Poetry ~ 1997
Roslyn Stempel
A place to share and discuss your favorite poems.

"Here in this discussion we can do what my poetry group does in my home.
We can allow our feelings to be known...to share through our readings and writings what others may never know of us.
I am so excited by the prospect and I hope you are as well.
Share the poems that have moved you, be they your own or others." ......Annafair

This link to An Index of Poets in Representative Poetry On-Line -- will lead you to an invaluable treasury of poetry old and new.

"A man is known by the company his mind keeps."

....Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Your Poetry Discussion Leaders were:Charlotte and Annafair

January 3, 1997 - 04:20 pm

I found Wislawa Szymborska's view with a grain of sand at Barnes and Noble today. I was really shocked that when I asked about the "Polish woman who just won the Nobel Prize, " they said, "Oh, yes, " and took me right over to her!

Is this (it was the only one they had) a good representation of her works, and is there one of these you recommend??? Good heavens-- I started reading her "Theatre Impressions," and just read on and on and on....what does she mean by the last line??

I thought she and I were in sinc there for awhile.....the curtain falls, the "dead " get up and take their bows, I am always strangely reassured, too, and then.....

Did you understand what she was saying???


Roslyn Stempel
January 4, 1997 - 07:32 am
Ginny, I'm delighted you found the Szymborska book. To say I completely understand everything she's saying would be pretentious but I think perhaps the "unseen hand" that grips her in the last line might be the realization that life is different from theatre, and that despite the bows and curtain calls, there is no "miraculous return of all those lost without a trace." This is one of the themes implicit in many of the poems. Try "On the Banks of the Styx" and "Utopia," and then for contrast see "On Death," which to my mind has some parallels with Donne's "Death Be Not Proud."

January 4, 1997 - 08:40 am
Ginny, how in the world do you find the time to do all that you do? I just came in here for the first time, as I do love poetry, and there you are reading away. Way to go! gennie

Roslyn Stempel
January 4, 1997 - 09:35 am
Gennie, is there a poem or fragment of poetry that stays with you most of the time? If so, would you be willing to share it? As I wrote this, what popped into my head was Robert Frost's "Choose Something Like a Star."

January 4, 1997 - 09:57 pm
Gennie: I just love to read, and I know you do, too.That's a good question Ros asked:

Know what shot through my mind?? Frost, also. "Mending Wall"

Maybe we ought to take a poem and talk about it....I'm just in awe of your abilities, Roslyn; really incredible take on "Theatre Impressions," the invisible hand....knew she was saying something, but I got confused by what seems to me to be her hinting at intimacy," I mean, she's more affected by the cast having to wait in costume behind the curtain than the actual show....and why would "the curtains's fall" be the most uplifting part? Because it's over, and they will all restore themselves??? What does she mean by Act 6?


Roslyn Stempel
January 6, 1997 - 08:48 am
Since most of Shakespeare's plays, for example, have 5 acts, I think that Act 6 in Szymborska's poem would be the real-life epilogue--either the actors resume their everyday selves and stroll off the stage, or some grisly presence reminds us that, no, this isn't just a play, the dead are really dead, the political prisoners remain behind bars, and YOU might be next!

January 7, 1997 - 08:22 am
All right, Miss Roslyn:

You just tell us how you knew that! That's not common knowledge about the 5 acts....

No comment on the intimacy aspect??? Let's pick a poem to look at here! I've got some suggestions:


Roslyn Stempel
January 8, 1997 - 08:16 am
Ginny, please do select a favorite poem and let's talk about it. Maybe if we continue our dialogue someone else will drop in and join us.

Szymborska was involved in the poetry movement in Poland and also was politically active. I think her poetry is both intimate and detached, if that's possible. It's true that she often writes as if outside the scene, but there's always a hint of something that places her within it. Take "Cat in an Empty Apartment." Surely the missing person was someone she knew. Is she herself the one who comes to feed the cat?

Our shared tendency to skip introductions and get right to the body of the work caused me to overlook the useful intro to the other Szymborska collection, "Sounds, Feelings, Thoughts," --which, incidentally, quotes a 16th-century Polish poet, Jan Kochanowski, on a subject that is related to the Odyssey:
"Agamemnon was not the first to command a thousand troops,
Troy was destroyed more than once; before Hector there had been
myriad brave men, for whom death for the fatherland was sweet,
Yet all are sunk in silence eternal,
For they have been overlooked by the silence of a worthy bard."

January 8, 1997 - 05:35 pm
Oh, I do like that....I read iin one of my commentaries that the Greeks regarded the ability to create poetry as the power to confer immortality on the subjects of their work, so they always sought the help of a deity in creating their story...

I must go read the "Cat in an Empty Apartment" and will get back to you.


January 12, 1997 - 08:18 am
I sent my poetry "I see my daughter grow" to North American Open Poetry Contest a few months ago.I was informed yesterday that it had certified by the selection committee as a semi-finalist, and it will be entered into the final competition held in spring 1997. The poem was put here in the seniornet a few months ago. Thanks for friends who encoraged me to send the poem out. The poem will be published in The Isle of View (library of congress ISBN 1-57553-355-3) in summer 1997.

January 12, 1997 - 08:22 am
WOW, jiajia, and many congratulations!!

Glad to see you back....

Can't wait to read your poem....could we discuss it here, by any chance??


January 12, 1997 - 09:04 am
The poem was put by myself here. It was written a year after I came to this country when I was studying at the college of notre dame of maryland. I just learned to write poetry in English. The teacher Sister Marie in Notre Dame is a very good teacher.I enjoyed writting poetry very much after I took her class.But I did not continoue to do what I liked to do for I entered business school in computer information system at the university of baltimore after I graduated from the college. Since my daugter joined me in this country in 1991,I have to work very hard for a living and to support both my daughter and I throught college education. I still like to write and enjoy literature very much.I want to write a novel in English. It is difficult for me, but I want to do it. I just feel like I have to write down all my feelings in my heart otherwise I can not rest.

January 12, 1997 - 09:09 am
To see Jiajia's poems, click on the link below:


Roslyn Stempel
January 15, 1997 - 01:56 pm
Jiajia, thanks to Pat's information about the link I have just found your lovely poem about your daughter. Your emotions are beautifully expressed and the pattern of your lines is very subtle. I wonder if you feel that when you write in English you are still using Chinese poetic forms--and if so, how do they differ from English poetry? (Of course, in these times there are so many possible forms that English poetry can take--including no form at all!)

Joan Grimes
March 3, 1997 - 08:03 am
We a have winner in the Mystery Quiz and a new Quiz posted. Come by and congratulate the winner and try your hand at the new quiz.

Mystery Quiz


March 3, 1997 - 06:39 pm
"Spring is the mischief in me..." I'd really like to discuss Mending Wall by Robert Frost. If I don't get arrested for doing it, let me see if I can find it on the Internet and post it here tomorrow!! Come by and give your thoughts!


March 13, 1997 - 10:37 am
Is anyone familiar with Jane Kenyon's work. How about "Let Evening Come" or "The Three Susans?"

Joan Grimes
March 19, 1997 - 03:23 pm
We have a winner for Mystery Quiz#3. Come to the Mystery Quiz and congratulate the winner.

March 19, 1997 - 05:16 pm
Barb: Sorry to be so long in answering you! No, I'm not familiar with her. Can you fill us in? Is she new? (Showing ignorance here!!) What kinds of things does she write about?

I'd like to hear more.


March 20, 1997 - 08:38 am
Can anyone tell me whether I can "quote" a line or an entire poem on this forum. I am not knowledgeable about copyright laws, etc. Simply would like to share some wonderful lines from some wonderful poets.


March 20, 1997 - 10:50 am
Barb: That's a good question. We've been doing it without any permission from anyone. Sometimes you can find the poem itself on the internet....why not write Katie Bates and ask her that question?

I'd like to put some Robert Frost here, myself!


March 21, 1997 - 04:55 am
Jane Kenyon died of Luekemia in April of 1995. She was married to a man 19 years her senior, Donald Hall, an educator and an excellent author/poet in his own right. They lived for about 20 years prior to Jane's death in Danbury, NH living in the old New England homestead that belonged to Donald's family for several generations. Jane's husband, Donald, won a battle with cancer a few years before Jane's illness occurred. During his struggle, Jane wrote several poems sharing her emotions. It is ironic that later those poems would more aptly her. She shared her feelings in her work. She left us with four slim volumes. A fifth was published posthumously by her husband. That book included the last poems that Jane wrote as well as a selection of favorite others. The title of that last book is "Otherwise".


March 21, 1997 - 07:40 am
Barb!! That is wonderful!! What wonderful writing! Another author, this one a poet, to add to my shopping list. Let's discuss her wonderful works...Let me get the book first!! Thank you!!


March 21, 1997 - 01:39 pm
Ginny, I forgot to mention that Jane died at the young age of 47! She as well as her husband Donald Frost share the distinction with Robert Frost of having been "Poet Lauriet" of the state of New Hampshire. A copy of "The Poetry of Robert Frost" sits right along side of books by Donald Hall (Jane Kenyon's husband). " What is there that doesn't love a wall?" That is a wonderful poem. I like "Birches" equally as well. The poem I shared of Jane Kenyon's appeared in a local newspaper so I assume it is alright to share. This is a great forum! Have been having trouble with our server. It has changed hands about three times in a short period. Hope it settles down so we can enjoy uninterrupted service!

March 21, 1997 - 07:09 pm
I tried to delete a message before it was posted. It did not delete. Instead it appeared on the screen. It says that I have the option of deleting my post but it is not working for me. No delete is appearing after my post. My server keeps shutting down and I have to wait to get back on. Could this be the problem. Can anyone help me delete a post. Thanks.

March 21, 1997 - 07:30 pm
Barb: What do you want to delete? I like your posts.


Jeanne Lee
March 21, 1997 - 07:46 pm
Barb - Apparently you did not log in when you came to SeniorNet. If you don't log in you don't see the everlasting delete button. If you know where it is and can tell us, we can get it deleted for you.

March 22, 1997 - 05:25 am
Jeanne Lee, thanks for responding so quickly. The post I thought I had deleted is in Books and Literature, Poetry. The message is #23 of 28 at this point. I thought I had deleted the last line of the message, "followoing is one of my favorite poems" and the whole poem. I did not want to post that till I was sure I should. Please delete it for me as soon as you can. Thank you. Where do we log on to Senior Net.

March 22, 1997 - 05:31 am
Barb: I have deleted the part you wanted deleted, but I sure hope you will put it back, as have had much comment on it.

I wrote you, but your e-mail came back to me this morning.

I don't think Jeanne will mind my telling you that the "Login " button is one of the little boxes at the bottom of your screen...sort of to the right bottom

I've got three of her slim little volumes now, and just love them. If the poem was already on the Internet, don't see how it could be a problem....

Thanks for sharing it.


Jeanne Lee
March 22, 1997 - 05:32 am
Barb - I have notified the host of this discussion about which post you want deleted and someone will take care of it soon. If you will email me (click on my name and then on the blue email address) I will send you information about loggin on.

Jeanne Lee
March 22, 1997 - 05:33 am
Hi, Ginny - We posted together, I guess. Thanks for your very fast response to my request - must have been all of 2 seconds!

March 22, 1997 - 05:35 am
Jeanne: hey, hey, we're on the ball here!!


Barb M
October 13, 1999 - 04:59 pm
Ginny and Jeanne - Thank you so much! I was so concerned. I think I need to understand better what is allowed and what is not. I am off to help with a church supper so need to leave now. I first heard Donald Hall read from his book of poem "String Too Short" at a Fellowship meeting at church. I really enjoy listening to him. Everybody have a great day!

March 22, 1997 - 09:04 am
Dear Barb:

I also wrote you and your email came bouncing back to me so check out that email address and make sure you LOG IN as Jeanne and Ginny have both advised and you'll have delete buttons and edit buttons, etc.

Hope to see you posting a lot more here and as Ginny said, if the poem was already on the internet, I can see no problem.


Barb M
March 24, 1997 - 02:19 pm
Back again after a busy weekend. Internet server has chaged my e-mail address. Tried to reregister using the same name, password and a different e-mail address. SeniorNet response was that I could not register with that name and password as it is already in use. Don't know how to get my new e-mail address registered. I feel as though I am on "the Road Less Traveled" with this Internet business. Hope it will make "all the difference" when straightened out.

Again, thanks everyone for you help.

Joan Grimes
March 24, 1997 - 03:48 pm

Scroll down to the bottom of this page and click on preferences. You will then see the box with your email address. You can change it there. Be sure to scroll down and click on set preferences .


Barb M
March 25, 1997 - 06:59 am
Joan G. - Thank you! I changed e-mail address in preference options. I am always amazed at the rapid response to requests for assistance.

Jo Walker
March 28, 1997 - 08:00 pm
Talked to my book shop lady (Emily) about getting a book of Jane Kenyon's poetry---in fact, shared our posts about this author with her. She liked her, too, and will order me one of Kenyon's volumes. Emily asked if we were aware here, that April is officially Poetry Month. It was news to me but told her I would post that information. Shall we all celebrate it by committing our favorite piece to memory? Or maybe we could just raise a virtual glass of champagne to all bards everywhere. My memory ain't what it used to be.

March 29, 1997 - 06:55 am
Oh, good thought, JO! How shall we celebrate it? We could commit our favorite to memory, if we haven't already, or we could tempt fate and post a little of it here.

Let's do both.

Let's throw caution to the winds and each one print some part or all of our favorite poem here during April, and share what we like about them with others!

Wonderful idea, JO!!


Jo Walker
March 31, 1997 - 10:42 am
I wish I were one of those people who have committed lots of verse to memory but I know very few. California schools, when I was growing up, didn't find that very important and the only one we were asked to memorize was Abou Ben Adam (sp?)in the 8th grade. I can still say it pretty accurately.

I have been influenced by poetry, tho', and care more for it now than earlier in my life. It's a mystery to me how poets can put into perfect words my feelings and moods (and sometimes even make it all rhyme!)

Did the rest of you memorize poetry in school? I doubt it's done much anymore. I will check my sources and post something in honor of Poetry Month.

March 31, 1997 - 07:09 pm
Jo: Gosh, yes, we memorized poetry. From the first grade on, we copied poems (this was in Pennsylvania) into those composition books and then memorized them.

I can still remember the first one I learned in the first grade.

Later, we memorized The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner...almost all of it.

When we took Latin, we memorized "All Gaul is divided into three parts " in the original...long, long passages of Latin...we were assured by our teacher that all educated people knew these passages by heart. Some of them were tough, too. That's not poetry, but it is memorization--and the structure is so wonderful, it seems poetic.

Shakespeare: not only the sonnets, but huge sections from the plays, too. Verses of the Bible...whole Psalms...not just the 23rd...seems like we were always memorizing something--T.S. Eliot, Auden, Frost, all the great poets...Whitman, Wordsworth....the list is endless.

When my children were in school, memorization was frowned upon. They weren't just "memorizing," they were really learning. They say that people now in their 50's are the last to have been educated in the tradition of Literature...if that's so, I think it's a shame.

Can any of you remember anything you memorized without looking it up?

We ought to have a little fun test, and see what we really do remember...we might surprise ourselves.

How about everybody else? Do you recall memorizing any poetry?


Joan Grimes
March 31, 1997 - 08:13 pm

I memorized poetry when I was in high school in Alabama. I know many of the lines in several of Shakespeare's plays. I love to see one from which I can quote all of the famous speeches.I used to memorized poetry for the speech class that I took in high school. I memorized Browning's My Last Duchess for my speech class.

I quote Shakespeare to my youngest grandchild, Sophie, when I baby sit with her. She likes it.

When I taught English, I required my students to memorize Shakespeare, par ot Chaucer's Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, Bryant's Thanatopsis, some of Poe's poetry and other poetry also.

My French students memorized their original dialogues and alot of famous French poetry. They used to compete at Foreign Language Festivals where they would recite the poetry of famous poets such as Baudelaire, Rimbaud,Hugo,Apollinaire, Mallarmé and others. Of course I learned many of these too but not in High school.

I really began learning verses before I went to school. I learned some of the things from A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson and before that were nursery rhymes. I think this helped me to want to memorize poetry later.

Poetry has really been a part of my life.


Jeanne Lee
April 1, 1997 - 11:28 am
I can still recite from memory The Man Without a Country and of course A Visit From St. Nick! But that's it.

Barb M.
April 2, 1997 - 08:41 am
My memory is not great. I remember lines; bits and pieces but not the whole thing except for two poems I learned long ago. I was required to "do the dishes" for a very large family starting at about eight years old. It was a tedious task requireing heating of water on a wood stove. My flights of fantasy were what made it bearable. Better yet, I had a brother, younger, who is mentally retarded. His greatest joy for many years was hurrying into the pantry when he heard me starting dishes. He would stand beside me, a captive audience while I sang or recited poetry to my hearts content. Two of his favorites were "Casey at the bat" and "Jest fore Christmas". It is amazing that more than fifty years later this very disfunctional brother can still recite most of the two poems.

April 2, 1997 - 04:20 pm
Barb: what a wonderful story! I was trying to think of the words to Casey at the Bat the other day...

Just Fore Christmas...somebody's good as they can be? Boy, does that ring a long silenced bell!

That's what poetry memorization does, I think...it gives you a "leg up" to remember in unpleasant times...

My grandmother had a huge store of old American songs. I can sing the words to all the verses of Jesse James, and so many of the old mountain songs, many of which were positively wrenching! Goats that coughed up red shirts and saved trains, ships that sank...I wonder if those were ever written down.

I think memorization of poetry gives you something for your mind to hold on to even when you can't get to a book...like prisoners of war, etc...when you read their stories, it's what they were able to remember which helped them so much.


Jeanne Lee
April 2, 1997 - 05:08 pm
Ginny - Bill Gogan's Goat was not only written down - it was in one of the piano lesson books my daughter had!

April 2, 1997 - 06:55 pm
Jeanne: Oh,my goodness! Bill? are you sure?

" Bill Grogan's goat
was feeling fine,
ate three? red shirts
right off the line"....

Take it, Jeanne!!!!!!!!!!!........

All I remember is the end..."coughed up the shirts, and flagged the train."

How about Poor Pauline?

"Poor Pauline, Pity Poor Pauline
Dyanamited in a submarine
In the lion's cage she stands with fright
The lion gets ready to take a bite...
ZIP goes the film.....good night!"
.....about the early cliff hanging movies...


Now, then, I can do much better with Jesse James being a lad etc.

Jeanne Lee
April 2, 1997 - 07:05 pm
Bill gave that goad a mighty whack

And tied him to the railroad track!

The whistle blew, the train drew nigh

Bill Grogan's goat was doomed to die!

He gave a groan of mighty pain

Coughed up the shirts and flagged the train!

April 2, 1997 - 08:41 pm
OK, What about...

"My Aunt Mary
Had a canary
Up the leg of her drawers!
When she was sleeping
I was peaking
Up the leg of her drawers!

But you really have to sing it!! Jack sings it all the time and don't tell him I told you or he'll blush!!!

Jeanne Lee
April 2, 1997 - 08:52 pm
Oh, he looks so cute when he blushes!

Jo Walker
April 2, 1997 - 10:07 pm
Hey, maybe I remember more poetry than I thought! I know those songs, too.

It looks like we're getting Poetry Month off to a good start. Emily, the bookstore lady, has received the two slim volumes of Jane Kenyon's poetry I ordered. I'll pick out a couple I like and post them here. If I get sued for copyright infringement I hope I can afford it. Somebody tell me if this is illegal.

Roslyn Stempel
April 3, 1997 - 12:11 pm
Memorizing poems was part of what I told my students contributed to furnishing their heads. Since I expect to be cremated I can't ask to have this on my gravestone but perhaps it can be written on lined paper and dropped in with the ashes: She made children memorize poetry until 1989. Second-graders knew, at least, "I had a little turtle." Fifth-graders learned "Stoppping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," and various seasonal poems of less significance. In the high school I leaned on reluctant ninth-graders to read and understand and memorize "Death Be Not Proud," "The Tiger," "Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds." (These were kids in what we used to call the Inner City, in a Detroit-area district that has among the lowest test scores and the highest crime rates in the nation.) I can't rely on my own memory as much now as I could in the past, but there's a good reference collection in the house so I can still look things up. Some of Szymborska's shorter pieces would probably be worth working on.

I liked the Jane Kenyon pieces I saw in the New Yorker. And there's our new Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky, who appeared on PBS last night and spoke a couple of his poems for the audience. His works seem highly approachable.

Anyone familiar with the poetry of May Sarton?

Joan Grimes,the French poetry we learned in high school was rather limited but I can still remember parts of "Heureux qui comme Ulysse a fait un beau voyage...", "Le temps a laisse son manteau de vent, de froidure, et de pluie,"..."Nous n'irons plus aux bois, les lauriers sont coupes," "Du paresseux sommeil ou tu gis endormi..." "Quand vous serez bien vieille, au soir, a la chandelle,...", and "Maitre Corbeau sur unarbre perche tenait dans son bec un fromage..."

April 6, 1997 - 01:28 pm
I bet if somebody tied us to a fire we could remember a whole lot more than we think.

I have so enjoyed reading all your verses and remembrances. Some of them are priceless!

Did you notice that Barnes & Noble is advertising April as National Poetry Month with a photo of Wislawa Szymborska's View with a Grain of Sand which won the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature, and which, thanks to our Ros, you heard of HERE FIRST!!

Tomorrow I'm coming in with an excerpt from my favorite, I guess, poem...it's not the most breathtaking or moving one, nor written the best, but I've found myself thinking of it often.


Evelyn Byers
April 6, 1997 - 04:32 pm
Hello, poetry-lovers,

For some reason, "Reluctance" by Robert Frost ( I think) is my favorite, possibly because it applies to so many situations in life.

"Ah, when to the heart of man,

Was it ever less than a treason

To go with the drift of things

To yield with a grace to reason

And bow and accept the end

Of a love or a season."

I believe it's legal to quote a poem so long as you give the credit for it. If not, please come and visit me in Leavenworth!

April 6, 1997 - 07:49 pm
Evelyn: I guess we'll be sharing the same cell! It appears we share a love for the same poet, anyway!

That's a wonderful poem. Robert Frost manages to convey so much so succinctly.

In honor of National Poetry Month, I’d like to submit excerpts from my favorite poem, Mending Wall by Robert Frost.

In this poem, the poet and his neighbor meet each year, each on his own side of the property line, to walk down a stone wall and put the stones that have fallen off back up.

The poet muses about walls in general, stating "Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;"

The poet tries to reason with his neighbor, as there’s nothing to keep in our out; "He is all pine, and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him…"

His neighbor’s response is, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Robert Frost says "Spring is the mischief in me…" and he tries to get his neighbor to think about what they are doing, and repeats the idea that nature abhors walls.

The neighbor is unconcerned with speculation, and the poet concludes:

"He moves in darkness as it seems to me
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says it again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’"

In this deceptively simple poem about an everyday occurrence, Robert Frost actually examines some powerful ideas.

I love the contrasts between the earth and the impediments placed there by man…and the impediments men place on themselves when they refuse to examine old ideas in a new light.

I think of it often…but quote The Ancient Mariner about as often…maybe I’ll sneak another poem in here before the end of April…..

OK, Poetry Lovers: what's your favorite poem?


April 13, 1997 - 06:54 am
Ginny One of my favorites is by my daughter:


We all must gather
our nuts
to fill our baskets
our empty jars
or whatever needs filling

We must all gather
to swap filberts
for walnuts or perhaps
steal some macadamias

Then someday we must
gather again
to give away what took a
lifetime to gather.

Lisa Greene

April 13, 1997 - 07:19 am
Jere...I love that!

I think your daughter is very talented! Is this her published debut?? We have a Writing folder under Arts for other talented people, too!!


Gosh....Thanks for telling us about it..


April 13, 1997 - 07:24 am
Ginny THANKS! ...Now all I have to do is learn how to indent when I want to.. I'm not using a word processor, just writing in the posting area for each area. I'm not that familiar with word processing skills, but I'm very willing to learn..maybe one of those classes at Spectrum Univ. covers what I need. The poem is not published, but my daughter does write a lot of poetry and so did my father (now deceased). I'll share one of his later. Thanks again, Jere PS Check it out again..I think it's almost the way she wrote it.

Marie C.
April 13, 1997 - 08:07 am
I'm so glad you've set up a poetry place. I love Robert Frost, too. His brief poem entitled "Out, Out --" affected me so much that I cannot even write its title without getting a lump in my throat.

I have a dozen favorite poets, I guess. In the 10th grade I went bonkers over Carl Sandburg. Here's one that used todrive my family nuts because I constantly recited it at home. I still like it.

The Four Horsemen shall ride again in a bitter dust,
The granaries of great nations shall be the food of fat rats,
And shooting stars shall write new alphabets on the sky
Before we come home,
Before we understand.

Off in our western sky,
Off in a burning maroon,
Shall come in a wintrish haze,
Shall come in points and crystals--
A shovel of stars.
Let us wigwag the moon,
Let us make new propellers,
Go past old spent stars
And find blue moons on a new star path.
Let us look on
And listen in
On God's great workshop
Of stars...and eggs...

Joan Grimes
April 13, 1997 - 08:59 am

I can't give you a favorite poem. My favorite is whatever I am reading at the moment.


April 13, 1997 - 09:52 am

I' so glad you created this place for us. I'd like to offer a favorite:

If nobody laughed and nobody sang And nobody cared about you, If nobody spoke a word of cheer To help your long day through If all the joy went to the great And nothing remained for the small Then surely the world would be upside down And life hardly worth while at all.

Joan Grimes
April 13, 1997 - 10:41 am

I have decided that my favorite poem at the moment is the one that my 10 year old granddaughter , Jessica Grimes, wrote when she was 9. It has been published in a student anthology.


I hear the cold winds blow as if singing
it must be magic-
I feel the glazing sun watching me
it must be magic-
I smell the sweet smell of life
it must be magic-
I see the world as it should be
it must be magic-


April 13, 1997 - 04:40 pm
Ginny, Here's another favorite one of mine (this was published in the Pentangle-spring 1995), again written by my daughter:


I turn on the light and
the once shadowed room no longer
shows the ghosts of furniture
outside there is a kind of glow
coming from the opal colored snow
all is quiet
except the winter wind's
constant humming
as it does its best to get inside
here with me
branches tap against the window
like some odd gentleman caller
rap rap rap
the only noises
that dare to creep in and rape my solace
I don't speak
if I utter out loud it would break
the comfort of being locked inside
here pain can't get to me
and if it tries I know how to outrun it
or at least I can pretend to
I sit down and draw a long breath
I feel my cool coiled self reach outward
towards another night

Lisa Greene

Larry Hanna
April 13, 1997 - 04:57 pm
I learned of a website today that may be of interest to those that love poetry. I found the site from the Yahoo site. The following was provided with the site:

How many poets does it take to screw in a light bulb? We have no idea, but at least we do know how many poets it takes to make one great web site: a whole Academy-load. See, The Academy of American Poets has put together a splendiferous site that includes, among other features, a listening booth where you can hear poems read by their authors. On the list we saw Lucille Clifton, Galway Kinnell, Donald Justice, James Wright, Amy Clampitt, and many others. One or two sections are still being developed, but in the meantime you'll find much of value here, including a number of interesting historic and thematic exhibits, and a list of featured poets. The site can be found by clicking on the following:



Larry Hanna
April 13, 1997 - 05:05 pm
Since I am posting in this folder, I would like to share a poem that my Grandmother, whom I loved deeply, wrote about my Father. It means a lot to me and I hope you all enjoy it.

My Little Son

“I love you Mother, “ how many time
As up on to my lap he climbs,
Or stopping from his work or play
These loving words I hear him say.
Or sometimes, if I help him dress
I feel his arms in soft caress,
And thus I share a bit of heaven
Because we have a son, age seven.

A little son to help and guide
To love and all our joys divide.
To watch his little mind unfold
Is of itself a joy untold.
Then when he hugs me with a kiss
What praise could sweeter be than this?
I’m just so glad you’re my mother,
I wouldn’t trade you for another.

It makes each day a treasure chest
To store the things that I love best,
and when I’m old how sweet ‘twill be
To open Memory’s chest and see
My little son again at play,
From early morn ‘till close of day,
and every little while to hear
“I love you Mother, Mother dear.”

by Carrie E. Hanna
(Written the last day of school in 1926,
when her only child Lloyd was seven years old)


Marie C.
April 13, 1997 - 06:38 pm
Jere: Your daughter's poetry is WONDERFUL. Has she published a collection? I'd love to buy a book of her poems. I just can't begin say how good she is!

April 13, 1997 - 07:09 pm

I'm glad you liked Lisa's poems. She hasn't published a collection.. just a few poems in the Pentangle Humanities Magazine. She just started a family of her own,her first child being born this past Dec. so she's been rather busy. I hope she is able to return to her writing soon. Thanks again for your compliments...I'll be sure she gets them.


April 14, 1997 - 06:30 am
Well, I am absolutely awed and humbled by what I have read here! I'm not clever enough to write poetry, and don't know anyone who is, so am so impressed with the wonderful wonderful talent we've seen displayed here.

Larry: your grandmother's poem brought tears to my eyes.

Joan: mercy, what a talented child! That's as good as any I've read.

Jere: It's so exciting to read here what I think are poems as good as those being read by the Laureates....I hope she keeps on, and I know she will...and just think, folks...you saw it here first!

Marie: the Sandburg is just astounding. I live not far from his home. Who would have thought such thoughts could come out of that pastoral setting?

Mary J...oh, I do like that line about "If all of the joy went to the great/ And nothing remained for the small...."

The wonderful thing about all the poems you submitted, is that each one has something in it that makes you stop and pause...and pause...and think.

I know Roslyn is so proud of what she started here...I hope more people will share some more poetry here with us...

Ginny....I've got another one....later

Katie Sturtz
April 14, 1997 - 08:23 am
I love this poem because of the sentimental attachment I have for it. It is part of a framed picture of a mother and child, drawn in the Art Deco style. My son found it in a second-hand shop in NY and gave it to me for my birthday many years ago. I cherish it.


Mother O'Mine, I'm sending to you. Wishes each brimful of Joy. Each year you grow nearer. Each year you grow dearer. Many happy returns from your boy.

It is printed as above, not in poetry form. On the wall behind the mother and child is a sign that says "What is a HOME without a MOTHER?"


William Frost
April 14, 1997 - 09:52 am
Poetry Month prompted me to read again the works produced by my son Christopher in the seventies when he was at college. Here is a verse I like.

You were like a sliver 
of almond, bare and napping
on the sundeck
Plumera in your hair
of chestnut, live and growing
on the brown waves.
And when you left, scented
of jasmine, shy and fawning,
I never asked for a name.

April 14, 1997 - 10:07 am
  Several years ago when I was taking a class in calligraphy we were given an assignment to show an example of what we learned.  I wrote the folloring poem: 
                                   TO MY SONS 

I would give you the sun if I had my way, the moon and the stars, the night and the day, the green grass in summer, a re leaf in fall, one perfect snowflake, a meadowlark's call. I would give you a mountain, an ocean, the sky, an evergreen forest, a stream running by, a dewdrop in morning, a rainbow in spring, a sweet dream while sleeping, a bird on the wing.

But since I'm just human I'll give in their stead a touch of my hand, a warm loaf of bread, a fire to warm you when winter winds blow, a roof to protect you from rain and from snow, a stern word to guide you, a tear when you're sad, a friend when you're lonely, a smile when you're glad, a pillow to sleep on and if that's not enough two hands to help when the going gets tough. And to wrap up the things that I lovingly give-- All the love in my heart for as long as I live.

A little maudlin, but, hey!, that's mother love.

April 14, 1997 - 06:03 pm
P Roe! What a beautiful poem!! My goodness, what talented people we have here on SeniorNet... That is wonderful! And so true, that's just how you feel, but I, at least, couldn't say! You've really got talent!!

Katie: what a wonderful memory! How super for him to give it to you! No wonder you cherish it!

Bill: My goodness, what talent! I am astounded. Did he keep up writing poetry? He should have! Are you all related to Robert Frost? Now we have THREE poems by Frosts! A good name for poetry.

Thanks to you all...I hope more people will come in and read your WONDERFUL poems, and post their favorites, too.


April 14, 1997 - 06:04 pm
Ginny: Boy do I have a lot to learn about copy and paste!! But since you are so impressed with Lisa's poetry here's another one she thought you'd like:

Connection Fishing
(A Poem From Outside the Wall)

Glancing into the crowd
I search for an identity
Hoping to recoginize some feature
Of my face
In the visages I see
I superimpose emotions I have
On to the unsuspecting people
That march by me
Like parade marshals
Some of them look at me
But miss my intent
To connect with their kind
Their oblique mouths grin at me
As if to say don't make contact
We are not a friendly nation
So I pass the time
Pretending to shrink their faces
Back to babyhood
Where we are all one
And find myself pacified
For the moment

Lisa Greene

I pray this comes out the way I want it to! Jere WOW! It did and that's my first time using Wordpad..on to finding out about the use of color...

Roslyn Stempel
April 15, 1997 - 09:03 am
What a delight to read the contributions that have appeared here! I see I'll have to tune in oftener. Printing an original poem takes a certain courage and everyone who has "dared" to do this deserves praise and admiration.

It is heartwarming to see the poems written by members' children--not only because of the talent and creativity that they reflect but because they tell us that these children have so lovingly and willingly shared something of themselves with their parents. Of course we all enjoy the spontaneous affection and closeness of younger children, but as they grow up these gifts--these signs of love--are often rarer and more precious.

You might have heard or read that the winner of this year's Pulitzer Prize for poetry is a woman who is nearly blind. It was reported that she has to memorize her poems in order to participate in a poetry "reading" because she wouldn't be able to see them in print. She began writing poetry after the death of her mother, who was only 54. Do you agree that the impetus for poetry often comes from a deep emotional experience? That could be a crisis like a family death, a birth, or a new or old relationship, or it could be the strong reaction to a beautiful scene in nature, wonderful music, etc. I'd love to know other people's thoughts about this.

Terri L.
April 15, 1997 - 04:35 pm
Jere: Loved your daughter's poetry. She is very talented.

Larry: Thanks for the Poet's site. I bookmarked it for later. I have decided that my biggest problem is that I like too many things. If there was just more time. What a special poem your grandmother wrote. It is wonderful for a child to be so well loved. Thank you for sharing.

Joan: Jessica's poem is very special too. Please tell her she has a gift for writing.

P.Roe: That is a wonderful poem. It really expresses how a mother feels.

I have found another folder that I will have to visit regularly. Thank you all for sharing.

April 15, 1997 - 05:54 pm
Terri L.

Thanks for the comments on Lisa's poetry. I hope to get her in here to visit this lovely site and see what a nice group of people we have here. She's been sooo busy unpacking and taking care of my new grandchild. But I have told her about everyone's comments.


April 15, 1997 - 06:16 pm
Jere: That one just blew me away! Gosh. The part about superimposing emotions on the unsuspecting people!!! That's just wonderful...Thank you so much for copying it and pasting it, which you did, I might add, very well! Think, also, how many people are getting to enjoy it!

Do invite your daughter in-- We'd all love to meet her! I'd be interested in her reaction to Roslyn's question: what (I can't say it as well as Roslyn; her writing always looks like poetry to me), but I wonder, too what causes the creative spark?

Terri: I'm especially glad to see you here. Do visit all the book folders; I hope you'll feel right at home, and stay a long time!


April 15, 1997 - 07:33 pm
Whoops! I guess Lisa sent you an e-mail...I thought she posted here.

April 15, 1997 - 07:37 pm
Jere: yes, she did send me a lovely e-mail, and is obviously a person to be proud of. I'm proud of her, even!!

Whatever causes the creative spark is not flickering in me right now. Do artists have to suffer to create?

Danielle Steele doesn't seem the suffering type! (I realize she's not a poet...)

What think you all?


April 16, 1997 - 04:12 am

I am very proud of her...and as to creative spark, she would be better qualified to speak to that, since I do not seem to have her talent for poetry. She does mention an "inner dialog" that seems to bring forth many of her ideas, but I sure she could explain it better than I.

Talk to you later and have a good day! Got to get to work....

Sheila Goodhue
April 19, 1997 - 11:08 pm
Wonderful to come across these comments while browsing; as a new computer person, I still am learning too much to absorb at once. Lines from Houseman which I've attributed to Frost in error seem specially meaningful just now as my spring garden here in the desert is at peak. Fifty springs is little room to view the cherries when in bloom........

This is my 66th spring, and my two cherry trees are splendid.

Marie C.
April 20, 1997 - 02:40 pm
This folder is a great favorite of mine. The original poems in here outdistance my longstanding favorites. Just can't find published poems by noted writers that compare with the collection growing here. I imagine a number of other people also are reading these pages with wonder and delight. Please keep submitting your beautifully arranged words because you definitely have an audience here.

Joan Grimes
April 20, 1997 - 04:53 pm

There is a discussioon for original poetry in the Arts Folder. It is called " Poets Press. just click on the blue to go there. You might enjpoy reading some original poetry by other SeniorNet Members as well as submitting your own there.


April 23, 1997 - 08:43 am
Since today is Shakespeare’s birthday, thought I’d contribute my favorite sonnet of his:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove,
O, no! It is an ever- fixed mark
That looks on tempest and is never shaken:
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.


Joan Grimes
April 23, 1997 - 09:02 am
Since I don't have a favorite but love them all , I'd like to post one of the sonnets in his honor also. I just chose it at random.
Sonnet XII 

When I do count the clock that tells the time, And see the brave day sunk in hideous night; When I behold the violet past prime, And sable curls all silver'd o'er with white; When lofty trees I see barren of leaves Which erst from heat did canopy the herd, And summer's green all girded up in sheaves Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard, Then of thy beauty do I question make, That thou among the wastes of time must go, Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake And die as fast as they see others grow; And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.


Roslyn Stempel
April 23, 1997 - 02:14 pm
Ginny and Joan, thanks for the sonnets and for reminding me to honor Shakespeare today. Here is one of my favorites. Line 4 always gives me a pang:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang, In me thou see'st the twilight of such day As after sunset fadeth in the west, Which by and by black night doth take away, Death's second self, that seals up all in rest. In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, As the death-bed whereon it must expire Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.

