay:white. Miss Ann: a white woman. Hemp and Coal Oil, ingredients for a lynching. For “Geechie,” see

To a Certain Lady, in her Garden

(For Anne Spencer)

Lady, my lady, come from out the garden,
Clay-fingered, dirty-smocked, and in my time
I too shall learn the quietness of Arden,
Knowledge so long a stranger to my rhyme.

What were more fitting than your springtime task?
Here, close-engirdled by your vines and flowers
Surely there is no other grace to ask,
No better cloister from the bickering hours.

A step beyond, the dingy streets begin
With all their farce, and silly tragedy—
But here, unmindful of the futile din
You grow your flowers, far wiser certainly.

You and your garden sum the same to me,
A sense of strange and momentary pleasure,
And beauty snatched—oh, fragmentarily
Perhaps, yet who can boast of other seizure?

Oh you have somehow robbed, I know not how,
The secret of the loveliness of these
Whom you have served so long. O, shameless, now
You flaunt the winnings of your thieveries.

Thus I exclaim against you, profiteer.…
For purpled evenings spent in pleasing toil,
Should you have gained so easily the dear
Capricious largesse of the inner soil?

Colorful living in a world grown dull,
Quiet sufficiency in weakling days,
Delicate happiness, more beautiful
For lighting up belittered, grimy ways—

Surely I think I shall remember this,
You in your old rough dress, bedaubed with clay,
Your smudgy face parading happiness,
Life’s puzzle solved. Perhaps, in turn, you may

One time, while clipping bushes, tending vines,
(Making your brave, sly mock at dastard days)
Laugh gently at these trivial, truthful lines—
And that will be sufficient for my days.

Sterling A. Brown (1901–1989)

Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown, ed. Michael S. Harper (TriQuarterly Books, 1989)

Orpheus’ Plea/ Prière d’Orphée

Master, nocturnal master, master,
King of the darkness, lord of metals,
The scent of the sun and living things
Is flowing in the folds of my cloak!
The dead held in your vice-like grip
Trembling open wide their nostrils.
I am the ocean and the boat,
Motionless dark master of roots!

Master hid in the depths of night,
I now can view your dreaded face.
By what miracle of hope,
Dark star of paralyzing cold,
Up to that throne devoid of being
Where you are reigning have I come?
On the dark marble of your tablets,
I’ve flashed the light of a bare arm,

What air do you know, you who are breathing
In the close place which the wind shuns?
Do you hear the footsteps of the living?
All is sound and light and motion
On earth where water flows and quivers:
Seated solitary and brooding,
Think of those who dream together.

Do you know the living flesh and fruit
That swell to ripeness in the light?
Your rule is over ruined bodies,
Over phantoms without substance,
Over the silences of stones.
Your fixed eyes underneath your brows
Are slowly lowering their lids:
See, I have brought gifts for you,

Tangy lemons and sweet apples,
A comb of honey, a little bird,
A nest made out of feathers and moss,
The frail tassel of a reed
Softer than the tender muzzle
Of a deer, a fleck of wool,
And the delicate threads of webs
That morning lays upon the fields.

Inhale, touch, taste, look!
Do you know the beauty of the world?
The flowers open in my voice,
You only know the underside
And the dry infertile depths.
Your rule is over what has ended,
Over woods that winter strips.
Yesterday on earth it rained.

Do you hate mortals, king of the dead?
Broad wings glide up there above you,
Heavy, muted, like remorse.
Soundlessly among the shades,
From their gloomy flights you glean
Only emptiness, grief, fear.
Your portal which my voice profanes,
Is kept by apathy and absence.

Here everything is fleeting, hazy,
Or else more permanent than stone:
Gliding vapors, surging waves
Of confused sighs, or massive blocks
Of dense abrasive minerals.
I struck with my fist. Under the impact
Only I trembled. Bowed, I advanced.
Ah, such a thirst to see your face
In the formless night of hell!

Nothing stirs in your memory
When I speak of youth to you,
When I tell the trembling tale
Of hopefulness and promises.
What caresses that I recalled
Could soften your severity?

But silently your fingers knit,
Resting there on your rigid knees.
Alas for the music which has moved
Unmoving mountains, savage wolves.
Alas for the kisses and the taste
Of juices reddening my mouth!
I didn’t come as a conqueror!

But all the same, look round you; all
The shapes here in the pathless dark
Are eddying like smoke about me.
They’ve never drunk the morning dew
Or the blood of sacrifices,
The only watering of their soul
Has been with tears and angry passions.

My fading track is being followed.
All of those beings who are enslaved
By death are suffering and recalling.
No hunger of theirs has been assuaged!
Your bloodless folk belong to me.

They belong to me in the distress
And happiness of former times.
My rhythms aid and give them pain.
Their sightless eyes are turned towards
The entire universe through me.
A human voice is all that’s needed
And your bitter host reject
The forgetfulness of your domain.

Forgetfulness? How could I forget
Her who was alive and mine!
Bound by an eternal knot,
Our separate bodies are as one.

The living love. Me, I love you,
Lost and dead woman. I desire you,
You who are gone, and whom I sense
In every fibre of my being.
Let a god ignore my pleas,
I am the slave, he is the master,
But nothing will make disappear
As long as I remain alive
The faith from which you can be reborn!

Alas, your presence is a dream!
You haven’t risen from the tomb.
The days begin and end as usual,
And the past vanishes bit by bit.
I am both the torch and flame
Of a dwindling sad cortege.
How lovely was your happy laugh!
But laughing here is sacrilege.

Innumerable fingers touch me.
You are everywhere and nowhere.
What mouths place kisses on my mouth?
What arms are wrapped around my neck?
My eyes stray. I am driven wild.
I think I see you, but it’s the void
Which sweeps me onward in its eddies,
Peopled by the greedy phantoms.

From the torments which I endure,
Spare, oh master of the abyss,
She who launched on summer days
Ecstatic songs to the gods of the peaks.
You who weigh man and his crimes,
Place me in the scales, I’m lighter
Than the innocence of victims:
All I can do is love and sing.

Alone, you judge alone in the pit!
But you yourself love somberly.
Source of suffering, you too suffer!
Your silence is like that of a dark
Tower upon which tempests and vultures
Beat in vain under the clouds:
But in your underground abode,
You’ve known a radiant mirage.

Your own goddess was rapt by you
In a swirl of chariot horses,
In a frenzy of desire.
It was the season of renewal,
She had gone out gathering poppies
And lilies in her springtime robe.

She was tall, erect, and radiant.
Her breath flowed across the land
And reached you in your hideaway.
Her tresses floated in the air,
You surged up from the opened pit,
Your heavy kiss bit into her neck,
You abducted her and raped her,
Grazing on her motionless flesh.

Gripping in your powerful arms
The drooping body of the goddess,
You plunged back into the clayey lair.
How you were enamoured of her,
Priestess of your shadowy stronghold,
The recluse with submissive eyes,
Bowing down before your harshness!
But you had to reign without her.

How can one hold as prisoner
The daughter of the crops and groves,
The adored springtime prophetess
Of all which wakes and trusts in life,
The tender gleaner in the autumn,
Among the late flowers in the fields?
Your captive but also your equal,
You gave her back to the upper air!

It wasn’t the outcry of her mother
Which conquered. An untroubled sleeper,
You cherish the dark in your domain!
There’s no importance for the sower
Of night and anger and ill-will,
In the suffering of men and gods!

You didn’t yield her up to force,
But to desires that you discerned
Beyond the seeming sundering.
At last your soul began to know her
In her paleness and privacy,
The chaste queen, the faithful one,
Who’s penetrated deep within you.

Strangers shut off by massive walls
From one another without recourse,
It’s seemingly a hopeless struggle,
But suddenly a gap appears
Through which two hearts can be laid bare.
She deciphered your mystery
And, forgiving, understood.
God of dead hearts, you know the worth
Of a goddess with a woman’s heart.

But more alone, still, than an outlaw,
Regret parches and famishes you.
What you must sacrifice is your pride.
Sooner her distant task, her joy,
Her royal tread beyond the tomb,
The emptiness lit by her going,
Than her unconsolable scorn.
She is your dream and not your prey.

She unites what you tear apart,
Restores that which you destroy.
She’s your redemption and your beacon,
And your memory leads her on.
Inflexible in your domain,
You’ve granted her a dispensation.
A weightless people follow her.
You finish, she begins.

But faithful all the time to you,
She senses when you want her back.
Willingly, gravely, she descends
Towards him who is deprived of her.
She shines down there among the dead!

She is to you more than herself!
Oh give me back now my own good!
Or else take me. No blasphemy
Will issue from me. I belong,
This poor sad man, this nobody,
To nothingness, to dust and ashes,
But let my shade have the support
Of the shade that used to be my light.

Mingled in infinity
Let our essences be as one!
Under the heavens I am banished
From happiness. I bay at the moon.
I roam and scent. I importune
The land and sea with my complaints.
Monarch of losses and misfortune,
That which I love you’ve taken from me!

Astonish us! Let me be in her
As she in me, the same for ever.
But woe if, like a too stern father,
Your power to which I yield myself
Establishes her among the dead!
Free, oh free into upper air,
In their tenderness and peace,
Two beings chosen by your mercy!

Each on the other intent, mingling
Our looks, voices, minds, hearing
Upon the threshold of slow night
The murmuring of swaying branches.
The spouse becomes a fiancée,
The old love is still young and strong,
Old unhappinesses are healed,
Two mortals have attained their haven.

I see my dream, I almost touch it,
Restore it, Lord of destiny!!
Surging up from the lower depths,
Return to me the morning star!
Consent and I’ll obtain through you
The being I love above all others.
So near and yet alas so far!
As she was, let her be reborn!

A moment of human happiness,
A moment earthly, tangible!
You only need to open your hand.
Allow a life to escape your maze!
Let me see the invisible,
Seize that which escapes and flees me,
You are the arrow, I the target,
Your eyes frighten me in the night.

Allow us our whole destiny,
To live together, know together
The love and enduring comradeship
That intermingle and entwine.
Let us in the course of the years
Grow old together and, assenting,
One day before you reappear
Together in death. Watch, wait,

The world passes and you remain.
We are shallow and evanescent.
Towards you all the hours are heading,
They strike upon your reefs and sink.
Massive and unchangeable,
You are the inevitable end.
You seize hold of death and life,
O god, tamer of the untameable!

You know it, everything ends in you,
No need for cunning and deception,
We’ll come back down under your roof,
Joined in the confusion of death!
Be careful, though, if you refuse me!
Time knows how to hollow out
The powers that the gods abuse:
The gods themselves can also die!

Marie-Jeanne Durry (1901–1980)
Tr. JF


Walking swiftly with a dreadful duchess,
He smiled too briefly, his face was as pale as sand,
He jumped into a taxi when he saw me coming,
Leaving me alone with a private meaning,
He loves me so much, my heart is singing.
Later at the Club when I rang him in the evening
They said Sir Rat is dining, is dining, is dining,
No Madam, he left no message, ah how his silence speaks,
He loves me too much for words, my heart is singing.
The Pullman seats are here, the tickets for Paris, I am waiting,
Presently the telephone rings, it is his valet speaking,
Sir Rat is called away, to Scotland, his constituents,
(Ah the dreadful duchess, but he loves me best)
Best pleasure to the last, my heart is singing.
One night he came, it was four in the morning,
Walking slowly upstairs, he stands beside my bed,
Dear darling, he beside me, it is too cold to stand speaking.
He lies down beside me, his face is like the sand,
He is in a sleep of love, my heart is singing.
Sleeping softly softly, in the morning I must wake him,
And waking he murmurs, I only came to sleep.
The words are so sweetly cruel, how deeply he loves me,
I say them to myself alone, my heart is singing.
Now the sunshine strengthens, it is ten in the morning,
He is so timid in love, he only needs to know,
He is my little child, how can he come if I do not call him,
I will write and tell him everything, I take the pen and write:
I love you so much, my heart is singing.

Stevie Smith (1902–1971)


Why is the word pretty so underrated?
In November the leaf is pretty when it falls
The stream grows deep in the woods after rain
And in the pretty pool the pike stalks

He stalks his prey, and this is pretty too,
The prey escapes with an underwater flash
But not for long, the great pike has him now
The pike is a fish who always has his prey

And this is pretty. The water rat is pretty
His paws are not webbed, he cannot shut his nostrils
As the otter can and the beaver, he is torn between
The land and water. Not “torn,” he does not mind.

The owl hunts in the evening and it is pretty
The lake water below him rustles with ice
There is frost coming from the ground, in the air mist
All this is pretty, it could not be prettier.

Yes, it could always be prettier, the eye abashes
It is becoming an eye that cannot see enough,
Out of the wood the eye climbs. This is prettier
A field in the evening, tilting up.

The field tilts to the sky. Though it is late
The sky is lighter than the hill field
All this looks easy but really it is extraordinary
Well, it is extraordinary to be so pretty.

And it is careless, and that is always pretty
This field, this owl, this pike, this pool are careless,
As Nature is always careless and indifferent
Who sees, who steps, means nothing, and this is pretty.

So a person can come along like a thief—pretty!—
Stealing a look, pinching the sound and feel,
Lick the icicle broken from the bank
And still say nothing at all, only cry pretty.

Cry pretty, pretty, pretty and you’ll be able
Very soon not even to cry pretty
And so be delivered entirely from humanity
This is prettiest of all, it is very pretty.

Stevie Smith (1902–1971)

Strange Fruit

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Abel Meeropol (1903–1986)

Je crains pas ça tellement

Je crains pas ça tellement la mort de mes entrailles
et la mort de mon nez et celle de mes os
Je crains pas ça tellement moi cette moustiquaille
qu’on baptize Raymond d’un père dit Queneau

Je crains pas ça tellement où va la bouqinaille
les quais les cabinets la poussière et l’ennui
Je crains pas ça tellement moi qui tant écrivaille
et distille la mort en quelques poesies

Je crains pas ça tellement La nuit se coule douce
entre les bords teigneux des paupières des morts
Elle est douce la nuit caresse d’une rousse
le miel des méridiens des pôles sud et nord

Je crains pas cette nuit Je crains pas le sommeil
absolu Ça doit être aussi lourd que le plomb
aussi sec que la lave aussi noir que le ciel
aussi sourd qu’un mendiant bêlant au coin d’un pont

Je crains bien le malheur le deuil et la souffrance
et l’angoisse et la guigne et l’excès de l’absence
Je crains l’abîme obèse où git la maladie
et le temps et l’espace et les torts de l’esprit

Mais je crains pas tellement ce lugubre imbécile
qui viendra me cueiller au bord de son curdent
lorsque vaincu j’aurai d’un oeil vague et placide
cédé tout mon courage aux rongeurs du présent

Un jour je chanterai Ulysse ou bien Achille
Enée ou bien Didon Quichotte ou bien Pansa
Un jour je chanterai le bonheaur des tranquilles
les plaisirs de la pêche ou la paix des villas

Aujourd’hui bien lassé par l’heure qui s’enroule
tournant comme un bourin tout autour du cadran
Permetter mille excuz à ce crâne—une boule—
de susurrer plaintif la chanson du néant.

Raymond Queneau (1903–1976)

I’m not so scared of that

I’m not so scared of the death of my guts
death of my nose death of my bones
I’m not so scared for this mosquito
christened Raymond family name Queneau

I’m not so scared of where books end up
the quais the toilets the dust the ennui
I’m not so scared as someone who scribbles lots
and distills death into a few poems

I’m not so scared of Night flowing softly
under the wormy rim of the eyelids of the dead
she’s gentle is Night the kiss of a redhead
honey of noon at the south and the north poles

I’m not so scared of that Night or of the final
sleep that will be as heavy as lead
dry as lava dark as the sky
deaf as a beggar moaning beside a bridge

What scares me is unhappiness tears pain
and dread and bad luck and too great an absence
I’m frightened of the abyss bulging with sickness
time space and the mind’s mistakes

But I’m not so scared of that lugubrious imbecile
who’ll come and collect me on the end of his toothpick
My gaze will be vacant and placid by then
my courage all used up on the present’s gnawings

Some day I’ll sing of Ulysses or maybe Achilles
Aeneas or Didon Quixote or even Panza
some day I’ll sing of the happiness of the tranquil
the pleasures of angling or the calm of villas

Today tired out by the hour that’s been
trudging like an old nag around the dial
I’ve umpteen excuses in this bony skull
for murmuring plaintively this song of nothing.

Raymond Queneau (1903–1976)
Tr. JF

Blues Stanzas

Lord, Lord, how night falls
South of the Mason-Dixon, presses down,
And one bird in the lonely light calls—
Lord, others answer, answer all around.

John Henry struck, I heard his hammer ringing,
Said, every man, said, every man today
Over that mountain heard John Henry singing,
And there were green hills, green hills far away.

Charles Edward Smith (1904–1970)

The Summing-Up

When young I scribbled, boasting, on my wall,
No Love, No Property, No Wages.
In youth’s good time I somehow bought them all,
And cheap, you’d think, for maybe a hundred pages.

No in my prime, disburdened of my gear,
My trophies ransomed, broken, lost,
I carve again on the lintel of the year
My sign: Mobility—and damn the cost!

Stanley Kunitz (1905–2006)

The 5:32

She said, If tomorrow my world were torn in two,
Blacked out, dissolved, I think I would remember
(As if transfixed in unsurrendering amber)
This hour best of all the hours I knew:

When cars came backing into the shabby station,
Children scuffing the seats, and the women driving
With ribbons around their hair, and the trains arriving,
And the men getting off with tired but practiced motion.

Yes, I would remember my life like this, she said:
Autumn, the platform red with Virginia creeper,
And a man coming toward me, smiling, the evening paper
Under his arm, and his hat pushed back on his head;

And wood smoke lying like haze on the quiet town,
And dinner waiting, and the sun not yet gone down.

Phyllis McGinley (1905–1978)

Nova Scotia Fish Hut

Rain, and blown sand, and southwest wind
Have rubbed these shingles crisp and paper-thin.
Come in:
Something has stripped these studding-posts and pinned
Time to the rafters. Where the woodworm ticked
Shick shick shick shick
Steady and secretive, his track is plain:
The fallen bark is dust; the beams are bare.

Bare as the bare stone of this open shore,
This building grey as stone. The filtered sun
Leaks cold and quiet through it. And the rain,
The wind, the whispering sand, return to finger
Its creaking wall, and creak its thuttering door.

Old, as the shore is. But they use the place.
Wait if you like: someone will come to find
A handline or a gutting-knife, or stow
A coiled net in the loft. Or just to smoke
And loaf; and swap tomorrow in slow talk;
And knock his pipe out on a killick-rock
Someone left lying sixty years ago.

Charles Bruce (1906–1971)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.


She turns the ancient wheel,
With grave and careful eyes
Fixed on the moment’s thought;
And her veined hands are wise

In the touch of a living craft,
And the fibre of carded wool
Rolled in the brushing wire
For the steel spindle’s pull.

She lives for a moment now
In a room bright with sun
In the house of her musing mind;
And the brief dreaming done,

Turns again to the spinning,
With senses keen to the feel
Of the yarn, and the muted throbbing
Of whirling spindle and wheel.

Evening falls on the panes
And her body moving still,
Rapt in the weakened youth
Of old and stubborn skill—

Matching the carded rolls
To the wheel’s droning rhyme,
With her grey eyes amused
At the long skein of time.

Charles Bruce (1906–1971)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

Fall Grass

This is the season when the darkest grass
Flows in its deepest waves, on fading stubble,
The time of cloud ; and cattle brought to stable
At dusk, and moonlit water still as glass …

Smoke in the mornings, and always a crow caws
On wagging wings. Across the first strewn litter
Of leaves a squirrel scurries, and children loiter
In roadside pastures after ripening haws.

Time to be thoughtful: time to be getting on
With threshing, and fall ploughing; time to gather
Eelgrass, for banking house … A frail white feather
Of frost shines in the grass blades and is gone.

Slowly the days grow colder, the long nights fall;
Plows turn the stubble, fires are tended, and apples
Mellow in cellars; and under the roots of maples
Mice are burrowing. And the high geese call.

Charles Bruce (1906–1971)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

Girls in the Parlour

They have held funerals and weddings here.
And on the wall, in cardboard and dull gilt,
They keep the faces, bearded, stern, austere,
Of men who cleared the place, and plowed and built—

And women: bold, shy, laughing, sensitive,
Or stiff with pride, in frills of lace and lawn,
Who came serenely to this house to live
And brought their girlhood with them, and are gone.

This is the room they held against the claims
Of earth and sea and time—the touch of grace.
And you can see them in their oval frames
In gowns of buttoned satin, and white lace.

Charles Bruce (1906–1971)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

Orchard in the Woods

Red spruce and fir have crossed the broken lines
Where ragged fences ran; ground-juniper
Covers the sunny slope where currant bushes
Blackened their hanging clusters in green leaves.
Where oats and timothy moved like leaning water
Under the cloudy sweep of August wind,
The crop is stunted alders and tall ferns.

Above the cellar’s crust of falling stone
Where timbered walls endured the treacherous
Traffic of frost and sunlight, nothing stands …
Under the wreckage of the vanished barn
A woodchuck burrows. Where the dooryard was,
The matted grass of years encloses now
Two horseshoes and a rusted wagon-tire.

Only the apple trees recall the dream
That flowered here—in love and sweat and growth,
Anger and longing. Tough and dark and wild,
Grown big of stump, rough in the bark and old,
They still put forth a light ironic bloom
Against the green utility of spruce.

Clearing and field and buildings gone to waste—
But in the fall, a gunner going home
Will halt a moment, lift a hand to reach
One dusky branch above the crooked track,
And, thinking idly of his kitchen fire,
Bite to the small black shining seeds and learn
The taste of ninety seasons, hard and sweet.

Charles Bruce (1906–1971)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.


O lurcher-living collier, black as night,
Follow your love across the smokeless hill;
Your lamp is out and all the cages still.
Course for her heart and do not miss.
And Kate, fly not so fast,
For Sunday soon is past,
And Monday comes when none may kiss.
Be marble to his soot, and to his black be white.

Wystan Auden (1907–1973)

The biscuits are hard and the beef is high

The biscuits are hard and the beef is high,
The weather is wet and the drinks are dry,
We sit in the mud and wonder why.

With faces washed until they shine
The G.H.Q. sit down to dine
A hundred miles behind the line.

The Colonel said he was having a doze;
I looked through the window; a rambler rose
Climbed up his knee in her underclothes.

The chaplain paid us a visit one day.
A shell came to call from over the way,
You should have heard the bastard pray!

The subaltern’s heart was full of fire,
Now he hangs on the old barbed wire
All blown up like a motor-tyre.

The sergeant-major gave us hell.
A bullet struck him and he fell.
Where did it come from? Who can tell?

Kurt went sick with a pain in his head.
Malingerer, the Doctor said.
Gave him a pill. Next day he was dead.

Fritz was careless, I’m afraid.
He lost his heart to a parlour-maid.
Now he’s lost his head to a hand-grenade.

Karl married a girl with big blue eyes.
He went back on leave; to his surprise
The hat in the hall was not his size.

O, No Man’s Land is a pleasant place,
You can lie there as long as you lie on your face
Till your uniform is an utter disgrace.

I’d rather eat turkey than humble pie,
I’d rather see mother than lose an eye,
I’d rather kiss a girl than die.

We’re sick of the rain and the lice and the smell,
We’re sick of the noise of shot and shell,
And the whole bloody war can go to hell.

Wystan Auden (1907–1973)

In the Square

O for doors to be open and an invite with gilded edges
To dine with Lord Lobcock and Count Asthma on platinum benches,
With the somersaults and fireworks, the roast and the smacking kisses—
Cried the six cripples to the silent statue,
The six beggared cripples.

And Garbo’s and Cleopatra’s wits to go astraying,
In a feather ocean with me to go fishing and playing
Still jolly when the cock has burst himself wth crowing
Cried the sx cripples to the silent staue,
The six beggared cripples.

