Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love Divine; Love was born at Christmas, Star and Angels gave the sign.
I learned this (mainly just the chorus) when I was studying French with a private tutor. I think my brother and I tried to sing it as a round.
Last but certainly not least,
What are some of your traditional and favourite Christmas stories, poems or other readings?
Frost: taking the road to thought
Robert Frost is probably best known for his “road less travelled” poem. In the spirit of this week’s theme of Remembrance I am diverging and focusing on his lesser known war poems, including the enigma of the ‘lost poem’.
Read and reflect as you will. We all have our own stories to tell.
He is that fallen lance that lies as hurled,
That lies unlifted now, come dew, come rust,
But still lies pointed as it ploughed the dust.
If we who sight along it round the world,
See nothing worthy to have been its mark,
It is because like men we look too near,
Forgetting that as fitted to the sphere,
Our missiles always make too short an arc.
They fall, they rip the grass, they intersect
The curve of earth, and striking, break their own;
They make us cringe for metal-point on stone.
But this we know, the obstacle that checked
And tripped the body, shot the spirit on
Further than target ever showed or shone.
On the back side of the house
Where it wears no paint to the weather
And so shows most its age,
Suddenly blue jays rage
And flash in blue feather.
It is late in an afternoon
More grey with snow to fall
Than white with fallen snow
When it is blue jay and crow
Or no bird at all.
So someone heeds from within
This flurry of bird war,
And rising from her chair
A little bent over with care
Not to scatter on the floor
The sewing in her lap
Comes to the window to see.
At sight of her dim face
The birds all cease for a space
And cling close in a tree.
And one says to the rest
“We must just watch our chance
And escape one by one—
Though the fight is no more done
Than the war is in France.”
Than the war is in France!
She thinks of a winter camp
Where soldiers for France are made.
She draws down the window shade
And it glows with an early lamp.
On that old side of the house
The uneven sheds stretch back
Shed behind shed in train
Like cars that long have lain
Dead on a side track.
If you want to read the story behind the discovery of the poem follow the titular link.
Here are some of my thoughts which you can read or not as you have time.
Frost loved walking. I imagine him noting things of curiosity and familiarity; why and how the birds interact, the shape and positions of particular buildings, the time of day and weather. I think of him naming these things and giving them attributes and significance in his mind ramblings. Later he would pull from these recordings images to lend power and description to his writing. The beauty is in the interpretation each reader then places adjacent to their own experiences.
I picture the squabbling birds and shudder at the flap and flutter of the conflict. Looking ahead I see the drab buildings outlined against the gathering gloom and question whether sanctuary or hostile, until I watch the silhouette of a woman appear in the lamplight. Duties put aside she watches the birds and thinks of another also preparing battle in foreign lands; but wanting to contain the warmth of home snaps down the shutter leaving a window sized glow and the shadow of buildings in rank and file simulating unused carriages serving no purpose.
What interpretation do you put on the poem?
What do you feel as you travel this road with Frost?
What is your story?
Connect and comment.
T.S.Eliot: “will do as he do do…”
It was inevitable that I would be introduced to Eliot as soon as I could appreciate the language and mystery of poetry.
My mother, putting drama and elocution lessons to good use, would recite from ‘Cats’ if something brought to mind the rhythm and rhyme and language of the verses.
And I fell in love. Who wouldn’t, as child, love the sounds and feelings of reeling off the wonderful, fabudosous sounds of McCavity, Rum Rum Tugger, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer?
Am I a natural then to attend Lloyd- Webber’s “Cats”?
Unfortunately, not as I’m not that fond of musicals, and not that fond of Webber’s sound.
However the ‘rapping’ version intrigues me. On re-introducing myself to Eliot recently (isn’t it lovely what you can do when you are retired?) I was excited by the hip hop rhythm of some of Eliot’s works.
I will probably not do justice by this analysis, but I refer to the confining structure of the poetry that guides the sounds and ideas and thought process of the meaning. I want to say – use the structure of the verse to clear the mind of clutter so that you can ‘hear’ what Eliot is saying. And it is that element of poetry that draws me to some ‘rap’; especially the greats like Tupac , M and M, and Biggie and JayZ.
And evidently I am not alone. “I came to the conclusion, having read Eliot again, that maybe he was the inventor of rap,” says Lloyd-Webber. “His metre for the Rum Tum Tugger is so wonderful… it raps.”
In contrast, the flip side of Eliot. A few years after first being introduced to Eliot, it was again inevitable that he would come into Literature lessons at school. As such into my life came “The Journey of the Magi”
The very first line had me hooked. A cold coming we had of it.
I remember enjoying the story of it then, as a teenager, and picking out the imagery of ‘the three trees’, ‘dicing with silver’ and ‘old wine skins’.
It had to be a favourite as it related to my favourite part of the Nativity, the magi.
Now, in the wisdom of my greying years I read and am brought to tears by the deeper emotions Eliot manages to stir in the language and movement of the poem.
In the words of M.J. Fox and PBS that maybe “one to grow on”.
And now is it also inevitable that I leave you with ‘one of my own’?
Matilda: Tilly for short.
Her strength is in her solitude
Her strength is in her solitude
Her loyalty in sleep.
Her justice in the knowing look
Only yours to keep.
This cat of two dimensions
Might allow a playful paw
To bat away a bubble or two
Before it becomes a bore.