This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

(Sonnet 73) Roslyn

Gracee Lea
May 1, 1997 - 07:49 am
Hi, Enjoyed all of the Poetry, Joan, Ginny, and Roslyn.But the last one made my feelings soar! Some day when ther is more time, I would like to submit a poem one os my sons wrote for me. I think it is beautiful and would like other opinions

Gracee L.

Joan Grimes
May 1, 1997 - 08:08 am
Gracee L.

There is a place where you can post original poetry just any time of the day you wish. Just click here

Poets Press in the Arts Folder.

and you are at the place.


Gracee Lea
May 1, 1997 - 08:12 pm
Hi,Have really loved all of the poetry, and want to ask a Question

before I submit mine. How do I make it appear in poetic form

[opposedto one paragraph]??? thanking you in advance, because

I always get good answer.

Jeanne Lee
May 1, 1997 - 08:16 pm
Gracee - The easiest way is just to hit return twice at the end of each line.

Gracee Lea
May 1, 1997 - 08:41 pm
Hi,Have really loved all of the poetry, and want to ask a Question

before I submit mine. How do I make it appear in poetic form

[opposedto one paragraph]??? thanking you in advance, because

I always get good answer.

Joan Grimes
May 1, 1997 - 08:56 pm

Put br inside <> at the end of each line that you want single spaced. When you want a paragraph break you can put p inside <> or just hit return twice.


May 2, 1997 - 09:27 am

You've got us all agog, now...we're holding our collective breaths!! Such anticipation!

Let us SEE!


May 3, 1997 - 04:40 pm
Jere - This is my first time here and I didn't have time to read many of the poems, but I read and enjoyed Lisa's. My daughter is visiting and she liked it so much she had me print it out for her. Hope I can finish the rest of them soon. And hope we'll see more from Lisa.

May 3, 1997 - 07:27 pm
Janette- Thank you for commenting on Lisa's poetry. She has been writing poems for many years and I know she'll get back into writing more soon. She's been very busy with her first child, born Dec. '96 in Sarasota,FL. Where is Spring Hill in relationship to Sarasota?

Larry Hanna
May 5, 1997 - 05:53 am
A friend of mine just sent me the following poem and indicated I was free to share it. Thought you all might like it.


There's a comforting thought at the end of the close of the day,
When I'm weary and lonely and sad,
That sort of grips hold of my crusty old heart
and bids it be merry and glad.

It gets in my soul and drives out the blues,
And finally thrills through and through,
It is just a sweet memory that chants the refrain:
"I'm glad I touched shoulders with you!"

Did you know you were brave, did you know you were strong?
Did you know there was one leaning hard?
Did you know that I waited and listened and prayed,
And was cheered by your simplest word?

Did you know that I longed for the smile on your face,
For the sound of your voice ringing true?
Did you know I grew stronger and better because
I had merely touched shoulders with you?

I am glad that I lived, that I battle and strive
for the place that I know I must fill;
I am thankful for sorrows; I'll meet with a grin
what fortune may send, good or ill.

I may not have wealth, I may not be great,
But I know I shall always be true,
For I have in my life that courage you gave
when once I rubbed shoulders with you.


May 5, 1997 - 06:31 am
Oh, Larry! My goodness, it gave me chills! Love it,


Chelsea Maitland
May 5, 1997 - 07:20 am
Was wondering if anyone has any knowledge of a poem I read when I was a child called 'Little Boy Blue', I do not remember the author but sure would love to read it again. Thank you..

Jeanne Lee
May 5, 1997 - 08:08 am
Chelsea - Do you mean the one that starts

"The little toy dog is covered with dust,
Yet sturdy and staunch he stands.
The little toy soldier is red with rust
and his musket molds in his hands."

If that's the poem you're talking about, I have it.... somewhere. Let me know if it's the one and I'll find it.

Jeanne Lee
May 5, 1997 - 09:23 am
I found "Little Boy Blue". It's by Eugene Field and I warn you, it's a tear-jerker.

The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and stanch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket molds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new
And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.

"Now don't you go till I come," he said,
"And don't you make any noise!"
So, toddling off to his trundle-bed,
He dreamed of the pretty toys;
And as he was dreaming, an angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue---
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true!

Aye, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place---
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
And the smile of a little face;
And they wonder, as waiting these long years through
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue,
Since he kissed them and put them there.

May Naab
May 5, 1997 - 09:46 am
Little Boy Blue is a tearjerker, but has always been a favorite of mine.

Larry, Touching Shoulders is very nice. I am going to make copies of it--one especially for my husband. Who wrote it? Maybe I missed that-- I just found this board_-I am suabscribing.

Nora Massey
May 5, 1997 - 11:24 am
LARRY; Enjoyed the TOUCHING SHOULDERS - wonderful, have printed it & will give it to my wonderful husband.

Also enjoyed LITTLE BOY BLUE!!! Thanks for sharing!!!


May 5, 1997 - 03:35 pm
Jere Green - I still haven't read all the poems, but read one more by Lisa. It's beautiful, too. Spring Hill is about 50 miles north of Tampa.
Larry - Yours is touching, also. I wish I could find time to read all the folders. They have so much to offer, but I have trouble keeping up. I had forgotten "Little Boy Blue" but reading it brought back the same feeling that I had years ago when I first read it.

Larry Hanna
May 5, 1997 - 04:55 pm

I have no idea who wrote the poem. It was sent to me this morning by a casual friend I met here in the new town in which I live. It had been forwarded by someone who said the poem had been in his family for years and he didn't know where it came from and that all were welcome to share it. Just thought it expressed some neat feelings and wanted to share it with my friends here on SeniorNet. Glad you all have enjoyed it.


May 6, 1997 - 11:16 am
I bought two old computers (one desktop at home one laptop at work. Two for less than $700) and now I can come here again. I like "touching shoulders" very much.

Jeanne Lee
May 6, 1997 - 01:35 pm
Jiajia - How great to see you posting here again. You really got a bargain on your two computers!

Marie C.
May 11, 1997 - 04:13 pm
Since contributions to Poetry seem to have dropped off recently, I thought I'd share one of my favorites with you. (It's by e.e.cummings, so, as you know, it will look poorly typed at first):

the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls
are unbeautiful and have comfortable minds
(also, with the church's protestant blessings
daughters, unscented shapeless spirited)
they believe in Christ and Longfellow, both dead,
are invariably interested in so many things--
at the present writing one still finds
delighted fingers knitting for the is it Poles?
perhaps. While permanent faces coyly bandy
scandal of Mrs.N and Professor D
....the Cambridge ladies do not care, above
Cambridge if sometimes in its box of
sky lavendar and cornerless, the
moon rattles like a fragment of angry candy
Would love to know how you like it.----Marie

May 11, 1997 - 06:06 pm
Marie: Always liked e.e.cummings. That is very powerful. Rattling candy. Furnished souls. Gosh.

Isn't he the one who wrote about ice cream melting in the yard? Or do I have him mixed up with someone else?? Can't find much cummings in my books: thought I had more.

I believe I'd rather have a comfortable mind and permanent face than the other way around!


Roslyn Stempel
May 13, 1997 - 05:06 pm
Marie, thanks for posting the cummings. ( Could those ladies be anyone we know? Heaven forbid!) At our branch library a big display of gardening books was accompanied by a poster board containing "Spring is like a perhaps hand...arranging and changing..." etc. Now that you've brought him back to my attention it occurs to me that cummings wears well, better, for me, than some of the more carefully rhymed offerings of the same period. Maybe it's because he produced startling images and you had to look twice and think about what he was saying.


May 14, 1997 - 05:19 am
Everybody: We've got quite a group now researching e.e.cummings! Still looking for the cake on the lawn or ice cream left out in the rain.

I'm positive it's cummings...who came right after him? That didn't rhyme? Did Randall Jarrell rhyme?

It's good to get the brain cells working again; they're creaky, but beginning to move!


Marie C.
May 14, 1997 - 12:18 pm
Ginny-- Because someone left the cake out in the rain, and I'll never have that recipe again? That's from a Glen Campbell song in the early 70s maybe. --Marie

May 14, 1997 - 12:21 pm
Marie: Yeah, I've been singing that thing all day, but this predeeded him...it's a very famous thing!!

But who wrote it??


Marie C.
May 14, 1997 - 12:23 pm

Roslyn Stempel
May 14, 1997 - 01:53 pm
I think the cake left out in the rain was in "MacArthur Park," which was melting itself, if I correctly recall the song that always seemed to be on the radio when the kids were in the car. That would have been in the late 60's. Can't recall the group, though I think it was someone "way cooler" than Glen Campbell. My daughter later told me, apropos of the music of the time, that Bob Dylan was popular, not because kids really liked him but because they knew their parents hated his music. The ice-cream thing sounds as if it might have been one of the Sitwells, and then there was Wallace Stevens's (I think) Emperor of Ice Cream...

Here is an old poem by Robert Bridges that I have always cherished because in a few words it describes the need of "ordinary people" to create something, whether with words or music, pictures or crafts:

I love all beauteous things,
I seek and adore them;
God hath no better praise,
And man in his hasty days
Is honoured for them.

I too will something make,
And joy in the making,
Altho' tomorrow it seem
Like the empty words of a dream
Remembered on waking.


May 14, 1997 - 02:26 pm
MacArthur Park - sung first by Richard Harris and then later a disco version by Donna Summer (**G**) - Don't know who wrote it, yet.

dapphne - Z

May 14, 1997 - 06:52 pm
Ros: That was a wonderful poem. I loved it. Thanks for putting it here; have never seen it before.

Marie: predeeded?? Indeedy do!! Babble all the way, too!!

Dapphne: McArthur Park? Is that the one below?

Oh, no, Friends: "Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it
Cause it took so long to make it
And I'll never have that recipe aaaaaaaagain!! Oh, NOOOOOOOOOO!"

Nope, that's not the one. Who wants to bet me a lunch?? It's cake or ice cream out on the lawn....

I do think you're right, Ros, about Stevens...could HE be the one??

Going to look:


May 15, 1997 - 12:18 pm
Ginny -thats the one - good ole MacArther Park -- and it was a cake and I'll never have that recipe again.... oh noooooooooo!!

I remember it well - both versions by Harris and Summer (Disco version)!

dapphne - Z

Marie C.
May 15, 1997 - 09:15 pm
Oh, Ginny, wait a minute. Are you thinking something about the time for taking of tea and cakes--T.S.Eliot, right? Will look it up--isn't it Prufrock--there will a time for revisions,--now wait--shall I measure my life in coffee spoons.

--Back in a flash--Marie

May 18, 1997 - 04:59 pm

A wraith slips through gray shadows,

Her lavendar robes rustle ominously,

A cynic, a sophisticate, pseudo intellectual to the core,

A bitter shell, a shadow woman,

All juices dried long since,

All feelings powder dry and crackling,

Amid late autumn leaves of life,

Her children know her not,

Long suffering man has gone at last,

The tongue, razor sharp, working furiously,

Long nose thin, for looking down,

Acid tears fall as she stokes the lives of others,

With brightly glowing coals of bitterness.


May 18, 1997 - 07:14 pm
Well, Greybeard, that's a new one! Who is the author?

It doesn't ring a bell with me, is it original?

Somebody doesn't like somebody in that one, does he? Or is it she?

Interesting! Tell us some more about it.


May 21, 1997 - 11:25 am
I don't want you all to think I've given up on the ice cream or cake out on the lawn.

I've contacted Furman University's English Department, and left word for Dr. Gil Allen, ( a published poet, himself) to see, on this LAST DAY of classes, if he can come up with the answer...or if he can try to avoid me. He's a nice man, however, and I'm sure he doesn't remember the argument we got into over whether or not The Ancient Mariner is an allegory of the crucifixion. I thought so; he said, NO WAY.

Should have given a fake name...anyway, we'll rely on his good nature...and see what he comes up with.


Roslyn Stempel
May 21, 1997 - 01:21 pm
Applause, applause, Graybeard! What a sharp and telling profile of a person who, your words suggest, is both unpleasant and rather pathetic....Is it someone you know? I liked your use of "lavendar"--with its suggestion of old, faded things and also of a pale color that is unflattering to many people....and the touch of sorrow that comes with the phrase "acid tears." Do you have a "happy" portrait to counteract this one? I began to wonder what color you would choose for that.


William Frost
May 22, 1997 - 10:34 pm
Rilke was merely 28 when he wrote this:


.......Ah! but verses amount to so little when one writes them young. One ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness a whole life long, and a long life if possible, and then, quite at the end, one might be able to write ten lines that were good. For verses are not, as people imagine, simply feelings (those one has early enough),-they are experiences. For the sake of a single verse, one must see many cities, men and things, one must know animals, one must feel how the birds fly and know the gesture with which the little flowers open in the morning.......

William Frost
May 27, 1997 - 04:37 pm
It seems that my quote from Rilke’s, “For the Sake of a Single Verse” might have put off you poetry lovers. Of course we all are too young to write our ten lines of verse, - except old me. Here’s one:


Like a raft the bed flows high
under the broad window sill
where beside their reach
two glasses of wine flint sparkle
city lights from the mirror
on the wardrobe door opposite
to penetrate, expose senses, excite coherence
between earthly bodies.

One by one the city lights go out
the wine remains untouched.

May 27, 1997 - 05:01 pm
William! I didn't even see your Rilke post! I love it, and I love yours?? too! That's wonderful! What images that evokes...just sends your brain crashing all over the place!

Really really good! Thanks for putting it here.

Wonder what in the world is the matter with my browser? It no longer says 1 new message, or whatever??


May 30, 1997 - 05:07 am
Here's a previously unpublished poem by Pearl Buck, as given in the June issue of Biography magazine...


I give you the books I've made,
Body and soul bled and flayed.
Yet the essence they contain
In one poem is made plain,
In one poem is made clear;
On this earth,
Though far or near,
Without love there's only fear.

Pearl Buck

June 3, 1997 - 05:56 pm
Just bouncing back in here to say I have had a call from Dr. Allen, but, unfortunately, in the way of the world, one of my children "saved" it for me on voice mail, and I just found it today.

So will write him as he's out for the summer, and see what he says, and will report back to you after the conference, and I hope we can all start sleeping at night, 'cause it's driving me NUTS!!!


William Frost
June 7, 1997 - 08:59 pm

I never knew that Pearl Buck published poetry. I must get hold of the copy of Biography Magazine you quoted. The poem Essence was delightful, but for me it is the last line that will stay with me. "Without love there's only fear". The words, "Love" and "Fear" can mean so much. I showed the poem to a High School student I am tutoring who was writing a fine story entitled, "Korean Children's Piano Contest" in which she was telling of when she was 12 and entered a piano contest confident she was going to win first prize. She made a mistake playing the test piece and won third prize. At first she was very disappointed, but feeling love from her mother, sister and teacher, and love of piano playing, along with the love shown by the other contestants, she learned that in future she wouldn't be afraid of not winning first prize.


June 21, 1997 - 10:37 am
 I wrote this 24 years ago for our 25th anniversary. 
                                  TO KON 

Once it was Spring and our love was a new thing; It sparkled with laughter and dreams that we shared. "Today" was forever, and all life would be Spring; There was nothing important except that you cared. Soon Spring became Summer and though we learned sorrow, You always were there with a hand I could hold. We eagerly waited for each new tomorrow, And never believed that one day we'd grow old. We didn't take note of each busy day's passing And soon the tomorrows became yesterday. While we were fulfilling the dreams of our Springtime Our youth and our Summer just faded away. Oh, love, hold my hand now that Winter grows nearer; I need you much more than I did in the Spring, For now it is Autumn and each moment dearer As life grows more selfish with joys it will bring. The years pass so quickly; tomorrow grows shorter And memories replace most the dreams we once knew. Now Autumn brings promise of days of contentment Remembering the years that I've spent loving you.


June 21, 1997 - 12:07 pm
Outstanding P.Roe.... And what you could add to that for last 24 years....? Really nice work....

dapphne - Z

Click here to go to LifeStyles

Ruth Levia
June 21, 1997 - 01:10 pm
P.Roe - that is beautiful! Have you written any poems since then?


P.S. I'm going to try and put a clickable in the Cafe for it.

June 21, 1997 - 02:53 pm
P. Roe: Beautiful!


Larry Hanna
June 21, 1997 - 02:57 pm
P.Roe, A very expressive and moving poem. I am sure your husband appreciated those loving words.


Ernest Angelicola
June 21, 1997 - 03:41 pm
B E A U T I F U L !!!!!


June 21, 1997 - 06:54 pm
P. Roe----Fantastic!!!!


Gracee Lea
June 24, 1997 - 11:05 am
I havn't posted for a long time. but after reading P. Roe's poem I must say: Your poem is so very beautiful,and it has inspired me to enter this one that one of my son's wrote for me, shortly after my husband of many years passed away. My sentiments[feeling] and thoughts were exactly the same as those you wrote in this lovely poem. I hope this comes out in poetic form, so here it is: GRACE LOUISE to, for, and about my Mom Chuck White

It seems so long ago, almost a lifetime sinse He went away although life is little different than it waswhen he was here every day.

But he's not and sometimes the nites are lonely sleep doesn't come with ease But so goes the life of Robert Thomas's wife Grace Louise--If you please

She could have been anything or done anything she wanted to do or be But ther was never time, alot of time So, in the meantime, she tended to me

and the others, my sisters and brothers all made it till now because of her, forgetting that she could have been more;

Like waves of the ocean, contineous motion Her dreams came and went just as fast, for there was sewong and mending, mommying and tending and always had andwers for the questions we asked.

But her God was her friend,helped her time and again though he couldn't take the place of her man, He does a great job of helping Grace without Bob, better than anyone could or can

Now she deals with each day in her own special way Somehow, never quite growing old, As the days go along, with my sisters and brothers Thank God-she never let go

It seems so long ago,since he went away, Life is not much different than when he was here every day,

But he's not abd sometimes the nites are lonely, Sleep doesn't come with ease and on goes the life of my Daddy's wife Grace Louise, If you please.

could perhaps have been famous,had diamonds and fur.

She could've been anything or done anything

July 1, 1997 - 06:42 am
Had a lovely and gracious letter from Dr. Allen, who suggests that the poem in question might be Wallace Stevens's "The Emperor of Ice Cream."

Although that's not it, I do appreciate his taking the time to copy out and send a copy, and so include it here:

The Emperor of Ice Cream

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor if ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

This isn't it, but it's really nice to see it again, and just typing it brought back such memories. Wallace Stevens had a fetish about inviting people into his home, so he'd be a natural to suspect, and the title's right, but this is not the one.

Will probably go crazy trying to find it: something about food left out on the lawn.


Oscar Dorr
August 19, 1997 - 07:09 am
Is there a sit where one can quote a line or two of poetry and find the author? Wouldn't that be great. But think of all the time to build the data base! Anyway, does anyone know the origin of the poem "For Want of a Nail?" It starts:

For want of a nail, the horse was lost

For want of a horse, the rider was lost

For want of a rider, the battle was lost

For want of a battle, .....

Anyone remember this one?

Jeanne Lee
August 19, 1997 - 07:52 am
Didn't you leave out one line...

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost, For want of a shoe, the horse was lost?

Oscar Dorr
August 20, 1997 - 06:57 pm

Thanks. You're absolutely correct. Caution: Do not engage fingers before brain is in gear! I forgot that axiom!

August 27, 1997 - 06:04 pm
Oscar, I remember that one, but just remember it ending with the rider lost. Wasn't it Poor Richard's Almanac? I always get it confused with Richard III . Did you happen to see Al Pacino's wonderful (I thought) version of that, by any chance?


Oscar Dorr
August 28, 1997 - 05:51 pm

The last line was:

"For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost."

I'm going to do more research. Will report back.


September 21, 1997 - 02:14 pm
Hello, everyone. I love reading the classics, especially the works of Charles Dickens, hence my pseudonym. I am a 59 year old secretary/housewife/local government officer, and was self employed until 1994. I live in the UK, and I am sure there are many people who will not agree, but I don't like modern fiction, I find it insipid, and far too much of it is surrealistic gobbledegook. I have never yet been able to finish a Booker Prize book. I also love poetry, especially the works of Robert Burns (classics again, you see). I am actually a frustrated journalist, and now that I am too old to do anything about it (59), (retirement is mandatory in UK at age 65, unless self-employed), I have suddenly realised what should have been my true vocation, and the career in which I would have been happiest. The grass is always greener..eh? In the meantime, can someone please help and tell me who was the originator of the (very true) saying "The pen is mightier than the sword". I look forward to your reply, for which I thank you in anticipation.

September 21, 1997 - 04:37 pm

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873)

Beneath the rule of men entirely great
The pen is mightier than the sword. Richelieu II ii

We are so glad to see you here!! And I'm particularly glad to see your remarks about the Booker Prize!! Here I've been feeling unread, because I've not finished them either!! Ha!

Since you love the classics, please look in to our Great Books folder! We've read The Odyssey comparing translations, and now are in Othello, and are just NOW taking nominations for our next book!! Just click on Great Books

Please join us there, we'd love to have you. Share a few lines of your favorite poem here, if you like: I'd love to get a discussion going!!

Also you might want to try your hand in our Name That Book Contest, as some of those authors (Cicero) have been considered the Classics. Try Name That Book Contest

So glad to have you here!! Please make yourself at home in ALL the folders!!


Roy O'Brien
September 22, 1997 - 08:19 am
Hi, everyone...I just found out about Seniornet last night, (from a book!), and am very pleased to discover you, though as of now I'm still just a guest.

Reading your notes, it occurs to me that someone might be able to recall a poem my long late mother knew, probably from about 1915. It's about the development of the eohippus into the horse, and contains a line like "I'm going to stand fifteen hands high, on the mesozoic plain...". I've been looking for this for decades!

September 22, 1997 - 09:08 am
Oh, great!! A challenge!!

I was just thinking what we need are some lines to guess the author, and here you are, Roy! You must have ESP!

Now, Bill, are you still watching? (Bill's a whiz with poetry)! Ros, are you here? (Ros is a whiz,too). I'd love to get us going again.

I don't know the peom, Roy, but, believe it or not, the eohippus rings a bell...it's a long gone bell, but I can hear it. Will look it up!!

And, by the way, you're so welcome here!! Please post in any and all folders which appeal, make yourself at home, come to our First Anniversary Party of the Book Club Online October 1, join all 6 bookclubs, and just, in general, jump right in, we're delighted to have you!!


September 22, 1997 - 11:08 am
Welcome to SeniorNet, Roy O'Brien!!

I was going to send you an email to help you get around the RoundTables, but, alas, you haven't registered. If you click on my name, you'll see an email address. Click on that and send me an email and I'll promptly send you this email.

Hope to see you posting in many of the different Books and Literature discussions.


September 22, 1997 - 01:12 pm
Dear Ginny, Thank you for your help resolving my question. I shall now refer to my Encyclopaedia Britannica to read all about Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, and also Richelieu, although I feel I really ought to know a lot more than I do about both these persons. If you want to read a very good runner-up for the Booker Prize try and obtain "Good Behaviour" by Molly Keane. I think it's a book you will be able to finish, and it's so good that they couldn't possibly award it the Booker Prize, for fear of creating a standard of excellence and readability. It was actually written by Molly Keane when she was well into her 80's, about 10 years ago, and she has had other books and plays published I believe in the 1920's or 30's. Unfortunately, I'm ashamed to say that I haven't read all the works of Shakespeare, although I promise I have read some of them, but "Othello" is one of the books that I haven't read, so I don't think I am able to take part in the feature, although I appreciate your help and the suggestion. I would be delighted to take part if any book is featured that I have already read, and I will certainly try my luck with the book quiz, which seems great fun. Living in the UK will make it rather difficult to work out the time difference, though, but I shall enjoy the quiz anyway. Have you read "Casiabianca" by Mrs. Hemens? It made a great impression on my when I was a child, and I still love every line of it, although I think it's a bit too long to post here. I wish it wasn't so often parodied, though. It detracts from the beauty and dignity of the poem, although I suppose because it is so sad some people feel they have to cheer themselves up by joking about it.

Thank you for your kind reply to my note, your encouragement is very kind and welcome. Best wishes.


Roy O'Brien
September 22, 1997 - 01:51 pm
Many thanks for the warm welcome...I didn't register my email address until after I'd posted my note, Pat, which is probably why it didn't turn up in your software routine. Anyway, it's royo@rocketmail.com. I managed to find my way to Pat's page, but my (free) mail service keeps telling me it's not a proper address. Probable causes of this impasse: 1. My ignorance: (I've only been using a computer for a couple of weeks, since my local library installed one... 2. Free email services are limited, (Canada's too far?), or... 3. This whole thing is a hoax, and I'm not really on the web; just in a clever program in my library.

September 22, 1997 - 02:40 pm
Ha Ha!! Roy!!

Good post!! I've written to you now. Hope you got it alright. When I click on your name right now, I get the message "No User Information" which tells me immediately that you are not registered.

"Registered Users Have More Fun", Roy!! So follow the steps in the email and we'll chat some more here in the Poetry discussion about poetry!!

Talk to you soon,


September 22, 1997 - 05:47 pm
Yes Sir, this place is hopping now, and about time, too!! This is great. Walked around all day with the eohippus in my head, but it's better than the lunch left out in the rain which previously drove me crazy, so I'm happy. I've got tons of books on horses with all kinds of poetry quotations, so hope may be at hand, meanwhile, you and Saireygamp don't happen to remember a poem about lunch left out on the lawn, possibly in the rain (not "The Emperor of Ice Cream)," do you??

Has been driving me mad for months.

Saireygamp: I just knew you were my friend from Cumbria, Renee!! She's going to be joining us, (as you say the time is a factor, but the joy of that is, we're open here 24 hours a day) so you can always say your piece!! Anyway, I just came from a marvelous visit to her in Little Corby, and I just KNEW you were she! But I know you aren't, because we just had a LONG discussion on Molly Keane!! So, off to the bookstore I go to get it! Thanks for the recommendation. Do you read Mary Wesley? She gave me one of hers, too. SHE also did not start writing until she was 60 or 70, I believe.

Now, we're just choosing a new book in the Great Books discussion, and nominating in the Nominations folder, and would love to have you there.

No, I've never heard of "Casiabianca!" Can you put just a little of it here, I'd love to see it. Why do people make fun of it? Is it a romantic poem? Do give us a stanza or two that you think is really good; meanwhile, I'll go look it up, too!

Lots of interesting things to do in this folder, all of a sudden! Thanks!!


Roy O'Brien
September 23, 1997 - 08:38 am
Sorry to be cluttering up your BB with personal messages, but my library's computer evidently has developed a glitch, and won't accept any email addresses, even those from my address book that have worked before. (Wonderful to know this is somebody else's problem!)

Many thanks, Pat, for your verrry comprehensive email instructions...I think I'm registered now...more personal info later.

Many thanks. too, Ginny, for carrying that eohippus around all day...but watch out, as it turns into a horse, it will start getting awfully heavy!

I'm leaving tomorrow on a business trip, which will include the grand test of whether my email works at other library locations, too. If you don't hear from me for the next ten days, it didn't work, but, as Arnold says, "I'll be back!". Bye.

September 23, 1997 - 01:55 pm
Dear Ginny,

Sorry I can't help you with the poem about ice-cream. No, I am definitely not your friend who lives in Cumbria - that's William Wordsworth country, I expect you know. I have only been there once, and I keep meaning to go again, but never seem to get around to it. Actually, I live in Leeds, which is a large city in Yorkshire, and its only claim to fame is that Marks & Spencer were " born" there in the market place in Leeds. We are on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, which are very beautiful, and we are also about one hour's drive from the Peak District, which is also lovely, and has a wonderful stately home named "Chatsworth," where the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire live, but they open their home and gardens to the public, and believe me the house and garden are breathtaking. At the same time there is a very homely and welcoming atmosphere with no stiffness or formality, and Chatsworth really is the "Jewel in the Crown" of all the stately homes in England. We are also only 20 miles from York, which is a medieval walled city set in the centre of England. It is a great tourist attraction, and a lovely city in its own right. There is so much to see and do, and history starts right from the stone age when you are in York. Well, here it is - it's a very sad poem, I loved it when I was a child, and admired the obedience of the little boy. If only children were half as obedient nowadays!! I feel sure you know the first line, though.

CASABIANCA by Mrs. Hemens

The boy stood on the burning deck

Whence all but he had fled;

The flame that lit the battle's wreck

Shone round him o'er the dead.

Yet beautiful and bright he stood,

As born to rule the storm;

A creature of heroic blood,

A proud, though childlike form.

The flames roll'd on--he would not go

Without his father's word;

That father, faint in death below,

His voice no longer heard.

He call'd aloud--"Say, father, say

If yet my task is done!"

He knew not that the chieftain lay

Unconscious of his son.

"Speak, father!" once again he cried,

"If I may yet be gone!"

And but the booming shots replied,

And fast the flames roll'd on.

Upon his brow he felt their breath,

And in his waving hair,

And looked from that lone post of death,

In still yet brave despair;

And shouted but once more aloud,

"My father, must I stay?"

While o'er him fast, through sail and shroud

The wreathing fires made way.

They wrapt the ship in splendour wild,

They caught the flag on high,

And stream'd above the gallant child,

Like banners in the sky.

There came a burst of thunder sound---

The boy---oh! where was he?

Ask of the winds that far around

With fragments strewed the sea!---

With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,

That well had borne their part;

But the noblest thing which perished there

Was that young faithful heart.

This most recited of all the Gems in this collection celebrates an actual incident. Louis de Casabianca was the Corsican commander of the Franch ship L'Orient during the Batle of the Nile. His son, about thirteen years old, remained at his post after the vessel had taken fire and all the guns been ababdoned, perishing in the explosion when the flames reached the powder. It is said that Casabianca, mortally wounded, blew up his ship to prevent its capture by the English.

I will send you details of a parody soon. Now you can see why so many people need to laugh after reading this poem. I am sorry I can't manage the parody today, but I do not have much time at the moment. I work full time, and I am in front of a P.C. all day, but I really love my work, and wouldn't change it. I dread being forced to leave when I am 65. Is retirement mandatory in the U.S.A.? I believe it is not and you can work as long as you wish, and why not, indeed!!

Please let me know how you enjoyed (or otherwise) Casabianca. I look forward to hearing from you, but it may be 2-3 days now before I am able to respond.

Kind regards, Saireygamp. P.S. I have left a message in the Shakespeare section.

The boy

September 23, 1997 - 05:10 pm
Sairey! OF COURSE I know the poem!! But I don't remember reading all of it. It is very moving, and I'm particularly grateful to you for putting the background in here. Of course, one immediately thinks of the parodies.

Do you read EF Benson? Did you see the video series with Prunella Scales? Then you know this poem was a selection in their tableaux vivantes! And, of course, Quaint Irene was the one who recited it!

Now, why?? It's pathetic, and reminds me of a lot of poems my grandmother (poems and songs) used to sing and tell to me. Horribly sad things. Dogs dying....sad things...

Now, I'm really intrigued here. The poetry you study in school never mentions this one or any of the ones my grandmother used to tell me. Now, what's so funny? Because he couldn't think for himself at 13?

I wonder if that's why it seems dated? Can you imagine a modern 13 year old doing this? Or would he??

ROY: You BETTER hurry back!!

PS: Sairey: we'll just have our First Annual Reunion at Chatsworth, and NO, I think they'd like you to retire at 75, if you will, here!

Roslyn Stempel
September 24, 1997 - 10:59 am
Saireygamp, your postings in this and the GB folder have been most enjoyable! I chuckled at your online name and wondered if you carry a large umbrella and have a friend named 'Arris. Thanks for posting "Casabianca," which I remember but hadn't seen for a long time. We visited Leeds once--only the city center, to see an art exhibit. It seemed bustling, busy, and attractive, and the museum was fine, but when we got home people kept saying, "LEEDS! Whatever made you go there?" I understand that people centered in London are somewhat snobbish about the North.

I fear you would not care much for the poetry of the 70-something Polish poet whose Nobel Prize inspired the establishment of this folder. That is, you might appreciate her sentiments but not her style, which is quite modern.

It's an absolute requirement of Seniornet Books and Literature that we must not fear to state our opinions even when we disagree with the majority! So don't hesitate to be forthright about your favorites and un-favorites.

Roy, that eohippus is going to haunt me too. In the time period that you mention, "light verse" was popular and there were numerous writers producing it. Oliver Herford is one who comes to mind.

Ginny, I 'spect Lucia and the others had to memorize Casabianca in school and were still half-tied to the symbols of heroism, loyalty, obedience, etc., that it embodied. It certainly lends itself to a tableau vivant if one could find enough red and yellow crepe paper to simulate the flames.

Saireygamp's messages inspire me to ask whether we all have a favorite "old" poem that we'd like to share?


September 25, 1997 - 01:00 pm
Dear Ginny, Thank you for your reply. I knew you must have read Casiabianca. It's not a poem that appeals to everyone, though, and generally I like humour and happiness in all forms of art and entertainment, but for some obscure reason I just love that poem. I'm not sure whether I have read Mary Wesley or not, so I will browse through some her books at the public library (when I find the time), and I will let you know. Although I haven't read E.F. Benson, Mapp and Lucia was serialised on UK TV, and I never missed an episode!! I just loved Quaint Irene - wasn't she hilarious? I must try and obtain the video, I'm sure it will be available in the UK. Thank you for reminding me of this treasure, I'm really looking forward to seeing it again. I'm pleased to hear retirement age is not till 75. I have seen programmes on T.V. featuring men and women in their 90's who are still working in the USA, although they only work one day, or a few hours, each week. I do hope they improve their ideas in this country and let people work for as long as they want to. Yes, I think everyone would love Chatsworth, and a reunion, or a meeting, would be a nice idea. It can rain buckets, though, in the UK, even in the height of summer. I hope you will read "Good Behaviour," and let me know how you like it.

Roslyn, You obviously have been reading my favourite author. I love all the works of Dickens, especially Martin Chuzzlewit, which I think is his most humorous, and Dickens thought so too. I think the passage where Sairey Gamp invites Betsy Prigg to her home for tea is one of the funniest I have ever read, and it always makes me laugh out loud. Some of my friends, who know me well, call me Sairey Gamp, and I sign my letters to them with a teapot! No, I'm not a bit like Sairey, at least I hope not, and I don't carry a rolled up umbrella, or have a friend by the name of Mrs. 'Arris. Did you know that in the U.K., an umbrella is sometimes referred to as a "gamp?" That's fame and immortality for you! Yes, I expect that would be the normal reaction of most people, not necessarily Londoners, when you mention Leeds, but believe me, there are many worse places in the UK to live than Leeds, and it has some beautiful suburbs, and is within easy reach of the beautiful spectacular countryside, and is near to historic York. We don't have any Royalty living in this part of the country, though, but Yorkshire folk are noted for their friendliness and droll humour. There are many very good shops, and some (not all) of the people are very stylish and fashionable, because Leeds was once the clothing capital of the world. If you know where to look you can look smart and trendy without having to spend a fortune in Leeds. I'm a bit of a shopaholic myself, so I make the best of things living here, but for wonderful museums, every bit as good, and better, than anything in London, we only have to visit York.

Well, I promised myself I would only stay on-line for one hour - and my hour is up. I am very busy at the moment, due to work commitments, but I hope to be back by Sunday.

I have enjoyed speaking to you both, and thank you both very much for your interesting and friendly messages.

Kind regards to you, and all other readers.


P.S. I'm certain I should DETEST that Polish poet!.

Roy O'Brien
September 26, 1997 - 09:18 am
Here's a little trivia... I'm passing through Salisbury, MD, and have stopped off at the Public Library, where they have nine (9) (!) full graphics/color/bells/whistles/etc. computers hooked up to the Net. Naturally, I logged into Seniornet, and here you all are. WOW!

They don't know the eohippus poem here, either.

Tomorrow I'll be in Canada...wonder if I'll find a library computer there. Bye.

September 26, 1997 - 06:58 pm
Is this the right place "CLIFF" ?? This is something I wote back in the mid"60's after a couple of soul searching days and nights.


I can be used, if you know how use me with tender loving care and ,I will bring Joy and Laughter to all who use caution.

Abuse me and I will display my Cunning and Evil force That you will know, that I am more powerful than all of the combined armies of the world. I have destroyed more lives than "ALL" the wars in history.

I have cause billions of accidents, destroyed more cars and homes than all the floods, hurricanes and Tornadoes put together.

I steal millions of dollars each year, I find my victims among the rich and the poor alike, The young and the old, The strong and especialy the weak.

I have created lovers and torn them apart at my will. I can grow to such great proportions, that I cast black shadows over every field of labour. I am relentless, insidious and totally unpredictable.



Lorne Warner

September 26, 1997 - 07:09 pm
Lorne, thanks so much for that! I don't know if this was the right place or not, but it looks right to me! Thanks to you and Cliff!!

Roy!! This is fabulous!! You didn't know we were international?? Now you know? Now, Ros's name didn't ring a bell? I'd almost be willing to bet you a lunch (if I were a betting person) that she'd call it the first time! Do go look at her post! You may owe me a nice nice lunch...


The videos of the TV Mapp and Lucia series have, believe it or not, JUST been rereleased!

But, you must read EF Benson! He's much better in the books, is it possible? And there are so many priceless adventures you've missed! DO go get the first one....there are 6, I believe, with two sequels by Tom Holt, and he's wonderful, too.

Will try to come back in here before you come back Sunday.

Ros: I'm thinking of my favorite poem. It's hard to pick just one!


Roslyn Stempel
September 27, 1997 - 01:31 pm
Lorne, thanks for your posting, which certainly has universal applications. I like your reference to moderation, which after all is the key to enjoyment instead of disaster. In Othello, our current Great Books selection, Shakespeare has Cassio say, "...I could well wish courtesy would invent some other custom of entertainment." Alas, poor Cassio is bullied into drinking more than he can handle and thereby is launched on his part of the tragic events.

I can think of a few well-known poems celebrating the pleasant effects of alcohol but not many that speak truthfully about the other side of it.