And to stand on green turf among the craning yellow faces,
Dependent on the chestnut, the sable, and Arabian horses,
And me with a magic crystal to foresee their places—
Cried the six cripples to the silent statue,
The six beggared cripples.

And this square to be a deck, and these pigeons sails to rig,
And to follow the delicious breeze like a tantony pig
To the shaded feverless islands where the melons are big—
Cried the six cripples to the silent statue,
The six beggared cripples.

And these shops to be turned to tulips in a garden bed,
And me with my stick to thrash each merchant dead
As he pokes from a flower his bald and wicked head—
Cried the six cripples to the silent statue,
The six beggared cripples.

And a hole in the bottom of heaven, and Peter and Paul,
And each smug surprised saint like parachutes to fall,
And every one-legged beggar to have no legs at all—
Cried the six cripples to the silent statue,
The six beggared cripples.

Wystan Auden (1907–1973)

Meditation on a Bone

A piece of bone, found at Trondheim in 1901, with the
following rune inscription (about A.D. 1050) cut on it:
I loved her as a maiden; I will not trouble Erland’s
detestable wife; better she should be a widow.

Words scored upon a bone,
Scratched in despair or rage—
Nine hundred years have gone;
Now, in another age,
They burn with passion on
A scholar’s tranquil page.

The scholar takes his pen
And turns the bone about
And writes those words again.
Once more they seethe and shout,
And through a human brain
Undying hate rings out.

“I loved her when a maid;
I loathe and love the wife
That warms another’s bed:
Let him bewared his life!”
The scholar’s hand is stayed;
His pen becomes a knife

To grave in living bone
The fierce archaic cry.
He sits and reads his own
Dull sum of misery.
A thousand years have flown
Before that ink is dry.

And, in a foreign tongue,
A man, who is not he,
Reads and his heart is wrung
This ancient grief to see,
And thinks: When I am dung,
What bone shall speak for me?

A.D. Hope (1907–2000)

Bounce to Pope

Master, by Styx!—which is the poets’ oath,
And the dread bourne of dogs and poets both—
Dear Master, destined soon my fate to share,
’Twas not for want of meat or love, I swear,
Bounce left thee early for the Stygian shore:
I went (’twas all I could) to be before;
To wait, as oft in life, when thou wouldst roam,
I watched to have thy greeting coming home.
So here I prick my ears and strain to mark
Thy slight form coming after through the dark,
And leap to meet thee; with my deep bark drown
Thy: “Bounce! why Bounce, old friend! nay, down Bounce, down!”
Then master, shall I turn and, at thy side,
Pace till we reach the river’s foetid tide.
The monstrous shapes and terrors of the way
Shall flee, themselves in terror, at my bay;
Gorgons, chimaeras, hydras at my growl
Scatter, and harpies prove pacific fowl;
Charon shall give prompt passage; what is more,
Seem civil till we reach the farther shore;
And last—for this is dog’s work—at the Gate
Where the three-headed Cerberus lies in wait,
Thou shalt not need or lyre or hydromel
To mollify the gruesome Hound of Hell
But may’st pass through unscath’d: he will not mind
Seeing with thee, a female of his kind.

There must I leave thee, there to feel thy hand
Bestow a final pat, great Bounce shall stand,
Knowing, alas, that I may do no more
Than gaze and grieve and, while I can, adore.
Watching thy cheerful, firm, unhurried tread
Down that long road declining to the dead,
And think, to see that dwindling shade depart:
“So small a master, but how great a heart!”

A.D. Hope (1907–2000)

The Lunch

Under these trellised vines, below
The summer trees our table waits;
A smiling waiter lays our plates.
Ah, Chloë, will you leave me now?
For though you may come back, you say,
How shall I live until that day?

Shall we have oysters on the shell?
Shall we choose mushrooms with the steak?
I never thought a heart could break
Between two sips of the moselle:
You laugh and ask me if my heart
Breaks table d’hôte or à la carte?

Laugh, Chloë, that delightful sound
Restores my spirits with my sense.
The present is the only tense
For love to make the world go round
And round and round until the sea
That takes you, brings you back to me.

Laugh, Chloë; in an hour you sail.
Let us remember while we can:
You are a woman, I a man
And nothing those two words entail
Of ventured or unbidden joy
Can time deny us or destroy.

Do you recall how long ago
You taught me with a laughing glance
To set my heart upon the dance
And let the dancers come and go
Since the fulfilment of desire
Asks still to feed, not fix, that fire?

Look up: the grapes are on the vine,
Green promises, unripe as yet;
Only two summers since we met
And just a year you have been mine,
Yet in that brief eternity
You have remade the world and me.

But when I try to keep it so
You look and laugh and raise your glass
And answer: “Only things that pass
Live and renew themselves and grow;
A love that does not change is dead
And offers stone for living bread.

“These oysters smelling of the brine
Are now our summer by the sea;
These grapes, though sour still, will be
Next summer’s heritage of wine;
Love’s every landfall is one more
Departure for an unknown shore.

“You will not be, suppse we meet
Next year, the man you are today,
Nor I the girl who went away;
And if we never do, my sweet,
You may presume this changing heart
To be a changeless work of art.

“For whether I come back or no,
You are a poet, I a theme
Composed to realize your dream.
I was content to have it so,
Since I too have my art: to give
Visions the flesh by which they live.

“But this is done: who would repeat
One rôle to the last tick of time?
Break off now at the peak and prime,
Not at love’s wane or its retreat
To which all natures in the end
Come if they live at all, my friend.

“You fight against it still? Recall:
Your first song set me by to be
A vintage for futurity,
A part no woman likes at all.
And now your wine is poured, I think:
Like it or not, but you must drink.”

Yes, Chloë, so I said at first
When I, as the magician then
Transformed you with my magic pen;
But now the parts are quite reversed:
Only your power supplanting mine
Can change my water into wine.

And yet each power in turn has made
This love which is both life and art
Where each of us has played our part
Of mutual and essential aid
By which the weak soul comes to be
Capable of eternity.

Now it is done: that noble draught
Is poured for me. I shall not shrink
And as a toast to you I drink!
For, the first time we met you laughed,
And, Chloë, you are laughing still.
Here comes the waiter with my bill.

A.D. Hope (1907–2000)

From Collected Poems (1972)


Day after somber day,
I think my neighbors strange;
In hell there is no change.
Where’s my eternity
Of inward blessedness?
I lack plain tenderness.

Where is the knowledge that
Could bring me to my God?
Not on this dusty road
Or afternoon of light
Diminished by the haze
Of late November days.

I lived with deep roots once:
Have I forgotten their ways—
The gradual embrace
Of lichen around stones?
Death is a deeper sleep,
And I delight in sleep.

Theodore Roethke (1908–1963)

The Happy Three

Inside, my darling wife
Sharpened a butcher knife;
Sighed out her pure relief
That I was gone.

When I had tried to clean
My papers up, between
Words skirting the obscene—
She frowned her frown.

Shelves have a special use;
And Why muddy shoes
In with your underclothes?
She asked, woman.

So I betook myself
With not one tiny laugh
To drink some half-and-half
On the back lawn.

Who should come up right then,
But our goose, Marianne,
Having escaped her pen,
Hunting the sun.

Named for a poetess,
(Whom I like none-the-less),
Her pure-white featheriness
She paused to preen;

But when she pecked my toe,
My banked-up vertigo
Vanished like April snow;
All rage was gone.

Then a close towhee, a
Phoebe not far away
Sang out audaciously
Notes finely drawn.

Back to the house we ran,
Me, and dear Marianne—
Then we romped out again,
Out again,
Out again,
Three in the sun.

Theodore Roethke (1908–1963)

The Saginaw Song

In Saginaw, in Saginaw,
The wind blows up your feet,
When the ladies’ guild puts on a feed,
There’s beans on every plate,
And if you eat more than you should,
Destruction is complete.

On Hemlock Way there is a stream
That some have called Swan Creek;
The turtles have bloodsucker sores,
And mossy filthy feet;
The bottoms of migrating ducks
Come off it much less neat.

In Saginaw, in Saginaw,
Bartenders think no ill;
But they’ve ways of indicating when
You are not acting well;
They throw you through the front plate glass
And then send you the bill.

The Morleys and the Burrows are
The aristocracy;
A likely thing for they’re no worse
Than the likes of you or me—
A picture window’s one you can’t
Raise up when you would pee.

In Saginaw, in Saginaw
I went to Sunday Shule;
The only thing I ever learned
Was called the Golden Rhule,—
But that’s enough for any man
What’s not a proper fool.

I took the pledge cards on my bike;
I helped out with the books;
The stingy members when they signed
Made with their stingy looks,—
The largest contributions came
From the town’s biggest crooks.

In Saginaw, in Saginaw,
There’s never a household fart,
For if it ever did occur,
It would blow the place apart,—
I met a woman who could break wind
And she is my sweet-heart.

O, I’m the genius of the world,—
Of that you can be sure,
But alas, alack, and me achin’ back,
I’m often a drunken boor;
But when I die—and that won’t be soon—
I’ll sing with dear Tom Moore,
With that lovely man, Tom Moore.

My father never used a stick,
He slapped me with his hand;
He was a Prussian through and through
And knew how to command,
I ran behind him every day
He walked the greenhouse land.

I saw a figure in a cloud,
A child upon her breast,
And it was O, my mother O,
And she was half-undressed,
All women, O, are beautiful
When they are half-undressed.

Theodore Roethke (1908–1963)

Meditation in Hydrotherapy

Six hours a day I lay me down
Within this tub but cannot drown.

The ice cap at my rigid neck
Has served to keep me with the quick.

This water, heated like my blood,
Refits me for the true and good.

Within this primal element
The flesh is willing to repent.

I do not laugh, I do not cry;
I’m sweating out the will to die.

My past is sliding down the drain;
I soon will be myself again.

Theodore Roethke (1908–1963)


In purest song one plays the constant fool
As changes shimmer in the inward eye.
I stare and stare into a deepening pool
And tell myself my image cannot die.
I love myself: that’s my one constancy.
Oh, to be something else, yet still to be!

Sweet Christ, rejoice in my infirmity;
There’s little left I care to call my own.
Today they drained the fluid from a knee s
And pumped a shoulder full of cortisone;
Thus I conform to my divinity
By dying inward, like an aging tree.

The instant ages on the living eye;
Light on its rounds, a pure extreme of light
Breaks on me as my meager flesh breaks down—
The soul delights in that extremity.
Blessed the meek; they shall inherit wrath;
I’m son and father of my only death.

A mind too active is no mind at all;
The deep eye sees the shimmer on the stone;
The eternal seeks, and finds, the temporal,
The change from dusk to light of the slow moon,
Dead to myself, and all I hold most dear,
I move beyond the reach of wind and fire.

Deep in the greens of summer sing the lives
I’ve come to love. A vireo whets its bill.
The great day balances upon the leaves;
My ears still hear the bird when all is still;
My soul is still my soul, and still the Son,
And knowing this, I am not yet undone.

Things without hands take hands: there is no choice,—
Eternity’s not easily come by.
When opposites come suddenly in place,
I teach my eyes to hear, my ears to see
How body from spirit slowly does unwind
Until we are pure spirit at the end.

Theodore Roethke (1908–1963)

The Phoenix

More than the ash stays you from nothingness!
Nor here nor there is a consuming pyre!
Your essence is in infinite regress
That burns with varying consistent fire,
Mythical bird that bears in burying!

I have not found you in exhausted breath
That carves its image on the Northern air,
I have not found you on the glass of death
Though I am told that I shall find you there,
Imperturbable in the final cold,

There where the North wind shapes white cenotaphs,
There where snowdrifts cover the fathers’ mound,
Unmarked but for these wintry epitaphs,
Still are you singing there without sound,
Your mute voice on the crystal embers flinging.

J.V. Cunningham (1911–1985)

If wisdom, as it seems it is

If wisdom, as it seems it is,
Be the recovery of some bliss
From the conditions of disaster—
Terror the servant, man the master—
It does not follow we should seek
Crises to prove ourselves unweak.
Much of our lives, God knows, is error,
But who will trifle with unrest?
These fools who would solicit terror,
Obsessed with being unobsessed,
Professionals of experience
Who have disasters to withstand them
As if fear never had unmanned them,
Flaunt a presumptuous innocence.

I have preferred indifference.

J.V. Cunningham (1911–1985)

Dark thoughts are my companions

Dark thoughts are my companions. I have dined
With lewdness and with crudeness, and I find
Love is my enemy, dispassionate hate
Is my redemption though it come too late,
Though I come to it with a broken head
In the cat-house of the disheveled dead.

J.V. Cunningham (1911–1985)

To My Wife

And does the heart grow old? You know
In the indiscriminate green
Of summer or in earliest snow
A landscape is another scene,

Inchoate and anonymous,
And every rock and bush and drift
As our affections alter us
Will alter with the season’s shift.

So love by love we come at last,
As through the exclusions of a rhyme,
Or the exactions of a past,
To the simplicity of time,

The antiquity of grace, where yet
We live in terror and delight
With love as quiet as regret
And love like anger in the night.

J.V. Cunningham (1911–1985)

Joe Hill

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Alive as you or me
Says I, But Joe, you’re ten years dead
I never died, says he
I never died, says he

In Salt Lake, Joe, says I to him
Him standing by my bed
They framed you on a murder charge
Says Joe, But I ain’t dead
Says Joe, But I ain’t dead

The copper bosses killed you, Joe
They shot you, Joe, says I
Takes more than guns to kill a man
Says Joe, I didn’t die
Says Joe, I didn’t die

And standing there as big as life
And smiling with his eyes
Joe says, What they forgot to kill
Went on to organize
Went on to organize

Joe Hill ain’t dead, he says to me
Joe Hill ain’t never died
Where working men are out on strike
Joe Hill is at their side
Joe Hill is at their side

From San Diego up to Maine
In every mine and mill
Where workers organize and strike
Says he, You’ll find Joe Hill
Says he, You’ll find Joe Hill

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Alive as you or me
Says I, But Joe, you’re ten years dead
I never died, says he
I never died, says he

Alfred Hayes (1911–1985)

A Ballad of the Good Lord Nelson

The Good Lord Nelson had a swollen gland,
Little of the scripture did he understand
Till a woman led him to the promised land
Aboard the Victory, Victory O.

Adam and Eve and a bushel of figs
Meant nothing to Nelson who was keeping pigs,
Till a woman showed him the various rigs
Aboard the Victory, Victory O.

His heart was softer than a new laid egg,
Too poor for loving and ashamed to beg,
Till Nelson was taken by the Dancing Leg
Aboard the Victory, Victory O.

Now he up and did up his little tin trunk
And he took to the ocean on his English junk,
Turning like the hour-glass in his lonely bunk
Aboard the Victory, Victory O.

The Frenchman saw him a-coming there
With the one-piece eye and the valentine hair,
With the safety-pin sleeve and occupied air
Aboard the Victory, Victory O.

Now you all remember the message he sent
As an answer to Hamilton’s discontent—
There were question about it in Parliament
Aboard the Victory, Victory O.

Now the blacker the berry, the thicker comes the juice,
Think of Good Lord Nelson and avoid self-abuse,
For the empty sleeve was no mere excuse
Aboard the Victory, Victory O.

“England Expects” was the message he gave
When he thought of little Emma out on Biscay’s wave,
And remembered working on her like a galley-slave
Aboard the Victory, Victory O.

The first Great Lord in our English land
To honour the Freudian command,
For a cast in the bush is worth two in the hand,
Aboard the Victory, Victory O.

Now the Frenchman shot him there as he stood
In the rage of battle in a silk-lined hood
And he heard the whistle of his own hot blood
Aboard the Victory, Victory O.

Now stiff on a pillar with a phallic air
Nelson stylites in Trafalgar Square
Reminds the British what once they were
Aboard the Victory, Victory O.

If they’d treat their women in the Nelson way
There’d be fewer frigid husbands every day
And many more heroes on the Bay of Biscay
Aboard the Victory, Victory O.

Lawrence Durrell (1912–1990)
Collected Poems 1931–1974, ed. James A. Bingham (Viking, 1989)

Moving In

I moved into my house one day
In a downpour of leaves and rain,
“I took possession,” as they say,
With solitude for my domain.

At first it was an empty place
Where every room I came to meet
Watched me in silence like a face:
I heard the whisper of my feet.

So huge the absence walking there
Beside me on the yellow floor,
That one fly buzzing in the air
But made the stillness more and more.

What I possessed was all my own,
Yet not to be possessed at all,
And not a house or even hearthstone,
And never any sheltering wall.

There solitude became my task,
No shelter but a grave demand,
And I must answer, never ask,
Taking this bridegroom by the hand.

I move into my life one day
In a downpour of leaves in flood,
I took possession as they say,
And knew I was alone for good.

May Sarton (1912–1995)

Dutch Interior
Pieter de Hooch (1629–1682)

I recognize the quiet and the charm,
This safe enclosed room where a woman sews
And life is tempered, orderly, and calm.

Through the Dutch door, half open, sunlight streams
And throws a pale square down on the red tiles.
The cosy black dog suns himself and dreams.

Even the bed is sheltered, it encloses,
A cupboard to keep people safe from harm,
Where copper glows with the warm flush of roses.

The atmosphere is all domestic, human,
Chaos subdued by the sheer power of need.
This is a room where I have lived as woman,

Lived too what the Dutch painter does not tell—
The wild skies overhead, dissolving, breaking,
And how that broken light is never still,

And how the roar of waves is always near,
What bitter tumult, treacherous and cold,
Attacks the solemn charm year after year!

It must be felt as peace won and maintained
Against those terrible antagonists—
How many from this quiet room have drowned?

How many left to go, drunk on the wind,
And take their ships into beartbreaking seas,
How many whom no woman’s peace could bind?

Bent to her sewing, she looks drenched in calm.
Raw grief is disciplined in the fine thread.
But in her heart this woman is the storm;

Alive, deep in herself, holds wind and rain,
Remaking chaos into an intimate order
Where sometimes light flows through a windowpane.

May Sarton (1912–1995)

An Old Niçoise Whore

The famous and rich, even the learned and wise,
Singly or in pairs went to her dwelling
To press their civilized lips to her thighs
Or learn at first hand her buttocks’ swelling.

Of high-paying customers she had no lack
And was herself now rich: so she implied.
Mostly she had made her pile while on her back
But sometimes she had made it on the side.

Reich she had read; of course the Viennese doctor.
Lawrence—his poems and novels she devoured;
Kafka at the beginning almost rocked her
But as she read him more she said he soured.

Swedish she spoke, French, Polish, fluent German;
Had even picked up Hindi—who knows how?
In bed she had learned to moan and sigh in Russian
Though its rhythms troubled her even now.

A nymphomaniac like Napoleon’s sister
She could exhaust a bull or stallion;
Bankers had kneeled before her crotch to kiss her
And ex-princes, Spanish and Italian.

And all the amorous mayors of France-Sudn
Impelled by lust or by regional pride
Would drive their Renaults into her neighborhood,
Ring her bell and troop happily inside,

And pimpled teen-agers whom priests and rabbis
Had made gauche, fearful, prurient and blind
Prodded by Venus had sought her expert thighs:
Ah, to these she was especially kind.’

Irving Layton (1912–2006)
The Collected Poems of Irving Layton (McClelland and Stewart, 1971)

Time in a Public Ward

As life goes on to worse and worse
The bed beside me calls the nurse
And says, It’s getting worse, I guess.
She makes the worse a little less
By needle. Soon along the wall
Another bed puts in a call.

After pills the lights go down;
The walls turn grey and pink and brown.
Time passes. All at once a jet
Of orange lights a cigarette
Within whose glow a caverned eye
Watches the cinder burn and die.

The walls go back to grey and pink
And brown again. One hears a sink
And low voices, rustling feet;
There’s music somewhere, late and sweet.
Clocks in the town put by the night
Hour by hour, ticked and right.

George Johnston (1913–2004)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

On the Porch

What’s on your mind tonight,
Mary bloody Jane?
Why do you click the light
Laughing like a drain?
Gentlemen are a dying race,
Click it on again.

It isn’t the way you walk
Drifting down the street,
It isn’t the way you talk
Doing things with your feet,
It isn’t the way you friz your hair
And make your odours sweet.

A fellow’s not made of glass
Nor he isn’t made of steel,
Some of the time he’s an ass
Some of the time he’ a heel
Some of the time he’s a shot down god
And that’s the way I feel.

George Johnston (1913–2004)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

Music on the Water

Saturday night she comes in her little boat
When the air is warm on the smoky river, afloat,
Making her presence felt in her flickering oars:
A journeying wound between the fragile shores.

Nights of splendour she’s been to splendid men,
Swallowed them whole and spit them out again,
After which they’ve forgotten her perhaps—
As though she might have remembered them, poor chaps.

Now they’re distributed about the town,
Two in a meeting, one in a dressing gown,
One in a hospital bed wth stinking bones,
One in a radio drama, making groans.

One is a kind, white-eyebrowed public man,
Used to write poems and at times still can;
Fame is his breakfast food and evening prayer;
Saturday night he dozes in his chair.

Out on the skin of water she sings a song,
Sweet but a little bit flat and sometimes wrong:
Under the bridge it wobbles as she goes by
And wastes away in the willow trees and the sky.

The song she sings is a Pentecostal hymn
According to which Earth’s glories are rather dim
Whereas the rewards of the just are very bright;
Low kind of song, but it serves her turn all right.

George Johnston (1913–2004)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.


Old Mrs. McWhirter is musty dusty old;
Down she goes to her cellar, it’s full of bugs and cold;
Up she goes to her bottles, they’re pink and green and brown;
Everywhere is a hairpin, they’re always coming down.

Out from her dusty nightgown her dusty angels creep;
They harp and sing in the twilight before she goes to sleep
Sweet notes on the staircase that tinkle high and fall
Among the dusty shadows from the cellarway and hall.

Nobody knows but the angels how deep the dark goes down;
They won’t tell Mrs. McWhirter, they flash their wings and clown;
Mrs. McWhirter mutters, the angels tease and scold;
A glory comes from their feathers, their voices ring like gold.

Dear Mrs. McWhirter, I wish she wouldn’t die
In the dusty way she’s planned it: I wish the Lady Sky,
Having come home from her orbits and interstellar space,
Would set aside in Eternity a homey dusty place

Where Mrs. might spat with her angels as thoughts together spat
In the dome of Eternal Wisdom, under the Eternal Hat;
But the bugs and bottles and hairpins will have to stay behind
Because Eternity’s stuffy, and perhaps a bit unkind.

George Johnston (1913–2004)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

The Queen of Lop

She works all day at a big machine that lops and lops and lops;
At five o’clock she does her face and the big machine it stops;
Home again on a public bus she goes to her little flat,
Cooks a chop and forgets the lop and the wash-up and all that.

The days go on as they always do and the evenings pass in fun;
Edward comes with his gloomy face, he makes the hours run;
Maybe they watch a picture show in the lovely dark abyss
And if Edward’s good and the show is good it’s the next best thing to bliss.

The wind that overcasts the lake and wears across the hills
Rattles itself among the city’s roofs and window sills;
Around her bed the noises come, they give her dreams a steer;
The little flat becomes a boat on the ocean dark and queer.

The big machine is aboard the boat and so is Edward’s face;
The shores go back, the thunders come, Leviathan gives chase;
On and on through the dreadful hours the winds and waters run
Until the walls wake up again and the curtains catch the sun.

The waters ebb from the papered room, the air is filled with light;
Bacon smells and coffee smells begin the day’s delight;
On to the public bus again and up to the big machine
Whose lop is a well-run kingdom, ruled by a decorous queen.

George Johnston (1913–2004)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

The Cartesian Lawnmower

The wandering vast unbounded green
Perplexes the intense machine.
I watch, I listen and hear more
Than mathematics in its roar.
But it rolls on, and like a pall
The towering weeds and grasses fall
Till each particular blade or spike
In essence different looks alike.
But there’s a spot it has to pass
Where weeds are thicker than the grass,
And on that spot it’s ill at ease.
With less a roar and more a wheeze,
With less a wheeze it grunts and pops,
And then ridiculously stops,
Until at last the tense machine
Is merged with an intenser green.