A stretch, a yawn and then return
To rituals of the day
Groom, eat then sleep
A walk outside
then groom, sleep, eat
Repeat until replete.
Her strength is in her solitude
Her devotion not outdone
It’s all the same
She’ll prove her worth
Matilda is her name.
Go ahead and share your favourites, cats, poets or memories
Connect with the world.
Delighted by Duffy
I cannot exactly remember when I was first introduced to Ms Duffy and her poetry. It would have been prior to 2009 because I recall being delighted to hear she had been made poet laureate in that year.
I cannot say that I relate to all of her poetry, but I admire her honesty as a poet. Straight forward language written in a complex structure produces a depth of writing; powerful and memorable.
During my time in education I was pleasantly surprised at how well received her poetry was by an enforced audience studying English Literature to a culture starved audience desperately trying to capture words and language to write their thoughts to loved ones far away.
here are two of my favourites:
Valentine – Poem by Carol Ann Duffy
Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.
I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or a kissogram.
I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.
The ‘benediction’ for this post has to be this: Ms Duffy herself, reading Mrs Midas.
George Crabbe: The forgotten poet
Whilst studying for my teaching certificate at C.F.Mott College nr Liverpool, U.K. I became transfixed by the doleful poetry of Crabbe. His themes and writing seemed to speak to my emotional state at the time. He was a natural choice for the ‘C’ section of my romp through an alphabet of poets.
Thus by himself compelled to live each day,
To wait for certain hours the tide’s delay;
At the same times the same dull views to see,
The bounding marshbank and the blighted tree;
The water only, when the tides were high,
When low, the mud half-covered and half-dry;
The sunburnt tar that blisters on the planks,
And bankside stakes in their uneven ranks;
Heaps of entangled weeds that slowly float,
As the tide rolls by th’ impeded boat.
When tides were neap, and, in the sultry day,
Through the tall bounding mudbanks made their way,
Which on each side rose swelling, and below
The dark warm flood ran silently and slow;
There anchoring, Peter chose from man to hide,
There hang his head, and view the lazy tide
In its hot slimy channel slowly glide;
Where the small eels that left the deeper way
For the warm shore, within the shallows play;
Where gaping mussels, left upon the mud,
Slope their slow passage to the fallen flood;
Here dull and hopeless he’d lie down and trace
How sidelong crabs had scrawled their crooked race;
Or sadly listen to the tuneless cry
Of fishing gull or clanging goldeneye;
What time the sea birds to the marsh would come,
And the loud bittern, from the bulrush home,
Gave from the salt-ditch side the bellowing boom.
He nursed the feelings these dull scenes produce,
And loved to stop beside the opening sluice,
Where the small stream, confined in narrow bound,
Ran with a dull, unvaried, saddening sound;
Where all presented to the eye or ear
Oppressed the soul with misery, grief, and fear.
This section is taken from Peter Grimes, part of a longer group of verses: The Borough.
Now, Peter Grimes, is most often linked with Britten’s opera of the same name. Whilst the opera is based on this poem, Britten used ‘poetic licence’ to change characters and plot emphasis to suit his music, which personally I find too strident for the tone/language of the poem and settings.
For what it’s worth here follows my rendition of this passage:
B is for Beauty in simplicity
One of William Blake’s lesser known poems perhaps is the following:
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise
A few short lines. How does the imagery convey the truths Blake wants to suggest?
Joy creeps up on us and surprises us within one moment: the sight of a hidden flower amongst ruins, the sound of a bird singing or a rippling brook, the smile of a friend or lover across a crowded room, laughter after tears, sunshine after storm, reunion after being apart, forgiveness after wrong, faith after doubt.
Blake reminds us that we are human. Humans feel, re-act; we are selfish and giving, kindhearted and greedy, angry and meek and yet strong and faithful. It is the divine in us that promises the joy in the unexpected. Seek those moments, treasure them and enjoy them and share our delight with others.
I will always sing Jerusalem with enthusiasm. I will read Tyger, Tyger with energy delighting in the description and recognising the creator who made gentle lamb and bold tiger to display meekness and strength of character.
However I will return to Eternity when my heart is weak to savour the unexpected.
Thanks you for reading and don’t forget to offer your suggestions on poems, or better still write your own.
Topic for this post
Beauty and the Beast.
A is for Apple, Adams, Auden and Atmosphere
On these category pages I hope to feature poets and poems that have inspired me in the past or new ones that I find. The methodical side of me insisted I work through the alphabet. The devious side of me might stray away occasionally.
Here goes on another writing adventure…
Today’s first choice is a new one for me.
Helen Adams: The Last Secret
Not sure about copyright so here is a snippet of the poem including the parts that inspired me the most
Grains of Sand Sing
What is the holy secret this planet hides?
That the race of man has forgotten, or dare not guess?
Queen of Cups Answers
It is something to do with silence and loneliness,
Something to do with sunlight and idleness.
Something dying that lives only to bless!
But I have forgotten, forgotten, or dare not guess.
Queen of Cups
It has something to do with silence and idleness
More than a little to do with loneliness
A holy and hidden secret powerful to bless,
Answering all Earth’s prayers with one word “Yes!”
– from Women of the Beat Generation, Brenda Knight (Conari Press, 1996)
You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.
I read this when studying Yeats at school which led to a life time appreciation and love of Yeats’ poetry and who will be featured at some time in this blog.
If you have favourite poems or poets you would like featured please comment below.