Ginny, how about A favorite, not necessarily the only one? (Didn't we start to do this, e.g. with Shakespeare's sonnets, when the folder was opened?) I can think of a bunch right off--Donne's Death, Be Not Proud; Hopkins's Pied Beauty; Frosts's Choose Something Like a Star; several of Millay's teen-agey sonnets; Arnold's Dover Beach; Morris's Love Is Enough; Milton's On His Blindness....


September 27, 1997 - 06:16 pm
Ros: Yes, we did. I've got such strange taste, tho...what makes a poem good anyway? If it speaks to you? The language? I'm obsessed tonight with T.S. Eliot's The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock.

Am I the only one with lines of verse running around in my head and surfacing at the strangest times and situations?


Roslyn Stempel
September 28, 1997 - 09:16 am
Ginny, the lines of verse running through one's head aren't the problem--we've always referred to that as "furnishing one's head." It's the fact that they can't always be dismissed when the space is needed for something else. You probably recall Mark Twain's light verse about the persistence of "Punch, partner, punch with care, Punch in the presence of the passenger...a red trip ticket for a one-way trip..." which drove him nearly mad. (I have the same problem not only with verse but with fragments of music.) A week or so ago I was stuck with Vachel Lindsay's "The Leaden-Eyed," a poignant piece that Sairygamp might find interesting because of its strong message. (I'm writing from memory so some of the words might be inaccurate.):

Let not young souls be trampled out before
They do bold deeds and fully flaunt their pride;
It is the world's one crime its babes grow dull,
Its poor are ox-like, limp, and leaden-eyed.

Not that they starve, but starve so dreamlessly;
Not that they sow, but that they seldom reap;
Not that they serve, but have no gods to serve;
Not that they die, but that they die like sheep.


September 28, 1997 - 01:45 pm
Ginny, Thank you for the poem. I did enjoy it - it was lovely, and very thought-provoking. I must look up Vachel Lindsay in my Encyclopaedia (trusty tome). I haven't yet had a chance to enquire about the video of Mapp and Lucia, but I feel sure it must be available here, because it was filmed in the UK. I will certainly read E.F. Benson, though.

Sorry I haven't much time today. Will try and return later in the week.

Best regards to you, and everyone else.


September 28, 1997 - 02:52 pm
OH, Sairey, you don't know!! The Tilling Society, headquartered in Rye, has labored long and hard to get those videos released! They've just done so; something about the BBC rights, anyway, you'll LOVE EF Benson!!

I am SO GLAD you're here, and look forward to your appearances! I see you may have more time soon, and I surely hope so!

Ros, oh yes, Vachel Lindsay! I loved his stuff. IMAGINE being able to reproduce him, tho, without looking first! I'm frequently confused on some of the "war" poets who wrote such depressing stuff; Lindsay was not, was he? I guess that "Sleep Softly, Eagle That is Forgotten" stuff about Patton's (no, I don't mean the poem itself here, I mean the reference used in the movie!!) death has just totally mixed me up. Wasn't Lindsay the one about Lincoln or Booth or am I hopelessly mired?

Since you've put that there, can we talk about it? What's he saying? Is that all of the poem? (I don't have a good modern anthology....I know he was pre WWII,)....it would SEEM to be against....war? But what war? He's a very depressed person, I would say.

Could he be talking about the anesthetizing (had to look that spelling up--have gotten to the point I can't spell my name!) effects of society?

Did he offer a solution??

Our first poem to discuss!!


Roslyn Stempel
September 29, 1997 - 04:39 pm
Yes, "General William Booth Enters into Heaven," and "Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight." I think "Eagle Forgotten" referred to John Altgeld, but I'll have to look that one up. I"ll have to check further, too, on the origins of The Leaden-Eyed. The bio in the anthology I grabbed (leaving the computer inactive for too long results in being cut off) indicated that Lindsay was a moody fellow who eventually committed suicide and that one of his major beliefs was that everyone in America ought to have some experience of beauty and the arts.

I think this poem says a lot in a few words, which means it's not only memorable but easy to memorize!


September 29, 1997 - 06:05 pm
I'm wondering who they are.

You can't say that about the "X" generation.

Of course, this was written 40? some years ago...I wonder if it's a social commentary...

Now, when you read a poem, HOW do you know WHAT the author meant?

I really don't think that because you can back up your own opinions with a quote or conclusion or two you've grasped the author's purpose.

So, WHO are THEY? And, if we had to say right now, WHO would we say they were?


Roslyn Stempel
September 30, 1997 - 02:04 pm
Ginny, Lindsay's dates are 1879-1931, so "The Leaden-Eyed" is well over 60 years old, and although I haven't yet tracked down the date I believe it may possibly be from the 1920's. The bio in one anthology said that "he had dedicated himself to being a prophet of a new age in which individualism would mean morality and artistic sensitivity...." You can imagine that in the materialistic boom times of the 1920's an idealist like Lindsay might feel that young people -- especially poor young people--had no opportunity to experience "artistic sensitivity."

I've always assumed that the "they" in the poem refers to the "young souls" in the first line and the "babes" and "poor" in the next two. Think of the way a hopeful, happy baby can change if it is hungry, cold, and neglected. Think of the head-down, plodding hopelessness of the unemployed, the underemployed, the people who feel doomed to minimum-wage jobs or welfare. Lindsay's concern about babies and poor people seems self-explanatory. From Dickens onward, if not earlier, haven't writers wanted us to be aware that life wasn't always fair to the underclasses? In Lindsay's case he was not only protesting the material poverty but the spiritual and intellectual poverty he felt he had found as he worked his way across the country trading--as he said in his first book--"rhymes for bread."

Well, there are several ways to approach a poet's meaning. This would make for a fascinating discussion! Shall we pursue it, Ginny? In my misspent youth I had the task of writing footnotes for a literature anthology, including looking up every single possible reference in T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land"....The task enlightened me about one aspect of Eliot's scholarship but I don't know if that helped me to understand the poem any better.


September 30, 1997 - 04:58 pm
Niether writer or poet am I. I write what I feel, in my memories and my feelings. On March 25,1970 while attending an Adult education class to finish my High School grade, I was asked to write a story or poem about ,"What I think about going back to school as a Adult". I was now 40 years old. Kind of old to be in school I thought at the time. This is what I wrote.

Regrets and Rejoice

Within these walls I now sojourn
relive those days of wasted youth,
tho many years have passed me by
and now today I face the truth.

When I was young, and sat in school
I dreamed of outside, playing, Fool.
Those silly verbs and decimal points
I blundered pass the, oh stubborn mule.

I'd look around and see each face
of Mary, Jean, Ann and Grace,
Pretty girls were shall they go,
Wives and Lovers with seed to sow.

Oliver's books are torn again,
his face is dirty, he's without pen.
My reward for sitting in class,
is time to dream of catching bass.

But spent is my youth,I sit here again
time is of essence, waste not in vain,
forgo my errors, I must harvest the wind,
To fail this time, then I've mortally sinned.

There are no excuses for a man my age
to wake up at forty, released from a cage
Success be my future, a pass be my aim
May God bless someone for easing this pain.


I went on later to become a school teacher my self.

Edited by host to "Poetry format".

Roslyn Stempel
October 1, 1997 - 06:57 am
Lorne, thanks for sharing your words of wisdom! "Regrets and Rejoice...To wake up at forty, released from a cage"--isn't that the precious second chance we get when we are finally mature, and isn't there a rich reward in making the most of it?

I've told my daughters, and other women as well, that the 40's mark a point when our lives change drastically. I always thought this applied to women. Maybe it's universal. But mid-life, if we are lucky, seems to be the beginning of our ability to make sense out of what has gone before, and to shape wisdom from our experiences and our mistakes. I'm sure your life now is richer and more meaningful than ever.


October 1, 1997 - 07:08 am
Welcome,welcome, Lorne!! Thanks for that! Love your phrasing and your ideas!!

ROS!! YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSs!! Let's do it!! Think it would be fun. Let's advertise we're going to take on a sort of poetry appreciation thing first....how do we want to go about it??


May Naab
October 1, 1997 - 02:40 pm
I really liked that, Lorne--thanks for posting--lots of words of wisdom--

Jane Doit
October 2, 1997 - 12:41 pm

Good work, thanks for sharing. I'm good for a limerick now and then but nothing asw profound as your work.

J. Doit

October 3, 1997 - 12:05 am
"Thank You for your kind words, Everyone."It is very incourageing to read these words of praise. I have always been very sensitive about letting anyone see what I have written, due mainly to a few negative coments I have recieved in the past, I am the dummy that would never amount to much. If anyone is interested. In the "ROUND TABLE DICUSSION", starting at, #281 is part of my life story. You will see the reasons why it has been so hard to fight negativity all my life, and why your words are so much appreciated.

"Thank You All Again".


Sid Dabbs
October 3, 1997 - 02:48 pm
I am trying to find the complete text of a poem "The face on the barroom floor" or "The face upon the floor". I believe the author is H. Antoine D'Arcy. I have been unable to find it anywhere on the net so far. Can anyone out there help???? THANKS!!!!!!

Sid Dabbs
October 3, 1997 - 02:49 pm
I am trying to find the complete text of a poem "The face on the barroom floor" or "The face upon the floor". I believe the author is H. Antoine D'Arcy. I have been unable to find it anywhere on the net so far. Can anyone out there help???? THANKS!!!!!!

October 3, 1997 - 05:41 pm
I bet we can, Sid. Let us all look, and keep checking back. Lots of us, ARE YOU THERE, BILL?? have extensive poetry libraries (mine not included,) so I bet we can come up with something!

and Welcome, welcome!!


October 3, 1997 - 06:41 pm
Welcome, Sid Dabbs!!

I was going to send you an email to help you explore the many discussions on SeniorNet, but I find that you are not registered. That's too bad as you are missing out on having certain buttons on your screen.

Please email me (click on my name and under there is my email address--click on that) and then I'll have your address and I'll send you the letter.

Hope to see you here again.


October 4, 1997 - 07:41 pm
HI SID, Glad that you are here ,you are with the best people in this world. That poem could it be from a poem by "ROBERT W.SERVICE", written in the yukon in around 1910-14. It is familiar to me, But I just can't put my finger on it at the moment.

Stick around and we will find out the answer, you are with real friends on this site. "WELCOME TO THE PLACE WHERE SENIORS CAN TALK TO EACH OTHER " Lorne

Roslyn Stempel
October 7, 1997 - 05:23 pm
Sid Dabbs, in case you haven't yet located it, D'Arcy's "The Face on the Floor" can be found in several old anthologies, including the one where I located it in my local public library, Best-Loved Poems of the American People,. I'll be glad to e-mail it to you if you don't have easy access to the book.


October 8, 1997 - 02:14 pm
Hello, everyone, Sorry I've been away so long. I've been missing your friendly messages, and I hope to return more often in the near future. In the meantime I'm going to the public library to check on a certain poem. It's anonymous, and one of the oldest that exists. I'm not quite sure of the title, and I also want to check on the spelling, which is "olde-worlde" English. It's only six lines, but I find it wonderfully poignant, and also very amusing. I sometimes use it as my screen-saver at work, and although I have to edit the poem to make it fit I never miss out the last line! It certainly causes some comments and I hope you'll all enjoy it. I'll try not to keep you in suspense too long, but I think it may be at least 10 days before I am back. However, I hope you are all well, and send my best wishes to all members of Seniornet. Kind regards, Saireygamp.

October 10, 1997 - 12:38 am
For the past twenty odd years or more I have been seaching for the Tape or recoding of "Johnathan Livingston Seagull", it is a naration of the complete book with a musical background score. I have scowered thousand of garage sales, all these years in search of this record, I don't know who did the naration. I have the record by Niel Diamond, that is not the story.

It is such a beautiful story, that it inspired me to make my own tapes of poetry to a music background.

Can anyone help me ?????


Roslyn Stempel
October 14, 1997 - 05:03 pm
Lorne, I checked the Schwann catalog as far back as 1988 but was unable to find any reference to the Jonathan Livingston Seagull tape you mentioned. I also asked at our library, which has a collection of books on cassette. No luck so far. If I ever run into it I'll let you know.

I like your idea about making your own music-backed tapes. When I taught school I used to make book or story tapes for my classes, and often inserted a bit of music here and there.


October 15, 1997 - 01:31 am
"Thanks Ros",for your help. I believe it came out on record first, around the same time as the book sometime in the ( late, 70's). I have tried so hard to find a copy over the years.

Music and poetry do go together, but not many people really like it as much as I do. Now I see that I am not alone , that you also like it.


Roslyn Stempel
October 25, 1997 - 04:20 pm
Recently, I've been re-reading some of my favorite poems, and thinking about why they are favorites. Perhaps we have some of the same favorites! Just for fun I thought I'd post one of mine and ask readers to comment, favorably or otherwise.

This is a sonnet by John Donne which is quite well known. He did write some beautiful love poetry, but much of his work dealt with philosophical themes like this one, which confronts our fear of death. I like the way he put some very important ideas into the strict 14-line form and followed a rhyme scheme that added music to his thoughts. But I won't say any more about it until I have read your reactions!


Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so:
For those, whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death; nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow;
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and souls' delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more: Death, thou shalt die!
--John Donne (1573-1631)

Fire away, poetry lurkers--it's your turn now!


October 31, 1997 - 06:53 pm
Hi Ros, Look's like your not getting any taker's on this one. Man this is a heavy one, I have re-read it many times and find it strange and powerful even a little scary for me. Lorne

Roslyn Stempel
November 1, 1997 - 08:34 am
Lorne, you're right--it is strange, powerful, and scary, and perhaps that's why I've kept coming back to it for almost 60 years. Of course it ends with the promise of resurrection and eternal life--"One short sleep past, we wake eternally"--and not all of us believe in that; but the final ringing sentence, "Death, thou shalt die! is to me an affirmation that a life well lived is not defeated by the inevitable prospect of its ending. I think when Donne writes that "soonest our best men with thee do go," that's what he is suggesting.

Donne reminds us that many of the world's evils lead to death. People of my age are getting better acquainted with death as one by one those we know and love are facing it, and we are confronting our own mortality no matter how we fight it and deny it by continuing to be active and alert and by maintaining contacts with the real world.

As I looked through some of my poetry anthologies I was struck by how often death is the subject of great poems (as well as of many less well-known but still memorable ones). Some are memorials to friends and loved ones. Many others are speculations about the writer's own death and how he or she will be remembered by the world. That makes an interesting area for discussion

I do appreciate your response. Are there any poems on this (rather morbid) topic that you like and want to share?


November 2, 1997 - 10:48 am
ROS, You are so right, we are near the age of passing through to the other side. In the past 5 years I have lost, 6 good friends and I panic'd and got married again, in fear of being alone, may sound crazy but thats how I felt at the time. There is a bit more to it, but thats the crust of it. I believe now that it saved my life. I'm searching through my old papers looking for poems I wrote on the subject years ago.

I have a favourite question I use a lot in response to statements people make, "What is the differance between a Toilet and a Cemetary".... "NONE", When ya gotta go, ya gotta go.

Bye-Bye Lorne

Roslyn Stempel
November 2, 1997 - 11:03 am
Lorne, it's far from "crazy" to want to escape from loneliness. Just a couple of weeks ago we attended the wedding (the second for both of them) of two dear friends aged 57 and 63 who had been together for several years but wanted to be really "together" in marriage. The couple were very cool about the whole thing in advance, but when they joined hands the happiness on their faces was beautiful to see. At the ceremony Shakespeare's sonnet No. 116, "Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments..." was read. Isn't it nice to have fine poetry that fits every mood and circumstance?


Jimmie Wilson
November 3, 1997 - 07:49 am
Ros, I am checking in!

Loved the poem you posted.

"Crossing The Bar" by Tennyson Isn't this about death? The last two lines are beautiful and to me, they mean meeting God after death. Am I right?


Roslyn Stempel
November 3, 1997 - 10:56 am
Jimmie, you're absolutely right. Tennyson's poetry is full of his ideas about the soul and the after-life. Most of it is quite easy to read because of the strong rhythms and satisfying rhymes that draw the reader along from line to line. He reflected the hopes and beliefs of 19th-century England and was one of their most popular poets. Tennyson also drew wonderful word-pictures. I'm going to look up one about bugles blowing at sunset that is really beautiful, and post it here soon.

I'm glad you've "looked in" and hope you'll come back!


Roslyn Stempel
November 9, 1997 - 11:21 am
Poet and lurker Bill Irwin, in response to a private e-mail asking about this folder, has the following suggestion: "Encourage readers to show their association with poetry in any way. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?" ....So I'm hoping that some of you who look in occasionally will post a word or two again, referring to poems you like, poems that have inspired you to compose something of your own, poems you half-remember and might want to see printed out.

Here are a couple that I enjoy reading and re-reading:

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to see the woods in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go,
To see the cherry hung with snow.

A. E. Housman

AND ... Excerpts from Fitzgerald's The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

. He evidently published different versions of this long set of verses. Here are a few I particularly enjoy reading. You might find some book-titles or movie-titles concealed here!

Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.

Dreaming when Dawn's Left Hand was in the Sky
I heard a Voice within the Tavern cry,
"Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup
Before Life's Liquor in its Cup be dry.

Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly--and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy tears wash out a Word of it.

Ah Love! could you and I with Him conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits--and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!

Have these lines awakened any echoes in your poet's (or poetry-lover's) hearts? It would be nice to hear from you.


William Frost
November 9, 1997 - 12:00 pm

In your post #191 you quote a "Bill Irwin". I think you meant, "Bill Frost". The quote,in my reply to your private e-mail, 11:2:97 went on to add, "...I'm interested in the effects of others' poetry on our own poetry". I then gave you one of my poems modelled on one by John Ashbery which gave me a lot of satisfaction.

Perhaps you could expand on the poetry you quote in #191 and tell us a little on how it has affected your relationship with poetry in any way, or how it might, --tomorrow.

Bill Frost

Roslyn Stempel
November 9, 1997 - 07:45 pm
Bill Frost, who on earth do you suppose Bill Irwin is? Of course you were my helpful correspondent and I apologize for, as the kids in my high-school classes used to say, "callin' you out your name." I found John Ashbery's book, "Houseboat Days," which you mentioned, in our local library and have been enjoying the poems by reading them over and over and triumphantly figuring them out bit by bit. (I think.)

Unfortunately I seem to be experiencing a lot of backward-looking just now, and I think that's what has resurrected some of the poetry I'm lining up to post. "Tomorrow" I'll try to put into words some of the associations that are strongest.


Marie C.
November 11, 1997 - 04:18 pm
Just read your Donne poem posted Oct 14 and was excited because I'm such a fan of his. Anxious to post my favorite Donne lines, I was shocked that I can't find them in any of my books. Maybe they're from one of his sermons--but the first time I read them I memorized them. They give me strange comfort that we are all part of a greater whole. I think "Death be not Proud" alludes to this in a way, too. Anyway, poem or not, here is a wonderful Donne passage:

No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main;
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor
of thy friends or
of thine own were;
Any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
And therefore
never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Larry Hanna
November 11, 1997 - 05:05 pm

It is nice to see you posting. Hope all is well. Thanks for posting the poem.


November 11, 1997 - 07:40 pm
Welcome back, Marie!!

It is so nice to see you posting and I enjoyed that poem very much. I'll look forward to another installment.


Jeanne Lee
November 11, 1997 - 07:42 pm
Marie! - Welcome back! You've been missed and it's so good to see you back.

Joan Grimes
November 11, 1997 - 07:56 pm

Welcome back!!


Roslyn Stempel
November 12, 1997 - 01:54 pm
Marie, Thanks for posting your favorite quotation--it's an excerpt from one of Donne's Meditations (No. 17). You're right in associating it with the sonnet. The group of Meditations deals with mortality and eternal life and there are even some phrases that seem to echo "Death Be Not Proud." It's interesting that his earlier poetry deals with love and his later work (mostly after he became ordained) with religion. Yet in both types his imagery remains astonishing and many of his ideas seem contemporary.

Bill, I've been putting off the arrival of the "tomorrow" when I would defend my affection for Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat. I loved the garden images of lush grass, roses, dawn, birds, and so on, and the suggestion that there was so much in the material world to be tasted and enjoyed while we were still on earth. Omar - at least as interpreted by Fitzgerald - didn't seem to put much faith in having any fun after this lifetime had run its course. You could almost subtitle the whole thing "Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, for Tomorrow Youll Be a Handful of Dust." The clay of the potter and the clay from which humans were fashioned--both the same, both doomed to dust. Frankly, in my innocence I never thought about how much wine-guzzling was praised in these verses. Nothing about hangovers or other disasters.

Look out, here comes another bucket of nostalgia: Somewhere in the 1930's there was actually a dramatic radio series about the Rubaiyat ...no doubt entirely invented by the scriptwriters as I don't recall Omar's being portrayed as a middle-aged tentmaker. I can still remember the passionate nasal voice of the hero addressing the fictional heroine, Nouralon (isn't that a lovely name?), in some garden of Naishapur, while not having Musketeer-like adventures. By any chance is there anyone else out there who ever heard of it?

As for the Housman, before his private life became public he was considered a safe example of the lyricist for high-school consumption. Actually, knowing more about him now, I like his work better. Some of his lines have been so often quoted that, like Shakespeare's being "so full of quotations," he now seems to be full of cliches.

Marie, I hope your return to the fold/folder will herald a reawakening of general interest in our subject!Greetings and good wishes to all.


Roslyn Stempel
November 13, 1997 - 09:11 am
Pat, Larry, Joan G., Jeanne, what a nice feeling to see these familiar names reappearing in the Poetry folder! I hope you'll again have something to share, whether an opinion or a favorite selection

. As for me, I've been delving into my old books, getting things from the library, and even buying a couple of new paperbacks--so I could go on posting poems until the cows come home, just for the pleasure of seeing them go out over the Internet. But it would be so much more fun to have a group discussion.

There was an old radio review-type show (The "Al Pearce Show") which included an ineffectual salesman, Elmer Blurp (Morrie Amsterdam), who began his skit with a knock on the door and a muttered "Nobody home--I hope, I hope, I hope." But here's Roslyn Blurp knocking hopefully and muttering instead, "Somebody home--I hope, I hope, I hope."

Wishing you all happy rhymes, limericks, and blank verse...


November 13, 1997 - 10:30 pm
I guess that if I were to tell you the story behind this poem, it would be one of a pure Love affair that went wrong, thepicture of the past is all here.


I Love you for that cerain smile
that cheers me when I'm blue
I love you for your tender kiss
that warms me though and though
I love you for your gentle hand
your understanding touch,

Your eyes that somehow seem to say,
"I Love you very much"
I love you for your faith in me
for your sweet and patient ways
For all the many thoughtful things you do
so often without praise

I Love you dear , for all the other things
and for a million others too,
But most of all.....For what I am
Whenever I'm.... With you


Edited by host to Poetry format. Hope it looks OK, Lorne! Pat

Roslyn Stempel
November 14, 1997 - 05:37 am
Lorne, thanks for sharing these verses which you say carry so many meaningful memories for you. They make a portrait of the loved person's character rather than any physical traits; and as we all learn, the personality remains even after the physical body has greatly changed.

Do you agree with the famous lines from Tennyson's In Memoriam that it's "better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all"?


Marie C.
November 14, 1997 - 10:51 am
I greatly admire people who still cherish the beauty of an affair which has ended sadly or painfully for them. The person whose love is so pure that loss or rejection may cause terrible pain, but it doesn't disfigure the loving emotion into fury or hatred. Unfortunately, I'm not in that select group. Lord Byron's "When We Two Parted" says it best for me. Here are just a few selected lines:

When we two parted,
In silence and tears,
The dew of the morning
Sunk chill on my brow--
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame
Long, long shall I rue thee
Too deeply to tell.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?
With silence and tears.

Larry Hanna
November 14, 1997 - 01:45 pm
I have only two books of poetry in my library and they were both books that my Grandmother loved (obviously poetry has not been my literary love). I will share a poem from an Anthology that was printed in 1934 and which my Grandmother received as a gift in 1935.


Of all that life has brought to me
In shining hours enthralled,
Not in cities--their ghosts decry;
I answered when the forests called.

Pines sending deepened green shadows
To lighter sun-flecked aspen breaks;
Rills and rocks and eddied pools,
And little sounds that stillness makes.

To sit beneath the forest tops
And fondle fern and flowering fen;
Listening to the wind flute answer
Gentle notes of a warbling wren.

The quickened beauty of fall leaves
Golden, coppered, burnished tan;
Dancing in rushing, fevered glee
Before the wind's last caravan.

With my great answer to the cry
Of forests and sweet notes of wren,
Peace abundant should come to me
Just to know it will call again.

Other souls as well as I
Will sit upon the patterned floor.
Trees will stand and flowers blossom
Giving joys when we are no more.

Ben Draper


Roslyn Stempel
November 14, 1997 - 05:14 pm
Larry, "Forest Call" conveys lovely images of the peaceful yet busy forest that the poet saw as a refuge from the world. It's not just the words alone but the way they are arranged that enhance the picture: the alliteration of s's in "little sounds that stillness makes" and f's in "fondle fern and flowering fen" and later the w's in "wind...warbling wren." There's a sense of greenness in the lines that is very compelling.

What is the name of the anthology? Are there other poems you particularly enjoy? Please share!

Marie,there must be as many kinds of "love" described in poetry as there are poets: requited, unrequited, lost, found, young, old, physical, spiritual, and the "you'll be sorry when I'm gone" type of--for example--Christina Rossetti and Edna St. Vincent Millay. I do like the Byron. (Now, if ever there was a man who knew what he was talking about....One suspects that he explored many an avenue.) I notice you omitted the line that asks, "Why wert thou so dear?" Does that mean, "What did I ever see in you?" Maybe it's better if old loves are never re-encountered. We get used to the gray, the spreading middle, the wrinkles, the trifocals, of those we love and live with--but to see them after many years--ouch!

I like a poem by Archibald MacLeish that discusses just what a poem "should be." I don't know if it will fit everyone's definition, but I'll trot it along shortly.


Roslyn Stempel
November 15, 1997 - 05:24 am
People often ask, about some poem they've read, "But what does it mean?" Here's one of my favorites. The poet Archibald MacLeish composed a kind of definition, suggesting that we might not always find an exact meaning expressible in words. The reader can respond with other senses to the images or ideas contained in the poem, which "climbs like the moon" but leaves behind it connections and associations in our minds.

Ars Poetica

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit

As old medallions to the thumb

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown--

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves
Memory by memory the mind--

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

A poem should be equal to:
Not true

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea--

A poem should not mean
But be.

MacLeish doesn't use a standard rhythm or meter here. The first few lines rhyme at the end; then he moves the rhymes to the mid-line, then carries them into our ears so we're not sure whether there really is a rhyme--and finishes with a clear rhyme between "sea" and "be."

Try reading this aloud. It's quite musical.


Marie C.
November 15, 1997 - 04:41 pm

"Forest Call" expresses feelings of today as well as--maybe even better than--it did in your Granmother's day as we see our forests and natural areas diminished by human "progress". The last two lines of the poem:

"Trees will stand and flowers blossom, Giving joys when we are no more"

are so wonderfully true. My husband and I hike locally to places in the San Gabriel Mountains that were famed spas with huge hotels accessible by multiple cable cars and trains at the turn of the Century. These spas are now, once again woods and habitat for forest creatures, the remnants of man's handiwork reclaimed by nature.

Maybe your Grandmother's gift to you was not a book but a perspective.

Thanks for sharing it with us.

Marie C.
November 15, 1997 - 08:32 pm
I love the poetry definitions, really. I've never read anything by MacLeish --not even required reading in school --and don't know why, but will now. I have long cherished Carl Sandburg's definitions of poetry (from "Good Morning America"), but these by MacLeish make Sandburg's look overdone. But there's one I'll always like: "Poetry is the journal of a sea animal, living on land, wanting to fly the air."

But what I really wanted to ask you about is what has happened to the discussion of the "Rubaiyat"? I've searched out some "evidence" to support my theory (unsupported by anyone I've ever met in my whole life) that Fitzgerald did a lot more rephrasing from the books Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon than he did translating from anything.


Roslyn Stempel
November 16, 1997 - 11:49 am
Marie, what an ingenious suggestion! I had to look in several books before finding anything that even suggested that Fitzgerald was taking liberties with the original Persian. He did study the language for six years, says an old critical anthology, "and could have made an entirely accurate translation of the old poem, if he had chosen to do so.He preferred, however, to make what he called a transmutation .... 'It is,' he wrote [to a friend], 'most ingeniously tesselated into a sort of Epicurean Eclogue in a Persian Garden.'" Your idea is worth pursuing. Can you point to specific lines or verses? After all, I think, the general import is more sensuous than Ecclesiastes and less personalized than the Song of Solomon. But please post your further thoughts.


Jeanine A
November 17, 1997 - 04:51 pm
Hello Everyone!

As you may or may not know I am a Two's Teacher. I found this poem in the front of a story that I was going to read to the children today. I really enjoyed it. I hope you do to.

The Library - A Magic Castle

Come to the magic castle When you are growing tall Rows upon rows of word windows Line every single wall They reach up high, As high as the sky. And you want to open them all. For every time you open one, A new adventure has begun.

I found this in "A Color Clown Comes to Town" by Jane Belk Moncure

Roslyn Stempel
November 18, 1997 - 09:07 am
Jeanine, welcome to the Poetry folder, and thanks for your poem. I couldn't agree more! For every Senior who has ever posted (or lurked) anywhere in the Books and Literature folders, a library is indeed a magic castle and books are windows that open to adventure. Have you tried any poetry with your Twos? If so, would you share your experiences--or, in fact, any favorite poems you like to think about?


Jeanine A
November 18, 1997 - 06:00 pm
Roslyn - Actually I don't think I have tried much poetry with the twos that's a great idea. I will have to try it. I have read Shel Silverstein's free verse to preschoolers. My 14 year olds favorite was "The Thumb Sucker"!! She would die if she knew I told.

Roslyn Stempel
November 19, 1997 - 12:36 pm
Here's a well-known bit of poetry by Tennyson which to me is full of words that convey not only pictures but sounds. I think it was taken from a longer work called "The Princess":

The splendor falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story:
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O hark, O hear! how thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying:
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O love, they die in yon rich sky,
They faint on hill or field or river:
Our echoes roll from soul to soul
And grow for ever and for ever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.

--Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

I hope you find this as excitingly descriptive as I do! I was surprised to realize that -- although I always thought of it as a poem full of color --there is only one color word in the whole thing, plus one word that suggests a specific color. The rest of the "color" for me was evidently produced by the other words.

Does anyone else hear "bugles" and "echoes"?


Marie C.
November 19, 1997 - 06:47 pm
Yes. Not just bugles and echoes but movement also. Really like it.

Marie C.
November 20, 1997 - 05:10 pm
Is this poem true?
A Bookshop Idyll by Kingsley Amis

Between the gardening and the cookery
Comes the brief Poetry shelf;
By the Nonesuch Donne, a thin anthology
Offers itself.

Critical and with nothing else to do,
I scan the Contents page,
Relieved to find the names are mostly new;
No one my age.

Like all strangers, they divide by sex:
Landscape near Parma
Interests a man, so does The Double Vortex,
so does Rilke and Buddha.

"I travel, you see," "I think" and "I can read"
These titles seem to say;
But I Remember You, Love is my Creed,
Poem for J.,

The ladies' choice, discountenance my patter
for several seconds;
From somewhere in this (as in any) matter
A moral beckons.

Should poets bicycle-pump the human heart
Or squash it flat?
Man's love is of man's life a thing apart;
Girls aren't like that.

We men have got love well weighed up; our stuff
Can get by without it.
Women don't seem to think that's good enough;
They write about it.

And the awful way their poems lay them open
Just doesn't strike them.
Women are really much nicer than men:
No wonder we like them.

Deciding this, we can forget those times
We sat up half the night
Chock-full of love, crammed with bright thoughts, names, rhymes,
And couldn't write.

Roslyn Stempel
November 21, 1997 - 05:03 am
Ahoy there, fellow voyagers on the seas of Poetry!

Marie, you've certainly given my busy Friday morning a jump start with A Bookshop Idyll. At first glance it seems Amis has a point; but I didn't recognize any of the titles he mentions and wondered just what kind of anthology this was. Maybe he chose it because it suited his idea? I hastily checked the Quotations book for the Byron line he borrows. Amis cleverly paraphrases Don Juan's second line, which is actually "'Tis woman's whole existence." But after all, that was Don Juan, eh? The meter and rhyme scheme are very pleasing. Now I'll have to review both mentally and between covers to find out whether his teasing generalization is correct. What's your opinion?

Thanks for waking up my brain today.


Marie C.
November 21, 1997 - 06:53 pm
Wanted: Men Who Will Tell the Truth

Come on, guys. It won't take you but a few minutes.

Just read the above poem "Bookshop Idyll" in Post #215 and post either "yes" (that men do feel that love/romance colors all facets of a woman whereas men have their love nicely filed away mentally) or "no" (in the fifty years or so since that poem was written, you men have become distraught at the mere thought of such perceived emotional differences between the sexes).

Ros: I hope we have some takers on this. I just showed the poem to my husband who promptly laughed out loud and said Amis had perfectly defined the ageless male/female communication problem.

In answer to your question, it's true for me and most of the women I know very personally, but maybe not someone like Janet Reno who is all career.

Larry Hanna
November 22, 1997 - 05:38 am

Yes, I agree with your husband.


Roslyn Stempel
November 22, 1997 - 02:45 pm
As I thought about this question the husband-and-wife poetry team of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning came to mind, and I was amused that the first EBB line that popped into my head was from the sonnet that begins "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." The first RB line that rose unbidden to my consciousness was "I galloped, Dirk galloped, we galloped all three..." from "How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix." Proves a point, eh?

On the other hand, I can think of a number of serious published professional woman poets whose poems about other subjects at least equal the number of love poems they've printed. We'll except Edna St. Vincent Millay, whose romantic product is almost enough to overbalance the whole thing.

Larry, we're not--I hope-- generalizing that women dwell more intensively on love and that men seldom think about it, are we?. There's simply a difference in what gets expressed verbally. Maybe one of those Mars/Venus things?


Larry Hanna
November 22, 1997 - 03:02 pm

I do think it is a Mars/Venus type of thing. Of course men enjoy love and being in love and having a wonderfully loving wife or mate. I think that men, at least this man, are just not very comfortable with expressing deep sentiments and feelings. It doesn't mean the feelings are not there, but are expressed in a different manner.


Marie C.
November 22, 1997 - 08:41 pm
Hi Ros and Larry,

I don't think women "dwell" on love/romance -- I think it's just so much a part of them that it's there, in the forefront of their minds, all the time. After all, we are the nest-building nurturers.

I think men have to access the subject "love" like it's a website in their brains, and "close" whatever other "programs" they have running at the time.

Women can learn a lot by reading "love" poems written by really good male poets.

In the untitled poem below, Pushkin writes of his natural male feelings straightforwardly. But, of course, this was 1832 when girls aspired to womanhood rather than "personhood".

No, I don't miss the dissipated nights,
The moans and cries of a young bacchante
Writhing like a serpent in my arms
When, with fierce caresses and love-bites
She hastens the moment of final spasm.

Dearer to me are you, my quiet friend,
How tormentingly happier I am with you,
When at long last you condescend
To yield to my pleas, tenderly, without rapture,
Cold, ashamed, scarcely responding to
My transports, avoiding them with your lips, your eyes,
More and more coming to life, until
At last you share my pleasure against your will.

Alexander Pushkin, 1832

Larry Hanna
November 23, 1997 - 12:12 pm
I found another poetry book that belonged to my Grandmother that I had forgotten I had. It is called "Just Folks" by Edgar A. Guest. Here is a selection that I rather liked and believe speaks to us as we get older.

The New Days

The old days, the old days, how oft the poets sing,
The days of hope at dewy morn, the days of early spring,
The days when every mead was fair, and every heart was true,
And every maiden wore a smile, and every sky was blue;
The days when dreams were golden and every night brought rest,
The old, old days of youth and love, the days they say were best;
But I--I sing the new days, the days that lie before,
The days of hope and fancy, the days that I adore.

The new days, the new days, the selfsame days they are;
The selfsame sunshine heralds them, the selfsame evening star
Shines out to light them on their way unto the Bygone Land,
And with the selfsame arch of blue the world today is spanned.
The new days, the new days, when friends are just as true,
And maidens smile upon us all, the way they used to do,
Dreams we know are golden drams, hope springs in every breast;
It cheers us in the dewy morn and soothes us when we rest.

The new days, the new days, of them I want to sing,
The new days with the fancies and the golden dreams they bring;
The old days had their pleasures, but likewise have the new
The gardens with their roses and the meadows bright with dew;
We love to day the selfsame way they loved in days of old;
The world is bathed in beauty and it isn't growing cold;
There's joy for us a-plenty, there are tasks for us to do,
And life is worth the living, for the friends we know are true.

by Edgar A. Guest


William Frost
November 23, 1997 - 03:57 pm

Truth in poetry lies in the uninhibited poet expressing personal feelings on subjects with which we, the reader can perhaps identify. The poem you quote by poetaster Kingsley Amis does not ring true. Tongue in cheek, he usurps poetic license to exploit multi-meaning chapter headings, love, sexuality, communication, to merely excite well-known problems.

I don’t think Dear Abby needs be concerned about her job.

I enjoy your posts very much, Marie. You and Roslyn are making this Poetry File the most thought provoking of all Roundtable files. Thanks.

Bill Frost

Marie C.
November 23, 1997 - 04:05 pm

I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying reading the Guest poem. How refreshing to read something that simply tells us life is good at all ages. It makes me smile--no mysterious phrases, nothing ambiguous; the message is right there. Hooray for Edgar Guest, and thanks for posting it.

I can't find Guest in any of my poetry books--not that I have a lot. To be honest, I see now that I've been interested in only gloomy poetry as long as I can remember. On the other hand, Stephen Crane can be, well, "captivating". (I'll post one in the future.)

Thanks again,--Marie

Roslyn Stempel
November 23, 1997 - 05:19 pm
Larry, thanks for sharing more treasures from your grandmother's precious book. As we discovered when we moved to the Detroit area, "Eddie" Guest's was a household name here. His poetry was a fixture in one of the now-extinct newspapers. His son, Edgar, Jr., known as Bud, had a wonderful radio local show for many years, and often spoke of his father with just the right combination of affection and irreverence.