Donald Stanford (1913–1998)

The Bee

No more through summer’s haze I see,
In sunlight like a flash of spume,
The resolute and angry bee
Emerging from a flood of bloom.

The bee is quiet in her hive.
The earth is colorless and bare.
The veins of every leaf alive
Have stiffened in the altered air.

Donald Stanford (1913–1998)

Love Poem

My clumsiest dear, whose hands shipwreck vases,
At whose quick touch all glasses chip and ring,
Whose palms are bulls in china, burs in linen,
And have no cunning with any soft thing

Except all ill-at-ease fidgeting people:
The refugee uncertain at the door
You make at home; deftly you steady
The drunk clambering on his undulant floor.

Unpredictable dear, the taxi drivers’ terror,
Shrinking from far headlights pale as a dime
But leaping before red apoplectic streetcars—
Misfit in any space. And never on time.

A wrench in clocks and the solar system. Only
With words and people and love you move at ease.
In traffic of wit expertly manoeuvre
And keep us, all devotion, at your knees.

Forgetting the coffee spreading on our flannel,
Your lipstick grinning on our coat,
So gaily in love’s unbreakable heaven
Our souls on glory of spilt bourbon float.

Be with me, darling, early and late. Smash glasses—
I will study wry music for your sake.
For should your hands drop white and empty
All the toys of the world would break.

John Frederick Nims (1914–1999)

Spiv Song

Where are you going, my spiv, my wide boy,
down what grey streets will you shake your hair,
what gutters shall know the flap of your trousers
and your loud checked coat, O my young despair?

Have you been in a blind pig over whisky
where bedbugs spot the discoloured walls,
did you play barbotte and lose all your money
or backroom billiards with yellowed balls?

It’s midnight now and the sky is dusty,
the police are going their rounds in the square,
the coffee is cold and the chromium greasy
and the last bus leaves, O my young despair.

Don’t you just hate our personal questions
with your “Take me easy and leave me light,”
with your meeting your friends in every direction
—and sucking in private the thumb of guilt.

There are plenty of friends, my man, my monster,
for a Ganymede kid and a Housman lad
and plenty more you would hate to discover
what you do for a living, my spiv, my lad.

And isn’t it awkward, their smiles so friendly,
their voices so bright as they ask where you work:
a job in a store, or driving a taxi,
or baseball still in the sunlit park?

O why do you sit in the nightclub so sulky,
why so dramatic breaking the glass:
you’ve heard again that your mother is dying?
You think that you’ve caught a social disease?

Your looks are black, my spiv, my wide boy,
will you jump from the bridge to the end of the world
and break on the ice, my pleasure, my puppy,
your forehead so hot and your kisses so cold?

What desperate plan is this job that you talk of—
we’ll read tomorrow what happens tonight … ?
and where are you off to, my son, my shadow,
with the bill unpaid, as the door swings shut?

Patrick Anderson (1915–1979)

Sweet Thames Flow Softly

I met my girl at Woolwich Pier,
Beneath a big crane standing,
And O, the love I felt for her
It passed all understanding.
Took her sailing on the river,
Flow, sweet river, flow.
London town was mine to give her,
Sweet Thames flow softly.
Made the Thames into a crown,
Flow sweet river, flow,
Made a brooch of Silvertown,
Sweet Thames, flow softly.

At London Yard I held her hand
At Blackwall Point I faced her;
At the Isle of Dogs I kissed her mouth
And tenderly embraced her.
Heard the bells of Greenwich ringing,
Flow, sweet river, flow.
All the time I had was singing,
Sweet Thames flow softly
Lighthouse Reach I gave her there,
Flow, sweet river, flow,
As a ribbon for her hair,
Sweet Thames, flow softly.

From Shadwell dock to Nine Elms Reach
We cheek- to- cheek were dancing;
Her necklace made of London Bridge
Her beauty was enhancing.
Kissed her once again at Wapping,
Flow, sweet river, flow,
After that there was no stopping,
Sweet Thames flow softly.
Richmond Park, it was her ring,
Flow, sweet river, flow,
I’d have given her anything.
Sweet Thames, flow softly.

From Rotherhite to Putney Bridge,
My love I was declaring;
And she, from Kew to Isleworth
Her love for me was swearing.
Love had set my heart a-burning,
Flow, sweet river, flow,
Never Saw the tide was turning
Sweet Thames flow softly
Gave her Hampton Court to twist,
Flow, sweet river, flow,
Into a bracelet for her wrist,
Sweet Thames, flow softly.

But now, alas, the tide has changed,
My love she has gone from me;
And winter’s frost has touched my heart
And put a blight upon me.
Creeping fog is on the river,
Flow, sweet river, flow,
Sun and moon and stars gone with her,
Sweet Thames flow softly
Swift the Thames runs to the sea
Flow, sweet river, flow,
Bearing ships and part of me
Sweet Thames flow softly.

Ewan MacColl (1915–1989)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

The Big Hewer

Out of the dirt and darkness I was born, go down!
Out of the hard black coal-face I was torn, go down!
Kicked on the world and the earth split open,
Crawled through a crack where the rock was broken,
Burrowed a hole away in the coal, go down!

In a cradle of coal in the darkness I was laid, go down!
Down in the dirt and darkness I was raised, go down!
Cut me teeth on a five-foot timber,
Held up the roof with me little finger,
Started me time away in the mine, go down!

On the day that I was born, I was six feet tall, go down!
And the very next day I learned the way to haul, go down!
On the third day worked at board-and- pillar,
Worked on the fourth as a long-wall filler,
Getting me steam up, hewing the seam, go down!

I’m the son of the son of the son of a collier’s son, go down!
Coal dust flows in the veins where the blood should run, go down!
Five steel ribs and an iron backbone,
Teeth that can bite through rock and blackstone,
Working me time away in the mine, go down!

Three hundred years I hewed at the coal by hand, go down!
In the pits of Durham and East Northumberland, go down!
Been gassed and burned and blown asunder,
Buried more times than I can number,
Getting the coal away in the hole, go down!

I’ve scrabbled and picked at the face where the roof was low, go down!
Crawled in the seams where only a mole could go, go down!
In the thin-cut seams I’ve ripped and redded
Where even the rats are born bowlegged,
Winning the coal, away in the hole, go down!

I’ve worked in the Hutton, the Plessey, the Brockwell Seam, go down!
The Bensham, the Busty, the Beaumont, the Marshall Green, go down!
Lain on me back in the old Three-Quarter
Up to the chin in stinking water,
Hewing the coal, away in the hole, go down!

Out of the dirt and darkness I was born, go down!
Out of the hard black coal-face I was torn, go down!
Lived in the shade of the high pit heap,
I’m still down there where the seams are deep
A-digging a hole away in the coal, go down!

Ewan MacColl (1915–1989)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

The Gravedigger’s Song

O come all you gravediggers in Erin’s green isle,
Put down your owld spades, boys, and rest for a while;
Sit down on a headstone and listen to me,
While I sing of the wrongs done in this cemetery.

With me toorin an ya,
With me toorin an ya,
With me toorin an yoorin and yoorin an ya.

For forty-five years now I’ve wielded the spade,
A craftsman I am in the gravedigger’s trade;
The stiffs of owld Dublin all the year round,
I plant nice and decent in this holy ground.


The cut’s seven feet long and almost as deep,
Two feet wide at the shoulders and less at the feet;
You may travel this country around and around,
But a finer bone-orchard will never be found.


I’ve seen the fine funerals, people in droves,
Dressed up in their mourning just like bloody crows,
All full of Jamieson’s, boiled ham and cake---
But not once have I ever been asked to the wake.


Back in the twenties, sure that was the time,
When the Tans were around and we worked overtime;
His Majesty’s guns knocked down Dubliners’ homes--
But he gave ‘em free lodgings in old Mount Jerome.


I once buried a gent, he was thirty-two stone,
I dug for two days, I was worked to the bone;
I flung from the shoulder and flicked with the wrist--
And his widow stuck one lousy bob in me fist.


We’ve buried the poor and we’ve buried the rich,
The hardworking man and the son of a bitch;
The old and the young, sure they all end up here--
Six thousand we plant in an average year.


Yes, an average year and by no means the peak,
One hundred and twenty-five stiffs every week;
By my calculations that’s eighteen a day--
Sure, they give us no peace with their passing away.


The customers come here by day and by night,
I sometimes think Dubliners die out of spite.
But we’re organised now and the union is here,
And we’ve struck for an extra week out every year


The relatives come here with shovel and pick,
And the mourners have gone on a do-it-yourself kick;
They’re cursin’ and swearin’ and flingin’ up clay--
Bejasus, you’d swear all their wits were away.


Then stand fast, all diggers that in Dublin dwell;
From Deans Grange, Mount Jerome and Glasrevin as well.
They’re parking their corpses all over the place--
But we’ll fight until Dublin has run out of space.


Ewan MacColl (1915–1989)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

Hard Case

I’ve done my time in Liverpool,
I know the Scrubs as well;
But they’ll never get me to the ’Moor,
I’d rather top meself.

Hard case, hard case,
Hard cases galore!
But the hardest cases in the world
Are the screws who run the ’Moor.

They’ve got big fleas in Strangeways,
They’re big in Peterhead;
But the Dartmoor fleas can kick a man
And knock him out of bed.


They say it’s cold at the old North Pole,
And on Greenland’s icy shore;
But the coldest spot in the whole wide world
Are the cells upon the ’Moor.


The work is hard, the snout is scarce,
The privileges are few,
And the screws are always thinking up
New strokes to work on you.


I’ve been a porridge-eater now
For twenty years or more,
But I never ate grade-A cement
Till I was on the ’Moor.


So if you’re keen on finding out
What the devil has in store,
Then you’ve only got to do a stretch
At the college on the ’Moor.


Ewan MacColl (1915–1989)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

The Larkin Automatic Car Wash

Back from the Palace of a famous King,
Italian art
Making the roped–off rooms a Culture thing,
At about five o’clock we made a start,
Six teenagers squashed in. And as I drove
North from the barley sugar chimney pots
They sang the changeable teenager songs
That fade like tapestries those craftsmen wove,
But centuries more quickly. Through the knots
Of road-crossing pedestrians, through the longs

And shorts of planners’ morse, the traffic lights,
Over a hill,
Down to the garage advertising tights,
A special bargain, fast I drove on till
I drew up by the new Car Wash machine,
Pride of the forecourt, where a sign said STOP
Clear on the asphalt. In front a smaller car
Stood patiently as brushes swooshed it clean,
Whirling its streaming sides and back and top—
A travelling gantry; verticals, cross-bar.

We wound our windows up and waited there.
In pixie green
The moving monster lifted itself clear,
The yellow brushes furled and new were seen
As plastic Christmas trees. Its wet last client
Made for the highway and it was our turn.
In gear and under. Two tenpences fed in
A slot on the driver’s side. The pliant
Great brushes whirred and closed. Like yellow fern
One blurred the windscreen. Underwater thin

The Science Fiction light came creeping through
Alien and weird
As when the vegetables invade in Dr Who,
Something to be amused at—almost feared
And as the lateral brushes closed our sides,
Sweeping past steadily back, the illusion came
That we were moving forward, and I checked
The hard-on handbrake, thought of switchback rides
And how the effect in childhood was the same—
Momentary fear that gathered, to collect

In joy of safety. The tall half-children screamed—
The girls at least—
Delighted to be frightened, as it seemed,
By this mechanical, otherworldly beast.
The boys made usual, window-opening jokes.
And soon, tide-turning, the brushes travelled back,
Put our imaginations in reverse,
Though we were still. Like cigarettes and cokes
This was their slight excitement, took up slack
In time that wound by, idle, Nothing worse

And nothing better. To me it seemed so short,
I wanted more,
I wanted hours. I wanted to be caught
In that dense undergrowth by that wet shore.
This was an exit from our boring life,
A changed environment, another place,
A hideout from the searchers. Otherness
Was that world’s commonplace, a kitchen knife,
Something so usual that it had no face—
As the car dripped unnatural cleanliness.

Yes, it was jolly, Fun for the kids we say,
But more than that,
For if you look at it another way
This was a notable peak where all is flat.
Into the main road by the riverside
We right-turned past the pubs that line the route
Where cheering crowds watch boat race crews go by,
Travelling with the full incoming tide.
The roof, the sides, the bonnet and the boot
Shone with new wetness. Yet the dust could lie

As thick there as before; and would, in time,
This was reprieve.
Cars too grow old and dirty. Gin-and-lime
Perks up the guest; but all guests have to leave.
In through the main gate of the block of flats
I drove my giggling adolescent load,
And in vibrating door-slammed solitude
I parked. Under their different hats
Spiritual experiences work in a kind of code.
Did I have one? I, from this multitude?

Gavin Ewart (1916–1995)
The Collected Ewart, 1933–1980 (Hutchinson, 1980)

The Afterflu Afterlife

Life is so strict that every act must rhyme,
Centipede poem beating out the time,
While dry lips lust for ice, for ice and lime,
While plonking rhythm meets the hourly chime
To make the written mime a paradigm

Of journey through the sameness of its tense,
Where brightest cities give the most offence
And meaning runs on darkly past the dense
Forest of black hysterical no-sense,
A low unvarying fence without pretence

To shine in sun, or even to reflect
The moonlight, where a man might stand erect
And from some possibilities select
The difference they told him to expect,
In this or that respect. We genuflect

Before such length of sentence; it is long,
And birds are bursting, not bursting into song,
But under foxes’ teeth, and a dull gong,
Booms in an artform that is wholly wrong,
But right where we belong, the gardener’s prong

Spears nuisances in the bad undergrowth
And slow and otherworldly is the sloth
That creeps with treelife, and we have them both,
Archaic too, as meaningless and loth
We heard the dead word “troth” once in Arbroath.

To cross the ice before the ice can crack,
To tighten muscles now deformed and slack,
To straighten the curved-in bedridden back,
To run once more with the commuting pack?
To stumble with the hack? The answer’s black

And harsher than the rook or raven’s caw
And comes as quickly as the jay or daw
Flies the grey wolf’s unheard marauding paw.
All are timebound and subject to Time’s law,
That was the scene we saw. The wind is raw,

The angels don’t appear to tell us “Lo!
This must be done, for it is written so!”
The gods don’t answer the imploring O!,
Sad islands form this archipelago,
It’s all no go, no go—a triple no.

Gavin Ewart (1916–1995)
From The Collected Ewart, 1933–1980 (Hutchinson, 1980)

A 14-year old convalescent cat

I want him to have another living summer
to lie in the sun and enjoy the douceur de vivre
because the sun, like golden rum in a rummer,
is what makes an idle cat un tout petit peu ivre

I want him to lie stretched out, contented,
revelling in the heat, his fur all dry and warm,
an Old Age Pensioner, retired, resented
by no one, and happiness in a beelike swarm

to settle on him, postponed for another season
that last fated hateful journey to the vet
from which there is no return (and age the reason),
which must soon come - as I cannot forget.

Gavin Ewart (1916–1995)

Jig Tune: Not for Love

Where are you going? asked Manny the Mayor.
What are you doing? asked President Jane.
I’ll bet you’re a bastard, said Daniel the Deacon;
We’ll put you away where you’ll never be seen.

There won’t be no pardon, said Manny the Murderer.
There won’t be no stay, said Tommygun Jane.
Said Daniel McBedlam, You won’t go no farther;
My father won’t even declare you insane.

For a Madman’s Way, intoned Manny the Magnate.
The Public Good, shouted Editor Jane.
I think he’s a Commie, cried Danny O’Garrote;
If he won’t do murder, I call it a crime.

It’s not a long drop, sang Manny the Hangman.
The rope will stop you, crooned Juryman Jane.
In a box long and black, chanted Danny Le Flack,
We’ll suit you warm to keep out the rain.

All flesh is grass, sighed Manny the Mourner.
The handsome young man, wept Sob-sister Jane.
R.I.P., prayed Capital Daniel;
If he were alive we could kill him again.

Thomas McGrath (1916–1990)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

A Real Gone Guy:
Short Requiem for Percival Angelman

All property is theft. Proudhon
Whoever pays rent is a sucker. Longshot O’Leary
Suffer the little children, etc. Anon.

As I walked out in the streets of Chicago,
As I stopped in a bar in Manhattan one day,
I saw a poor weedhead dressed up like a sharpie,
Dressed up like a sharpie all muggled and fey.

He was beat to the socks, and his sick nerves were jumping
Like newly caught fish in the sack of his face.
He was wearing the monkey between his hired shoulders;
It twitched like a bullseye: the sign of the chase.

Twenty-three years from the dark of his mother,
From the water-borne dreams of before he was found;
Sixteen years from innocence, two from state suffrage,
And one year away from a hole in the ground.

“I can see by your threads that you’re not in the racket.”
Like knife-wounds his eyes in the corpse of his smile.
“Have a couple on me and we’ll talk while I’m waiting.
I’ve got an appointment but not for a while.

“Oh I once was a worker and had to keep scuffling;
I fought for my scoff with the wolf at the door.
But I made the connection and got in the racket,
Stopped being a business man’s charity whore.

“You’ll never get yours if you work for a living.
But you may make a million for somebody else.
You buy him his women, his trips to Miami,
And all he expects is the loan of yourself.”

“I’m with you,” I said, “but here’s what you’ve forgotten:
A working stiff’s helpless to fight on his own,
But united with others he’s stronger than numbers.
We can win when we learn that we can’t win alone.

“Because bosses can’t bribe us or buy an indulgence
For the years of our youth that they coined into gold.
Without our consent they have no power to rule us;
If we folded our arms they’d be out in the cold.”

“You sound like a mission-stiff gassed up on alky;
I won’t hold my breath till your kingdom has come.
They’ve got us in jail and there’s no key that fits it,
But I’ll walk through the hole I can make with a gun.

“Machinist or miners, sandhogs or chenangos—
Born in a scratch joint, live poor and die good.
With eight kids and a rupture, a wife and a mortgage,
And the years running out of their muscles like blood.

“O the boss stole the world and he’s locked you outside it;
He’s bought up the cops who patrol on his land.
He has hired judge and jury to hang you for trespass,
And pieced off a Bishop to see that you’re damned.

“Put a gun on the world and walk out with the damper
And put out the ice for whoever talks back—
I may not live long but at least I’ll be living,
Stacked to the bricks from the bright to the black.”

Crazy as bats in the glare of a street lamp
The terrible words whispered over our heads.
Then he covered his face with the hard look of money
And nervously followed his star where it led.

He turned and went out to the darkness inside him
To the Hollywood world where believers die rich,
Where free enterprise and the lives of his childhood
Were preparing his kingdom in some midnight ditch.

Now behold him, you watchers, as he turns at the corner,
Consider his soul when he’s lost in the dark.
His shoulders are high but his sick heart can never
Be padded with hope by Hart Schaffner and Marx.

And pardon his means which are those of our statesmen;
Forgive his ideals which are those of success;
Who had nothing to love him, not even a bank book,
And sins not important enough to confess.

When he’s dead send the body to all those who made him:
His head to the state, to the church his last scream;
His love to the poets, his heart to Chase National;
His skill with a gun to the U.S. Marines.

And God, if there were one, might have for a jewel
The bright human fire in the soul of his son,
And strike dead in an instant the scum who forgive him—
Who willed him and killed him and never cared once.

That twenty-three years from the dark of his mother,
From the water-borne dreams of before he was found,
Sixteen years from innocence, two from state suffrage,
He was one year away from a hole in the ground.

Thomas McGrath (1916–1990)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

A Little Song About Charity
(Tune of Matty Grove)

The boss came around at Christmas—
Oh smiling like a lamb—
He made me a present of a pair of gloves
And then cut off my hands—
Oh and then cut off my hands.

The boss came around on my birthday
With some shoes of a rich man’s brand.
He smiled like a priest as he cut off my feet
Then he said: “Go out and dance”—
Oh he said: “Go out and dance.”

The boss came around on May Day.
He said: “You may parade.”
Then his cops shot us down in the open street
And they clubbed us into jail—
Oh they clubbed us into jail.

The preacher says on Sunday:
“Turn ye the other cheek.”
Don’t turn it to the boss on Monday morn:
He may knock out all your teeth—
Oh he may knock out your teeth.

So listen to me workers:
When the boss seems kind and good
Remember that the stain on the cutting tool
Is nothing but your blood—
Oh it’s nothing but your blood.

If you love your wife and daughters,
And if you love your sons,
And if you love the working class
Then keep your love at home.
Don’t waste it on the cockroach boss
But keep your love at home.

Thomas McGrath (1916–1990)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.


The shadow of midnight lengthens across the world.
In the darkness only the lucky really are sure
That the sun comes up at the dawn and the birds sing
And the ones they love come back from the islands of sleep.

Voices of night, the metal voice on the wire,
The cry of a child, the voices hosting the air
That cry or laugh in the radio’s neutral ear—
All these are unreal. They cannot make me believe:

They are only echoes thronging an empty room
Where we talked with others. Now they have all gone
And nothing exists beyond the circle of light
But remembered landscapes full of my own ghosts

And full of sorrow—full of myself. How far
Now to the farm, or to Nice, or the Ozark hills
Where first I was happy? How far to the promised place
Where every image creates an indifferent joy?

All that is unknown land. It is far, far
And lost in the dark, and I carry all my dead.
My murders upon me, I seek that improbable peace
After some other midnight, darker, harder to bear.

Thomas McGrath (1916–1990)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

At the Hairdresser’s

Gimme an upsweep, Minnie,
With humpteen baby curls.
’Bout time I got some glamour.
I’ll show them girls.

Think they so fly a-struttin’
With their wool a-blowin’ ’round.
Wait’ll they see my upsweep.
That’ll jop ’em back on the ground.

Got Madam C.J. Walker’s first.
Got Poro Grower next.
Ain’t none of ’em worked with me, Min.
But I ain’t vexed.

Long hair’s out of style anyhow, ain’t it?
Now it’s tie it up high with curls.
So gimme an upsweep, Minnie.
I’ll show them girls.

[From Blacks, 1945]

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917–2000)

The Walnuts

There shine always the bright tops of the grove
And within that forest mysteries of birds,
In the autumn, the clear crackle of leaves
And the walnut pickers. Dark-skinned after them

The gleaners. Trees, trees were everywhere.
Out of the banks of a foggy morning,
Outside the windows, the sweet trees leaned
Tasseled in spring, in holy burst of leaves.

And the oats made meadows of the early year—
With nodes for whistles, the juice sweet and thin—
Grown high to bend into rooms, and yellow flowers
Hung over the spicy tunnels under the trees.

There the grove, hanging forever real in the air.
And I an exile, knowing every turn
And turning home, and lost in the dazzled road
The strange, swept premises, and the great trees gone.

Anne Stanford (1917–1987)

Thoughts After Ruskin

Women reminded him of lilies and roses.
Me they remind rather of blood and soap
Armed with a warm rag, assaulting noses,
Ears, neck, mouth and all the secret places:

Armed with a sharp knife, cutting up liver,
Holding hearts to bleed under a running tap,
Gutting and stuffing, pickling and preserving,
Scalding, blanching, broiling and pulverising,
—All the terrible chemistry of their kitchens.

Their distant husbands lean across mahogany
And delicately manipulate the market,
While safe at home, the tender and the gentle
Are killing tiny mice, dead snap by the neck,
Asphyxiating flies, evicting spiders,
Scrubbing, scouring aloud, disturbing cupboards,
Committing things to dustbins, twisting, wringing,
Wrists red and knuckles white and fingers puckered,
Pulpy, tepid. Steering screaming cleaners
Around the snags of furniture, they straighten
And haul out sheets from under the incontinent
And heavy old, stoop to importunate young,
Tugging, folding, tucking, zipping, buttoning,
Spooning in food, encouraging excretion,
Mopping up vomit, stabbing cloth with needles,
Contorting wool around their knitting needles,
Creating snug and comfy on their needles.

Their huge hands! Their everywhere eyes! Their voices
Raised to convey across the hullabaloo,
Their massive thighs and breasts dispersing comfort,
Their bloody passages and hairy crannies,
Their wombs that pocket a man upside down!

And when all’s over, off with overalls,
Quickly consulting clocks, they go upstairs,
Sit and sigh a little, brushing hair,
And somehow find, in mirrors, colours, odours,
Their essence of lilies and roses.

Elma Mitchell (1919–2000)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions

By the Beautiful Ohio

Now at the dark’s perpetual descent,
I remember the hoses, looped like snakes,
The arcs of silver spilled in little lakes,
All that rainbow bridge to summer, bent
Under the hanging stars. They swung so low
Our shirt-sleeved fathers grazed them long ago:
Giants with silver whips, who could crack down
A shower of stars to cool our parching lawn.

That time of summer, there was always time.
Shrill voices counting: twenty, ready or not,
And bodies light as moths or a firefly’s
Glimmer among the elms and then wink out,
Or at the statue-maker’s sudden whim,
Swing from his hand in easy equipoise,
Creating marble myths of girls and boys
While the water falls like silver over them.

Our porches bloomed with shy and spinster aunts,
Daisy, Olivia, Elizabeth—
Their names a nosegay or an orchard’s breath
Among the potted ferns and bric-a-bra
They fluttered fans or flirted gauzy sleeves,
Caged in a latticework of trumpet leaves,
And made a constant litany of talk
Till porches darkened and the cage went black.

And in the smothered furnace of the street
A moony Ford goes by on muffled wheels;
Boys and their mongrels spin like Catherine wheels.
Under the maples where their elders wilt
One banjo plucks a tune, and two guitars
Follow the tinny plinking charitably
And as another fumbles for the key,
The gloomed catalpas blaze with sudden stars.

Come home. The coast is clear. The river’s voice
Ravels the labyrinth of space and time.
The blurred canoes, the dance pavilion swim
In wrinkled splendor on the water’s face
And the riding lights of towns along that shore
Hang like a chain of tears we bargained for
When first we set our small boats bobbing free,
And never dreamed the river flowed away.

Here in another town the sprinklers jewel
The blue suburban dark with their clear fall,
And other voices chant the ritual
Of lost and found by patio and pool
And other children streak like meteors
In the forbidden country of the street
On tipsy wheels or skittish, silver feet—
The kicked can tinkles sweetly down the years.

I remember the hoses’ steady arc
And women gentle as the names they bore
On porches spiced with rose or lavender
Hung high like cages on the honeyed dark;
Daisy, Olivia, good night, good night
As clear and changeless as enduring myth,
The water falls through time of its own weight
And sings with the Ohio’s risen breath.

Joan LaBombard (1920–

If We Were Water Voice

We were the instrument. The waves and water
Made ever-changing gestures in our name
Who were as shadows, teeming, without form
And without voice, among the echoing waters,
Whose motions are the motions of our blood
Commemorating sea and its desire
To speak its endless convolutions through
Whatever shell or instrument it would.

The sea would be precursor to the word
And play its sounding artifice; so sound
Re-echoes from a shell into our blood
And sings of miracle, of what we were,
Gesture of the water to be born,
For we were sea, before we were ourselves
Or any haunted chamber of the bone
Remembering that pulse of greener sound.

If we were water-voice, the voice of ocean
Heard constantly at whisper, also, we
Were shell and organ for its resonance,
And of our past, both echo and reprise
Like music dying under its own wave.
Even the sea’s dispassionate remaking
As breaker’s curvature, or curving shell
Was sea, at iteration of itself.

Returning to the sea its chant of blood
And greener-voiced, to echo what it sang,
We praise the wave, its ceaseless ceremony,
And all the ritual plungings of its song,
Plungings of the sea, and of our blood
Answering, voice for voice, the water-sound,
Antiphonies of the self and the speaking sea
Whose meaning is the music we become.

Joan LaBombard (1920–


Without his trespass there to cast a shadow
the natural landscape could not begin to be
more than a flawless dream; green fields, a meadow
where the blind daisies swayed perpetually.

All those trees uplifted to some heaven
impossibly clear, and not one bough that bore
the lovely sap by which the fruit is given.
Those branches shamed perfection as they were.

And the dolphin’s leap, the lion’s magnificence
slept in a dream of time, a soundless hush,
without desire or the chain of consequence.
Causality would wait on Adam’s wish

that the clear parable should finally fail
by simple error and his human choice;
the honeyed air grow dry and temporal,
the lion speak, then, with the lion’s voice

and evening follow morning as he turned
against the light, the darkening bowl of sky.
What was our glory till his senses learned
the curve of earth or saw the shadow’s play

with somber recognition at the hour
of his delight in every natural thing?
Later he would remember leaf and flower
as they had been before her meddling,

the petal perfect and the bough complete.
But where was the savor and the bitter salt
or any stony patch to cultivate?
Perfection was the garden’s single fault

until our broken will could recreate
its ruined vision on this barren vine,
and raise the oak tree from its native root
and strew the shady ground with cyclamen.

Joan LaBombard (1920–

The Return

The blood that ran in me was not urban.
I almost said not human. It had come from
other times and a far place.

Loren Eiseley,
The Unexpected Universe

Here is the well-kept lawn, the ordered garden,
clipped hedges and the rose-embroidered beds.
The small grass tamed; and small birds walk on it,
and, there, the fence posts, neatly knit and painted.
Ringing the fence, lush meadows running under
compulsions of the wind, and richer shaded.

And then you turn and follow a green surf
breaking against far birches, maples, oak,
to lose yourself in shadow under trees
that interweave the forest floor with shade
and patches of pale gold like witches’ water
whose patterns lure you on hypnotically.

Now you are in a breathing green cathedral
haunted by many birds, by spirit voices.
The footing’s rougher; the very roots are sighing,
Child of the dark and wet, do you return?
Something is running with you, something furred,
half-sensed and then remembered in your blood.

And you are dreaming down the dream itself
past leafy walls to caves where small flames keep
flickering watch against the outer dark
but set the inner dark to shadow dancing.
Your horned companions howl away the years.
Here are their pictures drawn when you were young.

Here are their pictures streaming past your hand
that gave them being—feathers, antlers, fur.
Now you are drifting with the long snowfall:
alone in a difficult element, the air
like splintered crystal when you gulp it in,
and half your body salt and water-yearning.

Reborn to the floating world, to coral gardens
where something touched you, willing you to bear
shapes of fernseed, meadowlarks, and fire
as messages from time in your bloodstream.
You are the changeling at the heart of things
who dreamt the wet-winged birds among the roses.

Joan LaBombard (1920–

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.
Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks, but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
The soul shrinks

From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessèd day,
And cries,
“Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”

Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world’s hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,
“Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
keeping their difficult balance.”

© Richard Wilbur (1921–

Piccola Commedia

He is no one I really know,
The sun-charred, gaunt young man
By the highway’s edge in Kansas
Thirty-odd years ago.

On a tourist-cabin veranda
Two middle-aged women sat;
One, in a white dress, fat,
With a rattling glass in her hand,

Called “Son, don’t you feel the heat?
Get up here into the shade.”
Like a good boy, I obeyed,
And was given a crate for a seat

And an Orange Crush and gin.
“This state,” she said, “is hell.”
Her thin friend cackled, “Well, dear,
You’ve gotta fight sin with sin.”

“No harm in a drink; my stars!”
Said the fat one, jerking her head.
“And I’ll take no lip from Ed,
Him with his damn cigars.”

Laughter. A combine whined
On past, and dry grass bent
In the backwash; liquor went
Like an ice-pick into my mind.

Beneath her skirt I spied
Two sea-cows on a floe.
“Go talk to Mary Jo, son,
She’s reading a book inside.”

As I gangled in at the door
A pink girl, curled in a chair,
Looked up with an ingénue stare.
Screenland lay on the floor.

Amazed by her starlet’s pout
And the way her eyebrows arched,
I felt both drowned and parched.
Desire leapt up like a trout.

“Hello,” she said, and her gum
Gave a calculating crack.
At once, from the lightless back
Of the room there came the grumble

Of someone heaving from bed,
A Zippo’s click and flare,
Then, more and more apparent,
The shuffling form of Ed,

Who neither looked nor spoke
But moved in profile by,
Blinking one gelid eye
In his elected smoke.

This something I’ve never told,
And some of it I forget.
But the heat! I can feel it yet,
And that conniving cold.

© Richard Wilbur (1921–

Cottage Street, 1953

Framed in her phoenix fire-screen, Edna Ward
Bends to the tray of Canton, pouring tea
For frightened Mrs. Plath; then, turning toward
The pale, slumped daughter, and my wife, and me,

Asks if we would prefer it weak or strong.
Will we have milk or lemon, she enquires?
The visit seems already strained and long.
Each in his turn, we tell her our desires.

It is my office to exemplify
The published poet in his happiness,
Thus cheering Sylvia, who has wished to die;
But half-ashamed, and impotent to bless,

I am a stupid life-guard who has found,
Swept to his shallows by the tide, a girl
Who, far from shore, has been immensely drowned,
And stares through water now with eyes of pearl.

How large is her refusal; and how slight
The genteel chat whereby we recommend
Life, of a summer afternoon, despite
The brewing dusk which hints that it may end.

And Edna Ward shall die in fifteen years,
After her eight-and-eighty summers of
Such grace and courage as permit no tears,
The thin hand reaching out, the last word love,

Outliving Sylvia who, condemned to live,
Shall study for a decade, as she must,
To state at last her brilliant negative
In poems free and helpless and unjust.

© Richard Wilbur (1921–

In Limbo

What rattles in the dark? The blinds at Brewster?
I am a boy, then, sleeping by the sea,
Unless that clank and chittering proceed
From a bent fan-blade somewhere in the room,
The air-conditioner of some hotel
To which I came too dead-beat to remember.
Let me, in any case, forget and sleep.
But listen: under my billet window, grinding
Through the shocked night of France, I surely hear
A convoy moving up, whose treads and wheels
Trouble the planking of a wooden bridge.

For a half-kindled mind that flares and sinks,
Damped by a slumber which may be a child’s,
How to know when one is, or where? Just now
The hinged roof of the Cinema Vascello
Smokily opens, beaming to the stars
Crashed majors of a final panorama,
Or else that spume of music, wafted back
Like a girl’s scarf or laughter, reaches me
In adolescence and the Jersey night,
Where a late car, tuned in to wild casinos,
Gun past the quiet house towards my desire.

Now I could dream that all my selves and ages,
Pretenders to the shadowed face I wear,
Might, in this clearing of the wits, forgetting
Deaths and successions, parley and atone.
It is my voice which prays it; mine replies
With stammered passion or the speaker’s pause,
Rough banter, slogans, timid questionings—
Oh, all my broken dialects together;
And that slow tongue which mumbles to invent
The language of the mended soul is breathless,
Hearing an infant howl demand the world.

Someone is breathing. Is it I? Or is it
Darkness conspiring in the nursery corner?
Is there another lying here beside me?
Have I a cherished wife of thirty years?
Far overhead, a long susurrus, twisting
Clockwise or counterclockwise, plunges east,
Twin floods of air in which our flagellate cries,
Rising from love-bed, childbed, bed of death,
Swim toward recurrent day. And farther still,
Couched in the void, I hear what I have heard of,
The god who dreams us, breathing out and in.

Out of all that I fumble for the lamp-chain.
A room condenses and at once is true—
Curtains, a clock, a mirror which will frame
This blinking mask the light has clapped upon me.
How quickly, when we choose to live again,
As Er once told, the cloudier knowledge passes!
I am a truant portion of the all
Misshaped by time, incorrigible desire
And dear attachment to a sleeping hand,
Who lie here on a certain day and listen
To the first birdsong, homelessly at home.

© Richard Wilbur (1921–


As we left the garden-party
By the far gate,
There were many loitering on
Who had come late

And a few arriving still,
Though the lawn lay
Like a fast-draining shoal
Of ochre day.

Curt shadows in the grass
Hatched every blade,
And now on pedestals
Of mounting shade

Stood all our friends—iconic,
Now, in mien,
Half lost in dignities
Till now unseen.

There were the hostess’ hands
Held out to greet
The scholar’s limp, his wife’s
Quick-pecking feet,

And there was wit’s cocked head,
And there the sleek
And gaze-enameled look
Of beauty’s cheek.

We saw now, loitering there
Knee-deep in night,
How even the wheeling children
Moved in a rite

Or masque, or long charade
Where we, like these,
Had blundered into grand

Filling our selves as sculpture
Fills the stone.
We had not played so surely,
Had we known.

© Richard Wilbur (1921–

This Pleasing Anxious Being


In no time you are back where safety was,
Spying upon the lambent table where
Good family faces drink the candlelight
As in a manger scene by de La Tour.
Father has finished carving at the sideboard
And Mother’s hand has touched a little bell,
So that, beside her chair, Roberta looms
With serving bowls of yams and succotash.
When will they speak, or stir? They wait for you
To recollect that, while it lived, the past
Was a rushed present, fretful and unsure.
The muffled clash of silverware begins,
With ghosts of gesture, with a laugh retrieved,
And the warm, edgy voices you would hear:
Rest for a moment in that resonance.
But see your small feet kicking under the table,
Fiercely impatient to be off and play.


The shadow of whoever took the picture
Reaches like Azrael’s across the sand
Toward grown-ups blithe in black and white, encamped
Where surf behind them floods a rocky cove.
They turn with wincing smiles, shielding their eyes
Against the sunlight and the future’s glare,
Which notes their bathing caps, their quaint maillots,
The wicker picnic hamper then in style,
And will convict them of mortality.
Two boys, however, do not plead with time,
Distracted as they are by what?—perhaps
A whacking flash of gull-wings overhead—
While off to one side, with his back to us,
A painter, perched before his easel, seeing
The marbled surges come to various ruin,
Seeks out of all those waves to build a wave
That shall in blue summation break forever.


Wild, lashing snow, which thumps against the windshield
Like earth tossed down upon a coffin-lid,
Half clogs the wipers, and our Buick yaws
On the black roads of 1928.
Father is driving; Mother, leaning out,
Tracks with her flashlight beam the pavement’s edge,
And we must weather hours more of storm
To be in Baltimore for Christmastime.
Of the two children in the back seat, safe
Beneath a lap-robe, soothed by jingling chains
And by their parents’ pluck and gaiety,
One is asleep. The other’s half-closed eyes
Make out at times the dark hood of the car
Plughing the eddied flakes, and might foresee
The steady chugging of a landing craft
Through morning mist to the bombarded shore,
Or a deft prow that dances through the rocks
In the white water of the Allagash,
Or, in good time, the bedstead at whose foot
The world will swim and flicker and be gone.

© Richard Wilbur (1921–

At Grass

The eye can hardly pick them out
From the cold shade they shelter in,
Till wind distresses tail and mane;
Then one crops grass, and moves about
—The other seeming to look on—
And stands anonymous again.

Yet fifteen years ago, perhaps
Two dozen distances sufficed
To fable them; faint afternoons
Of Cups and Stakes and Handicaps,
Whereby their names were artificed
To inlay faded, classic Junes—

Silks at the start: against the sky
Numbers and parasols: outside,
Squadrons of empty cars, and heat,
And littered grass: then the long cry
Hanging unhushed till it subside
To stop-press columns on the street.

Do memories plague their ears like flies?
They shake their heads. Dusk brims the shadows.
Summer by summer all stole away,
The starting-gates, the crowds and cries—
All but the unmolesting meadows.
Almanacked, their names live; they

Have slipped their names, and stand at ease,
Or gallop for what must be joy,
And not a fieldglass sees them home,
Or curious stop-watch prophesies:
Only the groom, and the groom’s boy,
With bridles in the evening come.

Philip Larkin (1922–1985)

The Barricades

If now you cannot hear me, it is because
your thoughts are held by sounds of destiny
or turn perhaps to darkness, magnetized,
as a doomed ship upon the Manacles
is drawn to end its wandering and down
into the stillness under rock and wave
to lower its bright figurehead; or else
you never heard me, only listening
to that implicit question in the shade,
duplicity that gnaws the roots of love.

If now I cannot see you, or be sure
you ever stirred beyond the walls of dream,
rising, unbroken battlements, to a sky
heavy with constellations of desire,
it is because those barricades are grown
too tall to scale, too dense to penetrate,
hiding the landscape of your distant life
in which you move, as birds in evening air
far beyond sight trouble the darkening sea
with the low piping of their discontent.

Denise Levertov (1923–1997)

Casselden Road, N.W. 10
(For M.)

The wind would fan the life-green fires that smouldered
Under the lamps, and from the glistening road
Draw out deep shades of rain, and we would hear
The beat of rain on darkened panes, the sound
Of night and no one stirring but ourselves
Leaning still from the window. No one else
Will remember this. No one else will remember.

Shadows of leaves like riders hurried by
Upon the wall within. The street would fill
With phantasy, the night become
A river or an ocean where the tree
And silent lamp were sailing; the wind would fail
And sway towards the light. And no one else
Will remember this. No one else will remember.

Denise Levertov (1923–1997)

Setting the Woods on Fire

Comb your hair and paint and powder
You act proud and I’ll act prouder
You sing loud and I’ll sing louder
Tonight we’re settin’ the woods on fire

You’re my gal and I’m your feller
Dress up in your frock of yeller
I’ll look swell but you’ll look sweller
Settin’ the woods on fire

We’ll take in all the honky tonks
Tonight we’re having fun
We’ll show the folks a brand new dance
That never has been done

I don’t care who thinks we’re silly
You’ll be daffy and I’ll be dilly
We’ll order up two bowls of chili
Settin’ the woods on fire

I’ll gas up my hot rod stoker
We’ll get hotter than a poker
You’ll be broke but I’ll be broker
Tonight we’re settin’ the woods on fire

We’ll sit close to one another
Up the one street and down the other
We’ll have us a time O brother
Settin’ the woods on fire

We’ll put aside a little time
To fix a flat or two
My tires and tubes are doin’ fine
But the air is showin’ through

You clap hands and I’ll start bowin’
We’ll do all the law’s allowin’
Tomorrow I’ll be right back plowin’
Settin’ the woods on fire

Fred Rose (1898–1954)

From William Tyndale to John Frith*

The letters I, your lone friend, write in sorrow
Will not contain my sorrow: it is mine,
Not yours who stand for burning in my place.
Be certain of your fate. Though some, benign,
Will urge by their sweet threats malicious love
And counsel dangerous fear of violence,
Theirs is illusion’s goodness proving fair—
Against your wisdom—worldly innocence
And just persuasion’s old hypocrisy.
Making their choice, reflect what you become;
Horror and misery shedding ruin where
The saintly mind has treacherously gone numb;
Despair in the deceit of your remorse
As, doubly heretic, you waste your past
Recanting, by all pitied, honorless,
Until you choose more easy death at last.
Think too of me. Sometimes in morning dark
I let my candle gutter and sit here
Brooding, as shadows fill my cell and sky
Breaks pale outside my window; then the dear
Companionship we spent working for love
Compels me to achieve a double portion.
In spite of age, insanity, despair,
Grief, or declining powers, we have done
What passes to the living of all men
Beyond our weariness. The fire shall find
Me hidden here, although its pain be less
If you have gone to it with half my mind,
Leaving me still enough to fasten flesh
Against the stake, flesh absolute with will.
And should your human powers and my need
Tremble at last and grow faint, worn, and ill,
Pain be too much to think of, fear destroy,
And animal reluctance from the womb,
Endurance of your end’s integrity,
Be strong in this: heaven shall be your tomb.

Edgar Bowers (1924–2000)

John Frith, Tyndale’s most loyal disciple, returned to England from the continent in 1533, when he was thirty years old. He was arrested and burned at the stake. This letter would have been written to Frith in prison from Tyndale in Holland, where, not long after, he too was imprisoned and burned at the stake for heresy.” [Author’s note]

Adam’s Song to Heaven

You shall be as gods, knowing good and evil

O depth sufficient to desire,
Ghostly abyss wherein perfection hides,
Purest effect and cause, you are
The mirror and the image love provides.

All else is waste, though you reveal
Lightly upon your luminous bent shore
Color, shape, odor, weight, and voice,
Bright mocking hints that were not there before,

And all your progeny time holds
In timeless birth and death. But, when, for bliss,
Loneliness would possess its like,
Mine is the visage yours leans down to kiss.

Beautiful you are, fair deceit!
Knowledge is joy where your unseeing eyes
Shine with the tears that I have wept
To be the sum of all your thoughts devise.

Flawless you are, unlimited
By other than yourself, yet suffer pain
Of the nostalgia I have felt
For love beyond the end your eyes contain;

Then, solitary, drift, inert,
Through the abyss where you would have me go
And, lost to your desire at last,
Ravish the waste for what you cannot know.

What are you then! Delirium
Receives the image I despair to keep,
And knowledge in your somber depth
Embraces your perfection and your sleep.

Edgar Bowers (1924–2000)

In the Last Circle

You spoke all evening hatred and contempt,
The ethical distorted to a fury
Of self-deception, malice, and conceit,
Yourself the judge, the lawyer, and the jury.
I listened, but, instead of proof, I heard,
As if the truth were merely what you knew,
Wrath cry aloud its wish and its despair
That all would be and must be false to yo.

You are the irresponsible and damned,
Alone in fatal cold athwart your prey.
Your passion eats his brain. Compulsively,
The crime which is your reason rots away
Compassion, as they both have eaten you,
Till what you are is merely what you do.

Edgar Bowers (1924–2000)



Customs, but there seems nothing to declare.
My own illusion, and taking my own dare,

alone, I wait the likeness of the need
my loneliness will teach me, not a creed

or history, but a fable, dangerous
as pure occasion, as ambiguous.

Forty years young! The spectral avatar
I wander toward will seem familiar, far

in future pasts, when I, with old defense,
dignify it in private consequence.


Dark rain, stone streets, and, on dim buildings, light
torpid and cold. In the bar, the erudite

antagonist defines the risk, the quest.
But who and what is he? The quiet man, dressed

in black, leaning in his chair, a cigarette
caught in his smile? old unappeased regret?

the promised other? or the friendly whore,
an image of my death, solicitor

beckoning toward the hyperbolic kiss,
who takes my fear, my hope, my trust for bliss,

and leaves me lonelier on the lonely bed?
Without direction, I confront the dead,

but not for mere adventure, nor for spite.
I look toward someone in this cold, this night.


We kiss, and then I fill my time alone.
Nothing I think protects me; I atone

for some mistake, some truth, some ignorance
of carelessness, self-love, or innocence.

That knowledge will outlast this lust. But here,
now, undismayed by vanity and fear,

I know you walk the Luxembourg, afraid
of love, except the casual or the paid,

and know we feel the same deliberate end.
It brings you back, my enemy my friend,

an end aloof and cruel, but profound,
other than love, a limit and a ground.


Another pick-up. Professionally kind,
but ruthless, a youthful body in a mind

without illusion, true, but simply true,
this is the brute appearance I live through.

Oh age and act of reason, comic mime,
clear as a theorem, chaste as space and time.

And we two? Dreams of affection, unimpaired
exclusions of a faith unnamed, unshared.


Too much. I have the flu. I write my name
illegibly on checks, ironic claim

on what I am and have from my true past,
what I depend on, well or ill, the last

residue of decision, paid and sure.
Waking from a delirium, a pure

self which suffers the dream of happiness,
I lie content. For, after all, duress

is coffee, and a croissant, and a word
from strangers, human, comforting, absurd.

Edgar Bowers (1924–2000)

The Poet Orders His Tomb

I summon up Panofsky from his bed
Among the illustrious dead
To build a tomb which, since I am not read,
Suffers the stone’s mortality instead,

Which, by the common iconographies
Of ample visual ease,
Usurps the place of the complexities
Of sounds survivors once preferred to noise.