One enjoyable aspect of reading Guest's work is that it engages the reader in a game of "closure," because we're sure we always know how he'll complete his rhyming couplets. Sometimes he fools us; but the images are comfortingly familiar and the themes are upbeat enough to soothe many a heartache; there is no pretense of breaking new poetic ground. He's been gone for many years. He was definitely a poet of his time, and I don't know what he would have made of today's world.


Roslyn Stempel
November 23, 1997 - 05:32 pm
Bill, thanks for your support of this folder. I must say I liked the Amis poem. (Can one describe a poetaster's poem as a poem or is it just an aster? Or as you might say, a dis-aster?) Your reference to the expression of personal feelings sent me back to today's NYTimes Book Review and the review of a new book by Jorie Graham, who is praised for "ferociously scorning the comforts of the conventional personal lyric." Hmm. She's also said to be compared to John Ashbery in a certain "self-absorbed estrangement from the reader" but to differ from him here by making "no compensatory effort to charm...." Hmm again. I havenn't read Graham but am thinking of looking for the Selected Poems in paperback. (Have you noticed how much poetry now appears in paperback right away, as if the publishers don't even expect anyone to buy a hard-cover?) Next on my list is "Effort at Speech,"the collection by William Meredith that won the National Book Award. He was on the PBS news hour and read from that book a poem called "Parents." And it was quite personal.

It would be great to see one of yours here - personal or not - if you feel moved to share.


Marie C.
November 23, 1997 - 05:38 pm

I just wrote you a lengthy response about how insightful YOU are (God knows the Poetry section needs your participation) and how I think the Amis poem is a bit of a tease, too, but resented his contemptuous amusement at a woman's innocently pouring her heart out.

The post may or may not show up. I'm on MSN with IE 4.0--which actually explains everything.

Your message was just super. Please post a poem for us to discuss. One as you described: written by an uninhibited poet about personal feelings with which we may identify.

Thanks for the compliments, Marie

November 23, 1997 - 06:39 pm

I've been looking for my very thick book that must be in my house somewhere of Edgar Guest's complete works. In it is a poem I've been looking for for years to share with my kids. I simply cannot find it.

It starts out

It takes a heap of living
To make a house a home.

Please look in your book and see if it's in there.

I believe that Edgar Guest was from Toronto and I have a scrap book of my mothers and she used to faithfully cut out the Edgar Guest "Poem of the Day" from the Toronto Telegram each night.

Thanks Larry for renewing a lovely memory.


Jeanne Lee
November 23, 1997 - 07:04 pm
Ah, Pat, I have that one. The title is "HOME".

It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home,
A heap o' sun an' shadder, an' ye sometimes have t' roam
Afore ye really 'preciate the things ye lef' behind,
An' hunger for 'em somehow, with 'em allus on yer mind.
It don't make any difference how rich ye get t' be,
How much yer chairs an' tables cost, how great yer luxury;
It ain't home t' ye, though it be the palace of a king,
Until somehow yer soul is sort o' wrapped round everything.

Home ain't a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute;
Afore it's home there's got t' be a heap o' livin' in it;
Within the walls there's got t' be some babies born, and then
Right there ye've got t' bring 'em up t' women good, an' men;
And gradjerly, as time goes on, ye find ye wouldn't part
With anything they ever used--they've grown into yer heart:
The old high chairs, the playthings, too, the little shoes they wore
Ye hoard; an' if ye could ye'd keep the thumb-marks on the door.

Ye've got t' weep t' make it home, ye've got t' sit an' sigh
An watch beside a loved one's bed, an' know that Death is nigh;
An' in the stillness o' the night t' see Death's angel come,
An' close the eyes o' her that smiled, an' leave her sweet voice dumb,
Fer these are scenes that grip the heart, an' when yer tears are dried,
Ye find the home is dearer than it was, an' sanctified;
An' tuggin' at yer always are the pleasant memories
O' her that was an' is no more--ye can't escape from these.

Ye've got t' sing an' dance fer years, ye've got t' romp an' play,
An' learn t' love the things ye have by usin' 'em each day;
Even the roses 'round the porch must blossom year by year
Afore they 'come a part o' ye, suggestin' some one dear
Who used t' love 'em long ago, an' trained 'em jes' t' run
The way they do, so's they would get the early mornin' sun;
Ye've got t' love each brick an' stone from cellar up t' dome;
It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home.

Roslyn Stempel
November 24, 1997 - 05:06 pm
Jeanne, golly, I haven't seen that one for many and many a year! I didn't recall that it was all in a kind of rural dialect, which in turn reminded me of the Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley (remember "Jest'Fore Christmas I'm as Good as I Kin Be," and "Little Orphant Annie" with the famous refrain of "The gobble-uns'll get ya if ya don't watch out"?) Dialect poems have probably gone out of style but used to be very popular.


Jeanne Lee
November 24, 1997 - 05:24 pm
Ros - Yes, I have those, too. I love "Jest 'Fore Christmas".

November 24, 1997 - 06:40 pm
What happened to the poem I posted yesterday? KMGRAMPS

Marie C.
November 24, 1997 - 09:08 pm
Wow, how long did it take you to type that -- dialect isn't easy! Anyway, thanks for taking the time to post it. I was surprised to find that there is a dialect poem in my tiny poetry collection. But it's so totally depressing, I won't even read it again, much less type it. (It's "The Little Old Log Cabin" by Robert Service, in case you want to look it up and go on Prozac.)

A Norman Rockwell graphic would go well just about now.... ---Marie

November 25, 1997 - 09:37 am
Jeanne: I haven't seen that poem in a long time; you must be the King of Typists. Found myself thinking about it all day yesterday, so came back and copied it out. Thanks for putting it here.


Roslyn Stempel
November 25, 1997 - 01:35 pm
KMGRAMPS, I've often suspected that there's a Black Hole or a Fifth Dimension, or maybe a hungry Cookie Monster, somewhere in SeniorNet that occasionally swallows up (or as Little Orphant Annie would say, swallers up) our contributions. Please post again.


William Frost
November 26, 1997 - 10:38 am
This folder is delightful. I am considering retiring from retirement to respond to the stimuli. Marie, Roslyn, I am still working on your great posts. Pat and Jeanne, response is more immediate. The dialect poetry you introduced got me to dig out my book of Dialect Verse from "Lancashire Life", a periodic magazine from Northern England where I spent my youthful years. Reading it again I got the added sense of reality from the dialect. Happiness, sorrow, pathos, but always real characters. I enjoyed it all. I hope you can share the following:

Eawr Joe’s Lad

Cliff Gerrard

Each time eawr Joe became a dad,
He’d act aw posh an’regal,
An’ hopin’ it would be a lad,
He’d book t’top room at th’Eagle.

But every time he geet let deawn,
As lass would follow lass,
,His brow would wrinkle in a freawn,
An’he’d scarely raise his glass.

T’relations didn’t mind one bit,
Twelve lovely do’s they’d had,
They’d say ”Weel done Joe, this is it,
Ten bob says it’s a lad!”,

An’then-when Joe were forty-eight,
A lad! Eawr Joe went daft,
T’top room at th’Eagle groaned wi’ t’weight,
They supped, they skriked, they laughed.

”Who does he favver, Joe,” asked one
”Yore Jem,Yore Jack, or Grace?”,
Joe grinned, “Ah’ve no idea owd son,
Ah’ve ne’er looked at his face!”

Marie C.
November 26, 1997 - 05:01 pm
Ros and Bill
Very clever post, Bill, and funny, too (once I "got" it).

Please do get back into poetry. If only so you and Ros can teach us I-don't-know-poetry-but-I-know-what-I-like-neophytes the difference between a poet and poetaster.

I looked up "poetaster" after you used it the other day, Bill, and Ros made an amusing response to you. The definition was "a writer of mediocre verse; a would-be poet..." So, does that mean Kingsley Amis is a "poetaster", period, or could he now and then come up with a real poem.

It bothers me to think that I've "always loved poetry" when all my favorites probably rate way below the "poem" level. You know--like finding out you're not a classical music buff unless you truly like the less accessible stuff like Bartok.

And, Ros, you just knock my socks off when you write about when different types of poetry were popular and why. And especially when you explain why a poem is well written--why it makes you feel the way it's intended to. Like hearing the echos and bugles in the Tennyson verses from "The Princess".

I think we'd all get a lot out of this section if you two would do more critiques and tell us what's good and what's bad.

November 26, 1997 - 08:21 pm
Dear Jeanne:

I'm just now seeing that poem that you so kindly typed out for me. I love that poem and I love it even more since finding SeniorNet and seeing my messy house!! I just say to myself, "It takes a heap of living to make this house a home" and we sure have had a heap of living in this house.

Thanks so much, Jeanne.


Marie C.
November 28, 1997 - 07:22 pm
Hi All

This is a huge disclaimer to my post #237 (above).

As God is my witness, I 'd just come home from having hours of root canal, and the pain meds infused me with sentimentality, leading me into posting that sophomoric, ingratiating prose.

Don't get me wrong, Ros and William, you two REALLY know your stuff; but my sudden inspiration that you should drag us Senior Citizens into meter/feet lessons is just plain laughable.

And can't you see telling any of us that our favorite poem is "bad poetry" -- you know how objectively insensitive we all are.

So please ignore the idiocy of that post. And, like everyone else who can now wear purple, muttering to no one while feeding pigeons at bus stops, I don't give a fig whether the rhymes I like are great poetry or detergent jingles I learned as a child from the radio. I guess I was just making a bid to be "teachers' pet".

Here's a favorite of mine:


I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)


Roslyn Stempel
November 30, 1997 - 07:30 pm
Marie, root canal work! I cringe to think of it--even though my last experience with it was unbelievably painless, yes, I said painless, thanks to some inspired anesthetic technique that the guy used. And he must have been really skillful in the hacking and digging department too, because there was almost no post-op discomfort. Funny thing, though, as I looked at the poem after reading your message, when I got to the line about the plums being "so cold and so sweet," I felt a twinge!

I think that "This Is Just to Say" is one of the best examples of a poem that could read as straightforward prose if the lines were juggled back into position...except for the slight awkwardness of "...that were in the icebox, and which...." I love to think about the setting. Where was he? Somehow I always imagine that he was an overnight guest somewhere, foraging in the kitchen for a midnight snack. In his own home, he would surely have known what was off limits?

Does anyone else know a poem which says so much, so simply, without using rhyme?


William Frost
December 1, 1997 - 12:55 pm

THIS IS JUST TO SAY says it well, demonstrating William Carlos William's brilliance. He once said, "A poem is a small (or large) machine made out of words. When I say there's nothing sentimental about a poem, I mean that there can be no part that is redundant."

In this poem, for me, he has taken a few words easily understood and put them in a simple form on the refrigerator door where they will not be missed.

Don't bother looking for the plums. There will be more tomorrow. Perhaps you or I will put some there.

I hope you have recovered from those dreadful root canal procedures.

Bill Frost

Roslyn Stempel
December 1, 1997 - 06:22 pm
Poems for a Refrigerator Door? I like that.

Speak, Muse, and tell us
Why two old people
Need four kinds of milk
And two of juice
To say nothing of breads:
Ranged in the freezer
In order of ascending deliciousness
And descending fiber content.


Marie C.
December 4, 1997 - 01:59 pm

What a super poem! I'd like to read more of --hey, did you write that? It so exactly fits my fridge. If I could do that--write a poem--I'd write about having to rev up courage at the grocery to check out a heaping cart totally devoid of fresh veggies or fruits.

Someone told me that when the Normans invaded Britain, they insisted that cooked meats served at dining tables be referred to in French while the livestock on hoof raised and slaughtered by the Celts were to be referred to in Celtic terms. The true sign of civilization may be how far we can distance ourselves from the realitites of our being mere participants in life's food chain.

Here's one along that line:


That God of ours, the Great Geometer,
Does something for us here, where He hath put
(if you want to put it that way) things in shape,
Compressing the little lambs in orderly cubes,
Making the roast a decent cylinder,
Fairing the tin ellipsoid of a ham,
Getting the luncheon meat anonymous
In squares and oblongs with the edges bevelled
Or rounded (streamlined, maybe, for greater speed).

Praise Him, He hath conferred aesthetic distance
Upon our appetites, and on the bloody
Mess of our birthright, our unseemly need,
Imposed significant form. Through Him the brutes
Enter the pure Euclidean kingdom of number,
Free of their bulging and blood-swollen lives
They come to us holy, in cellophane
Transparencies, in the mystical body,

That we may look unflinchingly on death
As the greatest good, like a philosopher should.

Howard Nemerov (b. 1920)

William Frost
December 4, 1997 - 05:46 pm

There was no hurt for them that day
in the lonely, lovely woods
among dead trees
rising straight
from bracken and hurtleberries
thin black columns
against the soft blue sky.

Let them stay for ever
not to be torn and broken;
a permanent salute to their love
petrified by a tight grasp
on burnt bark.

The roughness of the sun
shone through hair and lashes
to life-formed lines
around imparadised eyes
pupils reduced to pin points
with love's intensity.

I like this poem, written with the trust and honesty of youth by a woman who never wrote another poem. She was overcome by the joy of spontaneity, sharing the discovery of a burn-out in the middle of a forest with her lover.

Marie C.
December 5, 1997 - 01:17 am
I read the "Elevation to Diety" earlier today and have come back to read it twice more. I'm incapable of saying why it is so right, what form or content lifts it to such a special poem. But I know my throat constricted and I could not just leave it once read. I both envy and wonder about the talented young writer.

It makes me think of the last two lines of Stephen Spender's "What I Had Expected"--

What I expected, was
Thunder, fighting,
Long struggles with men
And climbing.
After continual straining
I should grow strong;
Then the rocks would shake,
And I rest long.

What I had not foreseen
Was the gradual day
Weakening the will
Leaking the brightness away,
The lack of good to touch,
The fading of body and soul
--Smoke before wind,
Corrupt, unsubstantial.

The wearing of Time,
And the watching of cripples pass
With limbs shaped like questions
In their odd twist,
The pulverous grief
Melting the bones with pity,
The sick falling from earth--
These, I could not foresee.

Expecting always
Some brightness to hold in trust,
Some final innocence
Exempt from dust,
That, hanging solid,
Would dangle through all,
Like the created poem,
Or faceted crystal.

Roslyn Stempel
December 5, 1997 - 05:54 am
Like, wow!

Marie, of course my bit of silliness was tossed off in fun--but it's truly based on my puzzlement over the accumulations of age and the difficulty of discarding superfluities. The construction of "What I Expected" suggests a difficult climb to the top of something and the discovery that the other side turns out not to be "what I expected." I had to look twice at the last two lines of the Nemerov poem before my memory delivered "Winston tastes good, Like a cigarette should."

Thanks, Bill, for the lyrical word-picture. I doubt that the author "never wrote another poem," though perhaps all her poetic thoughts stayed inside her head.

Jeanne and Pat, I've been racking my brains over "dialect poems" trying to think of or locate others. (You'll smile to read that in one textbook they're referred to, with great dignity, as "poems in the vernacular," certainly a fancier title than "dialect.") I finally remembered another famous one, much earlier, by James Russell Lowell, called "The Courtin'"-- about the girl named Huldy whose admirer ('Zek'l, I think) sat and fidgeted, hemmed and hawed, and finally "up and kissed her." Does that ring any bells? Also, a number of Paul Laurence Dunbar's poems are in dialect, and many, when read aloud, are melodious and moving. I found some poems in Italian dialect by a man named Thomas A. Daly, but wasn't much taken with them.

Do you have any other choice ones?

It would be fun to consider just what it is that charms us about this kind of verse.


December 5, 1997 - 09:18 pm
Ros: We've all heard of Robbie Burns poem, To A Mouse but what about To A Louse I like the second to last stanza where he tells the girl not to shake her head in case she spreads lice around the room!!

To A Louse

Robert Burns

Ha! whare ye gaun, ye crowlin' ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly;
I canna say but ye strunt rarely
Owre gauze and lace,
Tho'faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.

Ye ugly, creepin', blastit wonner,
Detested, shunned by saint an' sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her --
Sae fine a lady!
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body.

Swith! in some begger's hauffet squattle:
There ye may creep and sprawl and sprattle,
Wi'ither kindred, jumping cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Whare horn nor bane ne'er daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.

Now haud you there! ye're out o' sight,
Below the fatt'rils, snug and tight;
Na, faith ye yet! ye'll no be right
Till ye've got on it--
The vera tapmost, tow'ring height
O' Miss's bonnet.

My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
As plump an' grey as onie grozet;
O for some rank, mercurial rozet;
Or fell red smeddum,
I'd gie ye sic a heartly dose o't,
Wad dress your droddum.

I wad na been suprised to spy
You on an auld wife's flainen toy;
Or aiblins some bit duddie boy,
On 's wyliecoat;
But Miss's fine Lunardi! fye!
How daur ye do't?

O Jenny, dinna toss your head,
An, set your beauties a' abread!
Ye little ken what cursed speed
The blastie's makin'!
Thae winks an' finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice takin'!

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as inthers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion;
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n devotion!

Roslyn Stempel
December 6, 1997 - 09:01 am
Pat, the last stanza is as true as ever, isn't it? And ironically, the "crowlin' ferlie" is still present among us. Our neighborhood school includes de-lousing instructions in its official handbook. I used to love Burns's poetry, especially since I had a book that translated the dialect words. But the sense, and the moral, of "To a Louse" are clear even without knowing the literal meaning of each word. Did he write "John Anderson my Jo, John" about an elderly and devoted couple?

Thanks for posting. I think of you often!


December 6, 1997 - 02:31 pm
Well, Ros:

I love Robbie Burns poetry. Fancy you mention that one!!

This is one that my Grandfather used to sing with his Scottish brogue and then my aunt who was my singing teacher, had me sing it too. Thought you'd like to hear the music for it as well.

Music for John Anderson my Jo

John Anderson my Jo

by Robert Burns (1759-1796)


John Anderson my jo, John, When we were first acquent; Your locks were like the raven, Your bony brow was brent; But now your brow is beld, John, Your locks are like the snaw; But blessings on your frosty pow, John Anderson my Jo.

John Anderson my jo, John, We clamb the hill the gither; And mony a canty day, John, We've had wi' ane anither: Now we maun totter down, John, And hand in hand we'll go; And sleep the gither at the foot, John Anderson my Jo.

Jeanne Lee
December 6, 1997 - 02:34 pm
Ah, Pat, that's beautiful. Thanks!!!

Roslyn Stempel
December 6, 1997 - 04:43 pm
Bless you, Pat, that was so lovely! The lump lingers in my throat. Since my own "jo" also has a "beld" brow with a fringe of snaw around it, there was a special smile for this.

Well, moving from the sentimental to the slightly spooky, I'm recalling a poem by Walter de la Mare which draws wonderful mysterious pictures:

The Listeners

"Is there anybody there?" said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest's ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller's head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
"Is there anybody there/' he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moon beams on the dark stair
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely traveller's call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
'Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head;--
"Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word," he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone
And how the silence surged softly backward
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

As I typed this I noticed that it's only every other line that rhymes. I wonder if that, plus the rather irregular rhythm, adds to the mysteriousness. Our ears (or maybe our pulses) expect rhyme and rhythm. When they are missing, we feel a kind of tension. This edginess is repeated with every couplet. Perhaps that enhances the effect? And I loved that first image of the "moonlit door!


December 6, 1997 - 06:45 pm
Thanks for that Ros.

I haven't ever heard that one. But I did feel a certain rhythm as I read it. I almost heard the horse trotting.

It was interesting.


Marie C.
December 6, 1997 - 11:03 pm
I've loved the poems you've posted that bring you memories of childhood, of loved ones of your childhood and youth. Here's one from mine. I loved it because it was, I thought, true and pretty and had no hard words and was easy for a child to learn by heart. And later I naturally read all of James Herriott's books, which are exactly like this poem in simplicity, love of nature, and faith in God.


All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors
He made their tiny wings.

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high or lowly,
And order'd their estate.

The sunset and the morning,
The river running by,
The purple-headed mountain,
That brightens up the sky--

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden--
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water
We gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.
--by Cecil Frances Alexander

Roslyn Stempel
December 7, 1997 - 08:14 am
Thanks, Marie. This is familiar to me through the TV show, though I didn't watch it often. As a hymn it also has a pretty melody. So in addition to rhyme and rhythm, we're also adding simplicity, clear images, and reassuring values--more of the "comfort-giving" aspect of poetry, and certainly important in childhood.

I'm going to look for a poem by William Blake about making a song.


Marie C.
December 7, 1997 - 02:47 pm

Could the Blake poem you have in mind be his ""Introduction 'to Songs of Innocence"?

Piping down the valleys wild,
Piping songs of pleasant glee,
On a cloud I saw a child,
And he laughing said to me:

"Pipe a song about a lamb."
So I piped with merry cheer.
"Piper, pipe that song again."
So I piped; he wept to hear.

"Drop thy pipe, thy happy pipe;
Sing thy songs of happy cheer."
So I sung the same again
While he wept with joy to hear.

"Piper, sit thee down and write
In a book that all may read."
So he vanished from my sight,
And I plucked a hollow reed,

And I made a rural pen,
And I stained the water clear,
And I wrote my happy songs
Every child may joy to hear.

---William Blake (1757-1827)

December 7, 1997 - 04:01 pm
PBS is having their pledge drive, and they've been playing a video of Scotland's Voices which includes Burns' "My Love is Like a Red Red Rose," and they're singing it! Like Pat's song, thanks so much for that, this is really a super folder.


Roslyn Stempel
December 7, 1997 - 07:40 pm
Marie, yes, that's it. Blake evidently thought song came before written verse. (Sounds reasonable.) So when we read the rhymed and rhythmic pieces we're singing them in our heads. What about the other kind? What "sings" about them? Let's think about it.


William Frost
December 8, 1997 - 02:57 pm

Thank you for presenting Spender’s “What I had Expected”. It seems that “Elevation to Deity” might be a humble corollary to Spender’s powerful poem. I have sent your lovely thoughts to the author of the poem. Your sharing of “All Things Bright and Beautiful” was delightful. I didn’t have much of a chest when I first sang it long ago, but I had heart and it used a lot of it. I dug out my old C of E prayer book and hymnal and found, like your presentation, it contained all 6 verses, whereas the Episcopalian hymnal only had 4. (Guess which 2 they omitted.) Also I noted that the C of E attributed authorship to a Mrs. Alexander. Chest and heart bigger these days, your verse amply satisfied my sometime audile persuasion.


You have brought up the power of sound in poetry recently. It has given me a lot of thought. I wonder if people with hearing and speech problems are missing a lot of feeling from poetry. You ask,.... “What sings about (poems)?” and state,.... “singing them in our heads.” Can you train me and then those with problems how to sing in our heads? ....Sounds in poetry are used in many ways. I developed a liking for CLARITAS, by Denise Levertov but I had problems with the last verse:


light light light.>

I finally checked with my Audubon Guide and found that the Voice of the White-Throated Sparrow, the much studied musical sound, has been described as: “Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody.” Try it.

Bill Frost

Roslyn Stempel
December 9, 1997 - 04:45 pm
Bill, yes, it's the dead of winter but I can hear it just as clear!

You asked about internal music. Yes, I'm one of those people blessed (or cursed) with music-in-the-head. I'm never without some kind of melody twanging away in there. It does help pass the time if one has insomnia. (Such bouts are rare, but on a few occasions from 3 to 5 AM I've gone through every musical comedy song, every folk song, art song, Christmas carol, fragments of Schubert lieder, every nursery rhyme I can summon. Orchestral music is more difficult.) There's an element of perseveration: You've started me back on All Things Bright and Beautiful and it's now played through half-a-dozen times. In between actual melodies there's a kind of repeated tweedle-deedle-deedle, like an early piano exercise, which my clever son has suggested is somehow related to my virulent head-noises. ("They" can send people to the moon but they can't cure tinnitus because they don't know what causes it. Loose brains, maybe?)

Actually I'm equipped with both words and music, because words, either heard or thought, appear in print in my head. I don't have many mental pictures, though, except for food.

I tell myself that all this weird cerebral wiring is compensation for my being physically uncoordinated, athletically null, optically feeble, and totally indolent except perhaps for the tips of my fingers on a keyboard.

That's a long way of saying, it's a gift, ha-ha-ha.

Thanks for your support of our enthusiasms in the folder. Please keep posting.


Marie C.
December 10, 1997 - 03:28 pm

I am complimented beyond words that you would send my post to the author of "Elevation to Deity". Thank you.

Isn't there some scientific conclusion that some people think in images and sounds whereas others think in written words?

And those of you with the sounds/images mind can do marvelous things like easily learning to speak foreign languages just from hearing them spoken, carrying a tune, playing instruments. It's as if you have direct contact with meanings and emotions. Are you left-handed?

I'm of the written word mentality. It's very confining artistically. I envy you.

Marie C.
December 10, 1997 - 03:56 pm
In trying to find more traditional, rhyming, accessible poems to post in this folder, I've become a fan of Thomas Hardy's poetry. I have alway detested his prose, so am astonished at his verses. Here's one I think very special:
The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
"Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in the hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek and mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
"Come; see the oxen kneel

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

Roslyn Stempel
December 11, 1997 - 09:12 am
Marie, did you discover in your search that Hardy really wanted to be a poet all the time? He found no recognition for his verses until he had established a reputation as a novelist. His output of verse was, to put it mildly, voluminous, and covered an enormous range of subjects. I think he was far more conventional in verse than he was in prose, but many of the pieces that deal with nature, and some of those about love, are very moving. I love "The Darkling Thrush" mostly because of that beautiful word darkling -- though I think it was the time of day, not the thrush, that was darkling. Written in December 1900, the poem refers gloomily to the dying Century and the gloomy forecast for the future, and he wonders why this bird is singing so joyously in the deepening twilight. The last stanza, however, carries one of Hardy's not infrequent messages of affirmation:

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware

. Hardy experimented with style, but cautiously. The first verse of "To an Unborn Pauper Child" contains alliterations and meter that actually suggest Gerard Manley Hopkins:

Breathe not, hid Heart: cease silently,
And though thy birth-hour beckons thee,
Sleep the long sleep:
The Doomsters heap
Travails and teens around us here,
And Timewraiths turn our songsingings to fear.

He goes on pessimistically, thinking that it would be better for this baby not to be born to suffer in an unfeeling and imperfect world--and then adds a note of hope that perhaps, instead of being doomed, the child will find "health, love, friends, scope..." and "joys seldom yet attained by humankind!"


Joyce Sheley
December 13, 1997 - 08:21 am

Just dropped in for a visit. I'd like to share this poem with youl

The Lake Isle of Innisfree


I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree. And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made. Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee, And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Words and pictures of the mind start in the "hearts core".

Good thoughts


Roslyn Stempel
December 14, 1997 - 05:34 am
Joyce, your contribution is lovely. This poem is indeed full of images of serenity and peace. As you say, they are stored in "the deep heart's core" so that the poet can summon them up even in the noise and bustle of the city.

Thanks for bringing Yeats into the Poetry folder. Please continue to visit!


Peter Morris
December 14, 1997 - 08:48 am
Can anyone tell me where I can find the poem by E. B. White which begins:

"What do you paint when you paint a wall,

Said John D's grandson Nelson?"

Thanks in advance.

Roslyn Stempel
December 14, 1997 - 04:24 pm
Peter, I'm guessing that the poem you refer to was the one about the ill-famed Diego Rivera mural which turned out to be a little too Red for the Rockefellers. A quick Web search turned up nothing, but I'd make a wild guess that it originally appeared in The New Yorker, which was the first home of many if not most of White's nonfiction pieces, both the ephemera and the more durable essays that were later collected and published separately. You've aroused my curiosity, and I'll try to hunt further tomorrow.


Roslyn Stempel
December 16, 1997 - 01:47 pm
Peter, the poem you inquired about is "I Paint What I See," by E(lwyn) B(rooks) White and it first appeared in The New Yorker some time in the early to mid 1930's. Though I was unable to locate the exact date of the poem in the Readers Guide, it's reasonable to suppose that as topical verse it would have been published around the time of the Rockefellers' furore over Diego Rivera's mural at Radio City, in 1933 or thereabouts . It was collected in The New Yorker Book of Verse and also, in 1939, in Seldon Rodman's collection A New Anthology of Modern Poetry.If it is safely out of copyright I'd be glad to post it for you here -- bit by bit in various places if necessary.


Marie C.
December 16, 1997 - 06:05 pm

You know the most fascinating things about writers.

I think that compared to his unrelentingly bleak prose, Hardy's poetry is a fiesta--maybe because it's so much shorter. On the more positive side, "The Oxen" does rhyme and is accessible.

And I like "The Oxen" so much. Don't we all secretly cling to something magical from our childhood to help us face the serious work of growing up, growing old? Orson Welles hit it right on target having "Citizen Kane's" last word be: "Rosebud".

But, for a change, here's a light-hearted poem I especially like: (It's e.e.cummings, so we all know what that means grammatically.)

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
--the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis


Roslyn Stempel
December 16, 1997 - 07:15 pm
Marie, A coincidence! Or great minds, etc. I've just been reading a group of cummings's poems in the Pocket Book of Modern Verse. His work is always refreshing, though not always light-hearted. There's a touching poem about his father that was new to me -- very tender and moving. I remember two that I used to enjoy, about spring, though I don't have them with me right now. One starts out, "Spring is like a perhaps hand..." and the other, "In just-spring When the world is mud-luscious...." Not a rhyme among them, though.


Marie C.
December 17, 1997 - 11:43 pm

I love "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" but all I could remember was I once knew a beautiful poem that began with something like "now is the time I shall arise..." No wonder I couldn't find it. My husband insisted I was thinking of Tennyson..."Come, my friends, "Tis not too late to seek a newer world...." from Ulysses--which is one of the two poems John knows by heart so naturally he brings it up at any opportunity. Anyway, Joyce, I just love the poem and thank you for posting it.

Does anyone have any books with Gabriela Mistral poems? I've lost the one with my favorite--have even emailed Chile through the Mistral website trying to locate the book containing this particular poem. It begins, more or less, "The earth shall vomit forth snakes if you betray my love...." It's the strongest, most honest love poem I've ever read written by a woman. If any of you have it, please post it.


William Frost
December 18, 1997 - 09:05 am
Have we covered poetic dance yet?

It's the festive season so let's join in a dance. I have chosen the Tarantella, remembering a diminutive Italian woman, a teacher who taught me this joyous dance. She loved to show off a Sicilian Tarantella. In one movement, she danced surrounded by men. She twisted, she turned and teased, always teased, her colorful skirt flying high. At her beckon, the men, one by one, danced toward her and reached out for the hem of her skirt but she escaped us all and the dance went on and on to shrieks of laughter.

Hilaire Belloc 

Do you remember an Inn, Miranda? Do you remember an Inn? And the tedding and the spreading Of the straw for a bedding, And the flees that tease in the High Pyrenees, And the wine that tasted of the tar? And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers (Under the vine of the dark verandah)? Do you remember an Inn Miranda, Do you remember an Inn? And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers Who hadn’t got a penny, And weren’t paying any, And the hammer at the doors and the Din? And the Hip! Hop! Hap! Of the clap Of the hands to the twirl and the swirl Of the girl gone chancing, Glancing, Dancing. Backing and advancing, Snapping of the clapper to the spin Out and in- And the Ting, Tong, Tang of the guitar! Do you remember an Inn Miranda? Do you remember an Inn?

Never more: Miranda, Never more.

Shall we dance?

Marie C.
December 18, 1997 - 09:22 am

I 'm going to try to post one of the cummings' poems you mentioned (I need the HTML-coding practice).

And can anyone read it without feeling like a breathless schoolchild no longer snowed in and soon on vacation barefoot in sun-warmed ,thawed mud?

in Just-
spring     when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles    far      and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far    and     wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and



balloonMan      whistles


Roslyn Stempel
December 18, 1997 - 06:51 pm
Marie, you are married to a man of impeccable taste if 50% of his poetic repertoire is that gorgeous hunk of Tennysonia. "That which we are, we are." "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." Yummy. What's the other poem? I'll forgive him even if it's The Cremation of Sam McGee.

Thanks for posting "In Just-Spring." It looks beautiful so whatever HTML coding is, you've done it right.

Don't know a source for Gabriela Mistral, but does your local library have an index of world poetry?

Bill, I'm all out of breath after the tarantella. When the blood supply returns to my brain maybe I'll be able to think of a sequel.


Marie C.
December 20, 1997 - 12:24 pm

Like the poem very much but find myself much more intrigued by your brief, but tantalizing, remarks about your learning the Tarntella!


John's other totally memorized poem is "Patterns" by Amy Lowell. But, to be fair, he knows bits and pieces of lots of poems, has always loved poetry. As he likes to say, "If I hadn't taken Marie in hand when she was a teenager, she'd still be misty-eyed over "Trees" and thinking it was written by a woman."

Oh, Ros, how can you NOT like Robert Service's "Tales of the Yukon"?

Roslyn Stempel
December 20, 1997 - 01:43 pm
Marie, now you've altered my mental portrait of your husband in several ways...he's not just a two-poem man, and he liked what used to be one of my high-ranked favorites. It's not that I object to the Yukon stuff, it's just not what comes to me in the dark hours of the night.

"Patterns" is connected with my 12th-grade Capital-D Discovery of Capital-M Modern Poetry. Unfortunately I pictured Amy Lowell as being slight and blonde like Amy March in Little Women, only to learn to my horror that she was a vast-bosomed cigar smoker with a formidable glare and a severe bun of dark hair. Later in life I realized that cup size and tobacco preferences weren't closely related to artistic ability, nor was sexual preference. Probably there was a slender and cuddly Amy March concealed within the high-caste Boston flesh. But all that pink and silver, and "aching, melting, unafraid..." still resonates pleasantly.


Marie C.
December 20, 1997 - 10:10 pm

Belaboring the point, I must say I don't think John gives a fig about the speaker's emotions in "Patterns"; I think he likes the scene it sets--the patterned garden paths--the oranamental gardens-- the thumbnail sketch of the " truly civilized" British of that era . Also, being a young naval officer at the time, I'm pretty sure John thinks the whole point is the lover's having died, fighting in "a pattern called war," not the young woman's never-to-be unleashed passions. I, of course, could be brought to tears by it, so he recited it often and then consoled me a lot.

I'm just amazed when I read the Poetry posts. Everyone has such a different interpretation of each poem. But the thing that really floored me was your image of Amy Lowell before you knew how she looked and acted. No offense to any blondes, but I never think of writers as blonde--not even male writers. I wonder why? I can't think of any blondes even now...


Roslyn Stempel
December 21, 1997 - 07:12 am
Marie, I saw the 1935 or 1936 version of "Little Women" a couple of years before I read "Patterns," so I had pretty, blonde Joan Bennett as my mental image of an Amy. Actually, since my mental images are predominantly verbal rather than pictorial, it takes a conscious moment to "picture" anyone; but names seem to carry some sort of descriptive tag.

You're right about the vast range of responses to every kind of poetry. I find, incidentally, that I'm now conditioned to notice any bit of dialect verse that turns up anywhere. At our local school library it seemed like finding buried treasure to spot a collection of James Whitcomb Riley's verse on their poetry shelf. The librarian will let me borrow it after the holiday to hunt for quotable bits.

Must tell you that the editor of the Detroit Free Press quotes that last part of "Ulysses" in his op-ed piece today. He is preparing for retirement and doing some self-evaluation, asking the question we all ask ourselves -- have I been of any use at all in my lifetime? --and uses those lines to reinforce his conclusion that "to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield" is important regardless of one's personal success or failure.


Roslyn Stempel
December 23, 1997 - 05:07 am
Bill, in this morning's New York Times appears the obituary notice for Denise Levertov, who died of "complications from lymphoma" at the age of 74. Seventy-four! But she was one of the "young poets" of my youth! Ah, well.


William Frost
December 23, 1997 - 08:44 am

Thank you for notifying me of Denise Levertov's death. I shall read her obituary later. Perhaps this last verse of her BEYOND THE END says something:

The "hewers of wood" & so on; every damn 
craftsman has it while he's working 
               but it's not 
a question of work: some 
shine with it, in repose. Maybe it is 
response, the will to respond-('reason 
can give nothing at all/like 
the response to desire') maybe 
a gritting of the teeth, to go 
just that much further, beyond the end 
beyond whatever ends; to begin, to be, to defy. 

She will go on beyond the end..

I got my copy of Jorie Graham's THE ERRANCY yesterday. She is a great poet. I shall enjoy her work, and later, post some of it that you and others might like.


Roslyn Stempel
December 23, 1997 - 07:56 pm
Bill, those last lines are hauntingly beautiful. Thank you for knowing where to find them.

The Errancy (or is it plural?) is on my order list from my local independent bookstore; I also wanted her collected (or selected) poems from a couple of years back but they couldn't find the title right away.


Marie C.
December 23, 1997 - 11:25 pm

Roslyn Stempel
December 24, 1997 - 09:32 am
Marie, what a treat! The way the verses slowly took shape on my screen added a wonderful tinkling rhythm - I could hear the tintinnabulation as that "bells - bells - bells - bells" clanged into view.

You must be relying heavily on your imagination in Southern California as you summon up that frosty, silvery vision. And Edgar A. would have been weeping into his hot toddy with appreciation.


Marie C.
December 24, 1997 - 10:37 am

I'm going to delete it ("The Bells) tomorrow night because it's an illegal graphic--as graphics should be in discussion pages. And way too slow, although just using black and white should have speeded it up a bit. Just wanted our Poetry group to have something seasonal--and the only Christmas poem I know is so-o-o depressing, of course. Anyway, thanks. You always find something nice to say. Hmmmm--I had you figured for a teacher--actually university level. Maybe your career has been as a diplomat. (No, I'm not joking.) --Marie

Marie C.
December 24, 1997 - 12:03 pm

I don't know Denise Levertov's work at all, but the verse you posted yesterday was like a personal message to me. I read it over and over and printed a copy and taped on my bath mirror.

I've had increasing personal inertia for several weeks. The "just waiting for God" syndrome. No more goals; no ambitions. Avoiding any occasion that would require "rising to".

Then I read those lines, especially "...a gritting of the teeth, to go just that much further, beyond the end, beyond whatever ends; to begin, to be, to defy."

I feel so different now. Why have I felt defined only by "wife", "mother", "career"? It's time to go beyond the empty nest, the retirement. Time to "grit my teeth" and begin a new, personally productive phase of life, "to be".

Thank you, William. It was like flipping open the Bible at random to get important advice (like Gary Cooper did in "Sergeant York") and not getting the part in "Numbers" where so-and-so begat so-and-so, etc., like always happens in real life.>br>-Marie

William Frost
December 24, 1997 - 03:30 pm

Your Christmas post is a joy to see, a joy to sing. It need only be appreciated through the word, "runic", referring to, "a poem, verse or song, especially mystical or obscure". (Webster's). But there are the wonderful words, "tintinnabulation", "jingling, tingling", "crystalline", and "oversprinkle". No wonder your graphic appeared in silver on my suddenly enlarged screen.

Please don't remove this wonderful tribute. Not before Twelfth Night marks the dismantling of Christmas decorations for another year.

Your notes on the Levertov poem show deep recognition of the author's feelings. I would like to think that this is every author's wish. Denise Levertov would be very happy.

I share your dislike of self-defined terms we are expected to use in everyday resumes. When I am confronted by "What are you doing in your retirement?", I mumble incoherently, saying only to myself, "I am enjoying my only demand in life, to have a tomorrow, for then, I can be creative."

Tomorrow is Christmas Day. Perhaps we shall be especially creative.

My good wishes to all,


Roslyn Stempel
December 24, 1997 - 04:28 pm
Marie, Marie! Did you see, did you see? Just now, on tonight's PBS News Hour, the Poet Laureate of the United States, Robert Pinsky, chose Thomas Hardy's "The Oxen" as the finest poem to read in celebration of Christmas. Pinsky is a wonderful, expressive reader with a wonderful expressive face. I felt special! And so should you, for bringing this poem to the folder and, via Ginny's follow-up, to all the people who are experiencing Hardy for the first time in the Great Books folder. Some of them surely watch the News Hour and they will have recognized the poem you introduced.

Now you see what happens when you go a bit "beyond" and share something of your real self with others.


Marie C.
December 25, 1997 - 09:04 am
Oh, Ros!

I'm so delighted! I mean I feel as if we've been awarded a medal or something here in Poetry. Let's not forget that YOU were the one who inspired--okay, slightly coerced--me into taking a look at traditional rhyming accessible poetry. Gosh! I hope everyone is learning new things and getting as much out of this folder as I.

You're a super leader!

You know Ros, I'm so excited because this is the first time in my life that I've ever read a poem I knew nothing about, had no one's opinion on, and was sort of "vindicated" in my feeling that it was good, special.

I'm just waiting for John to finish his breakfast so we can do the "gift opening" thing and came on line to see if we had any email from the family. So I've got to go now and do Christmas.

Thanks for the enthusiastic email! --Marie

December 25, 1997 - 09:33 am
Hope you got my email, Marie!! (from cold Ontario, Canada!!)

Marie C.
December 25, 1997 - 10:48 am
Pat, Yes! And I responded right away yesterday. Since my MSN is so messed up, I've re-sent my email and another little note. Love, Marie

December 25, 1997 - 11:24 am
Got it, Marie! And I've replied.

Roslyn Stempel
December 26, 1997 - 11:04 am
Everybody's Doing It! Doing what? Reciting Poetry!

Guess who wrote it, guess who quoted it?

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine,
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

These lines were written by William Blake and cited on Christmas Day by none other than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (whom the Beatles years ago characterized in song as "a nice old girl, but she doesn't have a lot to say.") Perhaps the Canadians among us watched or heard the Christmas message. I saw this in the NY Times along with a sweet picture of the Queen and the Queen Mum, who still has great legs and walks around in high heels (along with her cane) and her usual cheery smile. I don't want to digress into a discussion of the monarchy, but do want to declare my admiration and respect for the Queen as an honest, earnest woman with a daunting, unsolicited, thankless job which she has always done to the best of her ability and with an ever-decreasing reward in terms of public opinion.

Is anyone enough of a Blake-omaniac to recognize the quote? I'll hunt up my Collected Blake and see if I can find the exact passage. Meanwhile, happy Boxing Day to all.


Marie C.
December 26, 1997 - 12:21 pm
The Blake quote is from Auguries of Innocence.

I feel about the Queen just as you do, Ros. However, it's no secret that the Windsors are much more into dogs, horses, and shooting parties than literary pursuits. One of the funniest sworn-to-be-true stories published about the Queen was that she entered into a conversation about Dante's Inferno thinking it was a race horse (Inferno out of Dante). That endeared her to me even more.


Roslyn Stempel
December 27, 1997 - 05:42 am
Everybody's Doing It, Junior High Division:

Does anyone see the New York Times on paper or on line? In this morning's national edition there's a feature story about poetry "slam" sessions at Borders in D.C., led by Marcia Schwalb, a professional writer who volunteers to encourage the writing of poetry by kids in four inner-city Washington schools. ("Slams" were originated by Chicago poet Mark Smith, in barrooms where impromptu poetry readings were judged by whatever audience showed up.)

The article, captioned "Poetry Meaning More Than Rhyme," closes with an excerpt from a poem by Zulaikha Edmonson:

My poem has wings
Up the wall
Around and around the room and
There's no barrier in the way
To control it
My poem is strong and determined
And never, not ever
Will it be destroyed.


Roslyn Stempel
April 28, 2000 - 05:02 pm
Today's Question:We have had a trial subscription to The Economist, a business-oriented British and American weekly that cultivates a slightly jazzy style combined with a heavy information load. The following sentence appeared in the peroration of one of those end-of-the-century-summary articles. Try reading it aloud:

"So one must be wary of eerie but spurious similarities."

My question is whether the author of that sentence has an ear for poetry, or no ear for language at all.

Actually there's quite a bit of unconscious poetry in The Economist, especially in opening and closing paragraphs, as the unidentified writers strive for fresh ways of describing the business world:
"Now comes the flight from paradise."
"General Sani Abacha sat on a dais, above chattering rows of ministers and acolytes..."
"It's deplorable, but it all seems to meet some sort of need. Indeed."
"The Achilles heel of the electric vehicle has always been the battery."

And an article about the marketing of diamonds begins by describing the local Luanda (Angola) office of DeBeers, the world's "diamond barons," so lyrically that I must divide it into poetic lines:

"Outside, litter clogs the gutters
and battered low-slung cars
honk their horns at hawkers
of peanuts, pineapples and bright
Inside the passage, the lift broke down
long ago. To reach the office
you must climb
seven dark flights of narrow steps,
which stink of stale urine.
And then, upstairs, a bright new world

In addition, this special holiday issue contains a long article on the present status of poetry and on its possible future. All with a business-oriented slant, of course.


Johann McCrackin
December 27, 1997 - 11:01 am
Hi, Ros! I just discovered this discussion. Your quotes from The Economist and from the NYT were very interesting.

I have always liked poetry and will add this site to my subscription list. Enjoyed Othello with you this past fall and am glad to see you here.

Roslyn Stempel
December 27, 1997 - 02:17 pm
Welcome, Johann! I still think of you as walking the Carolina beaches and shouting Shakespeare into the wind; but I suppose this isn't the season for such strenuous self-expression. I hope you'll stay involved with the poetry folder. As you will have noticed if you've scrolled back, our interests range over the centuries, from serious to silly, from strict rhyme and meter to words scattered at random on the page. Nobody's mentioned magnetic poetry yet, but who knows? Maybe we'll have a contest. (Listening, Ginny?)


December 27, 1997 - 06:31 pm
Always listening, Ros! I'm ready! Love this folder, and love contests!


William Frost
December 28, 1997 - 11:19 am


I don't know what you mean by Magnetic Poetry but I consider the following poem I wrote a possibility. It is based on that important element in computer systems, the magnetic disk file. There exists a continuing endeavour to increase the capacity of these small magnetically-coated disks on which data are written and randomly accessed for reading by magnetic heads flying over the disk surfaces. One way to increase the density of the stored magnetic bits is by decreasing the flying height of the heads over the disks. Today, this height is measured in a few microinches. Here is my poem:


There is, of course, a price to pay intimacy in juxtaposition will not work under judgement, sullied with deliberation disguising inexperience, innocence field of focus, infinitesimal not just small precise in geometry, shaped finishes without rings of interference for the color-blind to see.

When achievement's price is paid one would move and the other stay the possibility of betterment is relationship appreciation of a pebble polished by the tide; closeness is stable, absolute, a break is tolerable, unstick of seal matched statistics moving on, approaching not yet touching accessing another address.


Jeanine A
December 29, 1997 - 05:16 pm
Hi! It's snowing here in PA. They tell us by morning that we could have 4 to 6 inches and some stations are saying more. Only the second snow this year so not bad.

Has any one out there heard of Patience Strong? I picked up a book of her verse at Borders Books this weekend. I am enjoying it. Accordind too the info on the jacket some of her verse has been used in greeting cards.

Roslyn Stempel
December 29, 1997 - 05:54 pm
Jeanine, "Patience Strong" sounds like a name I ought to recognize, but I don't. Is there a short excerpt you might want to post here? (I say short so we don't risk violating anyone's copyright.)

Yes, Pennsylvania snow has appeared several times on the weather channel lately. Here in the Detroit area we've had two small snowfalls and lots of false alarms which drive the news anchorpeople quite giddy as they alternately predict and then retract.

Bill, your interpretation of "magnetic poetry" is great. I like "infinitesimal, not just small." And the polished pebble -- though unfortunately after our symbolism-heavy Book Club discussion of Stones from the River, any reference to a stone inspires an automatic twitch. What I really meant is the "manufactured" poetry made from kits, $14.95. This started out as a kiddie thing and then somebody thought of jazzing it up for adults. You get a little folder full of words printed on magnets. You're supposed to scramble them up, pick up a handful, and make a poem. Then you put it on your fridge. Someone has called it refrigerator poetry. I see nothing wrong with it as an exercise, but it misses on a couple of my criteria. The kit also comes with a magnetized board if your fridge door is already full of other works of art. I thought of buying one for myself (kit, not fridge, we already have two of those), but the little words would be awkward to handle.

Discussing your contribution requires thinking about all the alliteration as well as the lovely metaphors. So...later.


Marie C.
December 30, 1997 - 02:02 am
William, I never realized how hard it would be to discuss a poet's poem directly with the poet. Right there you sit, knowing exactly what the poem means to you. For all I know you could be writing about a '58 Chevy you dearly loved. Since there is no point in my guessing what prompted your writing, I only can tell you the chords it struck in me.

You succinctly defined several relationships in my personal history. Relationships wherein the mystery of falling in love and the joy of the romance became matters, in my mind, to be examined, discussed, defined in terms of roles and responsibilities.

You seem to indicate in your second verse that an amicable physical parting can result. My experience has been that this can be true; but, also, after the "dissection stage", bitter estrangements are just as possible.

Your poem, coupled with my youthful experiences, reminded me of several lines by T.S.Eliot:

Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present. (Burnt Norton)

...And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinnned and wriggling on the wall
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?...(Prufrock)

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.(Prufrock)

I found as I grew older that there's a great comfort in giving and receiving personal privacy in love, in a marriage. The "price" is too high for total intimacy.
As you can see, I was captivated by your poem. Will you post some more?

Roslyn Stempel
December 30, 1997 - 02:24 pm
As Marie has commented elsewhere, it's always interesting to see the different ways in which people respond to a given piece. After half a dozen readings I'm still mentally snagged by the computer imagery so I'm left floating inside the disk drive. If in its totality it is a metaphor for relationships it seems very detached, and perhaps that's what you had in mind. (Is the introductory note meant to set the tone, let us know that you're not talking about what you appear to be talking about?) You are a wizard at musical combinations of syllables and little word parts that chime. I do keep wanting to change "stay" to "stayed" because the near-rhyme (which I guess would be acceptable in Welsh or some other Celtic tongue) bothers me.


Jeanine A
December 30, 1997 - 07:22 pm
Hi! Luckily we did not get the all snow they called for. Hubby and I did have a beautiful walk in it last night.

Here is a verse from Patience Strong's book:

Bedside Books

My house is full of well-loved books. They're scattered round the place - in unexpected corners, on the shelves and in the case. But on the table by my bed, I keep a little row of precious books - my favorite ones - and when I'm tired I go and find some passage that inspires with words like angel wings that lift me up above the swirl of petty human things... A truth from some great poets pen, a lovely lilting phrase - a message that will spur me on, and light the darkest days.

(Strong, Patience, Tapestries of Time Yesterdays and Tomorrows The Magic of Memories 1996, SMITHMARK Publisherrs New York, NY)

Roslyn Stempel
December 31, 1997 - 09:15 am
Jeanine, Patience Strong must know all of us bookhounds who have books piled in odd corners and falling off the nightstand! Whatever would we do without them? Including the books of poetry. I have a separate bookcase to hold most of the poetry, and I do sometimes find myself standing in front of it, absorbed in re-reading an old favorite or discovering something new, forgetting why I came into that room in the first place.

over the years I've picked up(second hand) a number of anthologies of somebody-or-other's favorite "new," or "old" or "modern" poems of "today" or "yesterday." It's fascinating to glance through them and see how much styles change. Some collections are very heavy on religious themes, others have political overtones. Some are quite formal, while others don't seem to contain a single work that rhymes. I have a couple of "humorous" anthologies and I notice that as years go by they seem somewhat less funny.

Can't help it, I keep seeing "Patience Strong" as a kind of Quaker lady in a dark dress with a prim white collar. Was there a picture of the poet on this book?

Happy New Year to all poetry-lovers, and poetry-haters too, why not?


Wiilliam Frost
December 31, 1997 - 12:25 pm

We are not often privaleged to know exactly what a poem means to its author but when he relates to the chords it strikes in a reader, then can the composition illuminate and perhaps become an anthem.

I am overjoyed at your access to DENSE MEMORIES. Have you visited the library at Merton College, Oxford? It is very old, dark and cold. The signs of chaining volumes to shelves are still there. At one end is a bust of T.S.Eliot.

Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

These and other lines you quote by T.S.Eliot, along with your open links, will remain an attachment to the poem.

Thank you for retaining your Christmas posting. I shared it with my two young grandchildren on Christmas Day. They were delighted.


William Frost
December 31, 1997 - 01:29 pm
It seems that my name was misspelled and my registration misguided on post #305. Probably my fault. Sorry.


William Frost
December 31, 1997 - 08:13 pm
Perhaps this poem and song is the best known at this time throughout the world. With it I wish my fellow poets the best of happiness, health and success in 1998............Bill

AULD LANG SYNE	                (old long ago)

Robert Burns

Chorus And for auld lang syne, my jo, For auld lang syne, We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, For auld lang syne.

Should auld aquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind? Should auld aquaintance be forgot, And days o’lang syne?

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp! (pay for) And surely I’ll be mine! And we’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet, For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes (hillsides) And pu’d the gowans fine; (pulled wild daisies) But we’ve wander’d many a weary foot Sin auld lang syne. (since)

We twa hae paidl’d the burn, (waded the brook) Frae mornin’ sun till dine; (noon) But seas between us braid hae roar’d (broad) Sin auld lang syne

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere! (chum) And gie’s a hand o’ thine! (give me) And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,(good-will drink) For auld lang syne.

Jeanine A
January 1, 1998 - 04:53 pm
Ros - No picture of Patience Strong. The only picture was on the cover of the book and it was of a tree. The name does leaaad one to believe that she is a quaker lady. Of course this means we are sterotyping - (shame on us) - and could be really fooled if and when we find a picture. Because what is a name...a rose is a rose...........


Marie C.
January 4, 1998 - 02:48 am
William ,

I really like having Auld Lang Syne in its original words--and with your thoughful translations along the way. It always makes me cry to hear it sung, even though I never knew--or thought about--what all the words meant. They were just so familiar, it made sense.

Can you do that with "Waltzing Matilda" (Mathilda?)?

My husband gave me two small books of poetry over the holidays, and I must share something totally fun and true with the poetry group to start the year. I wish I had written it...

The Little Old Lady in Lavendar Silk

I was seventy-seven, come August,
I shall shortly be losing my bloom;
I've experienced zephyr and raw gust
and (symbolical) flood and simoon.

When you come to this time of abatement,
to this passing from Summer to Fall,
It is manners to issue a statement
As to what you got out of it all.

So I'll say, though reflection unnerves me
And pronouncements I dodge as I can,
That I think (if my memory serves me)
There was nothing more fun that a man!

In my youth, when the crescent was too wan
To embarrass with beams from above,
By the aid of some local Don Juan
I fell into the habit of love.

And I learned how to kiss and be merry--an
Education left better unsung.
My neglect of the waters Pierian
Was a scandal when Grandma was young.

Though the shabby unbalanced the splendid,
And the bitter outmeasured the sweet,
I should certainly do as I then did,
Were I given the chance to repeat.

For contrition is hollow and wraithful,
And regret is not part of my plan,
And I think (if my memory's faithful)
There was nothing more fun that a man!
Dorothy Parker

Roslyn Stempel
January 4, 1998 - 09:41 am
Marie, yes, Parker did have a way with a rhyme, didn't she? And a Cole-Porterish skill in arriving at one, as well as amazing skill at short-story plots. Dorothy Parker was high on my list of Most Admired when I was a stupid late-blooming teen-ager. I wish I still knew as little about her personal life as I did when the Algonquin Round Table represented Olympus and that gang of inebriated Manhattanites the Pantheon.

It wasn't just the drinking; it was the whole wonderful idea of living by one's wits, miraculously transformed into a raving beauty in mink, surrounded by sophisticated guys, instead of having to pound a prehistoric typewriter or a mastodon of a billing machine in a dirty factory office for eleven dollars a week and walk to the "family entrance" of the neighborhood tavern for a ten-cent lunch. Well, there was no place for one's life to go but up. Geez, I was so dumb, it's a wonder I escaped alive.

But that has less to do with her verse than with looking back a long, lo-o-o-n-g way and realizing that one's actual mistakes were probably better than the mistakes one could have made.

Thanks for the bit of retrospective semi-nostalgia you've afford me. And Happy New Year to you!


Marie C.
January 4, 1998 - 12:27 pm
Then I should consider myself lucky indeed, since I know nothing about Dorothy Parker except she was a part of the witty Alqonquin group, and, upon hearing of Calvin Coolidge's death, supposedly said, "How can they tell?". Oh, and "men never make passes at girls who wear glasses", maybe. I didn't know she wrote poetry, so this poem was a "discovery" for me. Well, I guess it's not serious enough to be a real poem.

But, honestly, it seems to me that almost all the great writers drank and led very permissive lives. I really haven't given it much thought since--though I admire the output of many writers immensely--my personal ambitions were never in the literary area. I'm always pleased to learn about these people from your posts, Ros. Thanks for knowing so much!


Roslyn Stempel
January 7, 1998 - 09:01 am
Yesterday I picked up William Meredith's Effort at Speech, his collection/selection of poems up to 1983. He's the National Book Award winner who has been largely aphasic (including being unable to choose the words he wanted to write) since a major stroke in 1983, though he's improved enough to be able to speak at the time of the award. Many of his poems are beautiful. Here's a short one that I thought was relevant to our recent concerns:

A Major Work

Poems are hard to read
Pictures are hard to see
Music is hard to hear
And people are hard to love

But whether from brute need
Or divine energy
At last mind eye and ear
And the great sloth heart will move.


Roslyn Stempel
January 9, 1998 - 08:42 am
OPINION POLL: Please comment!
While looking for something else I found a lovely color postcard from New Mexico, showing a canyon sunset with the following imprinted on it, under the title "Song of the Loom: A Tewa Weaver's Poem":

O our Mother the Earth, O our Father the Sky,
Your children are we, and with tired backs
We bring you the gifts you love.
Then weave for us a garment of brightness;
May the warp be the white light of morning,
May the weft be the red light of evening,
May the fringes be the falling rain,
May the border be the standing rainbow.
Thus weave for us a garment of brightness,
That we may walk fittingly where birds sing,
That we may walk fittingly where grass is green,
O our Mother the Earth, O our Father the Sky.

I've no information about whether this was composed in English or, if translated from Teva speech, how the original sounded.

My questions are:
Is this poetry?
If so, in what ways is it poetic?
If not, in what ways does it differ from something that can be described as a poem?
If it's not, strictly speaking, a poem, what is it?


William Frost
January 9, 1998 - 12:59 pm

It's a poem. It has a way with words that flow to gather our senses into a prayer.

Now see what Ashbery says:

         What Is Poetry

John Ashbery

The medieval town, with frieze Of boy scouts from Nagoya? The snow

That came when we wanted it to snow? Beautiful images? Trying to avoid

Ideas, as in this poem? But we Go back to them as to a wife, leaving

The mistress we desire? Now they Will have to believe it

As we believed it. In school All the thought got combed out:

What was left was like a field. Shut your eyes, and you can feel it for miles around.

Now open them on a thin vertical path. It might give us--what?--some flowers soon?

Marie C.
January 10, 1998 - 12:13 am
Ros and William,

What marvelous poetry you two are posting.

I was planning to ask you, Ros, to discuss what Meredith means by his first line in A Major Work: "Poems are hard to read...". I sometimes find poems--even well-loved ones--impossible to read--as if I can't "face" the poem.

Then William's post of the Ashbery poem gave me a partial answer:"...Trying to avoid ideas as in this poem....".

Both these poems--obviously finer poetry than I've experienced-- pull me toward a higher level of feeling and understanding, but it remains beyond my grasp.

I think the Meredith and the Asbery poems are wonderful--but I dont't know why and don't know if they really are, and, worse of all, don't know if I'm even "getting" them.

Please tell me what you each think about these poems and why.

I love poetry but am realizing that I have no taste in poems. I'd like to develop some.

Roslyn Stempel
January 10, 1998 - 08:47 am
Marie, I read your post an hour or so, had to leave the computer, and decided to come back to it and attempt at least a partial answer.

Is there a single line of poetry that can't be interpreted in more than one way? When Meredith wrote. "Poems are hard to read," I think he might have meant both things that you've mentioned: the difficulty of understanding what the poet meant, and also the difficulty of confronting something that arouses so much emotion in us. His lines suggested to me that he understands the difficulty of reaching beyond the obvious, recognizing our feelings, and letting our hearts move. But I remember the Macleish statement that "a poem should not mean, but be." So it has a life of its own after the lines have been written

The Ashbery poem that Bill cited certainly works on a number of levels. On the second or third readings I saw that (for me) the "frieze of boy scouts from Nagoya" must have been their images burned onto a wall in either Hiroshima or Nagasaki, and then everything else supported and amplified that image, including the fragment of hope that flowers would once again bloom.

...I know that there is a feeling of rising excitement that I experience when I read what I think is poetry. It is really visceral and it sometimes makes me stand up or walk around instead of sitting still. But how can this possibly be translated into a standard of taste? Isn't it purely a personal reaction?

I didn't think of the Tewa weaver's chant as a poem although the thought was admirable and some of the images were very nice. I thought it was a prayer or invocation, and that although those forms can be used as vehicles for poetry, the language of this one was not "poetic" to me. So I suppose this indicates that I have some objective internal standards for judging, in addition to the purely emotional ones. And so do you. What are yours?


Marie C.
January 11, 1998 - 04:56 am
What you said in your 4th paragraph about the feeling you have when you read something that is poetry to you--well, I have that-- When I was a little girl and my uncles and cousins were going off to WWII, I was allowed to go with the family group to the various train stations to see them off if I promised not to cry. That physical feeling of holding back tears--of really having to work at it, is the feeling I get when I read something I think is truly wonderful.

As for the Meredith, Ashbery, and Tewa verses--

I've spent the evening reading a spattering of poems by Meredith and by Ashbery which I found in some of my anthology books.

I loved the William Meredith ones:

Winter Verse for His Sister
The Open Sea
His Plans for Old Age

I was extraordinarily disappointed in the four I found by Ashbery:

White Roses
The Tennis Court Oath
Thoughts of a Young Girl
Fear of Death

Well, Fear of Death was okay, but nothing even similar to the poem William posted , What is Poetry (which gave me that hold-back-the-tears message.) As a matter of fact, I felt that Ashbury was being deliberately obscure, obtuse--foisting off unrelated prose fragments and calling it poetry. Maybe I feel that way just because I read them over and over and, except for Fear of Death, simply did not understand him at all--especially The Tennis Court Oath. I felt cheated. I just can't believe the same man wrote What is Poetry.

As far as the Tewa prayer goes, I don't think it's poetry. I think it's an incantation.

In answer to your question about internal standards for judging poetry, I haven't figured out what mine are, if any. Just the physical feeling. On the other hand, I like some poems just because of the turn of phrase, the cleverness--such as that Dorothy Parker poem. I didn't have any physical reaction to it at all, but thought it marvelously clever. Witty.

I'd like it if you'd name some of the poems/poets you consider truly great--or do like they do in "Sound and Sense" (did you have that in school--High School or College?). It was always a small paperback book from which you learned about meter and measure and pentameters. Then, toward the end they had a section called "Bad Poetry and Good", (always "Little Boy Blue" vs anything else) followed by one called "Good Poetry and Great". (Always Frost and T.S.Eliot as the "great") So there must be some standards floating about the Poetry world somewhere for such determinations.

Oh my gosh, this post is longer than the Canterbury Tales.

Roslyn Stempel
January 11, 1998 - 08:32 am
That's a formidable assignment, but an interesting one. Flipping hastily back through the decades I can recognize how much my developmental stage and life situation affected my successive choices. It will take a while to make any sense out of this personal anthology. I'm going to give it a try. As for "Sound and Sense," nothing of the sort came my way. I don't remember any special attention being paid in high school to prosody, rhyme scheme, except that there must have been a page in some textbook that we were told to memorize, with examples, because there would be a test. Sonnet: 14 lines. "The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold"...is that anapests? Anyway, I don't remember much discussion about poetry as such, until the 12th grade English class (what would now be called Advanced Placement or Enrichment or something like that) which supposedly prepared us for college scholarship exams, a joke in my case since my family was on welfare and all that was in store for me was getting a job at 30 cents an hour as quickly as possible. Nobody said anything about good poetry or bad poetry, just poetry. I loved some of it without knowing why. This is just free-floating recollection; answering intelligently requires some careful thought and will, as I said, take time.


Marie C.
January 11, 1998 - 05:51 pm
Mentioning the "Sound and Sense" schoolbooks to you, made me remember how wonderful I thought they were. I've dragged out the two I have on hand--my college freshman English 101 copy (Third Edition published in 1956) and my son's which his school used in 11th grade English (Sixth Edition published in 1982).

Though paperbacks, these are wonderful books, packed with poetry and discussions of everything from how to read a poem to all the technicalities of meter, measure, metaphor, allegory, allusion, personification, etc. It concludes with the chapters called "Bad Poetry and Good" and "Good Poetry and Great"--which include a number of poems for YOU to sort out, now that you supposedly have worked through the whole textbook (about 400 pages) and KNOW poetry.

There is one last section called "Poems for Further Reading". Just a treasure trove of a wide variety of poets.

Anyway, I so enjoyed browsing through them again (the poems in them change with various editions), that I've just ordered the 1997 Edition of Sound and Sense from Amazon. Now you can get it in hardback, but the paperback was expensive enough for my little collection. The price is still in my 1956 edition, $1.75; can't find the price in Dan's 1982 edition; but the 1997 I just ordered is $23.95! But it's such a super Poetry thing.

The two editions I have both are introduced with this verse from Pope:

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learned to dance.
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offense,
The sound must seem an echo to the sense.
Alexander Pope from "An Essay on Criticism"

Roslyn Stempel
January 16, 1998 - 06:11 am
I like Pope's neat little recipe. Lately I've come across several old collections of poems that were popular at various times earlier in the century, one from mid-19th. Most of them struck me as duds. I recognized a few and wondered if I thought they were better because I already knew them or if I knew them because they really were better than the rest and had been anthologized elsewhere for that reason. At any rate it seems clear to me that styles change enormously over the years. We'll have to poll Bill F. on this.

Anyway, I haven't embarked on a world cruise via tramp steamer, but am occupied with chores that keep me from the computer and also from leisurely contemplation of poetry. Back to both as soon as possible.


Johann McCrackin
January 16, 1998 - 08:25 am
Ros and Marie, I really enjoyed your discussion of poetry and it gave me lots of food for thought. I thought Pope's little recipe (as Ros calls it) was really neat and I copied the poems by Meredith and the Tewa weaver. I'm not sure what my criteria of poetry is - I need to think about that one. I loved the Tewa weaver's prayer because the imagery is so beautiful.

I belong to a literary club here named for Archibald Rutledge, a former Poet Laureate of SC, and some of his prose about nature has so much beautiful imagery that it is almost poetic. When I was in college at the Univ. of SC, there was an arboretum (sp?) about a block from my dorm and sometimes I would take a couple of poetry anthologies and sit on a bench and read poetry for an hour. I didn't analyze it - I just sat and sort of let it wash over me. I guess I also need to read poetry that challenges me to think.

William Frost
January 16, 1998 - 01:31 pm
My head is thick with Sydney Flu which will perhaps prompt the technical poem scrutinizers to look for a poet of this name. But my head is clear on the subject of poetry, my appreciation of it, that is. I cannot use words such as “RECIPE” or “POLL”. I just “FEEL”. It’s that simple. I felt Pope’s poetry. I sing with Eliot, Hardy and Blake and many others who conduct me without a baton. Today, I read again, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream”. No need to read it out aloud. I hear his voice. Isn’t this poetry? (I do not ask for a poll!).

Now, once more with feeling:

Dear Ann

I have a new lover but I call her Ann at times .............

Could you finish my poem for me? Think what Parker could do with this.

Marie C.
January 16, 1998 - 05:57 pm

Writers such as Dorothy Parker and Ogden Nash and that ilk, should not be allowed to touch "Dear Ann" with ten-foot poles.

And what do you mean "finish this". It's perfect right now. I love it. Talk about being flooded with complex feelings by a minimum number of words.

Why would you even mention cute/clever writers in the same breath as this poem.

Sorry you've been ill. Missed you a lot!

Marie C.
January 16, 1998 - 06:11 pm

How great to have another poetry lover join us. Why don't you post something you personally love? Or hate? We can have some great discussions now that Ros and William are posting again. Sometimes....well, sometimes it's almost like group therapy....though, of course, none of has ever experienced the need for that sort of thing I'm sure....

Mary Shelby
January 16, 1998 - 07:44 pm
I have always loved poetry but until now I havn't had time to get to read and really focus on the words of a poem. Each poem I read anymore or write have that extraordinary power to completely hold me in a trance like state with a beauty one cannot imagine. For me words mean something and I like learning new words. I prefer poetry that is simple that I can understand. I especially enjoy the poems of Helen Steiner Rice. Mary

Johann McCrackin
January 16, 1998 - 08:05 pm
Marie, I have so many "favorite" poets, but really like Tennyson, Shakespeare's sonnets, Robert Browning, Whittier, and Emily Dickinson. Like Mary Shelby, I sort of like the poetry that says what it is saying in words I can understand and being a musician, I sort of like it in meter. I'm still mulling about how I separate poetry from non-poetry. Give me a day or two to find something! This is a neat web site!

Roslyn Stempel
January 17, 1998 - 08:42 am
Dear Bill:

"I'm in love." Joe's face,
alight with sweetness,
told us how Ann, still with him,
stood behind his new love
and blessed their happiness.
At eighty,
Joe still calls "the girls" by maiden names
surrendered golden years ago.
In the old neighborhood
while Sister This and That stood guard
these bonds were forged
that still are strong today.
For Joe, for Kate,
for Mike and Mary Agnes,
those schoolmate faces shine beneath the wrinkles
and glossy curls replace the scanty gray .

This is a true story and coincides oddly with your fragment, though I understand my spontaneous addendum is not entirely poetic. Yesterday I met the real "Joe," a sweet and charming man, who really is "in love" with an old schoolmate of his dead wife. There's a circle of people, more widows than widowers, who went to parochial schools together (some of the "girls" to a fancier convent school), worshipped in the same parish church, and have never lost touch. I met many of them more than 30 years ago when we organized a community "ecumenical" movement to strengthen a changing urban neighborhood. For most, it was their first social contact with Jews, but they followed the teachings of their church and they were good neighbors and good friends.

May you soon be rid of Syd and your poll return to its usual clarity.


William Frost
January 17, 1998 - 11:03 am

You interpreted my catalyst as a fragment and I was very pleased you did not see it at the level of an atomic bomb or a Vietnam interlude drawn from torn Ashbery sleeves. Your addendum was not conjunctive, but it held my interest as a reflection on an aging process. I returned momentarily to your introduction to this Poetry Folder and read again your focus on a 73-YEAR OLD FEMALE poet. I find it hard to associate age and sex with poetry. Am I missing something? I also recall a statement by George Bernard Shaw who wished to live beyond a hundred years for then he would begin to appreciate things. Another example of his ageless tongue in cheek.


I appreciate your understanding of my verse. I like how you continued it.

I feel guilty not responding here to your recent postings and wonderful poetry. You certainly excite my thinking but I am afraid I get carried away with it all and do not have your talent to persist following through with plentiful research, but I assure you, my mind is expanded, my feelings enhanced. I thank you.

Roslyn Stempel
January 17, 1998 - 01:42 pm
Can we agree to disagree, Bill?

There's obviously a distinction here between a poet (you) and one who reads and enjoys poetry (me). I find it difficult to disengage sex and age from my understanding of poetry. I am not what I was when I thought "Oh world, I cannot hold thee close enough," and "Now she is gone, but all her clocks are ticking" excruciatingly beautiful. (Not to mention "I have been faithful to thee, Cynara, in my fashion.") I read more meaning now into images of illness, loss, and death than I could have sixty years ago. (I noticed this even in examining a sticky mass of Victoriana and early 20th-century verse.)

As for sex, it's more Darby and Joan than Romeo and Juliet. That's sex, you understand, not love.

When it comes to the influence of gender on production/appreciation of poetry, I think we'd have to open a whole new folder to discuss it adequately, and we'd also have to have a committee to agree on terminology.

Let's arbitrarily pinpoint 1937 as the year I began to read and think about poetry seriously. Think how much the language has changed since then, in formal usage, conversation, the media, and in poetry. How can I fail to reflect on that and to recognize how much time has passed? It would be pathetic self-deception to imagine that I as a reader have kept entirely current. I have only to listen to a 40-year-old or a 20-year-old, or watch a popular sitcom, to hear Time's winged chariot grinding its gears at my back. I'll also take the liberty of assuming that what you write is somewhat different from what you at the time of your earliest work. If I'm wrong about that please correct me.

Always your fan,



Marie C.
January 18, 1998 - 05:30 pm
When this Poetry section first began, someone posted the poem "Little Boy Blue". I had been well taught that that poem is a prime example of manipulative, sentimental, bad poetry. So I intellectually sneered and passed it by.

I just read "Little Boy Blue" today for the first time in a million years and think it's not so bad--actually pretty good for being straightforwardly manipulative and sentimental. As an act of contrition for having been so snobby about "Little Boy Blue", here is a poem that is considered much finer poetry although it achieves the same end: leaving the reader sobbing and parentally guilt-wracked. Personally, I love it.

My little Son, who looked from thoughtful eyes
And moved and spoke in quiet grown-up wise,
Having my law the seventh time disobeyed,
I struck him, and dismissed
With hard words and unkissed,
His Mother, who was patient, being dead.
Then, fearing lest his grief should hinder sleep,
I visited his bed,
But found him slumbering deep,
With darkened eyelids, and their lashes yet
From his late sobbing wet.
And I, with moan,
Kissing away his tears, left others of my own;
For, on a table drawn beside his head,
He had put, within his reach,
A box of counters and a red-veined stone,
A piece of glass abraded by the beach,
And six or seven shells,
A bottle of bluebells,
And two French copper coins, ranged there with careful art,
To comfort his sad heart.
So when I prayed
To God, I wept, and said:
Ah, when at last we lie with trancèd breath,
Not vexing Thee in death,
And thou rememberest of what toys
We made our joys,
How weakly understood
Thy great commanded good,
Then, fatherly not less
Than I whom Thou hast moulded from the clay,
Thou'lt leave Thy wrath, and say,
"I will be sorry for their childishness."
Coventry Patmore (1823-1896)

Oh, come on all of you who are yawning or moaning or worse; I know it's too long and too sentimental and a nonsequitur in our currrent discussions, but I'm having an empty-nest-syndrome attack today and, in any event, it could be worse: I know all the words to Roy Acuff's "Don't Make Me Go to Bed and I'll be Good".... --Marie

Marie C.
January 19, 1998 - 02:00 am
Mary Shelby--

Welcome to our Poetry Discussion Section! Seeing your name, Shelby, takes me back to my childhood--my two best friends (girls) both had the first name of Shelby. Well, I digress--it's okay, though, this is a section where we seem to wander all over the mental map.

You know, the name Helen Steiner Rice is so familiar to me yet I couldn't find her in any of my poetry anthologies (which isn't saying much since I have only three).

As I think of it, isn't she the one who writes those beautiful friendship cards? Well, whether she's the one or not, I do love to receive those cards! (I was never warm and outgoing enough to actually send one, and, if I did at this stage of my life, my friends would think either I was dying or they were.)

Anyway, I'm looking forward to your joining in our discussions--listen, you don't have to even discuss the subject anyone else is--just post whatever comes to mind.

Johann McCrackin--

I've been looking forward to seeing your post subsequent to your Jan 16th one. You said you liked Emily Dickinson; she's such a great poet. Isn't it strange that we don't have any of her poems posted in this section--and they're so perfect for posting. Here's one I like:

To hang our head ostensibly,
And subsequent to find
That such was not the posture
Of our immortal mind,

Affords the sly presumption
That, in so dense a fuzz,
You, too, take cobweb attitudes
Upon a plane of gauze!
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Okay, Johann, your turn....