Monkeys fixed on one bough, an almost holy’
Nightmarish sloth, a tree
Of parrots in a pride of family,
Immortal skunks, unaromatically;

Some deaf bats in a cave, a porcupine
Quill less, a superfine
Flightless eagle, and, after them, a line
Of geese, unnavigating by design;

Dogs in the frozen haloes of their barks,
A hundred porous arks
Aground and lost, where elephants like quarks
Ape mother mules or imitation sharks—

And each of them half-venerated by
A mob, impartially
Scaled, finned, or feathered, all before a dry
Unable mouth, symmetrically awry.

But how shall I, in my brief space, describe
A tomb so vast, a tribe
So desperately existent for a scribe
Knowingly of the fashions’ diatribe,

I who have sought time’s memory afoot,
Grateful for every root
Of trees that fill the garden with their fruit,
Their fragrance and their shade? Even as I do it,

I see myself unnoticed on the stair
That, underneath a clear
Welcome of bells, had promised me a fair
Attentive hearing’s joy, sometime, somewhere.

Edgar Bowers (1924–2000)

An Elegy: December, 1970

Almost four years, and, though I merely guess
What happened, I can feel the minutes’ rush
Settle like snow upon the breathless bed—
And we who loved you, elsewhere, ignorant.
From my deck, in the sun, I watch boys ride
Complexities of wind and wet and wave:
Pale shadows, poised a moment on the light’s
Archaic and divine indifference.

Edgar Bowers (1924–2000)

Nescis, Heu, Nescis

Go, little book: I cannot say
Whether I’d have you leave or stay,
Since you’re so ready now to try
Your luck with every passerby.
But if I say (and mean it, too),
It is a whorish thing to do,
A loveless promiscuity,
To go in every company,
I see in you no such success
As would confirm this restlessness:
How will you catch the casual eye?
You’re both too haughty and too shy—
Too plain, besides, poor silly goose,
Ever to play it fast and loose.
But go! Better to learn the worst
(As I have taught you from the first)
Than to delude yourself: I give
Here my best life; but you must live
By other hands than those that gave.
I gave. I cannot also save.

Catherine Davis (1924–2002)

After a Time

After a time, all losses are the same.
One more thing lost is one thing less to lose;
And we go stripped at last the way we came.

Though we shall probe, time and again, our shame,
Who lack the wit to keep or to refuse,
After a time, all losses are the same.

No wit, no luck can beat a losing game;
Good fortune is a reassuring ruse:
And we go stripped at last the way we came.

Rage as we will for what we think to claim,
Nothing so much as this bare thought subdues:
After a time, all losses are the same.

The sense of treachery–the want, the blame–
Goes in the end, whether or not we choose,
And we go stripped at last the way we came.

So we, who would go raging, will go tame
When what we have we can no longer use:
After a time, all losses are the same;
And we go stripped at last the way we came.

Catherine Davis (1924–2002)


Nothing about the first abandonment
In which the loose leaves lost their grip and slid
Dumbly, obliquely down to lie for days
On porches, lawns, and walks, or slid along
The streets indifferently—nothing about
The way the birds took off, black against white
White skies, or the days slumped and the dismal ground
Beneath her faded out—unsettled her.
These were routine.
     It was the backward look
Of certain hours and how the warm air lagged,
The wind wavered and stopped, the leaves hung on;
It was the unexpectedly dense light
Late afternoons like hoarded gold, holding
For her the old effects, the diverse trash
Of other times, belongings held too long
Because they once had served, although they served
No longer, and to which she thus belonged.
Had she not, too long now, resolved that all
Loved grievous things, though they should prove the whole,
Would be, once and for all, swept up and out?

So, when a fine, cold, desolating rain
And wind, needling and nudging her, began,
She felt the comfort of their empty hands.
Had she believed that rain cried or that wind
Was querulous, she might have heard in them
A general reluctance to be done.
But as it was, it was the usual drift
Of all expendables, reminding her
What she belonged to, what belonged to her.

Catherine Davis (1924–2002)

In New York

What can I do here? I could learn to lie;
Mouth Freud and Zen; rub shoulders at the “Y”
With this year’s happy few; greet every hack—
The rough hyena, the young trimmer pack,
The Village idiot—with an equal eye;
And always scratch the true backscratcher’s back.
All this, in second Rome, I’d learn to do,
Hate secretly and climb; get money; quit,
An absolutely stoic hypocrite.
This, but not more. New York is something new;
The toadies like the toads they toady to.

Catherine Davis (1924–2002)

The Flickering Shadow Stanzas

Into the unlit room like non-existence
Dusk sidles like a glimpse of the unseen;
Shadows of likeness welcome all pretence
To a dimension that has never been;
I sit alone, the light behind me dies.
Dusk packs the empty corners of the room –
A darkish girl, deception in her eyes –
With complicated light and simple gloom.

Nothing was brighter than the light of day,
Warm sun, quick wind and water on the skin,
A world of blonde and blue and things to say,
White foam and further out the silver fin
And further still horizon without end,
The light that always was on land and sea –
An honest girl on whom you can depend –
Showing what is as what was meant to be.

Here the dead lived and here they learned to die
Relinquishing the sunlight and the shade,
The picture window and the empty sky;
Feeling a tremor in a flesh unmade,
Evening and heartbreak, dusk and not to be,
They paid attention and devoted breath
To learning truly, seeing it was she,
The simple lesson taught by Lady Death.

And evening comes again with evening light,
A fading of the last of fading days.
From where I sit I watch a wall of white
Washed by a dappling of blues and greys,
The sideboard empty and the bookcase dark
With apprehension on an unread page –
On bitter lips where kisses missed their mark –
Of metaphors for ending of an age.

I need no bright eruption in the sky.
I do not want a sunset at my back,
Like the abortion of the century,
Dripping down double-glazing, bloody-black.
It is enough to sit and sit and watch
The twilight like a pause still going on
When all there was has dwindled to a blotch
As big as earth and all of time has gone,

Drained off in happy hours or leaked away,
Void as a ten-ounce tonic’s chilly clink,
Opaque as barmaids’ eyes at close of play –
Lost vintage, thirsty girls, the final drink:
Add to one third of Beefeater Dry Gin
Bols Orange Curaçao, one third, ice,
Then mix a third of dry white vermouth in,
Shake. ‘Cherry?’ ‘Mead’s Old Gold.’ ‘Oh, this tastes nice!’

Once there was firelight but the fire is out
Where once there danced the dance of naked flame
And lissom forms of lovers played about
Until the proper point of darkness came.
And once soft oil-lamp light touched cheek and hair
Calming the room in which the light was shed,
And everyone I loved was sitting there
Until a candle took me up to bed.

Night will be dark with all the daddy-gods
Cuddled together in the big nurse arms,
A snoring clutch of idle odds and sods
Dreaming of sacrifice and prison-farms.
I am what each creator could create
Blowing on any clay with any breath;
A pigmy undershadowed by his fate,
A poison dwarf who puts himself to death.

One could take half a tranquilliser now
To keep one steady as one checked the kit
Placed within easy reach, all in a row,
To make quite sure that one had all of it:
The travel-sickness pill, the final snack,
The sleeping pills and, like an airtight vault,
The plastic sack inside the plastic sack –
He died of Neodorm and Single Malt.

The definition that a shadow seeks
Is no redefinition of the light,
A sunlit radiance of snowcapped peaks
Seen naked by sheet lightning at night –
A bride in black with all the pallors pale,
Sombre mulatto bridesmaids, swarthy page,
The bride behind a never-lifted veil
And Africa a bridegroom in a rage.

My Lady Death that you were Lady Love
And Lady Mother and the night is new
And all shapes change and stars will shine above
And I shall never take my leave of you,
I thank my lucky stars unfixed by fear
Except the fear of death and being dead
That love has come again to find me here
And heap a mother’s mercy on my head.

The unborn ranks of sons and daughters bow
Safe in the faint pleroma of their choice,
Eternally to be unfathered now,
Forever uncalled home by any voice
Echoing emptily across a lawn
Into a garden where a child might hide.
Night is what stands between the dusk and dawn.
No-one sees nothing on the moon’s dark side.

Into the non-existence of a room
Long unseen shadows crowd to take the place
Of faceless men long gone to faceless doom,
A last light falls upon the human race.
And following the light the dark comes quick,
A black lid closes on a bloodshot eye,
And to the sound of someone being sick
A negro steals the sunset from the sky.

Matthew Mead (1924–2009)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

Sestina at the End of Socialism

We watch the workers walk away,
We hear a time-clock punched in time.
The whole account is in the red
But not much in the shops today.
Ruin is coming like a rhyme.
The party is as good as dead.

The leadership as bad as dead,
Frightened and too old anyway.
A gut that rumbles makes a rhyme
For something being sick in time.
Old men wake up to dread the day,
The mockery of dawn is red.

‘The People’s Flag is crimson-red,
It flutters o’er our martyred dead’
We shall not sing that song today.
Massed choirs no longer voice the way
Men massed might make a sense of time
Surpassing reason with a rhyme.

A dogma ruthless as a rhyme;
The sodding tundra sodden red,
Kulak and gulag, slime and time,
Purge/urge, the duty to be dead.
Ten million roubles bet each way.
The lads are eating horse today.

It could be my last day today –
Young Rubashov will know the rhyme
Eternity might shrug away.
The girls were young, the wine was red,
And hardly anybody dead.
Perhaps there’ll be another time.

At some small rotting point in time
This is the end of yesterday;
A future waiting for the dead.
The rhyme is only there to rhyme.
The autumn comes, the leaves turn red.
Ungood the leaves are blown away.

Tick-tock, Ingsoc, a load of rhyme.
Expletive day, deleted red.
Dead end. Dada. Go out this way.

Matthew Mead (1924–2009)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

Villanelle of the Last Gasp

Put out the final cigarette
And do you really want that drink
Prepare to live and die in debt

The day is drained beyond regret
The glass is cracked the ashtrays stink
Put out the final cigarette

A dirty shirt a losing bet
You are not worth a jockey’s wink
Prepare to live and die in debt

Whisky like water wet and wet
A cashflow on the rocks clink clink
Put out the final cigarette

The bedclothes will be wet with sweat
Pink elephants will all be pink
Prepare to live and die in debt

This lady dressed in stockinet
Will pour your whisky down the sink
Put out the final cigarette
Prepare to live and die in debt.

Matthew Mead (1924–2009)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

A Double Villanelle

I have decreed the fortyeight hour day
And each dark hour shall lengthen thy delight;
The tempo is tomorrow’s long delay.
My law of leisure idles time away
Making eternity an Ewigkeit;
Enjoy the whole of it on double pay.

You shall no longer live in disarray
Of fleeting moments or of sudden fright,
I have decreed the fortyeight hour day;
A minute circles like a bird of prey,
Hovers unswooping in a slowflap flight;
My law of leisure idles time away.

The status quo stands where it is to stay
For twice the time you ever thought it might.
The tempo is tomorrow’s long delay
And clocks that you no longer need obey
Strike ‘Never’ in the middle of the night;
Enjoy the whole of it on double pay.

Who would not be immortal let him pray
To such swift gods who speed him from his plight.
I have decreed the fortyeight hour day –
A lump of time to play and then replay,
All out, stumps drawn, but no result in sight.
My law of leisure idles time away.

Dawn, double-spaced, has dawdled till midday
And luncheon found no end of appetite,
The tempo is tomorrow’s long delay.
Unchanged, unaltered, not a hair turned gray,
Running to length in all you ever write –
Enjoy the whole of it on double pay.

A double villanelle, a negligée
Concealing nothing from a second sight.
I have decreed the fortyeight hour day.
The tempo is tomorrow’s long delay.
A double villanelle and come what may
All loves endure, eternal flames burn bright;
My law of leisure idles time away,
Enjoy the whole of it on double pay.

Matthew Mead (1924–2009)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

Psalm and Lament

Hialeah, Florida
in memory of my mother (1897–1974)

The clocks are sorry, the clocks are very sad.
One stops, one goes on striking the wrong hours.

And the grass burns terribly in the sun,
The grass turns yellow secretly at the roots.

Now suddenly the yard chairs look empty, the sky looks empty,
The sky looks vast and empty.

Out on Red Road the traffic continues; everything continues.
Nor does memory sleep; it goes on.

Out spring the butterflies of recollection,
And I think that for the first time I understand

The beautiful ordinary light of this patio
And even perhaps the dark rich earth of a heart.

(The bedclothes, they say, had been pulled down.
I will not describe it. I do not want to describe it.

No, but the sheets were drenched and twisted.
They were the very handkerchiefs of grief.)

Let summer come now with its schoolboy trumpets and fountains.
But the years are gone, the years are finally over.

And there is only
This long desolation of flower-bordered sidewalks

That runs to the corner, turns, and goes on,
That disappears and goes on

Into the black oblivion of a neighborhood and a world
Without billboards or yesterdays.

Sometimes a sad moon comes and waters the roof tiles.
But the years are gone. There are no more years.

Donald Justice (1925–2004)

Bus Stop

Lights are burning
In quiet rooms
Where lives go on
Resembling ours.

The quiet lives
That follow us—
These lives we lead
But do not own—

Stand in the rain
So quietly
When we are gone,
So quietly …

And the last bus
Comes letting dark
Umbrellas out—
Black flowers, black flowers.

And lives go on.
And lives go on
Like sudden lights
At street corners

Or like the lights
In quiet rooms
Left on for hours,
Burning, burning.

Donald Justice (1925–2004)

Two Blues


When the lights go on uptown,
Why do you feel so low, honey,
Why do you feel so low-down?

When the piano and the trombone start,
Why do you feel so blue, honey,
Like a rubber glove had reached in for you heart?

Oh, when the dancers take the floor,
Why don’t you step out with them, honey,
Why won’t you step out with them any more?

The stars are gone and the night is dark,
Except for the radium, honey,
That glows on the hands of your bedside clock,

The little hands that go around and around,
Oh, as silently as time, honey,
Without a sound, without a sound.


A dark time is coming, and the gypsy knows what else.
Fly away, O angel death.

It looks like a raven sitting on the wire.
It looks like a raven sitting on the telephone wire.
Oh, it is some high flier!

Look out now, it’s loose in the back yard.
Look out, look out, it’s loose in the back yard
Oh, no, don’t you look at me, big bird.

If you are lost I can’t help.
If you are lost, I can’t help.
I’m a stranger in this place myself.

Fly away, fly away,
Fly away, O angel death.

And shine down, moonlight, make those long feathers shine.
I want to keep track of where it’s going.
[Spoken] Shine down, moonlight.

Donald Justice (1925–2004)

On an Anniversary

Thirty years and more go by
In the blinking of an eye,
And you are still the same
As when first you took my name.

Much the same blush now as then
Glimmers through the peach-pale skin.
Time (but as with a glove)
Lightly touches you, my love.

Stand with me a minute still
While night climbs our little hill.
Below, the lights of cars
Move, and overhead the stars.

The estranging years that come,
Come and go, and we are home.
Time joins us as a friend,
And the evening has no end.

Donald Justice (1925–2004)

A Muse of Water

We who must act as handmaidens
To our own goddess, turn too fast,
Trip on our hems, to glimpse the muse
Gliding below her lake or sea,
Are left, long staring after her,
Narcissists by necessity;

Or water-carriers of our young
Till waters burst, and white streams flow
Artesian, from the lifted breast:
Cup-bearers then, to tiny gods,
Imperious table-pounders, who
Are final arbiters of thirst.

Fasten the blouse, and mount the steps
From kitchen taps to Royal Barge,
Assume the trident, don the crown,
Command the Water Music now
That men bestow on Virgin Queens;
Or, goddessing above the waist,

Appear as swan on Thames or Charles
Where iridescent foam conceals
The paddle-stroke beneath the glide:
Immortal feathers preened in poems!
Not our true, intimate nature, stained
By labor, and the casual tide.

Masters of civilization, you
Who moved to river bank from cave,
Putting up tents, and deities,
Though every rivulet wander through
The final, unpolluted glades
To cinder-bank and culvert lip,

And all the pretty chatterers
Still round the pebbles as they pass
Lightly over their watercourse,
And even the calm rivers flow,
We have, while springs and skies renew,
Dry wells, dead seas, and lingering drouth.

Water itself is not enough,
Harness her turbulence to work
For man, fill his reflecting pools.
Drained for his cofferdams, or stored
In reservoirs for his personal use:
Turn switches! Let the fountains play!

And yet these buccaneers still kneel
Trembling at the water’s verge:
“Cool River-Goddess, sweet ravine,
Spirit of pool and shade, inspire!”
So he needs poultice for his flesh.
So he needs water for his fire.

We rose in mists and died in clouds
Or sank below the trammeled soil
To silent conduits underground,
Joining the blind-fish, and the mole.
A gleam of silver in the shale:
Lost murmur! Subterranean moan!

So flows in dark caves, dries away,
What would have brimmed from bank to bank,
Kissing the fields you turned to stone,
Under the boughs your axes broke.
And you blame streams for thinning out,
Plundered by man’s insatiable want?

Rejoice when a faint music rises
Out of a brackish clump of weeds,
Out of the marsh at ocean-side,
Out of the oil-stained river’s gleam,
By the long causeways and gray piers
Your civilizing lusts have made.

Discover the deserted beach
Where ghosts of curlews safely wade:
Here the warm shallows lave your feet
Like tawny hair of magdalens.
Here, if you care, and lie full-length,
Is water deep enough to drown.

Carolyn Kizer (1925–

Prologue: Moments in a Glade

Abiding snake:
At thirty-four
By unset spirit driven here
I watch the season. Warily
My private senses start to alter,
Emerging at no sign from me
In the stone colors of my matter.

You that I met in a dim path,
Exact responder with a wrath
Wise in conditions, long secure,
Settled expertly for the kill
You keep a dull exterior
Over quick fiber holding still …

Rocking a little, in a coarse
Glitter beneath fine, vacant space,
The hillside scrub oak interlocked
Where year by year, and unattended,
And by abrasive forcings raked
Against itself, it had ascended.

And yet below me sixty feet
A well of air stood dark and sweet
Over clean boulders and a spring.
And I descended through a ripple
Of upper leaves, till noticing
That a rock pattern had grown supple,

And whirred, I quietly backed off.
I have considered you enough.
The rattle stopped; the rigid coil,
Rustling, began to flow; the head,
Still watching me, swayed down to crawl,
Tilting dead leaves on either side.

You in the adventitious there,
Passion, but passion making sure,
Attending singly what it chose
And so condemned to lie in wait
Stilled in variety—to doze
Or wake as seasons fluctuate,

Eyes open always, the warm prey
At best but happening your way.
And I too slowly found a stone
To break your spine; and I have known
That what I will have surely spoken
Abides thus—may be yet thus broken.

Alan Stephens (1925–

Lament for Barney Flanagan

Licensee of the Hesperus Hotel

Flanagan got up on a Saturday morning,
Pulled on his pants while the coffee was warming;
He didn’t remember the doctor’s warning,
“Your heart’s too big, Mr. Flanagan.”

Barney Flanagan, sprung like a frog
From a wet root in an Irish bog—
May his soul escape from the tooth of the dog!
God have mercy on Flanagan.

Barney Flanagan R.I.P.
Rode to his grave on Hennessey’s
Like a bottle-cork boat in the Irish Sea.
The bell-boy rings for Flanagan.

Barney Flanagan, ripe for a coffin,
Eighteen stone and brandy-rotten,
Patted the housemaid’s velvet bottom—
“Oh, is it you, Mr. Flanagan?”

The sky was bright as a new milk token.
Bill the Bookie and Shellshock Hogan
Waited outside for the pub to open—
“Good day, Mr. Flanagan.”

At noon he was drinking in the lounge bar corner
With a sergeant of police and a racehorse owner
When the Angel of Death looked over his shoulder—
“Could you spare a moment, Flanagan?”

Oh the deck was cut; the bets were laid;
But the very last card that Barney played
Was the Deadman Trump, the bullet of Spades—
“Would you like more air, Mr. Flanagan?”

The priest came running but the priest came late
For Barney was banging at the Pearly Gate.
St. Peter said, “Quiet! You’ll have to wait
For a hundred masses, Flanagan.”

The regular boys and the loud accountants
Left their nips and their seven-ounces
As chicken fly when the buzzard pounces—
“Have you heard about old Flanagan?”

Cold in the parlour Flanagan pay
Like a bride at the end of her marriage day.
The Waterside Workers’ Band will play
A brass goodbye to Flanagan.

While publicans drink their profits still,
While lawyers flock to be in at the kill,
While Aussie barmen milk the till
We will remember Flanagan.

For Barney had a send-off and no mistake.
He died like a man for his country’s sake;
And the Governor-General came to his wake.
Drink again to Flanagan!

Despise not, O Lord, the work of Thine own hands
And let light perpetual shine upon him.

James K. Baxter (1926–1972)

From James K. Baxter, New Selected Poems, ed., Paul Millar (2001)

Ballad of Campbell and the Preaching Fish

A sailor grabbing late
The stiffened barracouta
From a nyak net, on a pitching night,
Felt the dead fish shudder

(Somewhere between
Flat Rock and Bare Island
I think it was)—those needle sharp
Fish jaws broke the silence:

“Campbell, Jock Campbell,
Much talk makes no man wise.
Before daylight, at the sea’s big table,
The crabs will eat your eyes.”

“I carved a man in South Georgia
With a flensing knife when he threatened me
And I have hunted the bony sperm
With a harpoon gun where the ice was heavy,

And I have ridden the whisky boats
To the dry States on a drunken sea,
And they landed a shell on the for’ard hatch,
But a preaching fish I never did see.”

“There’s room enough, Campbell,
Under the sea’s black apron
For omen and cognomen,
But you will die by drowning.”

“My mother in Aberdeen
She sits old at her brown Bible.
If she gets no letter from her son Jock
It could well be a killing trouble.”

“Campbell, Jock Campbell,
Whether it be grass or bladder
Kelp that grows above your head,
Either way she’ll like the deal no better.”

“But there’s Tom Grady at The Thistle,
He’s got no time for any man bludging.
I owe him for a grunter and a bottle
And he’ll think I’m dodging.”

“There’s twenty other good men, Campbell,
Have sold their crays and terakihi,
In their gumboots drinking,
And he’ll forego that money.”

“A Maori woman in the Chathams
She gave me a kiss and a locket.
If I go into the sea’s cold oven,
Shark and mollyhaw will get it.”

“Don’t be a fool, Campbell,
You know the answer well.
She’ll get herself a live sailor
With a Saturday to kill.”

“I think my mate Taffy
Will not rest easy
When I go under
Beyond the echo-sounder.”

“You needn’t worry.
When keel and mast go under
Cousin skate and Johnny Dory
Will scrub away his melancholy.

“Campbell, Jock Campbell,
Make your mind ready.
You’re feet won’t touch the foc’s’le ladder
Till the seas are dry.”