Roslyn Stempel
January 19, 1998 - 05:07 am
Marie, how about "Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself. They come through you, but not to you...." and I forget the rest but I'm sure I've got "The Prophet" here somewhere. Guaranteed to put a lump in the most cynical throat. Kahlil Gibran is a supreme (sorry!) example of just the right combination of platitudes, floaty imagery, and common-sensical advice that we all need at times. You've hit on an important point. My husband and I often watch the most superficially sentimental stuff on TV with tears rolling down our faces, but I don't think that disqualifies us from appreciating other levels of emotional appeal or other kinds of language.


Marie C.
January 19, 1998 - 06:55 am
Ros,--First, I immediately misted up upon reading the first lines of your post--it makes a direct hit on a mother's secret fear!

I'm so glad you said what you did about being able to indulge emotionally in Old-Yeller-tears while understanding the level of intellectual devices being used.

On the other hand, I was weeping so hard at the end of "Cinema Paradisio" that my husband had to debrief me for about 10 minutes before I could pull myself together and leave the theater. And I will forever think of that movie as pure poetry, but it probably isn't.

Katie Sturtz
January 19, 1998 - 08:21 pm
MARIE...that's nothing! I cried when Dorothy said goodbye to all her friends in Oz. Embarrassed my date no end. And I still get teary when I see the "Peter! You're home!" Folger's Coffee commercial. It wouldn't be Christmas without it.

Now then. Do you have "where have I read that? contests here? I have some stanzas with long forgotten authors, copied when I was a lovesick coed, that I would like to be able to attribute to someone. If I post one here from time to time, would any of you be interested in taking a whack at it?

Marie C.
January 19, 1998 - 08:55 pm
Katie...! Your parents let you date in pre-school??!! Wow!

Tracing lost poems from mere fragments of information is one of our great joys here at Poetry. It gives us a chance to show off our years of devotion to the art plus use pompous jargon that will make you giggle.

P.S.--I'm with you on "Peter you're home." And when a newscaster says anything about animals then "We must warn you these scenes are graphic...." My husband and I simultaneously race from all over the house to shutdown the TVs.

Roslyn Stempel
January 20, 1998 - 09:49 pm
After the recent death of the poet Denise Levertov I went to look for her poetry at the local bookstore. As the note on the back of one of the soft-cover volumes points out, she had more than a dozen books in print....at $8.95 each...so I picked Evening Train from 1992. A number of the poems in it are related to the Gulf War and other kinds of war and disaster, but many have themes from nature. I don't want to violate copyright but would like to cite two: (I can't quite duplicate the spacing.)


Dreaming the sea that
lies beyond me
I have enough depth
to know I am shallow.

I have my pools, my bowls
of rock I flow
into and fill, but I must
brim my own banks, persist,
vanish at last in greater flood
yet still within it
follow my task,
dreaming towards
the calling sea.


Sometimes the mountain
is hidden from me in veils
of cloud, sometimes
I am hidden from the mountain
in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue
when I forget or refuse to go
down to the shore or a few yards
up the road, on a clear day,
to reconfirm
that witnessing presence.


Katie Sturtz
January 22, 1998 - 11:24 am
MARIE...I haven't the faintest idea who wrote this. Hope one of your astute readers can help.

For some of us there is a passion, I suppose,
So far from earthly cares and earthly fears
That in its stillness you can hardly stir
Or in its nearness lift your hand,
So great that you have simply got to stand
Looking at it through tears, through tears.

Roslyn Stempel
January 22, 1998 - 12:31 pm
Katie, what a lovely passage. Thanks for posting it. Can you offer any clues at all regarding its origin? I hope someone will recognize either the style or the actual authorship.

I used to have a notebook filled with little bits from various places and sometimes forgot to note where I got them. Then there was the envelope I found tucked into an old book, filled with poems I had cut out of the Ladies' Home Journal and other "women's magazines" of the 1930's, in the days when those mags actually published poetry. We really got our dime's worth in those days, a serial, half a dozen short stories, the poetry, recipes, a column for teen-agers, a column in diary form from a farm-dweller or dog-raiser or some such, fashion, patterns, and the very first pre-Oprah reality-based articles called "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" (You can bet the answer in those days was almost always yes, provided Mrs. gets cracking with the house-cleaning and loses a little weight, and Mr. promises to keep closer track of where his $35 pay envelope goes, and so on.) All for ten cents a month! Backward, turn backward, O Time in thy flight, but I know my old dresses would be much too tight.


Katie Sturtz
September 14, 1998 - 09:37 am
ROS...are you sure there was a column for teenagers? I was one in the early '40s, but I don't remember EVER being called a teenager. It's always seemed to me that 'they' started calling them that a bit later. The '30s sort of ignored them altogether, didn't they? I do agree about the magazine, tho. It was a winner.

The passage came out of one of my dad's poetry books. Period. Sorry, but that is all I can tell you.

Love, Katie

Roslyn Stempel
January 23, 1998 - 05:31 am
Katie, you're right about the term "teen-agers." The young women of the time were referred to in the Journal as "sub-debs," a rather high-flown term implying that we were all just waiting to float across a ballroom in virginal white "formals" to be presented to high society. There was a Journal illustrator named Irvin Nurick who drew the adorably snub-nosed girls for this column and also for a first-person series called "Maudie." She was a true sub-deb, I remember, because her debut occurred somewhere in one of the stories. They were actually collected in book form. I think they were standard formula stuff, not unlike some of the Young Adult potboilers of today with the exception of the sex, drugs, divorce, unmarried mothers, AIDS, guns, etc. I saved those Nurick drawings, too. There's prob'ly an envelope somewhere in the basement.

Well, it's just as Francois Villon asked plaintively in "Where Are the Snows of Yesteryear?"

Where is the Maudie of 1937?
Perhaps she dwells in Sub-Deb Heaven
or, if alive, that flat-hipped chick
simmers within a waist that's thick,
the snub-nosed face that invited passes
glitters behind trifocal glasses.
The glossy hair so bright and sleek
Is blued and blow-dried every week
and the rosy glow upon her cheek
now comes discreetly from Clinique.
But the smile enhanced by perfect dentures
recalls the spice of those adventures...

Sorry, it just leaked out. You can finish it.


January 23, 1998 - 06:16 am
Ros,--certainly doesn't need finishing!! Loved it.

January 23, 1998 - 11:38 am
Ros: Oh, I can't pass by the Villon without a nostalgic moment: had to memorize that little bugger in French to get in the French Honor thing in college. "Ou Sont Les Neiges D'Autan???"

Couldn't recite it now if you put a gun to my head, but can certainly sing my share of French songs, including Les Enfants S'ennui Les Dimanches...that S'ennui looks wrong, means "are bored." Wonder why it's easier for me to remember songs?

Oh well, had to light wen I saw that one!


Roslyn Stempel
January 28, 1998 - 11:56 am
Ginny, I'd expect the verb to be "s'ennuient" since it has a plural subject. I'm not at all familiar with that song except that "Children Are Bored on Sunday" is also the title of a short story by, I think, Jean Stafford.

Another of Denise Levertov's poems, "Namings," deals with the human need to classify and name everything. She refers to an aging poet in a new apartment, "lost and distraite." When Levertov offers to help, the woman says, "Identify things!" such as a box of buttons, a picture frame ...

"The need to know maenad from dryad, to know when you see the green drift
of watergrass combed by current, the word you desire is naiad."*

*from Evening Train," New York: New Directions, 1992, 1993


Marie C.
January 30, 1998 - 06:28 pm
Hi, Jo Ann, It's nice to see you posting here in Poetry. I love the lines you posted, but have never heard of Holty. Could you tell me about him? Does he write in English? I'd like to read some of his poetry.

Marie C.
January 31, 1998 - 04:12 pm
In trying to come up with a guess for the Name That Book contest, I started skimming through T.S. Eliot's "...Practical Cats" and ended up reading it totally, chuckling throughout. I'd forgotten how much fun it is, especially the contrasting of dog versus cat in the final section, "How to Ad-dress a Cat". Here's some of it:
Now dogs pretent they like to fight;
They often bark, more seldom bite;
But yet a Dog is, on the whole,
What you would call a simple soul.
Of course I'm not including Pekes,
And such fantastic canine freaks.
The usual Dog about the Town
Is much inclined to play the clown,
And far from showing too much pride
Is frequently undignified.
He's very easily taken in--
Just chuck him underneath the chin
Or slap his back and shake his paw,
And he will gambol and guffaw.
He's such an easy-going lout,
He'll answer any hail or shout.

Again I must remind you that
A Dog's a Dog--A CAT'S A CAT.

With Cats, some say, one rule is true:
Don't speak till you are spoken to.
Myself, I do not hold with that--
I say, you should ad-dress a Cat.
But always keep in mind that he
Resents familiarity.
I bow, and taking off my hat,
Ad-dress him in this form: O CAT!
But if he is the Cat next door,
Whom I have often met before
(He comes to see me in my flat)
I greet him with an OOPSA CAT!
I think I've hear them call him James--
But we've not got so far as names.

Before a Cat will condescend
To treat you as a trusted friend,
Some little token of esteem
Is needed, like a dish of cream;
And you might now and then supply
Some caviare, or Strassburg Pie,
Some potted grouse, or salmon paste--
He's sure to have his personal taste.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
A Cat's entitled to expect
These evidences of respect.
And so in time you reach your aim,
And finally call him by his NAME.
So this is this, and that is that:
And there's how you AD-DRESS A CAT.

William Frost
February 3, 1998 - 09:17 pm

Posting Eliot's "How to Ad-dress a Cat" was a delight. My granddaughters visited on Sunday so I sat with Elizabeth, 12 years old, in front of the computer to read the verses. First I read them, then she read them, and finally we both read them together. She wanted more so I asked her to help me find my copy of "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats". We spent some time looking but got carried away from time to time, stumbling onto other things of interest. We never found Eliot's book but we did find a poem, "Granddaughters" I wrote in 1989. It contains a verse, "For no Reason":

"Do you like dogs, Grandpa?"
"Yes I do. We have had two."
"I don't. I like cats."
Grandpa would have smiled
But Elizabeth was very serious
And you don't smile
At very serious people
Do you?

Marie C.
February 4, 1998 - 07:09 pm

I love your verses. They are wonderfully sparse, uncluttered. No sighing to muses or references to little known characters in ancient classics. And no foreign phrases tossed in here and there. I feel comfortable and unintimidated with them, sure that you are not writing to impress readers but to reach them, touch them by expressing shared, complex emotions simply. So that they will say, "Yes, that's it. I know just what you mean but could never put it in words."

Thank you for posting the verse from "Granddaughters". -- Marie

February 14, 1998 - 03:03 pm
My Dutch friend HIlly sent me this. As a life time dog lover I was very touched.

DOG'S PLEA Treat me kindly, my beloved friend, for no heart in all the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me.

Do not break my spirit with a stick, for though I should lick your hand in between blows, your patience and understanding will more quickly teach me the things you would have me to learn.

Speak to me often, for your voice is the world's sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when your footstep falls on my waiting ear.

Please take me inside when it is cold and wet for I am a domesticated animal, no longer accustomed to bitter elements.

I ask no greater glory than the privelege of sitting at your feet beside the hearth.

Keep my pan filled with fresh water, for I can not tell you when I suffer thirst.

Feed me clean food that I may stay well, to romp and play and do your bidding, to walk by your side, and stand ready, willing and able to protect you with my life should your life be in danger.

And, my friend when I am very old and no longer enjoy good health, and sight, do not make heroic efforts to keep me going. I am not having any fun.

Please see that my trusting life is taken gently. I shall leave this earth knowing with the last breath that my fate was always safest in your hands.

Author unknown .


Kay VanderWyst
February 15, 1998 - 08:04 pm
Claire - That is a very nice 'dog' poem.

Roslyn - I have a poem that I'm sure would be enjoyed but it has 21 verses of four lines each. Is that too long?

Roslyn Stempel
February 16, 1998 - 07:43 am
Kay, your poem is welcome though there are a few warning notes I feel I should issue. Length alone is not a criterion. We need to be careful about violating authors' privileges. You might want to consider these factors:

Material which has appeared in print in any form and is currently under copyright should not be included in its entirety, though a few lines might be quoted. Figure copyright as at least 28 years or in some cases 56. (That's why we use a lot of Victorian verse.)
The author, and the print source if available, should always be credited. This would apply even to such informal publications as a church bulletin or club newsletter. "Anonymous" should be taken to mean that the work has appeared in print with that designation, not simply that we ourselves don't know where it came from. If the poem you want to post has actually appeared in print as by "Anonymous" that should be explained.
Similarly, if a poem is by an actual person but has never been published, the poet's name should still be given; otherwise someone else might decide to appropriate it.

I hope this hasn't discouraged you completely.


Kay VanderWyst
February 16, 1998 - 07:52 am
Ros - Thanks a lot for the information. The poem I have in mind is "Author Unknown". Kay

February 21, 1998 - 10:55 am
Folk songs are full of poetry. Here is one about love lost. I like th gentle irony of the last line.I found this among others at a folksong site for celtic songs.



I ainse loved a lass and I loved her sae well That I hate all others that spoke of her ill But now she's rewarded me ill for my love She's gone tae get wed tae another

When I saw my love tae the kirk go Wi bride and bridemaidens they made a fine show And I followed after, my heart filled wi woe To see my love wed tae another

When I saw my love sit doon tae dine I sat doon beside her and poured oot the wine And I drank tae the lassie that shoulda been mine But she's gone tae be wed tae another

The men of yon forest, they ask it o' me How many strawberries grow in the salt sea I answer them back wi a tear in ma e'e How many ships sail in the forest

Go dig me a grave, both long, wide and deep And cover it over wi florets sae sweet And I'll turn in for to take a long sleep And maybe in time I'll forget her

And they dug him a grave, both long, wide and deep And they covered it over wi florets sae sweet And he's turned in for to take a long sleep And maybe by now he's forgot her


Roslyn Stempel
February 22, 1998 - 11:13 am
Claire, the poem has exactly that combination of bitter and sweet that made true folk songs so popular. Thanks for posting it.

Kay V, where is your 21-verse "author unkown" poem? My whole software system having collapsed I've had to rebuild it bit by bit, what the techs call a "clean reinstall," meaning you boot up the barest system basics and then cautiously add one software item at a time, checking each nervously to see if that's what did the damage in the first place. So far it's taken 48 hours and $57 in service charges plus a couple of free calls and the attendant long waits on the phone. I've lost all my URL Bookmarks, but fortunately our financial records, which had disappeared for a while, have returned. Meanwhile I logged on to Poetry expecting to find the A.U.'s opus, but it's not here. Maybe if I disappear for a while?


Kay VanderWyst
February 24, 1998 - 07:58 am
Ros - I typed my poem in one evening about a week ago. I posted it and after waiting for an hour for it to post, I gave up and went to bed. I am going to try it again soon.

Roslyn Stempel
February 27, 1998 - 11:45 am
If you watch the News Hour on PBS (what used to be McNeil-Lehrer), you might have seen Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky several times recently. I enjoy his poems and I'm especially pleased with the way he delivers poems on TV, not only his own but those of other poets. During the 1980's the vogue was for a particularly flat, joyless, uninflected type of delivery, which perhaps still prevails in many coffeehouse and college poetry readings. (It might have been related to the philosophical position that meanings are entirely derived by the hearer, and the speaker/author must not try to influence that process.) Pinsky, however, looks you right in the eye and smiles, enunciates clearly, and actually seems to be enjoying what he reads. It's nice to have the official U.S. spokesperson for poetry show up on television and act as if poetry is something that might be fun.


Roslyn Stempel
March 2, 1998 - 05:32 am
Here's "The Odyssey" by Andrew Lang (1844-1912), which I'll dedicate to all Seniornetters who sailed with us on that wonderful literary voyage last year:

The Odyssey
As one that for a weary space has lain
Lull'd by the song of Circe and her wine
In gardens near the pale of Proserpine,
Where that AEaean isle forgets the main,
And only the low lutes of love complain,
And only shadows of wan lovers pine--
As such an one were glad to know the brine
Salt on his lips, and the large air again--
So gladly from the songs of modern speech
Men turn, and see the stars, and feel the free
Shrill wind beyond the close of heavy flowers,
And through the music of the languid hours
They hear like Ocean on a western beach
The surge and thunder of the Odyssey.

This is a nice comment on a perpetual theme: Why do we continue to read the classics?

You'll note that this is a 14-line poem in iambic pentameter, so it meets the minimum requirements for a sonnet. It doesn't follow the Shakespearean pattern of ending with a rhyming couplet that sums up the thoughts of the preceding 12 lines. Instead, it follows the "8 and 6" scheme and is a kind of extended simile: The first 8 lines are the "As" part - describing the feeling of being fed up with too much sweetness and longing for something stronger and more rugged. The final sextet is the "So" part, in which the "surge and thunder" of Homer's epic refresh us when we are weary of "the songs of modern speech."

The language is perhaps typical late-Victorian, romantic, formal, and a bit sugary, but I liked the thought, and it did ring a bell! If any reader is interested in giving it a second glance, there are at least a dozen points for discussion in the ideas, the imagery, and the poetic construction.


Phyl A.
March 5, 1998 - 08:50 am
Clair--- I was very moved by the poem"Dogs Plea". It made tears come to my eyes knowing how many are severly abused. What a blessing it would be if all people treated their pets in a caring, loving and compassionate way as the poem suggests. I have a dog and two cats that I love on and spoil all the time. Some people have laughed at me for this saying: "they are just animals, you go to far." They are not friends of mine! I believe that if you can't do these things for them after all the loyalty,trust and love they give you---then people should not have them. Sorry. I got carried away. I dearly love animals and would save them all if it were possible. Phyllis

Kathy Weems Chrisley
March 5, 1998 - 09:56 am
I wrote this poem in honor of my beloved husband of 39 years. At the age of 15 he saw his entire platoon wiped out in Korea.He was also wounded, and if that wasn't bad enough, the North Koreans stabbed him in both knees with bayonets and left him to die in the snow.So, this is for you COMBAT AKA CHRISLEY.

Fragments Of War

He sits and stares with tortured eyes At things I cannot see, But I know the look and I've seen the tears; For years they've haunted me.

He sees his buddies he left one day Dead and buried in Korean clay. Some were wounded and maimed for life, He wonders why he survived their plight.

"Stroud,don't die",he cries from his dream; From a nightmare so real he has to scream. I wake him from his troubled sleep And comfort him while he sits and weeps.

I've seen this happen night after night And dodged his flailing arms in fright, But knowing I've got to free him fast From the horrors of his wartime past.

The war he fights each day and night, His mind is filled with awful sights. There is no hope for peace at all Until God makes his final call.


March 5, 1998 - 12:13 pm
Kathy, Thank you for sharing that beautiful tribute to your husband, and I thank you for being such an insightful , understanding and loving wife. You give new meaning to Love.

Enid Hausding
March 5, 1998 - 01:12 pm
anyone interested in seeing a poem about love?

enid hausding
March 5, 1998 - 01:25 pm
no one nterested inanother poem about love....o.k. I'll try again later

enid hausding
March 5, 1998 - 01:26 pm
no one nterested inanother poem about love....o.k. I'll try again later

Roslyn Stempel
March 5, 1998 - 01:36 pm
Kathy, your loving and compassionate words gave such a clear picture of your husband's ordeal that we were all deeply moved. Thank you for sharing this personal - yet, alas, so universal - experience.

Enid, of course we're interested in a poem about love (original, authored, or anonymous, rhymed, unrhymed, new, or old), so please post.


Kathy Weems Chrisley
March 6, 1998 - 07:47 am
To June Drabek and Roslyn Stempel, I just want to thank you both for the kind and very warm comments you gave me on "The Fragments Of War".It really means a lot to my husband and me. Kathy

March 6, 1998 - 09:52 am
KATHY, You really did touch my heart with your poem, and my prayers are with you and your husband. I just hate War, and what it does to people, especially the sensitive souls that are so destroyed emotionally. Some day, God willing, war will be erased from the earth. You will find many friends here Kathy, especially in the area called the Cafe. There is humor, prayer, sharing, all that is needed to make us loving human beings. Hope to see you again. June.

Kathy Chrisley
March 8, 1998 - 07:02 pm
June, I'm glad you liked the poem so much. Your prayers are very much appreciated and needed by both my husband and me. I tried the cafe you referred me to and like it very much.I will be visiting it again, thanks for telling me about it. Hope to see you soon. Kathy

Kay VanderWyst
March 11, 1998 - 06:10 am
Roz - I have typed a poem several times and then click on "Post my Messsage" and nothing happens. I have waited for a half hour or more. Is there something I am doing wrong?

Kathy - I very much enjoyed the tribute you paid to your husband. It was very beautiful and touching. I will keep both of you in my prayers.

Roslyn Stempel
March 11, 1998 - 09:14 am
Kay, is it possible that by the time you finish typing the poem in the message box your connection has "timed out" and you are no longer connected to Seniornet? I've had this problem several times when I'm sending a long message. Try with a fresh connection, just posting the first few lines, go through the registration and password procedures, and see what happens. If that is the difficulty, it can be solved by keying in your entire message on your word processor, starting up your internet connection, and then using the "Copy" keyword to transfer it to the Seniornet message box. Persevere!


Roslyn Stempel
March 11, 1998 - 11:07 am
There are some old French poems I've read which are so delightful that I keep wishing I could translate them adequately. The rules for French poetry were very strict as to the number of syllables and the kinds of rhymes that were permitted. Ronsard wrote a number of sonnets in the French style, two quatrains with the abba/abba rhyme scheme followed by two tercets that rhymed ccddcd. Again because of its connection to Homer, I nerved myself to make a stab at this one, trying to keep the sense and maintain the classic 10-syllable meter and part of the rhyme scheme, and working from modern forms of the 16th-century language. The first line literally translated would read, "I want to read in three days the Iliad of Homer..."

The Iliad - I'll read it in three days!
So, Corydon, post "Keep Out!" on the door.
If I'm disturbed - as I've warned you before,
I swear you'll suffer - and you know my ways!

Don't let the maid come in to clean the room.
You keep out too, you and that other boy.
I want three days to dwell in windy Troy,
Then a week's rioting to purge the gloom.

Well...if Cassandra sends a messenger?
Open the door for anyone from her -
Come right through, help me straighten up the place --

Only for such a one I'll show my face.
Elsewise, let gods from heaven come down and knock,
Even for them don't you dare loose the lock.

--Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585)

The "Cassandra" referred to was a real person, one of the lady-loves to whom Ronsard addressed much of his exquisite love poetry. So he's saying that this burst of scholarly activity can be interrupted only by a message from his beloved.


Roslyn Stempel
March 11, 1998 - 04:15 pm
So, dog-and-poetry-lovers, more than 300 years ago an important poet sat down and wrote an epitaph for his pet, and it is still available to read today. How's this for the long arm of coincidence?

I don't want to push this French poetry thing too hard, but I have just found a really delightful dog poem written by another 16th-century poet, Joachim du Bellay. It's much too long to translate here but it's really sweet: an epitaph for his loyal little poodle, Peloton (a word that means a big fuzzy ball of yarn).

What a great little dog he was! All curly white fur except for his huge black eyes and black muzzle. His principal exercises were yapping and braying, jumping up and down, standing on his hind legs, and of course acting as watchdog during the night. If he heard a sound he would be up and barking immediately, ready to protect his master. He was a dainty eater, not gulping down huge pieces of meat but only eating the bits that came from his master's hand. No one else could feed him. He would not allow himself to be petted by strangers.

Alas, says his grieving master, he has died and his body is buried in the earth and covered with roses and grass, while his spirit has been taken into the underworld to amuse the god Pluto. What a pity, says the poet, that he should have been sent to Pluto, when such a wonderful little dog should really have ascended to the sky to form a new constellation!


Kathy Chrisley
March 11, 1998 - 08:51 pm
Kay Vander Wyst,Thank you so much for your very kind and thoughtful comments.Roger and I really do appreciate your prayers. We need them. The poem was written one night after a very bad night of nightmares of the war.He had finally went into a peaceful sleep. I was still uptight and started writing. I also wrote "A Boys Story"that night. It's on Poet's Press. Some way I left the last line off the 7th verse when I posted it. Oh well,so be it. Just thought I'd give you a little info on the poem. Thank you again, Kathy

Mary Shelby
March 12, 1998 - 12:48 pm
Kathy that poem was so beautiful. You know I can't believe that so many people will not believe what our service men go through to win the freedoms we enjoy. It just breaks my heart to hear comments about young people give their idea what it is like. they have no idea they have never been there and they could care less. They just take it forgrated. God Bless you and do not ever forget there are so many people who thank him for his great sacrifice for our country. He gave all he had. I pray God will take the terrible burden from him and give him some peace to enjoy the peace he and his buddies gave their lifes for. God bless you both and we always pray for our military people. My son was a pilot in Viet Nam. He has just retired. When I saw him go I just turned him over to God. That is all we can do. All our love and appreciation for what you all have given us Mary

Kathy Chrisley
March 13, 1998 - 12:33 am
Mary Shelby-

Hi Mary,I can't seem to get off this puter tonight. I guess I'm addicted already. Anyway I'm glad you like the poem and thank you for your kind words.You're so right. Our boys go off to a foreign land to keep war away from our country and fight for freedom.Many lose their lives, the ones who make it back home are never the same again.They have pictures in their minds we could never imagine.I could go on but I won't.I know you're very proud of your son. Give him our blessings and tell him "Thank you" for my husband and me. Thank you, Kathy

Roslyn Stempel
March 14, 1998 - 05:29 am
There's been quite an exchange of comments about the costliness and futility of war, and I wanted to call readers' attention to a couple of famous and serious war poems of earlier times. Wilfred Owen (1893-1918), a young English poet, was killed at the very end of World War I. You'll probably recall, at least from history books, that the first World War introduced "modern warfare" techniques such as poison gas, aerial bombing, trenches, etc., and resulted in a terrible loss of life during the four-plus years it lasted.

Owen's poems about war have been reprinted in many anthologies. This one is often used even today, though some its language may seem old-fashioned to today's readers.

Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles'rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,--
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

As a poet, Owen used many figures of speech to convey his horror at the wastefulness and cruelty of death in wartime. He was thinking about the various kinds of religious rituals that attend death in a peaceful world -- the sound of a church bell tolling, candles, prayers, choirs singing, flowers, shades pulled down in the house of mourning, perhaps a beautiful white cover over the body of the loved one who has died. These things, which so often help to mark and soothe grief, can't be found on a battlefield. Instead, there is the noise of battle, and at home the people left behind must bid farewell in their thoughts because the loved one is far away, they could not be at his side, and perhaps the news has come in a letter or telegram.

The thoughts that you have posted, and your verses, strongly convey your feelings about war, loss, and bravery. I think Wilfred Owen was expressing some of the same emotions, but as a poet of 80 or more years ago, he used more formal verse and more formal language.

Any comments?


George Hall
March 14, 1998 - 07:22 pm
I read a poem when I was in 6th grade (1943-1944) that has stayed with me all these years, but I cannot remember the Title or Author. I have searched/posted almost evertwhere, with no luck. I sure hope someone can help me. The poem:

Here we are, most of us Sitting at the window of our heart Crying for someone to come in and love us.

But then we fill the window with the stained glass of Pride and anger, of mannerisms and affectations So that no passerby could possibly glimpse The lonely self inside.

Here's hoping !!! Thanks very much........ George Hall ghall44675@aol.com

March 15, 1998 - 06:47 am
Roslyn, that was beautiful, thank you for that.

George, Ros probably knows that one, and now I want to know it too.

There was a whole series of war poems, I seem to remember, many of them very powerful as they should be. Thinking of "Grass"...who wrote that, (Whitman??) about the Civil War. It might be interesting to compare different poems about different wars, but would probably be sad.

Haven't seen Wilfred Owen in years. Enjoyed it.


George Hall
March 15, 1998 - 12:51 pm
Thanks Ros and Ginny for your responses. Response from Ros was by e-mail, so I have sent e-mail to her (CC to Ginny).

This is the first time I have received any reply (numerous Postings all over the place), so it has raised my hopes for finding that old poem Author/Title.

Any other inputs will be greatly appreciated. Sorry my first Post was not in proper format (I forgot how to force a carriage return). Glad you could decipher it.

Thanks again. George

March 15, 1998 - 03:11 pm
HI GEORGE...Sorry I can't help identify that poem. It sounds beautiful, but pretty "deep" for that grade level. I too would like to hear more of it, if anyone can help you out. Do you write any poetry yourself? If so, would love to have you post it here.

Roslyn Stempel
March 15, 1998 - 06:15 pm
Ginny, "Grass" is by Carl Sandburg:

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo,
Shovel them under and let me work--
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

My favorite Polish lady poet also has a similar poem, which I can't quote at the moment, but I'll get a fragment of it for tomorrow. How often we say to ourselves now that younger people don't know about the wars we lived through...it's a good reason for insisting that history be taught in our schools, in a meaningful way, not just about victories but about bravery, sacrifice, and the terrible cost of war to everyone.


March 16, 1998 - 06:32 am
Ros: Sandburg, of course! It's hard to combine Sandburg the poet with a visit to his home: all those goats. The house in NC is preserved exactly as he left it, as if he might walk in any minute. It's idyllic, but not like his poems.

I love Whitman, for some reason, got them confused.

That poem reminds me of a lot of things: says a lot of things, about War and futility and the inevitability of nature. Every time I ride down in Interstate and look at an old Frontage Road which is unused, and see the grass overtaking the pavement, you can see sort of a overpoweing force of nature vs. man's little efforts to put a stamp on it.

And then you read that the trains which pass by Patton's gravesite in...is it Belgium? slow down on each and every pass thru in respect.

I hope to see that someday.

I guess, can we say, that a poet sort of condenses what it would take us reams of paper to say in a few words. Robert Frost is good at that, too.


Roslyn Stempel
March 16, 1998 - 08:36 am
Ginny, I'm pretty sure Whitman wrote something in which grass figured prominently. When I first read your note I thought you were probably right about the authorship, but the index of a handy anthology proved us both wrong.

George Hall suggested Emily Dickinson (1831-1886) as a possible author of the fragment he is trying to locate. That sent me to Dickinson's Complete Poems. The subject index indicated nothing relevant, but I had a pleasant time browsing through those fascinatingly irregular poems, which have strict meter and some rhyme but a very high Puzzle Factor. I found a couple of short things I hadn't seen before. Here's an intriguing one:

Had I known that the first was the last
I should have kept it longer.
Had I known that the last was the first
I should have drunk it stronger.
Cup, it was your fault,
Lip was not the liar.
No, lip, it was yours,
Bliss was most to blame.

Dickinson's poems were unpublished during her lifetime, being considered erratic, unpoetic, and difficult compared to the highly regular, strongly rhymed, and unambiguous works of the time. Her subjects range from tiny verses about nature to strong statements about several kinds of love, about death, war, religion, and the difficulties of everyday life. She was considered a recluse, but she certainly got around intellectually.


March 17, 1998 - 08:59 am
I love Dickenson, I didn't used to, tho. They ARE strange. Didn't she write "I heard a fly buzz when I died?" and didn't she also write: "Because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me? The carriage (not looking this up, now, may be wrong) held but just ourselves and immortality."

Her rhythms are so sort of sing song and her rhymes are so easy to remember that they really are hard to get out of your head.

Now, in that one above" Had I known that the first was the last I should have kept it longer." I can understand this completely, but the next part:

" Had I known that the last was the first I should have drunk it stronger." I'm a little foggy on, but I can sense even tho I don't understand what she's referring to, a great poignancy and sense of loss.


Roslyn Stempel
March 17, 1998 - 09:22 am
Ginny, remember how Trudi Montag in "Stones from the River" endlessly mulled over that one precious kiss she got from whats-'is-name the dentist? Finished almost before it began, she didn't have time to enjoy it, etc. Could Emily's rumination here be somewhat similar? One of the rumors about her life is that she had a single brief heterosexual romance (other types hinted at but not specified) which didn't last. So it occurred to me that the second figure is a kind of mirror of the first. As for the rest, it bizarrely suggested to me (based on her intimate acquaintance with scripture) "Let this cup pass," which she transmuted into "Let this cup linger." What fun to speculate!

Now for something entirely different, a lovely spring poem I copied from one of the displays at the school where I volunteer:

While You Were Chasing a Hat

The wind that whirled your hat away
soared a flag,
filled a sail,

led a boat, tugged a kite,
tweaked its tail,

towed a cloud,
rode a wave,

chased some crows,
flung them far,
strummed on a telephone-wire guitar,

thrumming a tune
mile on mile
all the while you were chasing a hat.

The author, Lilian Moore.
The book, Something New Begins, published/copyright in 1982 by Atheneum and later picked up by Scholastic.

Think spring, everybody!


Roslyn Stempel
March 17, 1998 - 05:04 pm
I'm going to post a poem sent in by Catherine VanderWyst, who has had a terrible time trying to get her messages through. (I guess we've all been frustrated about that, the past few days.) So I volunteered to try my luck and forward it. Kay says that the poetry isn't the same quality as some that we have had here, and I have to agree that it's not Shakespeare! But it's about a very serious subject and it really falls into the ballad or folk-song category, also something that in earlier days was known as a "broadside," a rhymed account of an event that was designed to get people's attention and stick in their minds much better than a column of newsprint could possibly do.

This is quite long so I am doing it in several takes. Hope it goes through:

Moonlight Ride
(Author Unknown)

Jenny was so happy about the house they had found.
For once in her life, it was on the right side of town.
She unpacked her things with such great ease.
As she watched her new curtains blow in the breeze.

How wonderful it was to have her own room.
School would be starting, she'd have friends over soon.
There'd be sleep-overs, and parties; she was so happy.
Itís just the way she wanted her life to be.

On the first day of school, everything went great.
She made new friends and even got a date!
She thought, I want to be popular and I'm going to be,
Because I just got a date with the star of the team!

Roslyn Stempel
March 17, 1998 - 05:05 pm
Here's the next segment:

"Well, I just won't tell them the entire truth.
They won't know the difference; what's there to lose?"
Jenny asked to stay with her friends that night.
Her parents frowned, but said, "All right."

Excited, she got ready for the big event.
But as she rushed around like she had no sense,
She began to feel guilty about all the lies,
But what's a pizza, a party, and a moonlight ride?

Well, the pizza was good, and the party was great,
But the moonlight ride would have to wait,
For Jeff was half drunk by this time.
But he kissed her and said that he was just fine.

Then the room filled with smoke and Jeff took a puff.
Jenny couldn't believe he was smoking that stuff.
Now Jeff was ready to ride to the point,
But only after he'd smoked another joint.

Roslyn Stempel
March 17, 1998 - 05:07 pm
Here's Part 3:

They jumped in the car for the moonlight ride,
Not thinking that he was too drunk to drive.
They finally made it to the point at last,
And Jeff started trying to make a pass.

A pass is not what Jenny wanted at all
(and by a pass, I don't mean playing football).
"Perhaps my parents were right....maybe I am too young.
Boy, how could I ever, ever be so dumb."

With all of her might, she pushed Jeff away:
"Please take me home, I don"t want to stay."
Jeff cranked up the engine and floored the gas.
In a matter of seconds they were going too fast.

As Jeff drove on in a fit of wild anger,
Jenny knew that her life was in danger.
She begged and pleaded for him to slow down,
But he just got faster as they neared the town.

"Just let me get home! I'll confess that I lied.
I really went out for a moonlight ride."
Then all of a sudden, she saw a big flash.
"Oh God, please help us! We're going to crash!"

Roslyn Stempel
March 17, 1998 - 05:10 pm
(Here's the rest - I guess you can predict the ending to this sad story. Thanks, Kay, for bringing it to our attention.)

She doesn't remember the force of impact.
Just that everything all of a sudden went black.
She felt someone remove her from the twisted rubble,
And heard, "Call an ambulance! These kids are in trouble!"

Voices she heard....a few words at best.
But she knew there were two cars involved in the wreck.
Then wondered to herself if Jeff was all right,
And if the people in the other car were alive.

She awoke in the hospital to faces so sad.
"You've been in a wreck and it looks pretty bad."
These voices echoed inside her head,
As they gently told her that Jeff was dead.

They said, "Jenny, we've done all we can do.
But it looks as if we'll lose you too."
"But the people in the other car?" Jenny cried.
"We're sorry, Jenny, they also died."

Jenny prayed, "God, forgive me for what I've done.
I only wanted to have just one night of fun.
Tell those people's family, I've made their lives dim,
And wish I could return their families to them.

"Tell Mom and Dad I'm sorry I lied,
And that it's my fault so many have died.
Oh, nurse, will you please tell them that for me?"
The nurse just stood there, she never agreed.

But took Jenny's hand with tears in her eyes,
And a few moments later Jenny died.
A man asked the nurse, "Why didn't you do your best
To bid that girl her one last request?"

She looked at the man with eyes oh so sad,
"Because the people in the other car were her mom and dad."
This story is sad and unpleasant but true,
So young people take heed, it could have been you.

Kay VanderWyst
March 17, 1998 - 07:38 pm
Ros - Thank you very much. I tried several times, but, like I told you, as soon as I clicked on 'Post My Message' everything just stood still. This isn't the greatest of poetry but certainly tells a sad story. I appreciate your help.

Roslyn Stempel
March 18, 1998 - 09:31 am
Ginny, getting back to the often cryptic, nearly always compelling work of Emily Dickinson: I went back to reread "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" No. 712) and found that your memory of the first stanza was exactly right. . .and the entire 6-stanza poem is one of many she wrote in which she apparently envisioned her dead self enduring various kinds of eternity. Here, she ends, "Since then - 'tis Centuries - and yet/Feels shorter than the Day/I first surmised the Horses' Heads/ Were toward Eternity. Lonely, right? But then there's No. 449,

Not quite so lonely, that one. "I died for Beauty - but was scarce/Adjusted in the Tomb/ When One who died for Truth, was lain / In an adjoining Room - /He questioned softly "Why I failed"? / "For Beauty," I replied - /"And I - for Truth -Themself are One - We Brethren are," He said. ? And so, as Kinsmen, met a Night - /We talked between the Rooms - /Until the Moss had reached our lips - /And covered up - our names - /

A little cozier than the first-mentioned, isn't it?

The Subject Index in her Collected Poems covers literally hundreds of topics, though as you might expect, the listings under Death, Love, God, Graves, Life, Heaven, and Friends are numerous, as are those under Nature and various subtopics like birds, bees, and flowers.

I agree about the comparative regularity of Dickinson's meters, though I think many of her rhymes are intriguingly stretchy and far-fetched. But then, the Welsh think a rhyme is a rhyme if just the vowel sounds match, and that might be true of other Gaelic-Celtic tongues as well.


March 18, 1998 - 04:27 pm
Ros: cozy? Gave me the chills. Moss covering up our lips and covered up our names? Gosh. Never heard of that one.

Now just like Kay's, that poem has a rhythm and also a rhyme, but the theme is definitely not nursery room fare. I think it's deceptive, and probably done for a reason, as the end results of both are stunning?

Don't quite understand why Truth failed for lack of beauty, and Beauty for lack of Truth? What is she saying?

And so the two of them, Truth and Beauty died, and then chatted until the moss covered them up and then both Truth and Beauty were forever silent?


March 18, 1998 - 06:56 pm
GINNY...It sounds like a premonition of todays world...truth and beauty have both died. But I really don't accept that. So much of goodness is gone, but as long as Queen Hope lives, we are not lost.

Roslyn Stempel
March 18, 1998 - 08:13 pm
"John Keats, in Ode on a Grecian Urn, said,

When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' -- that is all
Ye know on earth and all ye need to know.

I'd have to check on whether Emily D. knew Keats's work, but since her knowledge of literature and foreign geography was extensive, I think it's possible. I also think she was vastly intrigued by the question of what happens after death .... She speculates about heaven, about the mysterious change in a loved friend after life has fled from the body, about the various possible forms of immortality, about "salvation," and about whether it was worthwhile to cling to a life filled with physical or emotional pain. These were also favored topics with the Romantic poets like Keats and Shelley.

June, your reference to "Queen Hope" reminds me of the old myth about Pandora's box. When that curious teen-ager opened the box which Epimetheus had begged her not to touch, all the world's troubles flew out to plague us, but at the bottom of the box Pandora found the little winged creature Hope, stored there to offer a bit of comfort to us hapless humans.


March 19, 1998 - 05:05 am
Ros: Oh good, Keats. But what is Dickenson saying? She does seem to be making a point?

I think....let's see, can you have truth without beauty? Sure. And can you have beauty without truth? Sure. It's a matter of perspective. I may think my old dog is beautiful, while you feel the truth is he's a horror?

June: I think that's why I'm asking the question: I don't GET that sense of sadness you'd have if truth and beauty were both gone from the world. Emily Dickenson is a hard nut to crack, I think, just from the ideas we've raised here...and she uses such spare words in these little things.


Roslyn Stempel
March 19, 1998 - 10:02 am
"Did she have a point?" Well, some kind of point certainly, but not necessarily to posit an eternal truth with every scrap of the 1775, yes, one thousand, seven hundred seventy-five, verses that were finally published, to say nothing of the dozens or hundreds that were crumpled up and thrown out with the trash. What is worth dying for? Some say one's native land ("Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori") and some call that nonsense, but the country goes on regardless of who dies for it. Beauty, truth, freedom, science, religion, what have you - these are principles by which humans live and for which, not infrequently, some humans die. The mortal beings disappear, sometimes leaving markers behind like the figures on the Grecian urn or Lincoln's words or Sacco and Vanzetti's; the ideas and principles persist.

As for the endurance of truth as a worthy principle for life, we might look back at Kay's poem and speculate that if the little girl had told the truth to her parents, the whole tragedy might have been avoided.


March 19, 1998 - 10:33 am
I'm one of these people who think that poems are there because they make a point. Why else write one? Not necessarily a moral but a point. Elsewise they are the loose ruminations? of a mind??

So when I read something like the truth/ beauty one, and it's obvious to me a point is being made, but I don't "get it," it produces anxious moments: the little girl wants to get the test right.

Am kind of a big "little girl" now, but still want to get it right, will think on it as I prune grapes: sun now out for the first time. Now I want to find a criticism of Dickenson: you don't have one, do you Ros??


Roslyn Stempel
March 20, 1998 - 06:46 pm
Ginny, I don't have any books devoted to criticism per se; I did look back at some anthologies only to find that they refer to Dickinson's "lively use of metaphor," her "links to her New England regional background," her "kinship with Walt Whitman" though they never met and she didn't admit reading his poems, and her pervading themes of -- you guessed it -- nature, love, death, religion, eternity, etc. I can't resist reminding you of Archibald MacLeish's suggestion that "A poem should not mean, but be." Rather than looking for a direct one-to-one, symbol-to-definition translation, I find I'm more comfortable occasionally snatching at the trailing wisps of meaning that come to my mind after a couple of readings. I can - no, I must - live with ambiguity.


Roslyn Stempel
March 21, 1998 - 12:53 pm
Besides using rhythm and putting rhymes at the ends of lines, poets have other ways of helping us "hear" their thoughts in a special way. Here are two poems about the same subject - the fact that tears do not solve any of life's problems (though they do relieve feelings). The first one deals with the brevity of life and ends with the hope that there may be some life after death that restores the lost loved ones and, one might say, dries our mortal tears.

(Lizette Woodworth Reese)

When I consider Life and its few years--
A wisp of fog betwixt us and the sun;
A call to battle, and the battle done
Ere the last echo dies within our ears;
A rose choked in the grass; an hour of fears;
The gusts that past a darkening shore do beat;
The burst of music down an unlistening street,--
I wonder at the idleness of tears.

Ye old, old dead, and ye of yesternight,
Chieftains, and bards, and keepers of the sheep,
By every cup of sorrow that you had,
Loose me from tears, and make me see aright
How each hath back what once he stayed to weep:
Homer his sight, David his little lad!

Notice how many words beginning with "b" this poet has used. And notice, too, the number of words containing the sound cluster "st": betwixt, last, gusts, past, burst, yesternight. They create an echo within the lines.

The second and longer poem voices no such hope, but dwells (in beautiful imagery) on our longing for what is past, what has been lost, and what we seem to have no hope of recapturing. Hence Tennyson suggests that tears are "idle" -- useless and meaningless -- because they don't restore any of our losses.

(Alfred, Lord Tennyson)
(From "The Princess")

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

Ah, sad and strange, as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awaken'd birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

Dear as remember'd kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feign'd
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!

Tennyson uses alliteration also in repeating many "s" sounds, "d's," (dear, death, dying, despair, dark, dawn, etc.) and also "f's": fields, fresh, first, friends, fancy, feigned. . . If you were speaking these poems aloud, your mouth would tell you something!

The mournful syllable "or" in the phrase "the days that are no more" which Tennyson uses at the end of each stanza adds to the sadness of this poem. These are examples of the way Romantic and Victorian poets used certain sounds to convey emotion. Keats's Ode to a Nightingale employs other powerful "or" words:
"pouring forth thy soul...""...perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

--Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!"


March 21, 1998 - 01:52 pm
Ros...I really like this poem by Richard Kelly, even tho I am not sure I understand it. I would like your understanding of it. RED LION... At the heart with claws red lion licks the will to flame and enters where the mind withdraws. Red lion at the lips, red lion at the windy eyes comes flashing where resistance flies. The hand is prey to touch and heart to pay red lion: this arena is not Sion. Remember us with Daniel, Lord,with whom we would compete and hold red lion silent at our feet.

March 23, 1998 - 07:58 am
Not to interrupt, but find myself suddenly obsessed with Dickenson. Wore white, never descended stairs to meet guests, only 2 out of 2,000 poems published in her lifetime? Want to look into her more, back when I've gotten some kind of definitive critical analysis.

June: LOVE that Red Lion!! Boy o Boy, now to me, that calls up the unbidden thoughts that just insist on invading or pacing your mind that you can't get rid of.

Probably doesn't mean that at all!


March 23, 1998 - 07:59 am
Oh, Ros, was about to say I, too, thought of the McLeish while pruning, but have always dismissed him. Shouldn't have! 3 Pulizter Prizes?? THREE??

So, do you agree with him? Should it "be" and not "mean?"


Roslyn Stempel
March 23, 1998 - 11:12 am
June, these images are truly exciting. On the face of it "Red Lion" seems to represent some kind of evil or temptation to sin. But please help me out: who is Richard Kelly and where does this poem appear?

In Chapter 5 of the biblical Book of Daniel, King Darius had Daniel cast into a den of lions, because he was discovered worshiping his own (Hebrew) God instead of bowing down to the king. The den was closed with a stone and sealed up, but in the morning, Daniel was still alive, and informed Darius that God had sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions. Although according to current scholarship Daniel is seen as a legendary, rather than a historical, figure, the story serves as a paradigm of the power of faith to overcome danger and temptation. (The whole incident was politically motivated because the king's officials were jealous of Daniel's power over the king and couldn't find any other way to undermine him except his religious practices.)

The last line seemed to me to be really powerful: "...and hold red lion silent at our feet." But why is the poet competing with Daniel? Maybe that was the only word available to complete the rhyme. Or is there another reason?

Dear Ginny, it would make an old woman happy to learn that, before looking for further critical analysis, you had read a dozen, or 50, or 100, of Dickinson's poems and had allowed yourself to be carried away by her thoughts and images. Yes, she did wear white most of the time, and she did seem to float up and down the stairs quietly (probably wore the 19th-century equivalent of Dearfoam house slippers), but just think about the ideas that boiled in that brain! Dozens of references to faraway places with strange-sounding names. Imaginary adventures on land and sea, voyages in her mind, with who knows what bruises and bumps and tears as she came bitterly back to earth.Innumerable keen notes about nature. The turning of the seasons. The way her moods were affected by sunlight, weather, bird-song. The way she enshrined her (probably) few physical contacts with men in passionate words. How did she deal, in that era of dubious hygiene and limited laundry, with the conflict between her menstrual cycles and her "lady-in-white" appearance? What wicked chuckles did she enjoy as she scribbled some sharp comment about a stuffed-shirt visitor or a pompous neighbor?

As for Macleish, it's been years since I pored earnestly over any of his longer works. He made nice pictures and I dimly recall he had some ideas about democracy, America, etc. And doesn't a Pulitzer suggest that his ideology pleased the publishing establishment? But "Ars Poetica" has been important to me. I fancy I can hear music acompanying it.


March 23, 1998 - 09:35 pm
Hello, I'm new here and fairly new to internet. Have enjoyed reading through the poetry discussions, and and hope I am set up OK to enter. Loma

Roslyn Stempel
March 24, 1998 - 05:49 am
Loma, welcome to the Poetry folder, alternately a land of enchantment or a desert of desolation depending on how many people are moved to post comments or contributions. I'm glad you've found the discussion interesting and I hope you will add your own thoughts and preferences. Our discussions and examples have ranged from limericks to classics. We've pondered dialect poems, love poetry, sonnets, translations, nature poems, and what you might call poems about poetry itself, like Archibald Macleish's "Ars Poetica," originally posted here last November as message #206, and which I'm going to put in again just because I really like it.

Ars Poetica

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit

As old medallions to the thumb

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown--

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves
Memory by memory the mind--

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

A poem should be equal to:
Not true

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea--

A poem should not mean
But be.

MacLeish doesn't use a standard rhythm or meter here. The first few lines rhyme at the end; then he moves the rhymes to the mid-line, then carries them into our ears so we're not sure whether there really is a rhyme--and finishes with a clear rhyme between "sea" and "be."

Try reading this aloud. It's quite musical. I love the combination of wonderful images and haunting ideas. It stirs me every time I read it or think about it....Not a feeling of satisfaction but a feeling of emotional arousal.

Maybe I'll re-post it every time we hit another 200 messages!

Ros, the Optimist

March 24, 1998 - 08:28 am
Thank you for posting Archibald Macleish's "Ars Poetica." How true it is, regarding poetry!

Here is a little poem I have always liked. It seems very evocative of certain mornings.

FOG (Carl Sandburg) The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on.

I cannot find the instructions how to put this in poetry format; please advise. It should be 6 short lines.

March 24, 1998 - 10:11 am
Ginny and Ros, Thank you for reading Red Lion, and giving me your opinions. They were greatly appreciated. I too felt it had to do with temptation of some sort, or even a depression of the writer.

I searched for two hours on the Net yesterday, and could find nothing on Richard Kelly, or the title. I can't even remember where I found the poem, but I think it was about the middle sixties. It could have been in the L.A. Times, or a magazine. I did contact a very helpful gentleman on the Net, and he searched some anthologies that he had at home, and also searched the Net, but found nothing. He suggested a good library with an available search engine.

Welcome to you Loma, I remembered the poem Fog from highschool days, and it was like meeting an old friend. Thank you for that memory.

ARS POETICA...Is that Latin ? And what is the English meaning Ros ? I particularly liked the very last line.

March 24, 1998 - 10:21 am
May I also post this one.....ON THE DEATH OF THE MAN WHO INVENTED PLASTIC ROSES. J.Peter Meinke

The man who invented the plastic rose is dead. Behold his mark: His undying flawless blossoms never close But guard his grave unbending through the dark. He understood neither beauty nor flowers Which catch our hearts in nets as soft as sky And bind us with a thread of fragile hours: Flowers are beautiful because they die.

Beauty without the perishable pulse Is dry and sterile, an abandoned stage With false forests. But the results Support this man's invention; he knew his age: A vision of our tearless time discloses Artificial men sniffing plastic roses.

Joan Pearson
March 24, 1998 - 11:00 am
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Roslyn Stempel
March 24, 1998 - 02:18 pm
June and Loma, thanks for the poems.

Fog is enchanting, isn't it, as long as one doesn't have to drive in it, or catch a plane!

As for the sterility of plastic roses, it led me to wonder how those indestructible blossoms would have appeared to some of the old poets who wrote so feelingly of "beauty that must die" and who compared the perishability of flowers to the perishability of youth and love.

You'll find full instructions for posting poetry and lots of other things in the main Seniornet listing, Introduction to the Round Table. There are several "lessons" which demonstrate the various codes to insert in your message box, and there's also a place for you to practice. You can even learn how to use big print and different colors, if that's what turns you on.


March 24, 1998 - 02:54 pm
Thank you Ros, I had very carefully typed in the poem in Verse form, and it came out in sentences.

Roslyn Stempel
March 24, 1998 - 05:36 pm
Ginny, are you there? Horace and Ars Poetica are really your department. Please help!

June, Ars Poetica could be roughly translated as "A Treatise on Poetry," and was actually the title assigned by later scholars to a kind of essay by the Roman poet Horatius Flaccus setting down some guidelines for writing Latin poetry within the strict set of meters and subjects considered appropriate for that 1st century BC. Macleish's borrowing of the title was in a sense humorous, because his "should-be" guidelines couldn't be more remote from Horace's fairly rigid ones. I skimmed through our Modern Library Horace hoping to find some light-hearted bit of translated verse to post here, but do you think I found anything? Nah.

So, Ginny, please come to the defense of the Roman bard. Rescue his laurel wreath (which in one translation is described as PARSLEY??), correct all my errors, and help us all to learn something.


Jeanne Lee
March 24, 1998 - 07:04 pm
June - To post poetry in verse form, at the end of each line type <br>. To get a space between stanzas type <p>.

March 24, 1998 - 07:11 pm
Thank you Jeanne Lee, Ginny had E-mailed me that information earlier today, and I have it on my Notepad to print. I do not have a retentive memory ,alas. And today I was searching for the posting in size and color, even tho I have the copy you sent me by E-mail, and I could no longer locate it. Ah, Youth....it is no longer here. <G>

March 25, 1998 - 05:30 am
June: that's not all that's no longer here! hahahahahah

It's hard to remember things if you don't make use of them a lot! The joy of SeniorNet, teaching us all new stuff, so we, too, can become masters.

Ros: Oh, of course, it's my old nemesis, Horace. Do you ever remember hating a particular author for a reason? Perhaps he caused (not intentionally, since he's long dead) you public shame, and you avoided him from then on, saying to yourself you'd never see him again??


My entire career thus far on SeniorNet has been to translate Horace!! But, never fear, I do still have, altho lacking in memory, a perfectly splendid library of Latin texts, and will look for light Horace, and report back asap. Seem to vaguely remember satires, clever turnings of language, will get back. Never, tho, understood or appreciated our Horace, he shamed me, you see. hahahahahahha

Wonder if LJ still has his Horace text? Will write him.


Roslyn Stempel
March 25, 1998 - 04:15 pm
While we're waiting for Ginny to tell us more about Horace, here's a poem by Christina Rossetti that speaks, as many Victorians did, of life as a long and sometimes painful journey, and of the necessity for slogging on in the hope that sometime, somewhere - maybe only in the hereafter - we will encounter love, encouragement, and peace:


Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.

-- Christina Rossetti

I like the way she carried out (as simply as if she were describing an actual inn for tourists) the metaphor of the tedious climb, the oncoming darkness, and the welcome that awaited the faithful traveler at journey's end.


Johann McCrackin
March 25, 1998 - 06:07 pm
Ros, you've posted some of my favorite poetry in here - Lizette Reese's "Tears" and Christina Rosetti's "Uphill". I don't make it here every day but when I do I get so much out of your analyses. I just love the rhythms and metaphors and alliterations in poetry. Maybe that's why I enjoyed reading "Othello" out loud. When I was in college sometimes I would just catch a free hour in good weather and go sit on a bench in the arboretum and read poetry. So soothing!

March 25, 1998 - 06:56 pm
Ros..."UPHILL" pleases me greatly, because there is always a kind and encouraging answer to each question asked. I have never read it before. It brings to mind something I read years ago, written by Pamela Starr, who was a resident of Idyllwild Calif. She wrote, "Today I am in a valley; tomorrow I must climb a Mountain." And that was it. For some reason it has stayed in my mind.

Roslyn Stempel
March 26, 1998 - 05:38 am
Johann, nice to hear from you. (Now that's an odd expression, since we can't "hear" each other except inside our heads!) I still think of you shouting Othello into the surf. It's good to know that I've hit on some of your favorites. Yes, I think my first impressions of a poem come from the music created by the rhythm and sound, combined with whatever images I pick up. "Meaning" -- if I can find it -- follows, after several readings.

I value the privilege of posting my selections here. I think I've located the internal, physical place where they seem to resonate. It's somewhere inside my chest cavity, maybe close to the point that chokes up when I watch something sentimental or try to sing an old song.

June, I liked your quotation from Pamela Starr. That kind of determined optimism is really valuable. (I have to admit it reminded me -- by contrast --of a saying from the cynical 1960's which summarized hard luck, depression, and resignation, "I've been down so long it seems like up to me.")

I have a longish poem to post that contains some hopeful ideas, and will move it to the next message.


Roslyn Stempel
March 26, 1998 - 10:40 am
Here's another sample of Victorian optimism:


Say not the struggle naught availeth,
The labor and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.

If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke concealed,
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,
When the daylight comes, comes in the light,
In front, the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright!

Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861)

As I keyed this in and read it over I began to notice how many words implying discouragement contain the long A sound - fail, pain, vain, avail, faint. I wonder if this creates a tone of sadness comparable to the "OR" clusters we've already noted.

Besides urging the reader to persevere on his/her personal behalf, Clough (pronounced CLUFF) also suggests that to give up too soon means "letting down the side," by failing to help the comrades who are still in the fight and who seem to be prevailing.

Do you find this poem a little stiff and formal? I do, but it's redeemed by that last stanza and the beautiful, hopeful last line ... meaningful to me since many of our lives are now facing "westward."


Johann McCrackin
March 26, 1998 - 07:09 pm
Hey, Ros, you're really on a roll! Love that one, too! Maybe that's what I am - a little Victorian! I know that we don't usually post original verse here, but I'm going to share an original on the same note that I wrote several years ago, not because it's all that good, but because I was trying to express something similar:


The pastel streamers of the rising sun
Climb up the eastern sky and paint the sea
With radiance. Life awakes expectantly
And stirs and sings from lake and field and tree.

The scars of wind and floodtide slowly fade;
The healing power of time and sun and rain
Caress the earth and draw forth from the sod
The greenery that covers it again.

Nature never lingers with the past
Or yesterday's lost joy. It turns its face
Forever to the day that lies at hand
Sustaining life with steadfastness and grace.

God's gift of life demands that it be lived
And only cowards seek to abdicate
The choice we each must make--how we will live--
Courageously or cursing fickle fate.

Our failures never write the final word;
Each moment holds a challenge fresh and bright.
To hearts that live in love and leap in hope,
Sunrise is certain after darkest nights.

Roslyn Stempel
March 27, 1998 - 11:40 am
Johann, there you are again on the shore of the Atlantic, shouting eastward into the sunrise! Thanks for the poem. We'll just disregard your becoming modesty: You tackled a difficult subject with considerable success. I particularly like the line in the third stanza that suggests that we, like the rest of Nature, should accept the rhythms of time and the turning world and "turn our faces forever to the day."

You referred to having written this "several years ago." If you were doing it now, would you do anything differently? (In the poem, I mean -- not in your life.)


March 27, 1998 - 11:54 am
JOHANN...I really love your poem. In fact, I am so drawn to it, I must print it out. I would not associate it with Victorian...but then..what do I know? It just fills me full of hope and expectation and freshness. How I wish that I could put into words the "feelings" we have inside, but then, I woudn't appreciate so much the gifts of others. Thank you so much for sharing it.

Johann McCrackin
March 27, 1998 - 02:07 pm
Ros and June, thanks for the accolades. I used to write poetry fairly frequently but as my job with the school system got more hectic, I got away from it. Have written a little since I retired - but it isn't as easy somehow to capture the reflective mood as it used to be.

In answer to your question, Ros, I don't think I would do it differently at this point. Often when I get a phrase or an idea, my poetry sort of writes itself and when I make an effort at redoing the words, somehow they don't sound as fluid. Hey, I'm not even sure I would live my life any differently. I probably made some mistakes along the way but they were learning experiences and it's nice to be here and now with a lot of hassles behind me!

Thanks again! Better go - my husband and I are going to see a performance of "Les Miserables" tonight by a touring company. Really looking forward to it. I love the music.

March 27, 1998 - 08:00 pm
I found the Posting Tips this time around, and so will try to repost Fog here the way it should be, as it is so much easier to read in verse form.

by Carl Sandburg
The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Johann, your poem New Beginnings expresses it well. Some of your words will apply literally to our immediate situation around here. Our city and whole area suffered from a strange snowstorm last October and so many tree branches were broken; the stubs and scars in the big trees are terribly evident everywhere. But remembering the damage from a couple of tornados and such (us seniors have a lot of memory to draw on) even the very worst damage will be overgrown and not so evident in two or three years. As you put it, "The scars of wind and floodtide slowly fade; The healing power of time and sun and rain Caress the earth ... The greenery that covers it again. Nature never lingers with the past."

Roslyn Stempel
March 28, 1998 - 05:41 am
Loma, thanks for reposting "Fog" in its intended form. Isn't it interesting to see how the placement of lines on a page can affect our reception of the words?

Our various messages are certainly a testament to the way in which poetry can illuminate our thoughts and speak to our personal experiences.

For the end of March, here are two little poems with similar titles, and with vastly different approaches:


The day before April
Alone, alone,
I walked in the woods
and sat on a stone.

I sat on a broad stone
And sang to the birds.
The tune was God's making
But I made the words.

(Mary Carolyn Davies)


The snow piles in dark places are gone.
Pools by the railroad tracks shine clear.
The gravel of all shallow places shines.
A white pigeon reels and somersaults.

Frogs plutter and squdge -- and frogs beat the air with a recurring thin steel sliver of melody.
Crows go in fives and tens; they march their black feathers past a blue pool; they celebrate an old festival.
A spider is trying his webs, a pink bug sits on my hand washing his forelegs.
I might ask: Who are these people?

(Carl Sandburg)

The Sandburg poem is taken from Early Moon, a 1930 collection of his poems intended for young readers. They are largely descriptive and have very little social comment. The collection includes "Fog," as well as numerous other weather-related pieces.

I don't think I'll be able to resist posting one of the "daffodil" poems that always come to mind at this time.


March 28, 1998 - 09:49 am
Ros...I enjoyed both poems. The Day Before April appeals to me most. So quiet, with a nice little twist at the end that makes me smile. "The tune was Gods' making, but I made the words." Sort of like she was happily surprised at what she had done. I am still smiling with her.

Roslyn Stempel
March 28, 1998 - 10:32 am
Yes, the shorter poem is entirely pleasing with its soft rhythms and the picture it evokes of the writer's delight in the coming of spring. I think the Sandburg too reveals something about its author, who --without putting it into explicit words -- leads us to consider the kinship of all living things. He notices the dance of the pigeon, the song of the frogs, the celebratory march of the crows, the "spring cleaning" of the spider and the pink bug. Indeed, "who are these people," sharing with us the joy of approaching springtime?


March 28, 1998 - 12:20 pm
On the Magnanimity of God, by Kathleen Knudsen

A fly marches backand forth on the window looking
for another place to march back and forth on the window
the fly watches itself and in looking back upon itself sighs
they both look and think I look particularily fly today
what comradeship no, living creatures hadn't dreamed
so much, had dreamed so much, as dreamed of in the window,
each his own confressor, being especially frank
each his own pardoner, being equally honest,
each his own photograph of what he remembers
as the best in a generation of flies !
God is waiting for the fly to talk to Him!

Roslyn Stempel
March 29, 1998 - 10:20 am
June, what an intriguing selection! Thanks for contributing - it's a nicely provocative bit to encounter early on a Sunday morning. (It was early Sunday when I started trying to post this, but I've been knocked off twice. Here goes another try.)

What is your interpretation of the poet's thought? And, incidentally, do you have further information about the poet and the source?


March 29, 1998 - 03:27 pm
ROS...I have had this poem in my Notebook for about 30 years. It was given to several of us at a Church study group by the Priest in charge. That is all I know about it, but have never researched. I played around with posting it, because it is a rather strange piece, but then thought...do it. What I find in it is the foolishness of the fly...his complete self-absorbtion to the exclusion of everything and everyone else...especially God. Still I have to laugh at the foolishness of this fly, and how we humans in our darkest hours are similar to him.

Johann McCrackin
March 29, 1998 - 08:39 pm
June, that was a neat interpretation. Thought it was really interesting where you got it. I have a first cousin who is a Jesuit priest and he is pretty deep sometimes. You post some challenging thoughts yourself at times.

Roslyn Stempel
March 30, 1998 - 05:58 am
My only acquaintance with Jesuits (since I'm not a Christian) is as charming, witty dinner guests in a friend's home, and - in the case of the following - as the author of one of the most gorgeous poems ever written in English:


Glory be to God for dappled things --
For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced -- fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades -- their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim,
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change;
Praise him.

(Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844-1889)

Hopkins was English, a Jesuit priest with a turbulent emotional life who wrote much poetry but hardly published at all. I hope everyone will take time to read it (maybe twice if it's new to you) and perhaps comment. It is full of strange language but once mastered it is wonderfully compelling. It's one of my "pocket" poems, those I keep in my head to mull over occasionally both for the beauty of the language and for the powerful thought. I've taught it to so-called "underachieving" 9th graders who memorized it and loved to roll those lines on their tongues.

June, I thought of you as I typed this in, seeing some connection to the thread of ideas we've been pursuing.)


March 30, 1998 - 06:28 am
My goodness, while I am pondering on one of the poems and the responses to it, up comes another great poem!

Going back to On the Magnanimity of God by Kathleen Knudsen, the first lines: "A fly marches backand forth on the window looking / for another place to march back and forth on the window" portrays a particularly clear fly description. But is the author also seeing a quirk of humankind? To a Greater Being, do our activities often seem as puny and self-absorbed? Yet He waits for communication with even the least of us.

I'm learning to see much more in all poetry, from this RoundTable.

March 30, 1998 - 01:21 pm
OH, ROS....I really love the Pied Beauty. Thank you so much for sharing it. I have it printed out to save with my other "goodies". There is a happy cadence and color to it that brings a big smile to my face, and makes me want to go back again and again.

Loma...I'm glad you like The Fly...and what you found in it. Yes, I think we humans do get quite tied up in our "puny" doings, and I think God probably finds humor and enjoyment in watching our self- important foolishness.

Johann McCrackin
March 31, 1998 - 06:42 am
Boy! This forum really challenges my brain these days! Very thoughtful comments on "the fly" and very thought provoking. I like Hopkins' poetry, too - didn't realize he was Jesuit also, Ros. Enjoy your background info on the poets. Love the rhythms and sounds in Pied Beauty, too.

March 31, 1998 - 11:32 am
Loved those two, and Johann, your poem was AS good if not BETTER than most I've read.

I thought this was just wonderful:

"Our failures never write the final word;
Each moment holds a challenge fresh and bright."

Feel like I want to put that in a heading somewhere in the Books and Lit: LOVE IT!

Some time ago before these excellent last poems had been posted, Ros asked me for a little more about Horace(Quintus Horatius Flaccus: December 8, 65- November 27, 8 BC).

It's hard to say a little about Horace, as so much of English literature owes such a debt to him. "In medias res," for instance, is one of his expressions, and he directly influenced Jonson, Pope, Keats, Dante, Milton, Bentley, Byron, and many others.

His Ars Poetica which Ros has mentioned, is the title (not the author's) by which his "Epistle to the Pisos " is generally known. It contains maxims extracted from a Greek manual by Neoptolemus, each followed by Horace's charming comments. Horace advised on poetic composition in general in this work: insisting on seriousness of the poetic art: "study life and human relations; avoid the corrupting influences of gain and flattery/ do not write unless inspired by the Muse; submit your work to a competent judge, keep it by you for 9 years." Oxford Companion to Classical Literature .

In addition, all Horace's works seem to have come down to us- nearly ten thousand lines, composed over 35 years. Their technical perfection had been admired down to this day though Petronius's well known judgment, "Horatii curiosa felicitas." (Horace's studied or painstaking felicity) seems to imply criticism.

Horace's Odes are the basis of his claim to immortality and are in several different metres: the Alcaic, the Sapphic, the Asclepiadean, and others.

The Epodes are in the form of the Greek lyric, with the prevailing metre the iambic couplet, in which a longer line is followed by a shorter, the latter in Greek being called epodos or after song where the Epodes get their names.

Horace's poems are on every subject imaginable: his life or that of his friends, the brevity and melancholy of life, the values of piety, good sense, avoidance of excess, patriotism, the joys of country and wine, etc., etc.

Here's a nice one:

Quisnam igitur liber? Sapiens, sibi qui imperiosus,
quem neque pauperies neque mors neque vincula terrent,
responsare cupidinibus, contemnere honores
foltis, et in se ipso totus, teres atque rotundus.

Who then is free? The wise man alone, who is a stern master to himself, whom neither poverty nor death nor bands affright, who has the courage to say "no" again and again to desires, to despise the objects of ambition, who is a whole in himself, smoothed and rounded.

Here's a famous phrase: carpe diem:

Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero

Seize the opportunity, and trust as little as you may to tomorrow.

Here's another famous phrase:

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

It is a sweet and becoming thing to die for one's country. This one's not as well known, but I like it:

Olim quod volpes aegroto cauta leoni
respondit referam: "Quia me vestigia terrent,
omnia te adversum spectantia, nulla retorsum"

I shall answer as the wary fox in the fable answered the sick lion: "Because I am frightened at seeing that all the footprints point towards your den and none the other way."

Here are some more famous Horacisms:

He who has begun is half done. Dare to be wise; begin!
Anger is a brief madness.
I shall not wholly die
No lot is altogether happy
Never despair
It is when I struggle to be brief that I become obscure
Measure in all things
The golden mean
They change their clime, not their disposition, who run across the sea.
Harmony in discord

There's a very good set of books called the Loeb Library, which have the Latin original on the left and the English translations on the right. You might, if interested, want to look at the Odes of Horace, and you can see the metres and poetic devices, and feel their rhythms clearly.


Roslyn Stempel
March 31, 1998 - 02:20 pm
Ginny, many thanks for performing this labor of -- could we say love, in relation to your knowledge of the classics? Your erudition is impressive. I know it must have taken time to get all the data together. I can't pretend that my appetite for Latin verse is whetted by your samples, but I feel so much better informed! Many of the phrases sound familiar; I must have encountered them in dressed-up form. And "Dulce et Decorum Est" is the title of a poem by Wilfred Owen about the horrors of a World War I gas attack in the trenches.


Charles A. Gordon
March 31, 1998 - 05:36 pm
I have written poetry for many years and often wondered if it was possible to at least have it read by others, if not published. Does anyone out there know of an online club or group I could contact for support. Email me at BonaccordU@aol.com

Roslyn Stempel
April 1, 1998 - 08:24 am
(From the poem by William Wordsworth:)
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

(From "April Rain," by Robert Loveman:)
It is not raining rain for me,
It's raining daffodils;
In every dimpled drop I see
Wild flowers on the hills.

(From "April Showers," song of the 1920's
popularized by Al Jolson:)

And where you see clouds
Upon the hills,
There soon will be clouds
Of daffodils!

(Mother Goose):
Daffy-down dilly is coming to town,
In a white petticoat and a green gown.

(Song my oldest daughter and I learned
when she was in kindergarten, c. 1957:)

Where did you, Miss Daffodil,
Get your pretty dress?
Is it made of golden sunshine?
Yes, child, yes.

A bright and happy April and a celebratory Poetry Month to all!


April 1, 1998 - 08:51 am
Hello, Charles. This RoundTable may not have anything to do with publishing, but you might like it for what it is, so hope you will give it a try.

Regarding Pied Beauty, it is curious that Hopkins used the word pied in the title only, and not in the verse. In the verse he used the word dappled. And yet, only the first 5 lines seem to be about that. No other words could describe the sky as it is sometimes, better than 'For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow' (yes, some of us still know what a brindled cow is). And 'Landscape plotted and pieced -- fold, fallow, and plough' is another wonderfully picturesque line. Landscapes painted by Grant Wood and Dale Nichols come immediately to mind. The next 5 lines seem to be a clebration of other unique qualities. Thanks June, for pointing out to me the happy cadance and color of the poem.

Here is a verse from Shakespeare in Love's Labour's Lost that uses the term pied.

When daisies pied and violets blue
And lady-smocks all silver-white,
And cockoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight.

His 'daisies pied' are bellis perennis which have light red splotched on their tips. These old English meadow flowers were said to bloom about Annunciation, the 25th of March. We have seen the California desert wildflowers in early spring with all the small flowers spreading carpets of color: yellow, pink, blue, lavender, and they literally 'do paint the meadows with delight.'

Roslyn Stempel
April 1, 1998 - 12:26 pm
Loma, thanks for the comments on "Pied Beauty" and for the further information about the red-tipped daisy. I can only imagine the beauty of the desert in bloom, but you offer us a vivid picture.

I've already said that this is one of my favorite poems. It's full of images that keep unfolding themselves in my mind like real pictures: the swimming spotted trout, for example, and the birds' wings, and that astonishing description of a landscape that Hopkins himself could never have seen - an aerial view of fields alternately fallow and plowed, with patches where animals are sheltered. Of course in England he could have climbed a steep hill and looked down on such a patchwork of different colors and textures of the land. (I'm still not sure if by "fold" he meant animal pens or possibly a narrow and steeply rolling part of the land that couldn't be plowed or cultivated.)

We often speak of a poet's "economy" of words. I think Hopkins achieved this by using terms that could be interpreted in many ways. We might take "pied" literally as meaning spotted black-and-white like a piebald horse; or we can extend it to mean anything that has more than one color, more than one texture, pattern, pace, flavor, or light level.

The poem takes us from sky to water to earth, and doesn't leave out humans, each of us different in some wondrous way - each pursuing our trade (writing, teaching, farming, house-building) with a different kind of gear. And there's that piercing question in parentheses: "Who knows how?"


Roslyn Stempel
April 3, 1998 - 11:13 am
We'll still welcome comments on "Pied Beauty," on Loma's Shakespeare excerpt, on April, and on anything related to poetry! But meanwhile, here's a poem by Robert Browning on the subject of celebrity and souvenirs:


Ah, did you once see Shelley plain,
And did he stop and speak to you,
And did you speak to him again?
How strange it seems, and new!

But you were living before that,
And also you are living after;
And the memory I started at--
My starting moves your laughter!

I crossed a moor, with a name of its own
And a certain use in the world, no doubt,
Yet a hand's-breadth of it shines alone
'Mid the blank miles round about:

For there I picked up on the heather
And there I put inside my breast
A moulted feather, an eagle-feather!
Well, I forget the rest.

Robert Browning

Browning himself was something of a celebrity, a darkly handsome, romantic poet who produced both mysterious, convoluted poetry, very difficult to figure out, and bright, march-along verse like "How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix" and "God's in His Heaven," and "Oh, to Be in England, Now That April's There."

There's a bit of irony in his lines here - the excitement of meeting a great poet, an enviable experience that gradually fades away though it is surrounded with brightness in memory. It wasn't so much the eagle-feather that Browning cherished as the way it sparked his recollection of the adventure itself. (Did you go to see Elvis, or the Beatles, or The Boss, or the Stones? Couldn't really see or hear them, but what a thrill to be packed in with the rest of the screaming thousands, and to be able to say, "I was there!", as a bit of the noise echoes in memory whenever a name is mentioned.)


Ann Marie Thamm
April 3, 1998 - 07:37 pm
I found this forum by the banner tonight and find many interesting poems and historical facts...I posted in the secular religion forum the other night a poem by Emily Dickinson but the scientists have ignored it and have never mentioned any of its thoughts...I guess it wasnt one bit scientific but it did address the thoughts of what a person feels when dying...Maybe sometime later on my poem will come to their mind and will get some response...Emily Dickinson never married but in the following poem she mentions the "Fathoms" of a relationship between a man and a woman...I wonder if ever there has been such a relationship where a man and a woman have the closeness, understanding, and a feeling of being ONE when they are quite TWO...They must be quite rare! What do you think???

The Wife
She rose to his requirement, dropped
The playthings of her life
To take the honorable work
Of woman and of wife.