James K. Baxter (1926–1972)

From Collected Poems, ed. J.F. Weir (O.U.P., 1979)

Sickness Blues

Lord Lord I got the sickness blues, I must’ve done something wrong
There ain’t no Lord to call on, now my youth is gone

Sickness blues, don’t want to screw no more
Sickness blues, can’t get it up no more
Tears come in my eyes, feel like an old tired whore

I went to see the doctor, he shot me with poison germs
I got out of the hospital, my head was full of worms

All I can think is Death, father’s getting old
He can’t walk half a block, his feet feel cold

I went down to Santa Fe take vacation there
Indians selling turquoise in dobe huts in Taos Pueblo Square
Got headache in La Fonda, I could get sick anywhere

Must be my bad karma, making those pretty boys
Hungry ghosts chasing me, because I been chasing joys
Lying here in bed alone, playing with my toys

I musta been doing something wrong meat and cigarettes
Bow down before my lord, 1000 thousand regrets
All my poems down in hell, that’s what pride begets

Sick and angry, lying in my hospital bed
Doctor Doctor bring morphine before I’m totally dead
Sick and angry at the national universe O my aching head

Someday I’m gonna get out of here, go somewhere alone
Yeah I’m going to leave this town with noise of rattling bone
I got the sickness blues, you’ll miss me when I’m gone

Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997)

τεθνάκην δ’ ολίγω ’πιδεύης φαίνομ’ αλαία

Red-cheeked boyfriends tenderly kiss me sweet mouthed
under Boulder coverlets winter springtime
hug me naked laughing & telling girl friends
gossip till autumn

Aging love escapes with his Childish body
Monday one man visited sleeping big cocked
older   mustached crooked-mouthed not the same teen-
ager I sucked off

This kid comes on Thursdays with happy hard ons
long nights talking heart to heart reading verses
fucking hours he comes in me happy but I
can’t get it in him

Cherub, thin-legged Southern boy once slept over
singing blues and drinking till he got horny
Wednesday night he gave me his ass I screwed him
good luck he was drunk

Blond curl’d clear eyed gardener passing thru town
reaching digging earth in the ancient One Straw
method lay back stomach bare that night blew me
I blew him and came

Winter dance Naropa a barefoot wild kid
jumped up grabbed me laughed at me took my hand and
ran out saying   Meet you at midnight your house
woke me up naked

Midnight crawled in bed with me breathed in my ear
kissed my eyelids   mouth on his cock it was soft
“Doesn’t do nothing for me,” turned on belly
Came in behind him

Future youth I never may touch any more
Hark these Sapphics lipped by my hollow spirit
everlasting tenderness breathed in these vowels
sighing for love still

Song your cadence formed while on May night’s full moon
yellow onions tulips in fresh rain pale grass
iris pea pods radishes grew as this verse
blossomed in dawn light

Measure forever his face eighteen years old
green eyes blond hair muscular gold soft skin whose
god like boy’s voice mocked me once three decades past
Come here and screw me

Breast struck   scared to look in his eyes   blood pulsing
my ears   mouth dry   tongue never moved ribs shook a
rambling fire ran down from my heart to my thighs
Love-sick to this day

Heavy limbed I sat in a chair and watched him
sleep naked all night afraid to kiss his mouth
tender dying waited for sun rise years a-
go in Manhattan

Boulder, May 17–June 1, 1980

Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997)

Stool Pigeon Blues

I was born in Wyoming, Cody is my home town
Got myself busted, the sheriff brought me down
The Feds hit my nose, I felt like a dirty Clown

I turned in my sister, just like they asked me to
I turned in my brother, I had to, wouldn’t you?
If they beat me again, I guess I’d turn you in too.

Please don’t blame me, they had me for twenty years
An ounce of weed, they planted it in my ears
They found one seed and watered it with my tears

I got A’s in highschool, smartest boy in class
Got laid at eleven, the sweetest piece of ass
They found us in bed smoking a stick of grass

Girl broke down crying, the Narcs liked her looks in the nude
Asked us for blowjobs, I told them that was too crude
Took us to jail & accused us of being lewd

Ten years for resisting arrest, ten years for a little joint
Ten years kid, beginning to get the point?
Feds want a big bust, let’s hear you sing oink oink!

Who do you know in highschool, how many’s dealing lids?
Who do you smoke with? We want the names of kids.
They’ll bust all our parents, unless Good God forbids!

I’m just a poor stoolie, got busted in Wyoming
From Cody, to Casper, to Riverton I will sing!
From Gillette to Powell a pigeon I’m on the wing.

Governor Governor Get me out of this fix!
President President decriminalize the sticks,
Out here in Wyoming, Sheriffs play dirty tricks.

Casper, April 16, 1977

Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997)

Song at the Beginning of Autumn

Now watch this autumn that arrives
In smells. All looks like summer still;
Colours are quite unchanged, the air
On green and white serenely thrives.
Heavy the trees with growth and full
The fields. Flowers flourish everywhere.

Proust who collected time within
A child’s cake would understand
The ambiguity of this—
Summer still raging while a thin
Column of smoke stirs from the land
Proving that autumn gropes for us.

But every season is a kind
Of rich nostalgia. We give names—
Autumn and summer, winter, spring—
As though to unfasten from the mind
Our moods and give them outward forms.
We want the certain, solid thing.

But I am carried back against
My will into a childhood where
Autumn is bonfires, marbles, smoke;
I lean against my window fenced
From evocations in the air.
When I said autumn, autumn broke.

Elizabeth Jennings (1926–2001)
New Collected Poems, ed. Michael Schmidt (Carcanet, 2002)

To a Friend with a Religious Vocation

For C.

Thinking of your vocation, I am filled
With thoughts of my own lack of one. I see
Within myself no wish to breed or build
Or take the three vows ringed by poverty.
And yet I have a sense,
Vague and inchoate, with no symmetry,
Of purpose. Is it merely a pretence,

A kind of scaffolding which I erect
Half out of fear, half out of laziness?
The fitful poems come but can’t protect
The empty areas of loneliness.
You know what you must do,
So that mere breathing is a way to bless.
Dark nights, perhaps, but no grey days for you.

Your vows enfold you. I must make my own;
Now this, now that, each one empirical.
My poems move from feelings not yet known,
And when a poem is written I can feel
A flash, a moment’s peace.
The curtain will be drawn across your grille.
My silences are always enemies.

Yet with the same convictions that you have
(It is but your vocation that I lack),
I must, like you, believe in perfect love.
It is the dark, the dark that draws me back
Into a chaos where
Vocations, visions fail, the will grows slack
And I am stunned by silence everywhere.

Elizabeth Jennings (1926–2001)
New Collected Poems, ed. Michael Schmidt (Carcanet, 2002)

Song For a Birth Or a Death

Last night I saw the savage world
And heard the blood beat up the stair;
The fox’s bark, the owl’s shrewd pounce,
The crying creatures – all were there,
And men in bed with love and fear.

The slit moon only emphasised
How blood must flow and teeth must grip.
What does the calm light understand,
The light which draws the tide and ship
And drags the owl upon its prey
And human creatures lip to lip?

Last night I watched how pleasure must
Leap from disaster with its will:
The fox’s fear, the watch-dog’s lust
Know that all matings mean a kill:
And human creatures kissed in trust
Feel the blood throb to death until

The seed is struck, the pleasure’s done,
The birds are thronging in the air;
The moon gives way to widespread sun.
Yes but the pain still crouches where
The young fox and the child are trapped
And cries of love are cries of fear.

Elizabeth Jennings (1926–2001)
New Collected Poems, ed. Michael Schmidt (Carcanet, 2002)

The Moon from a Box of Lokum

In a country garden outside Rome
A Doctor Dark, Madame Smirnova’s guest,
One summer evening took a box of lokum*

—Children all around him breathing fast,
His Russian fingers taking lokum out, so lean—
And made a moon of it. The closest

To something in the sky we’d ever been,
The empty box, a moon at full—we passed it
From hand to hand, wondering just why

The lining he had smeared with olive oil and spit
Shone so sombrely in the dark. And gasping,
All of a sudden not depressed, the doctor

Skips around with it, finds a candle stub,
Melts the wax, plants it on the nether rim,
So now the paper lining glistens, silver.

We children were allowed to touch the moon
And with some ceremony hang it in a tree.
We said: Here’s our theatre—as of now

For all our future dramas this confection,
This moon, transfiguring desire, will glow,
Our bodies measure heavenly perfection …

The doctor struck an operatic pose,
And funnily twirling a finger up: Beware, he boomed,
Celestial equations tip the scale with zeroes—

Our rhymes, they tumble past us, unredeemed,
The only total here below is night.
You see a rising moon, I see a Cyclops:

This garden incubates our grand collapse.
Industrial wars will torch these fantastic empires;
The children of your children will be cindered

Like that, he snapped his fingers, by the Cyclops.
See them extinct in the bowels of the Cyclops,
And soot our candlewick—

Oh yes! We cheered for more. But like a dancer
Now the doctor turned, with swift wide soubresauts
Bounded across the lawn, and disappeared indoors.

© Christopher Middleton (1926–

* Turkish Delight

A Ballad of Arthur Rimbaud

That time of year comes round again,
The sea runs high and clouds at dawn
Form hollows like the mouths of hell:
Hollow hearted to the drum
Rimbaud drills, a soldier boy,
Upon the deck of an old Dutch boat:
Rimbaud swimming with a sword.

Switch off awhile your learning gear,
Good folks, unplug your internets,
Imagine something without fear;
It’s hard enough to know what’s what,
Spy on the globe, agog for secrets,
But harder still is overboard:
Rimbaud swimming with a sword.

He’s tired of drilling on the deck,
To Java shores the boat is bound,
No wavering course, so no way out:
Rimbaud thinks—Oh, what the heck,
I chose the ocean, not the ground,
And he goes overboard:
Rimbaud swimming with a sword.

The time of year, a time gone by,
Apples in granny’s attic stored,
Shortening days and longer dark,
Cranes overhead and southward fly,
Still Rimbaud’s bones inspire a tale
(We know this one’s apocryphal):
Rimbaud swimming with a sword.

The children saunter home from school,
Stop to stare at sweets and cakes
Stacked in the luminous windows here:
Since Rimbaud jumped, and he no fool,
This boy will be an engineer,
These little girls command republics:
Rimbaud swimming with a sword.

Torpid gaffers lift their cups,
And dream they did a world of good,
Roasted chestnuts go the round,
The mailman comes and in his pouch
Sad news from Jane, from Paul a grouch:
A petit rouge, a long pastis
And Rimbaud swimming with a sword.

Shake well this medicine of rhyme,
A teaspoon daily, drink, of time,
And then imagine, if you will,
The lurid everlasting sky,
The whole Pacific round him still
And overboard without one cry—
Rimbaud swimming with a sword.

© Christopher Middleton (1926–


After the Revolution, Doctor Dark
(Doctor of medicine and not a priest)
Was heard on one occasion to remark
That those with most to lose complain the least.

A life of leisure spent in conversation
(So Doctor Dark reflected) frees the mind
From luxury: immune to the contagion
Of mundane troubles, it can play the wind

With dignity, whichever way it blows.
Remember this, when you have lost it all
And stumble after no-one through the snows,
Or lined with comrades up against the wall

You catch a glimpse of someone in a coat
Exchanging chirps with a sparrow in the park,
And recognize the profile, though remote,
Of dependable, clandestine Doctor Dark.

© Christopher Middleton (1926–

Evening in the Park

The children have packed up the light
And gone home for the bedtime story
In which Jack wakes the Sleeping Fury.
I count tin cans and comic books;
I listen for the wheel of night,
That furry rim, those velvet spokes.

Some know it by the rush of stars;
I know it by the rush of thought:
Images, like the shrill onslaught
Of cyclists on a black-top road,
Come on and catch me unawares:
I am the victim of their mood.

It is a rehash of the day,
The rooms remembered for their anger,
The crowded stairways for their danger,
And what the light did to a mirror
You thought you knew. It is a way
Of being faithful to one’s terror.

I will sit here a little while,
Recalling how I read about
A man who found a strange way out,
The hermit of this wooded park,
Gaunt Crusoe of a nowhere isle,
Who hides his bushel in the dark.

He may be watching even now,
His dark hands up his darker sleeves,
The last of the great make-believes.
He moves in an enormous grave,
The wilderness pressed to his brow,
A man of motion without drive.

I wonder, Does he name the trees?
And to what end? Or like a bird,
Does he know calls that know no word?
And does he conjure without number?
And when, against the moon, he sees
My silhouette, does he remember?

Batman is whispering in the wind;
The cans are jeweled with the stars,
Evening Venus and red-eyed Mars.
I am an eight-hour daylight man,
And I must go to keep my mind
Familiar and American.

Henri Coulette (1927–1988)

The Fifth Season

It will be summer, spring, or fall—
Or winter, even. Who would know?
For no one answers when we call
Who might have answered years ago.

The harvest will be in or not;
The trees in flower or in rime.
Indifferent to the cold, the hot,
We would no longer care for time.

Mortal, of ivory and of horn,
We will become as open gates
Through which our nothing will be borne,
By which all nothing now but waits.

It will be summer, spring, or fall—
Or winter, even. Who will care?
We will not answer when you call,
For nothing, nothing echoes there.

Henri Coulette (1927–1988)

The Wandering Scholar

The light lies lightly on the leaf;
The rains are fierce and sudden now;
And it is time I packed my books
To go I know not where nor how.

Though scholarship disturbs my brain,
I will not stay where I am put.
Better to go I know not where,
A fever in the better foot.

I curse the libertine of verse
Whose meters lurch when they should tread.
What joy to leave that fool behind,
Wooden ears of a wooden head!

I curse the man who took my style,
The woman who refused her roof.
Better to go—I know not how—
Alone, unsheltered, and aloof.

St. Golias, keeper of my soul,
I seek your footprints in the dust,
And go I know not where nor how,
Unless you anser to my trust,

And bring me through the sudden rain,
Into the grove no change can mar,
Where light lies on the laurel leaf,
And bring me where the Muses are.

Henri Coulette (1927–1988)

Night Thoughts

in memory of David Kubal

Your kind of night, David, your kind of night.
The dog would eye you as you closed your book;
Such a long chapter, such a time it took.
The great leaps! The high cries! The leash like a line drive!
The two of you would roam the perfumed street,
Pillar to post, and terribly alive.

Your kind of night, nothing more, nothing less;
A single lighted window, the shade drawn
Your shadow enormous on the silver lawn,
The busy mockingbird, his rapturous fit,
The cricket keeping time, the loneliness
Of the man in the moon—and the man under it.

The word elsewhere was always on your lips,
A password to some secret, inner place
Where Wisdome smiled in Beautie’s looking-glass
And pleasure was at home to dearest Honour.
(The dog-eared pages mourn your fingertips,
And vehicle whispers, Yet once more, to tenor.)

Now you are elsewhere, elsewhere come to this,
The thoughtless body, like a windblown rose,
Is gathered up and ushered toward repose.
To have to know this is our true condition,
The Horn of Nothing, the classical abyss,
The only cry a cry of recognition.

The priest wore purple; now the night does, too.
A dog barks, and another, and another.
There are a hundred words for the word brother.
We use them when we love, when we are sick,
And in our dreams when we are somehow you.
What are we if not wholly catholic?

Henri Coulette (1927–1988)

Error Pursued II

Satan in Eden was “constrain’d
Into a beast.”
All of the proud, like him, are pained,
And you not least,
To wear the flesh of which we all are made.

It was a means for him and Christ.
Shrewder than we,
Each knew for what he sacrificed.
Destroys when not accepted and allayed.

It is the gift of punishment
That you refuse.
You say you sin without consent
And thus excuse
Self-pity and self-hate—and your despair.

For self is faithless to its end.
Nor wife or child
Will fail as badly, nor has friend
As soon beguiled.
It is your way, and you are most aware.

© Helen Pinkerton (1927–

Degrees of Shade

Sic autem se habet omnis creatura ad Deum
sicut aer ad solem illuminantem.
Thomas Aquinas

Our darkness stays, the self-made dark we know,
And I, ever desiring to be right,
Am ever more removed, conceiving not—
As foot can feel the earth and hand the snow
And still be unaware—I live in light,
Within yet willfully without your thought.

Your partial absence, as a shade, extends
Upon the brightness that my will obscures.
I am confounded by degrees of shade
And sometimes think the shade’s arc reascends
To perfet separation. But I am yours,
Though nothing, if again I am unmade.

I cannot do as some in rage have done,
Who hating love’s compulsions love their hate
So much they slay themselves perfecting it.
The course must be endured that was begun
In shade’s dominion and empowered so late
To move from out the darkness you permit.

© Helen Pinkerton (1927–


Identity, known or unknown, survives
The lost untempered anguish and the waste.
Its hardness holds, affirming him who grieves.
What he is not and is it says till death.
Then, as a diamond when the chisel cleaves,
It is a perfect whole or only dust.

Unless, against time’s claim of absolute,
Spirit should be Christ’s flesh, not habitant,
And rest, itself unchanged, in time’s estate,
The righteousness of days one may have spent
Learning the surest speech, the oldest act,
Will have but sanctity of precedent.

And while we live we still are free to choose
In his perfected death and resurrection
To see all minor deaths and thereby lose
Delight in change for final absolution.
Or we may wait the death none can refuse
Which will, itself, be in time’s disposition.

© Helen Pinkerton (1927–

The Return

       Once in September having crossed the desert,
I came again where I had been a child.
There the high granite range that cleaves the blue
And backs a continent with river sources
Rose above fragile houses and ravines
Sheltering aspens. The dun slopes of sage
And shriveled juniper seemed raw and nude,
As if winter were the permanent condition—
Summer an accident in the long cold.
The children still played in the sandy gulches,
Their mothers called, their father still came home
Down rutted roads—their cars the welcome sound
Of dusk—where once my own never returned.
What does one hope to find and why should I
Delight that some things there still wore the look
Of thirty years ago, if not that there
The means of reconcilement lay at hand
As simple as a glance or word, if I
Would have the patience to be still and listen.
Not the rough land, which I can now endure
And love a little, but old voices asked—
The inner dialogue of self with self—
Either a reconcilement or a death.

       He was the first to speak: “At your return
Old faith may hold you here in true existence,
Seeing yourself as like yourself at last
Perception fitting the pattern of your action
As does the final print the negative.
You have been able to come home again,
Leaving the hunt, where hunting you were quarry.
Return is reckoned sweet to him who finds
After his prodigality a portion,
After unfilialness a steadfast father.”
She answered, “I have none. That one now silent,
Whose grave I come to walk beside, said nothing,
Living, that I can now remember. He
Hunted these mountains. His father killed the coyote,
Wildcat and wolf and elk, trapped bear and beaver,
Up where Missouri starts its yellow flow
By streams diaphanous as air. I saw
Gutted red entrails stain their purity,
The startled emptiness of soul where fear
And the deep wilderness seep in to quicken
Malice—the brute’s resistance to the brutal.
Near in my blood the memory of famine,
Old country hunger and humiliation,
Prairie endurance, bone-consuming labor,
The fields and mines, dark streets alive in me.
Their exile is my history; their loss is mine,
Neither to be forgotten nor forgiven.”

       He said, “All this is memory and is true,
The child cries in the darkened room where adults
Stumble and cannot find the light. But you
Forget too easily the other strain
That runs in you, the willing immigrant,
That other exile, ready in wit and learning,
Who came to study and teach the moral knowledge
His faith transmitted. Consider why he came.”
She answered, “Yet he never came to priesthood.
His eyes failed him. He married, and then dying,
Left a good father’s children fatherless,
His faith untaught, for them an emptiness.
Life wastes the things that faith brings into being.
I would be free of fathers, all of them,
Images, substitutes, and real ones, too.
Men are but men, all trying to be fathers,
And falling back to sonship weak with need,
And loving purely not even their own daughters.
I would be like someone who has no gods.
Neither real, imagined, nor the human kind.”
And he: “You know, not even the purest skeptic
Lives without his idolatry. Sometimes
That one who seems the freest has the worst—
Himself enshrined, least placable of gods.
Serve, then, the best—the true discerned as truth.”

       Then she: “Truth is a varying thing, for man
Still changes his self-image. Having once thought
That we were made in the image of a god,
Or gods like us, now we have taken beasts
For models—mild or violent. Some will have
Our patent the machines that we have made.
I would be hunter of myself and others.
In such captivity the snare seems sweet,
Even to be destroyed, mirroring seasons.
This need is more than mine; it defines me.”

       And he: “The longing not to be prevails,
Powerful and vague whenever what is first
In what is real fails to be first in thought.
You have a certain concept of the real:
Pure nature over against pure nothingness—
The modernists’ ‘wide water without sound.’
Though nature should endure millennia,
Galaxies rise and spread their arms and fade,
Still one must ask the existential question,
Why anything at all rather than nothing?
Moment by moment I first know I am;
You, hating what you are, hate that you are.
Your concept of the real assumes existence,
And does not face it as mine does. In mine,
The God whose essence is existence grants
Existent momently, then gives himself
Again in drawing you in caritas.
Your science tells me only of what is;
Mine deals with that there is a ‘what’ at all.
Narcissus drowned. Nature need not deceive
Nor drown stout swimmers, able reasoners,
Who think not only outward from the flesh
Nor inward from the mere abstracted mime,
But in and out at once—mind’s lightning motion
That knows existence in the existing self—
Concept and percept true to all the fact—
And knows existence given, not of its making.

       “Being as given to every living thing
I like the light of middle morning sun,
A plenitude adjusted to the eye,
Not darkness nor the radiance of noon,
Too strong for sight. Being is always here;
Nothingness is not, though your mind and will
Conspire to conjure fictions of the void.”
She still: “Our minds make all the light there is.
Beyond is only darkness. Darker the way
You Christians take as means to light than death
Itself and the last sleep I shall lie down to,
Grateful for rest.”

                                 “Darker and viler, yes,”
He answered, “Painful, vile and violent,
Because it is most human. Darker the way
Of that man, taken in faith, than any other,
Because he had most being to undo.
To abnegate the self to find the other,
To give up passion for dispassionate love,
To find, as he, the way to perfect loss
Is an endeavor without glamour, humdrum
As traffic, where the rule is stop and go
On mechanistic orders or be killed;
Yet life seems sweet beyond your expectation
And you obey the lights.”

                                              “Obey and live,”
She said. “Your way I should obey and die.
All that I call myself would die, if I
Submitted to that rule. I keep my effort
For ends that reason sees, that men can compass,
The quarry always worthy of the hunt,
Lost though the hunter be.”

                                                  Then he at last:
“When reason deals with what comes not from reason
It posits it too easily as nothing..
Your knowledge suits your will; your will, your passion.
Your way, self-circumscribed, ends in the self
And founders there. Mine exiting from loss,
As does an infant from the womb to life,
Integrates its return with its beginning.”

© Helen Pinkerton (1927–

Crossing the Pedregal

pedregal: “a stonie place”

If we abandon our position, … what will you do?
Will you remain or leave the city?

R.E. Lee to Mary Custis Lee, February 21, 1865

Richmond, April 2, 1865

The odor of charred embers penetrates
My shuttered room, mingling with that of spring’s
First opened roses, valiant in their brave show
As were my daughters, when the enemy came,
New-blossomed roses, piercing the heart with loss,
More grief than one so old as I can bear.
The Federal foot, booted and spurred, again
Has set its bloody heel upon my threshold.
Dominion over the Old Dominion forced,
As once before they entered Arlington,
And power supreme dismisses courage and skill,
Undoes all gains. Their guns, always their guns
More and more powerful than ours.

Richmond has fallen, its heart caught up in flame,
Warehouses, mills, arsenals, armories,
All fired by Ewell’s men in their withdrawal—
And even Custis shares this demolition—
Exigencies of war, the terrible waste.
All night shells scattered an iron hail, in random
Volleys of sound, worse than a battlefield,
The rattle of cartridges like musketry,
Explosions feeding on the exploding powder.
Nearer at times, I heard the roar of flames
As houses, the shabby with the beautiful,
Caught fire, while helpless tenants watched them burn.
The church near me, and then a neighbor’s house,
And once my roof flared up—a wind-blown brand
That God and a precious loyal hand put out.
Meanwhile, I’m told, a starving mob has stormed
The opened commissaries, a drunken rabble
Of whites and blacks alike looting the shops,
Government offices, abandoned homes.

Near dawn, there came the worst, as Admiral Semmes
Withdrew, with him, our little Navy, brave,
But helpless. Our gunboats, rams, and ironclads,
Fired by their crews, exploded, shook the city,
A mammoth tremor of the earth itself.
At daylight Gary’s rearguard cavalry
Clattered through streets littered with looted goods,
With chimney bricks, burned documents, charred beams,
And shattered glass, crowded with women and children,
The homeless old and sick, the straggler scum.
On orders, he left the city to surrender—
James River’s high-arched bridges arcs of flame.
This afternoon seems now a twilight darkness,
A pall of blackend smoke veiling the sun.
Wentzel, I’m told, commands the city. And I,
As your wife, must endure a Federal guard.

When this, the bitterest campaign, began
With March’s warmth and urgent blossoming,
All I could think of, Robert, was my loss,
My home, the woods and gardens of Arlington,
My mother’s, mine, my daughters’. Each in turn
Digging and planting, made the earth our own:
The white and purple crocus earliest,
Violets, then jonquils, later the yellow jasmine,
My mother’s trellised arbor beyond the garden,
Suffusing the warm spring air with its pure fragrance;
And roses, always roses, for you to gather
And set beside each lady’s place. In earth,
Where now mound up the alien soldiers’ graves,
Never again, I feared, would I see crocus
Lighten a corner of a young girl’s garden,
Nor ever again the graves of mother and father,
Nor ever the mound where their dear nurse and mine,
Is buried, Nannie, so old she knew Mt. Vernon.
I would not see again my childhood home,
Rooms of my children’s births, each private place,
Large rooms for large and lovely boys to romp in,
With laughter and sometimes tears. And, oh, ironic,
Remembering the Fourth, gathered in darkness
All of us in the high set portico
To see the fireworks at the Capitol,
Bursting beyond the river, our sacred ritual,
The children’s and servants awed, astonished cries.

These simple things that are a woman’s being
Shape and are shaped by her to nourish souls.
To these my spirit clings because we live,
Dwell, by necessity, with simple things
Until the things themselves become our tokens
Of lives lived well and thoughtfully with others,
Symbolic, sacred to me and those I love.

You know the little I could take I lost,
For from each refuge I was driven again,
From Ravensworth, from Fitzhugh’s farm and orchard,
The old White House my father cherished so
As the loved wedding place of the great soldier,
Now burned irrevocably by vandal soldiers.
If I regretted the loss of gardens and rooms,
Arbors and intimate places, my woman’s being
In things one cares for, pictures and books, a plate,
Even a spoon that my dear mother gave me.
If bitterly I regretted and repined,
Hated implacably the enemy,
Who then, Robert, could say me now, who answer?
I settled in this rented house at last,
Writing you I would not again be driven,
Would not again flee from the Federal heel.

I have not borne my sufferings as I should,
As you, I know, would have me bear them. I
Could not, like you, make suffering a virtue.
Death for the soldier strips his soul and name
Of the ignoble, trivial, and unjust,
While I have borne the mundane day until
Through gradual loss of motion, insidiously
The long encroachments of my daily pain
Conquers me while I cannot strike at it.
Mine is no public effort amid one’s peers
But solitary, homebound, sheer endurance
Until, unwilled, my soul fell into disorder,
Despair and almost infidelity,
Till death seemed not a challenge but escape,
Like the wounded man, lying in helpless pain
On the red field, who begs of friend or foe
The mercy of a bullet.

It seemed I had failed utterly. At times
My very words of prayer quivered and vanished
And in my head dry silence supervened,
A vacancy to match the vacant sky
And I seemed lost in a desert not of the saints,
Seemed wandering in a wilderness alone.
Perhaps my enemy was fatigue, perhaps
The irrational increment of helpless days,
Deadly with loss that only found renewal
In hope of retribution.

My rage was deeper
Precisely because it had no means of action.
You spend your wrath in battle while I cannot,
And if you fall, you always have your men,
Who will keep bright the flame of your repute,
Whether we win or lose our independence.
Why, what have I to do these long dull hours
But knit and hear of you and the brave men
You have infused with your strong stoic will,
Aurelius’s patience and Roman dignity,
With more success than you have had with me
Or my reluctant will.

You said to me when Edward fell at Belmont,
Mortally wounded, far from home and kin,
That “All must suffer.” Again, when even you
Could scarcely pray, you bore out Annie’s death,
Then Charlotte’s and her children’s, saying to me
That reason and faith are all that we are given.
But where is reason, when evil alternatives
Leave all that is dear to us destroyed and we
Are prisoners, subject to their naked power?
Yet now you write to me of General Hill
That he is dead, that “He is now at rest,
And we who remain must be the ones to suffer.”
“All must suffer,” and so, Robert, you say,
Trying to guide me to your patient way.

And yet, and yet. There may yet be a change,
If any change of spirit, by means as simple
As memory and reflection may be conclusive.

You sent me, for diversion I am sure,
Last week, old General Scott’s recent memoir.
Reading in it at times, while hearing always
The thunder of bombardment south of Richmond
And fainter Petersburg, eager to find
Whether he honors still his Southern men,
How he recalls your time in Mexico.
I find he writes of your reconnaissance
South of the City of Mexico, scouting
The lava field they called the Pedregal.
And I recalled the day that you returned
To us, who loved you so, our hero and father,
As if not seventeen years had passed. Then I
Remembered, too, how you regaled the boys,
Custis, Fitzhugh, and even little Rob,
With stories I had heard above their laughter
Of stubborn Mexican mules and fierce wild pigs,
But that strange tale they quieted to hear—
Of the task that you were given, Scott’s engineer,
To find a passage through the Pedregal,
The pathless waste Worth deemed impassable,
That Mexicans, questioned, called the “Devil’s place.”
Indeed, like the world, it proved the devil’s place,
Most like an ice field, fissured by deep crevasses,
Or like a storm-tossed sea, congealed in motion.
High ridges, sharp rock, broken and creviced stones
Gave no smooth surface for steady footing, or place
From which to look beyond. Missteps were painful.
It was, you told your sons, like Jeremey’s desert
Or Bunyan’s Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Yet you, on your first scout, stumbling and falling,
Searching for open ground, fond out a trace,
Faint signs where Indians, Atecs perhaps, had gone:
A rock moved slightly here, and there, two stones
Placed near each other, and so you reached the edge,
The hill Zacatapec. From there you saw
Valencia’s men beyond, encamped to guard
San Angel Road. You noted their defense,
Returned again, crossing the jagged field,
Reported to Scott. Next dawn, with pioneers,
Who cleared and widened it for infantry
You guided guns and horsemen to positions,
And stayed to aid in their artillery duel,
Then moved beyond Zacatapec, a ravine,
The road, to set a line above Contreras.
Yet, late that night, in driving wind and rain,
Dark save for lightning of a sudden storm,
You and a few bold men, hand held in hand,
Waded the ravine, rain swollen, turbulent,
Recrossed the stony field, found General Scott,
And reported. Again, a third time, he sent you,
Sleepless in darkness, carrying urgent orders
For the attack at dawn above Contreras.
Still that same day, you guided Pierce’s and Shields’s
Bloody attack at Churubusco. A day,
A night, a second day of sleepless duty.

Hearing this strange war tale your wide-eyed sons
Took in the meaning as you meant they should:
Given a task, whether there follow pain,
Suffering, cold, fatigue, uncertainty,
The path seem almost imperceptible,
When wading a swollen stream, your only safety
A hand to grasp lest you be swept away,
Your comfort a glance of praise for work well done,
Or cup of coffee in a lamplit tent,
Crossing the Pedregal seems life itself.

So, now, remembering, I may conceive
My task in terms of yours so long ago:
To follow an ancient trace when there seems none
And no light given; to push on through the dark,
Knowing the right direction against the wind;
Simply to keep on at the given task,
Its time and place set by God’s providence,
And claim no room, no garden as my own.
I think now I can wait His will, and yours,
Robert, whether there come our victory,
Defeat, or prison or long-protracted trial,
Or even exile. If faith’s light darken down
To nothingness, I know it will flame up
Some time, some place along the jagged way,
Casting a shaded light within a quiet room.

© Helen Pinkerton (1927–

On Watteau’s “Pilgrimage to Cythera” (1717, in the Louvre)

Not Compostela where these pilgrims journey.
As in ballet, gallant and belle arise,
Join hands and arms, and bearing staff and scrip,
Move toward the waiting rose-bedizened vessel
That amoretti guide and Amor’s torch.
Venus looks on with laughter in her eyes.
Love’s private joys publicly formalized,
Reasonable enchantment rules, lest we,
Otherwise, seem more beast than humankind.

One woman lingers while Cupid tugs her gown.
Bending her head to hear her lover’s speech,
She lets her fingers on her fan disclose
Gentle complaisance as she seems to say,
“When I look up, my eyes will hold my heart
With all its claims, more than your love can reach,
Perhaps, but not Eve’s guile for you to blame,
Nor Venus’s innocent, amoral gift,
Only a woman caught by what caught you.

Though in Commedia’s plots, our roles are fixed—
Sylvia and Florio, or Livia and Leander,
Counters in love’s game, partners in pas de deux—
What we may say is free. So I from you
Ask more than a lover’s plea—a man’s response,
Self-conscious, meditated, open as mine.
The simplest of my sex finds your sex simple,
While I, amazed by love’s power to subdue,
Wonder by what illusion you are moved,

“Whether you want to love or to be loved,
Whether you need to know or to be known,
As I all these and more. Although for you
The asking seems enough (your eyes say this),
When mine meet yours, what happens alters my being
Irrevocably. Part of my story ends.
I see the others enter on their way,
Light-hearted folk, easy to love and leave,
Regretting little, when Cythera’s long day ends.

“For me my going will be like a charm,
Chosen deliberately, although I know
Warm hands grow cold, arms drop idly away.
The sky seems vague with promise, melancholy,
The freedom of the island evanescent.
Some pilgrims have seen saints, carried their touch
Homeward again to seal love’s errant will.
If, when I close my options, you do not,
Nor wish to leave the game, where will we be?
And if I love you always, what can I say?”

© Helen Pinkerton (1927–

For an End

Had I not loved,
I had not believed,
And not believing,
Had been deceived.

Had I not loved,
I had not known
Either your being
Or my own.

Had I not loved,
I had not known
That you could love
Both mind and bone.

Had you not loved,
When your decree
Seemed total loss,
You had lost me.

© Helen Pinkerton (1927–

On Taddeo di Bartolo’s “Triptych of the Madonna
and Child with Angel Musicians, St. John the Baptist,
and St. Jerome” (1400, in a Private Collection)

Her face is singularly simple, and His
Seems unaware of the inscription written
Across the scroll His hands unfold to us,
Words spoken to Moses from the burning bush:
“Ego sum Qui sum.” And “Venite ad Me.”
Jerome himself once said that to profess
Truly the triune mystery is to admit
We cannot comprehend it, nor does the mother,
It seems, nor Child. And yet we know the Child,

When grown to manhood, claimed again God’s name—
“Before Abraham was I am”—baffling
Our simple minds, which try by threads and pieces
To clarify our faith, envying the ease
With which these angel choristers, with lute,
Psaltery, portative organ, and vielle,
Rejoice with their insouciant hymns of praise,
Each note a part of one felt harmony
That we would join in did we know the tune.

Yet from the pinnacle the Father and Dove
Look down, gifting with will and love the viewer,
And John, the grateful forerunner, declares:
“He Who comes after me was before me,” thus
Affirming the eternal presence of the Son,
Whose timeless interaction with our time,
Can lift us undeservedly above
Time and our losses, when we rise to it.
Only His grace enables us to try,
And her simplicity is how we have to see.

© Helen Pinkerton (1927–

The Ballad of Dead Yankees

Where’s Babe Ruth, Sultan of Swat,
Who rocked the heavens with his blows?
Grabowski, Pennock, and Malone—
Mother of mercy, where are those?

Where’s Tony (Poosh ’em up) Lazzeri,
The quickest man that ever played?
Where’s the gang that raised the roof
In the house that Colonel Ruppert made?

Where’s Lou Gehrig, strong and shy,
Who never missed a single game?
Where’s Tiny Bonham, where’s Jake Powell
And many another peerless name?

Where’s Steve Sundra, good but late,
Who for a season had his fling?
Where are the traded, faded ones?
Lord, can they tell us anything?

Where’s the withered nameless dwarf
Who sold us pencils at the gate?
Hurled past the clamor of our cheers?
Gone to rest with the good and great?

Where’s the swagger, where’s the strut,
Where’s the style that made the hitter?
Where’s the pitcher’s swanlike motion?
What in God’s name turned life bitter?

For strong-armed Steve, who lost control
And weighed no more than eighty pounds,
No sooner benched than in his grave,
Where’s the cleverness that confounds?

For Lou the man, erect and clean,
Wracked with a cruel paralysis,
Gone in his thirty-seventh year,
Where’s the virtue that was his?

For nimble Tonh, cramped in death,
God knows why and God knows how,
Shut in a dark and silent house,
Where’s the squirrel quickness now?

For big brash Babe in an outsize suit,
Himself grown thin and hoarse with cancer,
Still autographing balls for boys,
Mother of mercy, what’s the answer?

Is there a heaven with rainbow flags,
Silver trophies hung on walls,
A horseshoe grandstand, mobs of fans,
Webbed gloves and official balls?

Is there a power in judgment there
To stand behind the body’s laws,
A stern-faced czar whose slightest word
Is righteous as Judge Kenesaw’s?

And if there be no turnstile gate
At that green park, can we get in?
Is the game suspended or postponed?
And do the players play to win?

Mother of mercy, if you’re there,
Pray to the high celestial czar
For all of these, the early dead,
Who’ve gone where no ovations are.

Donald Petersen (1928–2005)

Safety at Forty: or, An Abecedarian Takes a Walk

Alfa is nice. Her Roman eye
Is outlined in an O of dark
Experience. She’s thirty-nine.
Would it not be kind of fine
To take her quite aback, affront
Her forward manner, take her up
On it? Echo: of course it would.

Betta is nice. Her Aquiline
Nose prowdly marches out between
Two raven wings of black sateen
Just touched, at thirty-five, with gray.
What if I riled her quiet mien
With an indecent, subterrene
Proposal? She might like me to.

Gemma is nice. Her Modenese
Zagato body, sprung on knees
As supple as steel coils, shocks
Me into plotting to acquire
The keys to her. She’s twenty-nine.
Might I aspire to such a fine
Consort in middle age? Could be.

Della is nice. Calabrian
Suns engineered the sultry tan
Over (I’m guessing) all of her long
And filly frame. She’s twenty-one.
Should I consider that she might
Look kindly on my graying hairs
And my too-youthful suit? Why not?

O Megan, all-American
Wife waiting by the hearth at home,
As handsome still at forty-five
As any temptress now alive,
Must I confess my weariness
At facing stringent mistresses
And head for haven? Here I come.

L.E. Sissman (1928–1976)

Amazing Grace, 1974

In this night club on Fifty-second Street,
An aeon after Auden’s suppressed sigh,
A singer, warming up the audience—
A congeries of critics here to judge,
A bleating herd of suckers to be fleeced—
For the top comic, lone star of the night,
Goes out, infantrywoman, to the point
Of contact with that mumbling enemy,
Her many-headed hive of auditors,
And lays her unfledged talents on the line
Between réclame and dank ignominy.
She belts out songs into the banks of smoke
Caught by the same spotlights that capture her
Innocent sequins, peach, green, peacock blue,
And innocent features, pink with makeup, white
With apprehension, peach with youth. The mob
Is plainly restive—where is their overdue
Impressionist, for whom they have endured
Hours in this noisome cellar, prix-fixe meals
Made out of orts of cattle, melting drinks,
And unexampled decibels of sound?
She sings on doggedly. “Amazing Grace”
Is her next text, and, with amazing grace,
The social contract holds; she sings as if
The audience were hers to have and hold
In the perspiring hollow of her hand;
Her listeners, rising to her distress—
Theirs also, but for grace, at any turn
Of any corner, clock, or calendar—
Hush their cross talk and manfully applaud
As, on a reedy note, she finishes
And flashes her back’s sequins (indigo,
Rose, rust) in a half bow that could also
Be a half sob. Applause. Amazing grace
Laves all of us who, chivvied by unchance,
Anxiety, disaster on our way
Out of the wide world, pause to clap our hands
For one who fails full in the face of us,
And goes down to defeat to our applause.

L.E. Sissman (1928–1976)

Bannerman’s Funeral Chapel, Inc.

Do you know Ben Klein in a suit so grey?
Do you know Ben Klein in a face of clay?
Do you know Ben Klein when he’s far, far away
With his death in his hands in the morning?

Do you know that bitch whose tongue is death?
Do you know her last word is “success”?
Do you know Ben Klein with his last breath
Cursed them both as he died in the morning?

Yes, I know Ben Klein and his Queenie, too,
The wife that saw his trajectory through,
From a find to a check, from a check to a view,
From a view to a death in a morning.

L.E. Sissman (1928–1976)

On the Dedication of My First Book to My Mother and Father

(years after their divorce)

After much separation rest
Together here between these covers,
Neither as parents nor as lovers,
But each an independent guest.

Each unsuspected difference, here,
Which seemed betrayal once, may now,
No longer feared by you, allow
Your meeting to be less severe.

Though sources of the finished book
Appear the truer history,
Read not to me from memory
How much these poems interlock,

How much they alter what has past
To understand what now is true,
How much they do not say to you
Of my lost future that you cast.

And though they speak not of your care
For one another or for me,
Though silence see disloyalty,
Read in them only what is there.

Wesley Trimpi (1928–

On a Recording of Maria Cebotari

I hear your voice through these defective grooves.
Each revolution of the track removes
Something of your magnificence, your skill.
Each note, each time becomes more distant still.
So life’s attrition, faster than it should,
Destroys your legacy, the fragile good
Of this recording through which you survive.
And I, who never heard you when alive,
Think of your final role, Eurydice—
Music will not assuage its irony—
And of the sad inhabitants of death,
Who are and who are not, Song without breath,
Distant magnificence that slowly fades
Into the emptiness of those mute shades.

Charles Gullans (1929–1993)

Labuntur Anni

The years estrange, leaving impassive aims,
A hardened will, and loneliness;
The years divide us, as and when they will,
From youth and pride, then from our modest claims
To dignity and deference, to less
Than the least measure we had hoped to fill.

All choices narrow to some lesser scope:
Desire, the long deferred, is least recalled,
Love, the renewer, absent from our schemes.
The future we laid up in monstrous hope,
And till this time by time itself forestalled,
Arrives like terror in our nightly dreams.

The years divide, and yet the years fulfill:
The past we laid down carelessly returns
With gifts more stunning than the future seemed
When it held everything in promise still.
In the ironic grace of time, one learns
That, gift by gift, all losses are redeemed,

And blessings issue from their stony faces.
The gift of pain precedes humility,
The gift of loss unburdens of possession;
Malice, deceit, betrayal—each displaces
Ignorance, pride, and brute naivete;
And death, the welcome gift of intercession.

But if the gifts seem less a gift than rod
Of our unsought and undesired fears,
Stranger the blessings given to our keeping:
Blessèd the blind for they shall see no tears,
Blesssèd the deaf for they shall hear no weeping,
Blessèd the dumb for they shall not curse God.

Charles Gullans (1929–1993)

Open House

The doors are open to the autumn night
And in my house, my friends are gathering,
Coming out of the night to drink the wine
That’s airing in the other room, to praise
The fresh white paint and pictures on the walls
And a new vase from an old potter’s hand.
The house is singing and the pictures talk
And friends are coming here to listen, speak,
And add their voices like a legacy
In laughter as robust as the red wine.
If you were in my place you’d understand
Why voices ring in every room, why sound
So permeates the rafters and the floors
I cannot walk but voices flood my ears
And flood my senses with the memories.
It is the music of my history
Echoing through the house and through my mind,
Voices from all the rooms where I have lived
And voices from the inwardness of things.
I think I’ve never seen a blue so deep
As in this vase, a line so elegant
As in this print; here in staggering dark
They are as luminous as love or friends,
As warming as the hand is to the wine,
As noble as our losses. What we tried
Was worth the risk of losing in the end,
And knowledge of all losses is the same.
We should be generous as is the wine,
As ample with our praise, as soft to friends,
As smooth, as supple, as harmonious.
We have survived the ignorance of our youth,
The smuttiness of our maturity,
And the thin places in the mind. As friends
We face the uncertain future while we drink.
There is such beauty in these walls as we
Shall never see again, so praise the time
That brought us to this house, these friends, these wines,
And the arrogance that kept us here alive,
Whose lives were touched briefly by the august
And terrible, by love and hate and war.

Charles Gullans (1929–1993)

On the Move

The blue jay scuffling in the bushes follows
Some hidden purpose, and the gust of birds
That spurts across the field, the wheeling swallows,
Has nested in the trees and undergrowth.
Seeking their instinct, or their poise, or both,
One moves with an uncertain violence
Under the dust thrown by a baffled sense
Or the dull thunder of approximate words.

On motorcycles, up the road, they come:
Small, black, as flies hanging in heat, the Boys,
Until the distance throws them forth, their hum
Bulges to thunder held by calf and thigh.
In goggles, donned impersonality,
In gleaming jackets trophied with the dust,
They strap in doubt—by hiding it, robust—
And almost hear a meaning in their noise.

Exact conclusion of their hardiness
Has no shape yet, but from known whereabouts
They ride, direction where the tyres press.
They scare a flight of birds across the field:
Much that is natural, to the will must yield.
Men manufacture both machine and soul,
And use what they imperfectly control
To dare a future from the taken routes.

It is a part solution, after all.
One is not necessarily discord
On earth, or damned because, half animal,
One lacks direct instinct, because one wakes
Afloat on movement that divides or breaks.
One joins the movement in a valueless world,
Choosing it till, both hurler and the hurled,
One moves as well, always toward, toward.

A minute holds them, who have come to go:
The self-defined, astride the created will
They burst away; the towns they travel through
Are home for neither bird nor holiness,
For birds and saints complete their purposes.
At worst, one is in motion; and at best,
Reaching no absolute, in which to rest,
One is always nearer by not keeping still.

Thom Gunn (1929–2004)

To Yvor Winters, 1955

I leave you in your garden.
In the yard
Behind it, run the airedales you have reared
With boxer’s vigilance and poet’s rigour:
Dog-generations you have trained the vigour
That few can breed to train and fewer still
Control with the deliberate human will.
And in the house there rest, piled shelf on shelf,
The accumulations that compose the self—
Poem and history: for if we use
Words to maintain the actions that we choose,
Our words, with slow defining influence,
Stay to mark out our chosen lineaments.

Continual temptation waits on each
To renounce his empire over thought and speech,
Till he submit his passive faculties
To evening, come where no resistance is;
The unmotivated sadness of the air
Filling the human with his own despair.
Where now lies power to hold the evening back?
Implicit in the grey is total black:
Denial of the discriminating brain
Brings the neurotic vision, and the vein
Of necromancy. All as relative
For mind as for the sense, we have to live
In a half-world, not ours nor history’s,
And learn the false from half-true premisses.

But sitting in the dusk—though shapes combine,
Vague mass replacing edge and flickering line,
You keep both Rule and Energy in view,
Much power in each, most in the balanced two:
Ferocity existing in the fence
Built by an exercised intelligence.
Though night is always close, complete negation
Ready to drop on wisdom and emotion,
Night from the air or the carnivorous breath,
Still it is right to know the force of death,
And, as you do, persistent, tough in will,
Raise from the excellent the better still.

Thom Gunn (1929–2004)

Considering the Snail

The snail pushes through a green
night, for the grass is heavy
with water and meets over
the bright path he makes, where rain
has darkened the earth’s dark. He
moves in a wood of desire,

pale antlers barely stirring
as he hunts. I cannot tell
what power is at work, drenched there
with purpose, knowing nothing.
What is a snail’s fury? All
I think is that if later

I parted the blades above
the tunnel and saw the thin
trail of broken white across
litter, I would never have
imagined the slow passion
to that deliberate progress.

Thom Gunn (1929–2004)

Street Song

I am too young to grow a beard
But yes man it was me you heard
In dirty denim and dark glasses.
I look through everyone who passes
But ask him clear, I do not plead,
Key lids acid and speed.

My grass is not oregano.
Some of it grew in Mexico.
You cannot guess the weed I hold,
Clara Green, Acapulco Gold,
Panama Red, you name it man,
Best on the street since I began.

My methedrine, my double-sun
Will give you two lives in your one,
Five days of power before you crash,
At which time use these lumps of hash
—They burn so sweet, they smoke so smooth,
They make you sharper while they soothe.

Now here, the best I’ve got to show,
Made by a righteous cat I know.
Pure acid—it will scrape your brain,
And make it something else again.
Call it heaven, call it hell,
Join me and see the world I sell.

Join me, and I will take you there
Your head will cut out from your hair
Into whichever self you choose.
With Midday Mick man you can’t lose,
I’ll get you anything you need.
Key lids acid and speed.

Thom Gunn (1929–2004)


At one they hurry in to eat.
Loosed from the office job they sit
But somehow emptied out by it
And eager to fill up with meat.
Salisbury Steak with Garden Peas.

The boss who orders them about
Lunches elsewhere and they are free
To take a turn at ordering me.
I watch them hot and heavy shout:
Waitress I want the Special please.

My little breasts, my face, my hips,
My legs they study while they feed
Are not found on the list they read
While wiping gravy off their lips.
Here Honey gimme one more scoop.

I dream that while they belch and munch
And talk of Pussy, Ass, and Tits,
And sweat into their double knits,
I serve them up their Special Lunch:
Bone Hash, Grease Pie, and Leather Soup.

Thom Gunn (1929–2004)

The J Car

Last year I used to ride the J CHURCH Line,
Climbing between small yards recessed with vine
—Their ordered privacy, their plots of flowers
Like blameless lives we might imagine ours.
Most trees were cut back, but some brushed the car
Before it swung round to the street once more
On which I rolled out almost to the end,
To 29th Street, calling for my friend.
He’d be there at the door, smiling but gaunt
To set out for the German restaurant.
There, since his sight was tattered now, I would
First read the menu out. He liked the food
In which a sourness and dark richness meet
For conflict without taste of a defeat,
As in the Sauerbraten. What he ate
I hoped would help him to put on some weight,
But though the crusted pancakes might attract
They did so more as concept than in fact,
And I’d eat his dessert before we both
Rose from the neat arrangement of the cloth,
Where the connection between life and food
Had briefly seemed so obvious if so crude.
Our conversation circumspectly cheerful,
We had sat here like children good but fearful
Who think if they behave everything might
Still against likelihood come out all right.
But it would not, and we could not stay here:
Finishing up the Optimator beer
I walked him home through the suburban cool
By dimming shape of church and Catholic school,
Only a few, white, teenagers about.
After the four blocks he would be tired out.
I’d leave him to the feverish sleep ahead,
Myself to ride through darkened yards instead
Back to my health. Of course I simplify.
Of course. It tears me still that he should die
As only an apprentice to his trade,
The ultimate engagements not yet made.
His gifts had been withdrawing one by one
Even before their usefulness was done:
This optic nerve would never be relit,
The other flickered, soon to be with it.
Unready, disappointed, unachieved,
He knew he would not write the much-conceived
Much-hoped-for work now, not yet help create
A love he might in full reciprocate.

Thom Gunn (1929–2004)


Born in a sour waste lot
You laboured up to light,
Bunching what strength you’d got
And running out of sight
Through a knot-hole at last,
To come forth into sun
As if without a past,
Done with it, re-begun.

Now street-side of the fence
You take a few green turns,
Nimble in nonchalance
Before your first flower burns.
From poverty and prison
And undernourishment
A prodigal has risen,
Self-spending, never spent.

Irregular yellow shell
And drooping spur behind ...
Not rare but beautiful
–Street handsome–as you wind
And leap, hold after hold,
A golden runaway
Still running, strewing gold
From side to side all day.

Thom Gunn (1929–2004)

In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus One Day

To the tune of “The Old Orange Flute”
or “Sweet Betsy from Pike”

In a prominent bar in Secaucus one day
Rose a lady in skunk with a topheavy sway,
Raised a knobby red finger—all turned from their beer—
While with eyes bright as snowcrust she sang high and clear:

“Now who of you’d think from an eyeload of me
That I once was a lady as proud as can be?
Oh, I’d never sit down by a tumbledown drunk
If it wasn’t, my dears, for the high price of junk.

“All the gents used to swear that the white of my calf
Beat the down of the swan by a length and a half.
In the kerchief of linen I caught to my nose
Ah, there never fell snot, but a little gold rose.

“I had seven gold teeth and a toothpick of gold,
My Virginia cheroot was a leaf of it rolled
And I’d light it each time with a thousand in cash—
Why, the bums used to fight if I flicked them an ash.

“Once the toast of the Biltmore, the belle of the Taft,
I would drink bottle beer at the Drake, never draft,
And dine at the Astor on Salisbury steak
With a clean tablecloth for each bite I did take.

“In a car like the Roxy I’d roll to the track
With a steel-guitar trio, a bar in the back,
And the wheels made no noise, they turned over so fast,
Still it took you ten minutes to see me go past.

“When the horses bowed down to me that I might choose
I’d bet on them all, for I hated to lose.
Now I’m saddled each night for my butter and eggs
And the broken threads race down the backs of my legs.

“Let you hold in mind, girls, that your beauty must pass
Like a lovely white clover that rusts with its grass.
Keep your bottoms off barstools and marry you young
Or be left an old barrel with many a bung.

“For when time takes you out for a spin in his car
You’ll be hard-pressed to stop him from going too far
And be left by the roadside, for all your good deeds,
Two toadstools for tits and a face full of weeds.”

All the house raised a cheer, but the man at the bar
Made a phonecall and up pulled a red patrol car
And she blew us a kiss as they copped her away
From that prominent bar in Secaucus, N.J.

© X.J. Kennedy (1929–

Talking Dust Bowl

Old cow’s almost dry now, her heels scrape hard dirt.
Where’s the man going to pay me what I’m worth?
Forty acres played out, soil like the corn meal low in the can
Reminds me of a woman holding back on a man.
Nights, hot nights I walk by the warped board fence
Hoping to find some fresh water breakthrough or some sense.
Seeing my kids wear nothing but washed-out flour bags
Makes my heart move like a man with one lame foot that drags,
Packing ‘em off to bed before sundown every night
So they won’t run around and work up an appetite,
Hearing ‘em whine in the dark through the bunk room door,
We only had nine stew beans, can’t we have some more?
Had my fill of hanging around this town
Like a picture on a nail waiting to be took down.
Seen my name writ ten times on a yellow pad.
Don’t mean a damn, they don’t send for you, makes a man mad.
Stalk of corn can grub its roots deep, find iron in dry ground.
Let a man try, he can’t go deep—where’s good to be found?
Shoes wearing thin not from plowing, not from working a road,
Just from tromping, getting nowhere, carrying their same old load.
Beth used to wear her hair in a neat combed braid,
Now she lets it fall any old way down her forehead.
Black topsoil used to roll off from the eye straight north,
Nothing now but the wind towing dust clouds back and forth.
No point trying to make a living in this own.
Going to fix me an old Ford, lay them patched tires round and round,
Going to head out due west where the oranges hang low,
Let my kids eat too, pick red pears right off the bough,
Furry peach bending the branch, its stem thumb-thick,
Shrinking back from your hand like a young cunt from a prick.
Dust-clouds bearing down now, stretching pole to pole.
No use staying here till I’m dried in the long dust bowl.

© X.J. Kennedy (1929–

Terse Elegy for J.V. Cunningham

Now Cunningham, who rhymed by fits and starts,
So loath to gush, most sensitive of hearts—
Else why so hard-forged a protective crust?—
Is brought down to the unresponding dust.
Though with a slash a Pomp’s gut he could slit,
On his own work he worked his weaponed wit
And penned with patient skill and lore immense,
Prodigious mind, keen ear, rare common sense,
Only those words he could crush down no more
Like matter pressured to a dwarf star’s core.
Let eyes unborn wake one day to to esteem
His steady, baleful, solitary gleam.
Poets may come whose work more quickly strikes
Love, and yet—ah, who’ll live to see his likes?

© X.J. Kennedy (1929–

A Curse on a Thief

Paul Dempster had a handsome tackle box
In which he’d stored up gems for twenty years:
Hooks marvelously sharp, ingenious lures
Jointed to look alive. He went to Fox

Lake, placed it on his dock, went in and poured
Himself a frosty Coors, returned to find
Some craven sneak had stolen in behind
His back and crooked his entire treasure hoard.

Bad cess upon the bastard! May the bass
He catches with Paul Dempster’s pilfered gear
Jump from his creel, make haste for his bare rear,
And, fins outthrust, slide up his underpass.

May each ill-gotten catfish in his pan
Sizzle his lips and peel away the skin.
May every perch his pilfered lines reel in
Oblige him to spend decades on the can.

May he be made to munch a pickerel raw,
Its steely eyes fixed on him as he chews,
Choking on every bite, while metal screws
Inexorably lock his lower jaw,

And having eaten, may he be transformed
Into a bass himself, with gills and scales,
A stupid gasper that a hook impales.
In Hell’s hot griddle may he be well warmed

And served with shots of lava-on-the-rocks
To shrieking imps indifferent to his moans
Who’ll rend his flesh and pick apart his bones,
Poor fish who hooked Paul Dempster’s tackle-box.

© X.J. Kennedy (1929–


Whoever dined in this café before us
Took just a forkful of his cherry pie.
We sit with it between us. Let it lie
Until the overworked waitperson comes
To pick it up and brush away the crumbs.

You look at it. I look at it. I stare
At you. You do not look at me at all.
Somewhere, a crash as unwashed dishes fall.
The clatter of a dropped knife splits the air.
Second-hand smoke infiltrates everywhere.

Your fingers clench the handle of a cup
A stranger drained. I almost catch your eye
For a split second. The abandoned pie
Squats on its plate before us, seeping red
Like a thing not yet altogether dead.

© X.J. Kennedy (1929–

God’s Obsequies

So I went to the funeral of God,
A ten-Cadillac affair,
And sat in a stun. It seemed everyone
Who had helped do Him in was there.

Karl Marx had a wide smirk on his face;
Friedrich Engels, a simpering smile,
And Friedrich Nietzsche, worm-holed and leechy,
Kept tittering all the while.

There was Sigmund Freud whose couch had destroyed
The soul, there was Edward Gibon,
And that earth-shaking cuss Copernicus
Sent a wreath with a sun-gold ribbon.

There was Bertrand Russell and a noisy bustle
Of founders of home-made churches,
And Jean-Paul Sartre bawling “Down with Montmartre!”
There were prayer-cards a dime could purchase.

There were Adam and Eve and the Seven Deadly Sins,
Buxom Pride in her monokini,
(Said Sloth, “Wake me up when the party begins”),
And Lust playing with his weenie.

Declared Martin Luther ablaze with rancor,
“Why mourn ye, O hypocrites?
May the guilty be gored with Michael’s sword!
It’s the work of the Jesuits!”

Mused the Pope on the folding chair next to me
As he mopped his expiring brow,
“Whatever will become of the See of Rome?
Ah, who’ll hire an old man now?”

I had a quick word with Jesus
In Aramaic and Greek.
“Yes,” he said, “it’s sad. And so sudden—why, Dad
Looked uncommonly well last week.

“But we all must go sometime, I warrant,
No matter how brief our careers.
It’s a comfort to me to reflect that He
Had been getting along in years.”

Then we all filed past the coffin
To pay our respects to the corse
And the first in line gave a gasp—“He’s gone!
He must have dropped out of the hearse!”

“Good God!” cried the undertaker,
His face like a bucket of ash,
“As sure as I’m born, I could have sworn—
If this gets in the papers I’m trash.”

I stumbled and groped out to open air,
Stared up at a blossoming tree
And the blooming thing still believed in spring,
As smug as a tree could be.

Passed a haystack. A naked farmer
Was treading his doxie. She screamed.
“Not so loud,” I said, “don’t you know God’s dead?
But they just laughed—“Who’d have dreamed?”

The sun kept pursuing overhead
Its habitual endeavor,
And the bountiful earth rolled on, rolled on,
As though it might last forever.

© X.J. Kennedy (1929–

The Reply of Pluto to Ceres

On the Release of Proserpina

She was not so unwilling. Where the sun
Needled the grove with fern and violet,
The imminent life of pollen, seed and blade
Stilled as I came, Triumvir, Lord of Shade,
Stung but by jealous Venus to forget
My bleak dominion of oblivion.

Blooms fallen from her hand alone remain
To mock the sun’s incontinence of waste:
Below earth’s solid firmament she fell
To fruit slow-ripened in the night of Hell—
Exquisite to the touch, lethal to taste
In the never-fading orchards of the slain.

Queen of the world’s dark third whence none return,
She walked alone in hope, in mortal needs.
Shunned by the envious shades, I watched her seek
Where none might give, question where none might speak;
Watcher her bewildered, pluck the lucent seeds
And, reft of sight, trust other sense to learn.

The voice, the words she sought, I could compel
Alone of all that alien company
Immortally bereft of life’s desire
For that acknowledgment of two entire
Minds that in meeting prove their entity—
I might have spoken, and made Hell less Hell.

Silent, I watched the long despair of light
Bleach her desire as her gold flesh grew pale;
I watched the visible darkness of this place
Print on jet pools such knowledge in her face
As no sun, no man’s passion might regale
Nor wake her from, who lived, not dreamed, this night.

Take her then, Ceres, but do not surmise
You take a simply injured innocent:
To one who lies with Death ere she gives birth
All of your earth can be but half of earth—
Mother and Lord must share her testament
Who is for Hell too fair, for earth too wise.

Ellen Kay (1930–

The Hunter is Delirious with an Infected Wound

Must I relinquish what I most revere;
Close as membrane, quicker than this cell?
An ancient stricture causes me to fear
A rude device: I have before me Hell,
With all its incommensurable Host
Who have no Vision, History or Ghost!

Once, pondering on Love, in winter wind
That drove the night into an iron crown
About my head, I was no longer blind.
What can I say, save that a veil fell down
And left me gibbering? My God, I scent
Such terror in my native element!

I was a stripling and a lewd girl came
From nowhere: she swayed, naked, in the light
That wounded us: we played a bawdy game
Whereby, in time, she claimed a victor’s right:
And as I knelt to part her fleecy lips,
I found a web of thorns about her hips!

I knocked on dead wood: and a childish prayer
Occurred to me, so numbering every One
With utter certainty, I shuddered there
For such a blasphemy: that day is done!
I recognize a subtle, lethal pull;
An inclination to be merciful!

The branches glitter and the moist earth shakes:
I tremble with a distant measured tread.
What is this rudimentary brute that wakes
And lumbers after water? I lay dead
Until he gored my testicles and pain
Embraced and burnt me into life again.

Each day at dawn, somehow beyond despair,
I watch them stir and peck, small vital things
Fluffed up for warmth: and must inflame the air
To send them out on incandescent wings!
And always, with the moon’s abrupt rebirth,
They plummet, black and wizened, back to earth.

Bitter, bitter, I have had to turn
From those rare creatures darkly understood!
Is this the human ultimate concern,
To goad to death, in a sequestered wood,
A rabid mongrel-dog? Or challenge with
The brute fact of my Being, my own Myth?

© Richard Outram (1930–2005)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.

What Do Poets Want?

It’s the ants’ pants, it’s the bees’ knees,
it’s the cats’ pyjamas O baby please,
it’s a broken light for every heart
on Broadway, pal, it’s the apple cart
the mob upset on the road of life,
it’s roadkill baby, it’s man and wife,
it’s the fallback beast in the marriage bed,
It’s the last erection, the stoned dead
in a zoot suit with an undone zip
and a limp prick and stiff upper lip,
with a reet pleat, and a rough cuff
on a Sunday ear that smarts enough
for a smart kid till queendom come,
it’s a soft touch, it’s keeping mum
on the casting couch, it’s good old dad
in his see-through slip, it’s mum gone bad,
it’s mum gone off with a traveling man,
it’s the kiss of limbo, it’s His flight plan,
it’s heavenly hate, it’s home sweet hell,
it’s blood-in-the-pee and a nasty smell
in the waterworks, it’s the cells gone ape,
it’s homunculus in a tumour’s shape,
it’s yesterday’s press, it’s the latest Word,
it’s the samurai Damoclesian sword,
it’s the daily bread, it’s the butterflies
in the old tum-tum, it’s ma making eyes
at you not me, it’s our fondest dreams
come false again, it’s childbed screams,
it’s the screaming kids, it’s our Heavenly Pa,
it’s the me-me’s screaming—about your jaw—
real sorry, baby, that’s how things are,
you ought to know that a good cigar
is a good cigar, but a naughty wench
is only another well-ploughed trench,
you ought to know, to go up in smoke
and mirrors, mate, is a smutty joke,
it’s the ark careened, it’s a livelong zoo,
it’s the whole boiling, the last tabu,
it’s all dark promise, what’s come to pass,
it’s jet death in the blazed glass,
it’s the living end, it’s the mortal taint,
—but, Siggy, baby—you it ain’t.

© Richard Outram (1930–2005)
For acknowledgments, see Permissions.


Come all old maids that are squeamish
And afraid to make mistakes,
Don’t clutter your lives up with boyfriends:
The nicest girls marry snakes.

If you don’t mind slime on your pillow
And caresses as gliding as ice
—Cold skin, warm heart, remember,
And besides, they keep down the mice—

If you’re really serious-minded,
It’s the best advice you can take:
No rumpling, no sweating, no nonsense,
Oh who would not sleep with a snake?

Jay Macpherson, Poems Twice Told (Oxford University Press, 1981)

The Love Song of Jenny Lear

Come along, my old king of the sea,
Don’t look so pathetic at me:
We’re off for a walk
And a horrid long talk
By the beautiful banks of the sea.

I’m not Arnold’s Margaret, the pearl
That gleamed and was lost in a whirl,
Who simpered in churches,
And left him on porches,
But more of a hell of a girl.

Poor old fish, you’re no walker at all,
Can’t you spank up that elderly crawl?
I’ll teach you to hurdle,
Led on by my girdle,
With whalebone, elastic and all.

We’ll romp by the seashore, and when
You’ve enough, shut your eyes and count ten.
I’ll crunch down your bones,
Guts marrow and stones,
Then raise you up dancing again.

Jay Macpherson, Poems Twice Told (Oxford University Press, 1981)

A Lost Soul

Some are plain lucky—we ourselves among them:
Houses with books, with gardens, all we wanted,
Work we enjoy, with colleagues we feel close to—
Love we have, even:

True love and candid, faithful, strong as gospel,
Patient, untiring, fond when we are fretful,
Having so much, how is it that we ache for
Those darker others?

Some days for them we could let slip the whole damn
Soft bed we’ve made ourselves, our friends in Heaven
Let slip away, buy back with blood our ancient
Vampires and demons.

First loves and oldest, what names shall I call you?
Older to me than language, old as breathing,
Burn with me, in this flesh: by now I know you’re
Greed, pride and envy.

Too long I’ve shut you out, denied acquaintance,
Favoured less barefaced vices, hoped to pass for
Reasonable, rate with those who more inclined to
Self-hurt than murder.

You were my soul: in arrogance I banned you.
Now I recant—return, possess me, take my
Hands, bind my eyes, infallibly restore my
Share in perdition.

Jay Macpherson, Poems Twice Told (Oxford University Press, 1981)

A Touch of Death

Strange fingers woke me, fumbling at my brow.
My rooms were near a roof. I thought: Somehow
Someone’s got in. The cold hand hit my nose.
Naked beneath the freezing sheets, I froze.
Then … nothing happened. I became aware
Horribly slowly no one else was there:
Quite dark, but you could sense across the floor
The usual wooden quadrupeds, no more.
Was it a corpse’s hand, put in my bed
By my best friend, who’s studying the dead?
Surely he’d not do that … The arm felt grey,
Somehow, and yielding, in a foul soft way.
It didn’t smell, though. Feeling worse, and colder,
I ran my left hand up it to the shoulder,
Expecting torn-out strings, a bulb of bone,
And wetness. Worst of all, it was my own—
I’d two right arms: one, warm beneath my head
And pillow, there; and this, cold, slack, and … dead?
I tried to touch the real one where I knew
It must be, but my fingers went straight through.
All the sensations of my arm lay there
In order, like a well-lit thoroughfare,
But not the arm. My soul is breaking free,
I thought: I’ll lose the arm. I might lose me!
I grabbed the dead thing. It was powerless.
I rubbed the muscles, stroked and tried to press
The blood along, like air in a balloon,
But nothing made it feel. It would die soon,
If it weren’t dead already. Then I thought
If I could swing it round, it might get caught
As it goes through its image. Can you fit
Your arm back in the space that matches it?
The elbows fused together as they met,
The wrists and knuckles too—a perfect set.
And even when I moved them on, they stayed
United as they’d been since they were made.
I felt the rushing happiness of a boy
Who’s found the key he needs to wind his toy.
I slept then, I suppose. I don’t recall.

You’ll keep this quiet, won’t you? After all,
Who’d ever shake this hand—with which I write—
Knowing it died and met its ghost one night?

© Alistair Elliot (1932–

Note on Propertius

Among the Roman love-poets, possession
is a rare theme. The locked and flower-hung door,
the shivering lover, are allowed. To more
buoyant moods, the canons of expression
gave grudging sanction. Do we, then, assume,
finding Propertius tear-sodden and jealous,
that Cynthis was inexorably callous?
Plenty of moonlight entered that high room
whose doors had met his Alexandrine battles;
and she, so gay a lutanist, was known
to stitch and doze a night away, alone,
until the poet tumbled in with apples
for penitence and for her head his wreath,
brought from a party, of wine-scented roses
(the garland’s aptness lying, one supposes,
less in the flowers than in the thorns beneath:
her waking could, he knew, provide his verses
with less idyllic themes). Onto her bed
he rolled the round fruit, and adorned her head;
then gently roused her sleeping mouth to curses.
Here the conventions reassert their power:
the apples fall and bruise, the roses wither,
touched by a sallowed moon. But there were other
luminous nights—(even the cactus flower
glows briefly golden, fed by spiny flesh)—
and once, as he acknowledged, all was singing:
the moonlight musical, the darkness clinging,
and she compliant to his every wish.

Fleur Adcock (1934– Poems 1960–2000 (Bloodaxe, 2000)

Morning After 9

The surface dreams are easily remembered:
I wake most often with a comforting sense
of having seen a pleasantly odd film—
nothing too outlandish or too intense;

of having, perhaps, befriended animals,
made love, swum the Channel, flown in the air
without wings, visited Tibet or Chile:
simple childish stuff. Or else the rare

recurrent horror makes its call upon me:
I dream one of my sons is lost or dead,
or that I am trapped in a tunnel underground;
but my scream is enough to recall me to my bed.

Sometimes, indeed, I congratulate myself
on the nice precision of my obervatio:
on having seen so vividly a certain
colour, having felt the sharp sensation

of cold water on my hands[ the eact taste
of wine or peppermints. I take a pride
In finding all my senses operative
even in sleep. So, with nothing to hide,

I amble through my latest entertainment
again, in the bath, or going to work,
idly amused at what the night has offered
unless this is a day when a sick jerk

recalls to me a sudden different vision:
I see myself inspecting the vast slit
of a sagging whore; making love with a hunchbacked
hermaphrodite; eating worms or shit;

or rapt upon necrophily or incest.
And whaeever loathsome images I see
are just as vivid as the peasant others.
I flush and shudder: my God, was that me?

Did I invent so ludicrously revolting
a scene. And if so, how could I forget
until this instant? And why now remember?
Furthermore (and more disturning yet)

are all my other forgotten dreams like these?
Do I, for hours of my innocent nights,
wallow content and charmed through verminous muck,
rollick in the embraces of such frights?

And are the comic or harmless fantasies
I wake with merely a deceiving guard,
as one might put a Hans Andersen cover
on a volume of the writings of De Sade?

Enough, enough. Bring back those easy pictures,
Tibet or antelopes, a seemly lover,
or even the black tunnel. For the rest,
I do not care to know. Replace the cover.

Fleur Adcock (1934– Poems 1960–2000 (Bloodaxe, 2000)


Leave the bars lying in the grass.
Let all wanderers freely pass
Into the pasture now.

Gone are the fawn-shy heifers, gone
The little calf almost a fawn,
And the black two-year cow.

Leave the bars lying where they are.
Let each black-triangled birch bar
Be white and triple warning:

One for all tender things that go,
One for the neat and ultimate snow,
One for frost by morning.

In that first snow a frightened deer,
Swifter than sorrow, swift as fear,
May pass here flying, flying.

What if no fence could foil his speed?
Spare him the leap, spare him one need
Of leaping. Leave the bars lying.

Robert Francis (1936–1976)