If aught she missed in her new day
Of amplitude, or awe,
Or first prospective, or the gold
In using wore away,

It lay unmentioned, as the sea, Develops pearl and weed,
But only to himself is known
The fathoms they abide.
Emily Dickinson
Well guess I will have a nice glass of sweet Jewish wine now...They say there is a seder in every bottle! I was once at a seder and found that it was wonderful how people could cherish the historical past...Hope to read some more of your postings! Ann Marie

Roslyn Stempel
April 4, 1998 - 05:09 am
Ann Marie, many thanks for posting the Emily Dickinson poem. It is fascinating to consider how broadly Dickinson ranged (in her verse) through so many aspects of the human experience, although she lived almost as a recluse for most of her life. She wrote feelingly about all kinds of love. Some of her poems seem to be commentaries on the lives she observed around her. I dare to speculate that the one you have posted (#732) might have been her evaluation of someone she knew, or it could have been one of the countless romantic poems about her own - mostly imaginary - love life.

There's more than one possible interpretation of 732: The first, as you suggest, is that she is acknowledging how a woman's doubts, fears, and wishes can disappear when she experiences a love-relationship that is "fathoms deep." The second is that a wife silently surrenders her original personhood, submerging it in the daily requirements of wifehood (which you'll agree in those pre-technology days involved a lot of manual labor and very little brainwork; in short, a kind of servitude)....and that she alone knows that the hopes, strivings, and ideas are still there, however deeply buried.

I suppose we'll never learn the truth about Dickinson's romantic life. The accepted theory today is that it was largely fantasy, possibly based on a few brief physical approaches --not sexual assaults -- which overwhelmed an impressionable young woman caught up in hero-worship for an attractive clergyman.

Regardless of its nature, her experience reinforced her reclusive behavior and actually made possible this wonderful treasure-trove of poems that range from light-hearted bits about nature to really serious meditations on religion, eternity, death, and human relations.

Most of us learned about Dickinson only through the "nature" poems about butterflies, seasons, and wild flowers. I think it's important to explore the deeper Emily and everything that her work can teach us about a woman's mind and heart. Thank you for adding to that aspect of our discussion. It would be good to hear from you again.


Ann Marie Thamm
April 4, 1998 - 07:26 pm
Roslyn! Many thanks for your commentary on Emily Dickinson...I know she was thought to be a recluse but then maybe I could also be called one at times as I like to study and read much of time instead of joining groups of women intent on shopping or bingo! Maybe Emily was just intense with her writing...Just what is it that a person must do in order to be remembered as a great mingler among the gentry??? If you are married more than once society also questions that---at least they used to! So society places great restraints upon people and especially if they show any talent to be envied...I like The Wife poem and wish that I could have experienced such depth of love with someone but it was not to be...I can remember my teenage and how I enjoyed those musicals at the movies with its simple love affairs always turning out to be a true love...but today I know that love is built upon throughout the many years a couple experiences as they live together and hence their love can become "fathomless"...Alas! All I have to look forward to at my age is eternity when my "spirit" will only intermingle (is that fun???)among other "spirits"..perhaps as follows as Emily wrote about a dying man...
"Was he afraid, or tranquil?
Might he know
How conscious consciousness could grow,
Till love that was, and love too blest to be,
Meet---and the junction be Eternity?"
It has been nice exchanging thoughts with you Ros...I hope to come again! Ann Marie

Roslyn Stempel
April 5, 1998 - 06:56 am
Ann Marie, your response was so intelligent and moving. The poem you quoted beautifully suggests the hope for a peaceful and happy approach to death, which is something we must all hope for. Don't you think that one of the wonders of poetry is that we can take something from a good poem and apply it to our own lives, wishes, joys, and sorrows? It can confirm our happiness and can also fill our emptiness with the knowledge that someone, somewhere in time or space, understood our feelings.

I just had a strange thought: Suppose Emily Dickinson had had e-mail! She could have reached out and been in touch with people all over the world. Every day of her life she could have shared her insights, her wisdom, love of nature, faith --instead of putting it all in writing not to be discovered until after her death. On the other hand, the world would probably have lost this treasured collection of poems, because her emotions and her questions would have been dissipated in daily conversations over the miles. So maybe the way things went was the better way in the end.


Russell Cervin
April 5, 1998 - 07:03 pm
Perhaps there is room for a male response? I, also, was moved by Ann Marie's thought in #444 and Roslyn's in #445. I can share with understanding and feeling that hunger and sense of loss "--and wish that I could have experienced such depth of love with someone but it was not to be." And what rich insight, "--today I know that love is built upon throughout the many years a couple experiences as they live together and hence their love can become 'fathomless'."

And Roslyn's response is also both intelligent and moving, "--one of the wonders of poetry is that we can take something from a good poem (and also good literature?) and apply it to our own lives, wishes, joys, and sorrows? It can confirm our happiness and can also fill our emptiness (and many know that emptiness) with the knowledge that someone---understood our feeling." Such "share the same realm of reality where we live ourselves", they touch us where we live and feel.


Roslyn Stempel
April 6, 1998 - 05:33 am
Russ - welcome to the discussion!

One of my goals in starting this discussion was to encourage participants - lurkers and posters alike - to consider, not only the emotional content of our most-loved poems, but the ways in which poetry shapes language to contain meaning that goes beyond the literal meaning of the words. Whenever something is posted that people like, there's always a discussion of the emotions it arouses; but I particularly value the opportunities to talk about the mysteries of the poetic process itself.

Of course poetry is not gender-specific...but you knew that all the time. Won't you prove it by sharing one of your favorite poems to help us celebrate National Poetry Month?


April 6, 1998 - 10:44 am
After being out of town several days, it has been an enjoyment to read everyone's recent postings of poems and thoughts. Russ and Roslyn, thank you for pointing out that the need of some poems is to 'fill our emptiness with the knowledge that someone...understood our feeling'.

One wonders how Emily Dickinson could have been such a recluse and still show such insight. She came from a learned family, her father had a large reception each year, she had a few friends, and kept up some correspondence. For her with her talents it obviously was enough. On her poem The Wife I would like to give my view.

She rose to his requirement, dropped / The playthings of her life / To take the honorable work / Of woman and of wife. This was expected and looked forward to in life. A life of labor, yes, but not tedious (except in the case of total poverty, which she probably was not acquainted with). Even the once a week all-day job of washing clothes brought a sense of accomplishment, and even pride of having whites that were the whitest possible hanging on the clothesline. A lively mind could continue, with planning needlework, correspondence, a book or so, songs, conversation, socials, etc. If aught she missed in her new day / Of amplitude, or awe, / Or first prospective, or the gold / In using wore away This is to a large extent still true. All the interesting things one is exposed to in school, the feeling of newnes, sometimes a chance for a trip or other adventure, cannot fully continue as one settles down. True automatically for the man too as he has to make the living for the household. It lay unmentioned, as the sea / Develops pearl and weed, / But only to himself is known / The fathoms they abide. Life develops pearls too. I wonder about the pronoun "himself". Should it be "oneself." Though sometimes it is not oneself but others who see the pearls.

A curious thing about some of the words in her poems. Her poems were hand written, of course. In a facsimile of her poem Renunciation of seven verses, three words seems to be printed differently than she wrote them: 'revelations' is printed for 'resurrections', 'symbol' for 'falling', 'failed' for 'leaked'. (In verses 1, 3 and 6, in Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson It does say that she sometimes made footnotes with choices of words and phrases, and sometimes she sent friends different versions.) The words in her handwriting seem a little more like her. One wonders about other poems if other versions.

No matter what, hers was a unique talent, and thank you Ann Marie for posting The Wife, a poem I would have totally overlooked otherwise. Here is one of my favorites:

I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.

I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.
by Emily Dickinson

Roslyn Stempel
April 7, 1998 - 06:12 am
Loma, Netscape has just swallowed up the message I was trying to post so I'll start over again.

Yes, the many possible variations and re-writings that were found for Dickinson, as well as the "editing" that some suspect was done by her earliest posthumous publishers, provide plenty of speculation. But you know yourself, if you've ever written so much as a paragraph for a newsletter, how much of what e.e. cummings described as "changing and arranging" goes on. Pick your favorite and stick to it!

Thanks for posting that lovely, familiar, and always welcome verse saluting the mysterious power of our imagination to build on our earthly knowledge. Sometimes that's what keeps us going amid pain, stress, and disappointment.

Here's a poem by William H. Davies (1870-1940) which I thought spoke to the same idea:


Here's an example from
A butterfly;
That on a rough, hard rock
Happy can lie;
Friendless and all alone
On this unsweetened stone.

Now let my bed be hard,
No care take I;
I'll make my joy like this
Small Butterfly,
Whose happy heart has power
To make a stone a flower.

As I was typing this it struck me how the poet used the arrangement of his lines to emphasize his points. He actually uses a five-beat line (iambic pentameter) but breaks it into 3- and 2-beat sections for the first four lines of each stanza. By doing this he emphasizes not only the rhymes but the important ideas - the butterfly, happiness, comparing himself to the butterfly and his "hard bed" of life to the buterfly's "unsweetened stone." The reader's eye and the listener's ear thus recognize where he intended his emphasis to fall.

National Poetry Month! Let all of us include the joys of poetry in the mysteries that give our happy hearts "the power to make a stone a flower."


Jackie Lynch
April 7, 1998 - 06:17 am
What keeps me hooked on poetry is that "flash" that I feel with the combination of tight wording, meter, and the emotion portrayed. It literally gives me a chill. Sometimes, it is a line or two, sometimes the cumulative effect of the whole. There's nothing else like it in literature for me. Frost is good for a turn of phrase: Something there is that doesn't like a wall, Nature's first green is gold. Two Tramps in Mud Time is a whimisical title, although the subject is not. It makes me think of: something somthing in waltz time. Dickinson's economy with words astonishes me. She can say so much with eight short lines!

Roslyn Stempel
April 7, 1998 - 06:35 am
Jackie L., by Jove, I think you've got it! Dickinson said it made her feel as if the top of her head were coming off. I feel as if someone had punched me in the solar plexus. In short, a visceral reaction based on recognizing the emotion and responding to the word-skill with which it is conveyed. "Makes you want to holler."

Frost's "Nothing Gold Can Stay" is a good example of the way Frost often introduced a rueful pang to temper any hint of sweetness. Spring is full of promise, but "nothing gold can stay." (Sigh!)

Have you a favorite short poem, or excerpt from a longer one, that you can post - with your comments - for our enjoyment?


Roslyn Stempel
April 7, 1998 - 06:45 am

We know you're out there. Just for the sake of National Poetry Month, won't you put aside your bashful demeanor and post even the tiniest message. . .say, "I like poems," or "I hate poems," or "Hello, there" . . .

This is not a request for compliments or even contributions, though of course all contributions are welcomed and are tax-deductible to the extent of the law. No charge for shipping and handling, no salesperson will call on you, you are under no obligation to buy, refund guaranteed in 30 days . . .thousands of satisfied users . . .all sizes including extra-wide . . . but why not try it yourself ?

Yours hopefully,

April 7, 1998 - 08:04 am
This poem is not deep; just an observation for certain days in April.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill,
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.

But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.

by Robert Frost
from Two Tramps in Mud Time

Come to think of it, it may apply to a few people/relationships too.

Roslyn Stempel
April 9, 1998 - 05:18 am
Loma, I think your insight into Frost's dual meanings is reinforced by his line, "But if you so much as dare to speak...."

I seem to recall a poem (which I haven't found yet in my shelf of anthologies) that begins,
April, April, laugh your girlish laughter,
And, a moment after,
Weep your girlish tears...."

Does anyone have the complete poem?

In this season when the reflection on sorrow and loss is followed by reconciliation and the rebirth of hope and love, let me insert a few lines from a poem by Wislawa Szymborska, titled "Hatred," which reminds us that love's sinister opposite is ever present and that we need to guard against its infection:

Hatred. Hatred.
Its face twisted in a grimace
of erotic ecstasy.

....Since when does brotherhood
draw crowds?
Has compassion
ever finished first?
Does doubt ever really rouse the rabble?
Only hatred has just what it takes.

(This translation from Szymborska's original Polish appears in the latest volume, "Poems New and Collected 1957-1997," just published by Harcourt Brace.


April 9, 1998 - 08:46 am
Hatred.... A young woman in a speach course I was in once could not even handle that word, much less speak on it. Yet it is what seems to fuel many. Strange that if one takes a moral stand nowadays one is likely to get knocked down, but the opposite will get many vigorous supporters. Wislawa Szymborska's words "really rouse the rabble...only hatred has just what it takes" are alas only too true, and she should know; Poland through history has suffered much persecution. I find she was born in 1923, recognizes only her works published after 1957 due to censorship before (what happened in 1957 to change this?), had 3 collections published 1990-1996, and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996. While the very first entries on this Round Table were discussions about her, some of us less-literate are just discovering her from this last posting. So thank you, Ros, and I'm going to look for "Poems New and Collected 1957-1997," just published by Harcourt Brace.

Changing the subject entirely before the season is all gone, to the collection of daffodil verses posted April 1st: Daffodils are designated as the March flower, but only the earlier ones appear by the end of March here. We drove across the high country in Montana in mid-May and the daffodils there were in their prime then. Anyway, one species evidently were once wildflowers in England. England, like the U.S. seems to have lost much of their wildflowers, due to cultivation leading to mass eradication of native plants and loss of habitat, and from over-collecting. While the Wordsworth poem written in 1807 is tops, Robert Herrick (1591-1674) also wrote one on daffodils.

Oh, still the air of Devon thrills,
After two centuries long!
For here behold these daffodils
Saved by a snatch of song.

from For a Flyleaf of Herrick's Poems, 1893
by Lizette Woodworth Reese

Marie C.
April 10, 1998 - 05:15 am
I confess to lurking, but, if I ever have an original thought about the subject at hand, I promise I will post it. Your discussions are just wonderful!--Marie

Roslyn Stempel
April 10, 1998 - 11:05 am
Loma, since there's no such thing as too many daffodils, thanks for adding another armload to our virtual collection. Wordsworth's reference to coming upon a crowd, a host, of daffodils certainly suggests that they might have been grown wild. (White Flower Farms occasionally offers a "naturalizing collection" of about 150 bulbs for you to strew over your multi-acre property so they will multiply and become sheets of golden bloom in early spring.) Your comment about vanishing plant species is most apt: There's been a bit of publicity these past few days about just that. Environmentalists lament, not only the lost beauties of the plant world, but the loss of many species that were or could have been valuable therapeutically.

Marie, welcome back to the page. The subject, nominally, is spring. Here's a stanza from "Perhaps the Best Time," by the distinguished American poet William Meredith, that's about both love and spring in equal proportions:

This would be spring, if seasons could be found
In everything; or if times, this would be morning.
We dazzle at this first warm shy half-turning
As at a sunrise or at quickening of the ground.
There leafs along our boughs what would astound
Old botanists and set dead lovers yearning--
And yet October will see all this burning:
I know because I stay here year around.

This, together with many more of Meredith's wonderful poems, appears in his collection Effort at Speech, published in 1997 by Northwestern University Press. ( It lists at $17.95, probably available at Barnes & Noble online, but whether discounted I know not.)

Spurred by the excitement of our current Book Club Online selection, Road from Coorain, I've been reading Jill Ker Conway's second memoir, True North, also fascinating and packed with information and ideas. She mentions that both she and her husband carried with them a collection of T. S. Eliot's poems. Do you have a cherished favorite book of poetry - anthology or single author, old textbook or new paperbook - that has been on your bookshelf for a long time? It would be interesting to compare notes. You first!


Jackie Lynch
April 10, 1998 - 06:23 pm
My favorites have been much discussed here recently: Frost, Dickinson, Browning. To that list I would add Parker, A.A.Milne. I have rarely read a poet I didn't like. A fragment I read, in another book, has haunted me. I haven't found its source. I thought it was Keats, but nothing fits. It refers to ash bringing to mind the memory of fire. Dynamite! They say that sometimes dreams are better left unrealized. Perhaps this fragment, in reality, is not as awesome as my memory of it.

Johann McCrackin
April 10, 1998 - 08:34 pm
Hi, Ros, Loma, Marie, and Jackie! Like Marie, I lurk a lot! You all have some very erudite discussions on here and sort of leave me speechless with a lot to think about. I am not familiar with some of your latest poets but really like the fragments you have posted. Also really appreciate the your efforts to give us info about the poets and their backgrounds. Like Marie, if I can think of anything to add, I will post it.

April 11, 1998 - 08:59 am
Wow! Upon the first reading of William Meredith’s This would be spring, if seasons could be found In everything. seems quietly meditative. On the second reading it packs a lot of punch. Maybe about not quite love, but strong infatuation, as indicated in the next lines. It comes to a strong end: October will see all this burning, if this refers to the burning up of the leaves. If it means the bright colors of the autumn leaves, it may be a representation of enduring love, but I don’t see it in the lines between. Whichever, he evidently has observed much in others, or experienced it himself - I know because I stay here year around - a true poet speaking.

I keep any old poetry anthologies I have, because some poems seem to drop out of print due to the influx of new ones. And yet some of them were very good poems. So I have no favorite single volume. But I do like one for a different reason - its cover. Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson by Gramercy Books, probably still in print. The jacket cover is white with an etching-type illustration of yellow and pink old-fashioned roses. The cover itself is mauve-pink or what used to be called “ashes of roses”, with a cloth spine of burgundy with gold printing. I always have said it is the contents that count, yet somehow cherish this one more because of its cover.

Jackie, could the “ash bringing to mind the memory of fire” that you were looking for, be from Byron in To the Countess of Blessington,

I am ashes where once I was fire.

Jackie Lynch
April 11, 1998 - 12:13 pm
I'll have to read that one. That is not the way I remember the words. It seems as though the speaker is comtemplating ash and remembering flame, but not in the first person. Was the Countess one of Byron's loves? Funny, I've read much about Byron, but little by him. My anthologies are packed away; I cannot keep up in this discussion without unpacking!

William Frost
April 11, 1998 - 04:36 pm

I count no more than nine puffs
of cotton-wool blossoms
on the Flowering Cherry.
Two Mocking Birds guard it;
the large male shows off
white breakers and hops
on the lower power cable
and the small female
is poised still above.
They claim their territory
their right to squat
to build, to love
to bear young
all through song
not yet too distinguished.
It is early to mock
it's only spring.

Roslyn Stempel
April 11, 1998 - 06:09 pm
Bill Frost, thanks for the charming tribute to one of the excitements of spring, the sudden outburst of those territorial declarations we call bird-song. I've never heard a mocking-bird, except probably on one of those Audubon records, and I can't recall any details. Do they really mock, like the catbirds? We used to get cardinals in an ancient "burning-bush" euonymus which finally died of old age, and a pair of monogamous robins had a long-term lease on one of the uprights supporting the roof over our little patio; but the male must either have died or deserted her; the female built a nest and sat and sat, but nothing happened. She finally figured things out, left, and didn't return. This spring, the security lights on our garage door are sporting a nest of house-finches (or does that make them garage-finches?). One species we don't lack is the starling. All the males are spruced up for spring mating with their glowing sapphire-blue head-and-shoulders plumage.

It's good to see your name once more on the page at this season of renewed hopes and reawakened loves, avian or otherwise.


April 12, 1998 - 09:56 am
Bill, how well the line describes birds in your poem: They claim their territory... . And how subtly the season is defined: nine puffs of cotton-wool blossoms on the Flowering Cherry. As I understand it, one of the requisites of Japanese haiku is to indicate time -- the season, or the time of day.

Here is another poem about the cherry in flower. It is one the the most quoted in anthologies, and for good reason. It has been posted in this Round Table before, but still, ‘tis the season. He writes as a 20 year old and he is certainly not jaded.

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to see the woods in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go,
To see the cherry hung with snow.

A. E. Housman

Roslyn Stempel
April 13, 1998 - 01:06 pm
Cherry blossoms! There are several budding trees around the corner from us. We have a little plum tree in bud, the grandchild of a very old tree that used to yield a few plums and finally died of old age. This one has never fruited but this year it is loaded with buds, so who knows?

Poems turn up, like dust bunnies, when you're not looking for them. I found this one in a book of Double-Crostic puzzles and was able to track it down further in an anthology. It has nothing to do with either spring or blossoms, but I thought it might speak wisdom to some of us:


Alas, how soon the hours are over
Counted us out to play the lover!
And how much narrower is the stage
Allotted us to play the sage!
But when we play the fool, how wide
The theatre expands! Beside,
How long the audience sits before us!
How many prompters! what a chorus!

Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864)

Landor straddled the Romantic and Victorian periods, though by the time the latter was in full swing he was already advanced in years and devoted many lines of verse to announcing, bewailing, and bragging about that fact.


Nancy Hester
April 14, 1998 - 10:49 am
Hi everyone, I have searched every where for any more writings from a lady that posted a poem about her husband who was in the Korean War. I believe her name was Kathy Chrisley. The poem was, " Fragments Of War", at post #358. I have seen another poem she posted on Poets Press. I enjoyed her work very much and have been looking forward to seeing some more of her poems. However it seems she hasn't been around for awhile. Was just wondering if anyone has heard from her lately. Thanks, Nancy

April 14, 1998 - 02:49 pm
Hi Nancy...I too have been wondering about Kathy. I keep her and hubby Roger in daily prayers, and I miss hearing from her. She sounds like such a lovely person, and her poem really touched my heart. I wish I would have copied it down.

April 14, 1998 - 06:05 pm
Ros, the first 4 lines of Landor’s Plays bring nods of agreement. The last 4 lines bring agreement in the way of wry chuckles -- very wry.

Is it too late to add to the daffodil bouquet? They are still blooming here. I stumbled upon these two.

John Keats

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching; yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old, and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in...

from JOURNAL April 15, 1802
Dorothy Wordsworth

When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the waterside. ...But as we went along there were more and yet more and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful; they grew among the mossy stones about, and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake.

Dorothy was the sister and life-long companion of William Wordsworth, and this seems like the experience that he wrote about in his famous poem (part of which was posted April 1st), 5 years later. Did his memory stay as vivid as her writing, or did he consult her journal entry??

Roslyn Stempel
April 15, 1998 - 06:33 am
Loma, daffodils (and Keats) are welcome at any time of year. ( Keats was a wizard at the extended periodic sentence, wasn't he? We're just carried along with the rhythm and the lulling words.)

It is now believed by many critics that William made ample use of Dorothy Wordsworth's journals and indeed borrowed her poetic inspirations. She is seen as a classic example of the "selfless" loving sister who gave her brother whatever he needed in every way, including personal service, ideas and possibly even actual poems; for after all, it was a man's world and woman's place was to serve. Dorothy found it hard to accept William's late marriage, which displaced her as queen of his little household. I wonder if you have the same edition of the journals as I do (purchased as a marked-down remainder years ago), with lovely illustrations of flowers and nature scenes.


Roslyn Stempel
April 15, 1998 - 06:51 am
Louise Bogan wrote "Girl's Song" when she was fairly young. In the first of its three brief stanzas she looks back on a love that began and ended in winter, and addresses the faithless lover who has moved on to another romance. Here's the touching reference to spring that continues the poem:

Now, when the scent of plants half-grown
Is more the season's than their own
And neither sun nor wind can stanch
The gold forsythia's dripping branch--

Another maiden, still not I,
Looks from some hill upon some sky,
And, since she loves you, and she must,
Puts her young cheek against the dust.

This appeared in her Collected Poems (1954), which represents much of Bogan's fairly slim output. Her careful rhyming and metric structure make her poems easy and very satisfying to read, though I've found that understanding them fully takes more than one run-though.


Ann Marie Thamm
April 15, 1998 - 07:28 pm
Ros! Could the reference of "young check against the dust" be a reference to Death or the death of a relationship??? I had a favorite poem which I have lost through the years that mentioned the thought that "he was a man in dustcloth always trying..." Do you know that poem??? (I think that as such referred to "death")...I so enjoy reading this forum! Ann Marie

Roslyn Stempel
April 16, 1998 - 06:00 am
Ann Marie, either interpretation offers an interesting possibility, doesn't it? "Dust" could be so many things: the dust which is all that remains of the later love affair, or the bare ground from which nothing has yet sprouted, or the dust of the earth where the dead lover is buried - or Death (with a capital D) which the young woman's love can seem to postpone (or on the other hand, which she might be embracing!) There's an interesting contrast, too, between the suggestion of moist and living richness in the first stanza I cited and the dry dust of the last one.

Many thanks for the suggestion which opens so many possibilities. Alas, no, I don't recognize the line about the dustcloth. Maybe someone else does. Can you recall anything else about the poem?


Jackie Lynch
April 16, 1998 - 06:29 am
I am not familiar with Forsythia; does it bloom in Spring or Summer? If it is Summer, then it suggests that he has moved on to a new love in the new season. The dust of summer as opposed to the moist earth of Spring? Just wondering.

April 17, 1998 - 05:37 am
Jackie, forsythia is a hardy shrub, the first to bloom in the spring. It is covered with golden-yellow flowers, a bright and welcome sight against the greening grass and matching the color of daffodils which bloom about the same time. The leaves come later.

The author in this poem recognises that she has to be what she is, but appreciates her sister for what she is. Some things are universal!

from Sounds, Feelings, Thoughts
Wislawa Szymborska

My sister [Moja siostra] does not write poems
and it’s unlikely she’ll suddenly start writing poems. . . .
In my sister’s desk there are no old poems
nor any new ones in her handbag.
And when my sister invites me to dinner,
I know she has no intention of reading me poems.
She makes superb soups without half trying,
and her coffee does not spill on manuscripts. . . .

Roslyn Stempel
April 18, 1998 - 05:16 am
A bright spring morning in southeast Michigan! And as the Poetry Pusher is currently experiencing some qualms about how to establish the best interpretation of "fair use" as described in the Copyright Law, she is taking refuge in a familiar selection that is a shade over 600 years old and almost certainly in the public domain by now:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open ye,
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages),
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages....

(Geoffrey Chaucer, c.1340-1400)

An oldie but a goodie! Stay tuned for exciting excerpts from The Shepheardes Calendar, The Earthly Paradise, The Song of Hiawatha, and Idylls of the King.

Meanwhile, in the interests of circumspection, let's try to limit quotations from more contemporary works to a few lines rather than the entire poem, and remember to give full publisher, date, and copyright attribution to any work less than 56 years old.

A happy rest-of-Poetry-Month to all! Remember, next week contains Shakespeare's birthday.

Ros, the Poetry Pusher

Johann McCrackin
April 18, 1998 - 10:56 am
Ros, you all are posting so many beautiful works here! Keats' Endymion in one of my favorites - beauty does soften the edges of the harsh realities of life that come to us all. I didn't know about his sister Dorothy. That was fascinating!

Bogan's verses were interesting too. I sort of felt that the mention of forsythia meant that the other relationship had survived the winter and she would like to be standing where she saw the other girl standing. But on the other hand, she did see the other girl standing alone so maybe she is expressing the thought that they are alike in experiencing a sense of loss. Interesting speculation!

Chaucer brought back lots of memories. When we were in England in 1970 some of the selections from Canterbury Tales had been incorporated into a musical by that name. The scenery was two-dimensional - beds and tables were stylized and propped vertically on the stage and people stood behind them. It was delightful and is one of my special memories of that trip.

April 19, 1998 - 08:38 am
Hi, If you want to get my emailfriend.I am 60 years old married and I live in Sweden.


Roslyn Stempel
April 19, 1998 - 09:43 am
Lill -- are you interested in poetry? If so, we welcome you to this folder!

Here are two flower-filled excerpts from earlier poets. I thought they made lovely word-pictures of a blossoming English spring, and they do contain our magic word:

(1)From Edmund Spenser, The Shepheardes Calender, Aprille, lines 136 - 145, a tribute to Queen Elizabeth I:

"Bring hether the Pincke and purple Cullambine,
With Gelliflowers:
Bring Coronations, and Sops in wine,
Worne of Paramoures.
Strowe me the ground with Daffadowndillies,
And Cowslips, and Kingcups, and loved Lillies:
The pretie Pawnce,
And the Chevisaunce,
Shall match with the fayre flower Delice....."

(The flowers named are the pink, columbine, carnation, clove-pink, daffodil, cowslip, marsh-marigold, pansy, wallflower, and iris. "Paramoures" in this context means lovers.)

A related passage, said to have been influenced by the above, is from Milton's Lycidas, lines. 133-151, where the poet is summoning the beauties of spring flowers and of poetry to deck the imagined hearse of his drowned friend, Edward King, memorialized here as "Lycidas":

....return Sicilian Muse,
and call the vales and bid them hither cast
Thir bells, and flowrets of a thousand hues.
Ye valleys low where the mild whispers use,
Of shades and wanton winds, and gushing brooks,
On whose fresh lap the swart star sparely looks,
Throw hither all your quaint enamel'd eyes
That on the green terf suck the honied showrs
And purple all the ground with vernal flowrs.
Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies,
The tufted crowtoe and pale Gessamine,
The white pink, and the pansie freakt with jet,
The glowing violet,
The musk rose and the well-attir'd woodbine,
With cowslips wan that hang the pensive head,
And every flower that sad imbroidrie wears:
Bid Amaranthus all his beauties shed
And daffadillies fill thir cups with tears
To strew the laureat herse where Lycid lies.

The word "rathe" means "early." Crowtoe is the same as crowfoot, a kind of buttercup. The "amaranthus" summoned here is not so much the drooping purple-red weedy blossom we know in the midwest as it is the imaginary "flower that never fades," of Greek mythology. King's body was actually lost at sea and the memorial ceremonies Milton envisioned would have been performed over an imaginary bier, the "laureat herse" - crowned with laurel in celebration of a hero or a poet - merely a stretch of beautiful, flower-strewn ground.

Last etymologic note: It occurred to me to hunt for "daffodil" in the Oxford English Dictionary, which gives much information about origins and first printed citations, and I found that it was originally "affodil," and derived from "asphodel," the name for a species of narcissus long known in the Mediterranean area, often cited in Greek mythology, sometimes associated with the dead and/or the underworld. All the citations for "daffodil" itself and its diminutives and extended forms seemed to have begun in the late 16th and early 17th century.

The Poetry Pusher

Ann Marie Thamm
April 19, 1998 - 07:39 pm
Spring flowers can only have one believe that there can be a renewal in life after the harshness of desolate winter...I find it in the violets found in the grass and think of a supreme being...There had to be such a being to create such beauty in something so small, tiny, and precious..But I love to see all the flowers and grow sad to see them droop and turn back to the soil from whence they came...It makes me think of past relationships and this favorite situation from Rubaiyat Omar Khayyam comes to mind...
"Ah, Love, could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would we not shatter it to bits and then
Re-mould it nearer to the heart's desire?"

Ah me! That would be perfection!!! Ann Marie

Roslyn Stempel
April 20, 1998 - 10:56 am
Ann Marie, doesn't it sometimes seem that the tiny, exquisitely detailed flowerets inspire even more wonder than the bigger and more colorful blooms? Our neighborhood is filled each spring with blue speedwell, a creeping, weedy ground cover that we have to pull out before it chokes the grass; but the five-petaled blossoms, no bigger than a baby's fingernail, are exquisitely striped in pale lavender and deep blue around the tiniest yellow center -- lovely as jewels.

Here are excerpts from two poems by Hart Crane (1899-1932) that speak of flowers and the sharp thorn of loneliness:

(published in "White Buildings," 1926)

No more violets,
And the year
Broken into smoky panels.
What woods remember now
Her calls, her enthusiasms.

...I can only query, "Fool--
Have you remembered too long;

Or was there too little said
For ease or resolution--
Summer scarcely begun
And violets,
A few picked, the rest dead?

from OLD SONG (1927)

Thy absence overflows the rose,--
From every petal gleam
Such words as it were vain to close,
Such tears as crowd the dream.

The burden of the rose will fade
Sped in the spectrum's kiss.
But here the thorn in sharpened shade
Weathers all loneliness.

I believe the last stanza suggests that the rose will fade in the sunlight but the thorn (loneliness) remaining in the shade, will survive.

Hart Crane's poetry was full of challenging images and emotions. He had a troubled life which he ended during an ocean voyage in 1932. His works have gone in and out of print several times; they were collected in 1966 by Liveright as "Complete Poems and Selected Letters" and later appeared as an Anchor paperback, but may now be out of print again.

Ros, the Poetry Pusher

William Frost
April 20, 1998 - 07:24 pm
Poetry month here draws to an end.

"Good prose is invisible, in poetry, it is not. In a poem, each word carries weight." - Octavio Paz, Mexico's foremost literary figure and winner of a Nobel Prize for poetry and essays. He has died at the age of 84.

Roslyn Stempel
April 21, 1998 - 05:53 am
Yes, the death of Paz attracted considerable media attention. I don't know if you saw the extended tribute on the PBS News Hour, including a bit of his own reading, several translations, and some discussion - almost 15 minutes compared to the 15 seconds available on network TV.

Yes, Poetry Month is nearing the end - well, 9 more days including Shakespeare's birthday. I'm grateful for the level of participation.

I'd been hoping for some clarification of the "fair use" question before May Day. This isn't a question of delusions of grandeur - we're not popular enough to attract a lot of attention ourselves - but I don't want to discover that someone picked up some unattributed selection for this folder and circulated it as "original." (I recall that during the deluge of bathos following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, someone copied Auden's dirge "Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone" -- originally popularized in Four Weddings and a Funeral -- and tacked it to a wreath as if the mourner had made it up on the spot, and it was read, without credits, over a number of broadcasts. Poor old WHA deserved better than that.) So, as the benevolent desk sergeant used to say on Hill Street Blues, let's be careful out there.

The Poetry Pusher

April 21, 1998 - 11:14 am
Milton's words "wanton winds" in the recently-posted Lycidas is a wonderfully succint description, and it is just what we have been having the last few weeks, sometimes changing by the half-hour, sometimes balmy, sometimes blustery, or blowing grit in parking lots, or with rain drops, and all in between. In this case, his choice of two words tells it all.

He wrote the following about a chapel, and again, how descriptive; it is just how we felt walking into a cathedral with the organ playing.

from Il Penseroso, 1631
John Milton

And storied windows richly dight,
Casting a dim religious light.
There let the pealing organ blow,
To the full-voiced quire below,
In service high, and anthems clear,
As may, with sweetness, through mine ear
Dissolve me into ecstasies,
And bring all Heaven before mine eyes.

Roslyn Stempel
April 22, 1998 - 07:19 am
Loma, you've quoted a truly evocative passage. Since I'm not a churchgoer except, on very rare occasions, to attend a funeral, my personal association is connected to travel, and Milton's lines certainly are vivid reminders of the experience of entering a cathedral. We've always been respectfully silent, especially when we find worshipers using the place for its original purpose. I always liked Westminster Abbey until the last time we were there when it had turned into a kind of strip-mall for selling every kind of souvenir and was crammed with chattering tourists.

William Frost notified us of the recent death of Octavio Paz. In today's New York Times Paz's publisher, New Directions, has an obituary ad containing the following poem, translated by Paz'z longtime friend and official translator, Eliot Weinberger:

Homage to Claudius Ptolemy

I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

(A little mysterious, perhaps, but full of hints at meaning.)


April 22, 1998 - 11:44 am
ROS... I do love the Brotherhood writing. I too have many times looked up at those stars, and felt those same words...unknowing, yet I understand.It is a delicious gift when it happens. Thank you. And more....it is like being "oned" with all there is, and accepted.

Roslyn Stempel
April 23, 1998 - 05:48 am
June, I'm glad you liked the Paz poem about brotherhood. In addition to all the satisfying ideas it inspired, I thought there might also be a touch of irony, since it's dedicated to the Greek astronomer (and astrologer) Ptolemy, whose theory placed the earth in the center of the universe with all the known planets revolving around it. But I agree with your perception that the poem suggests the mysterious connection of things, as if a poet were a star in someone else's sky.

In honor of Shakespeare's birthday, here's a sonnet that has a touch of spring in it, as well as rue "with a difference," as Ophelia would have said:


From you I have been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April (dressed in all his trim)
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leapt with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer's story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:
Nor did I wonder at the lily's white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seemed it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.

This poem reminds us that Saturn was indeed a gloomy and taciturn god, in spite of the riotous festivals celebrated in his name. Shakespeare suggested that even Saturn must rejoice at the glorious blossoming of spring, but the poet could only hang his head and yearn for his absent beloved.

That the Bard and all that his name symbolizes may cheer our poetic hearts today is the wish of

The Poetry Pusher

Joan Grimes
April 23, 1998 - 06:10 am
In honor of William Shakespeare I offer his<Br. < Sonnet XVIII

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

April 23, 1998 - 08:01 am
The lines in Shakespeare's Sonnet XVIII: Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: ... Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines ... brings a thought, "Hah, he must know the midwest!" but probably most areas in most countries could think the same. It's sort of like the saying "If you don't like the weather here, wait 15 minutes", which I have found that several parts of the U.S. as well as ours thinks it is a purely local term applying only to themselves.

The dictionary defines a sonnet as "a 14-line poetic form embodying the statement and resolution of a single theme." I chuckled at Wordsworth's comment on restriction and finally coming to the restriction of the sonnet, yet acknowledging the somewhat universal need of parameters.

Nuns fret not at their convent's narrow room;
And Hermits are contented with their Cells;
And Students with their pensive Citadels:
Maids at the Wheel, the Weaver at his Loom,
Sit blithe and happy; Bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness Fells,
Will murmur by the hour in Foxglove bells:
In truth, the prison, unto which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, 'twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet's scanty plot of ground:
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find short solace there, as I have found.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Roslyn Stempel
April 23, 1998 - 11:44 am
Loma and Joan, thanks for saluting both Shakespeare and the noble confines of the sonnet today.

Reading "Nuns fret not..." I thought irrelevantly of Anne Shirley's favorite phrase in the Green Gables books, "scope for the imagination." Wordsworth admits he had plenty of that within the 140 beats of the sonnet form. His are less passionate than Shakespeare's but rich and rewarding nonetheless.

I'm luxuriating in Helen Vendler's book, The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets (Harvard, 1997), in which she examines every one in astonishing detail, showing how Shakespeare used the form and language to wonderful purpose. Let me quote one sentence that she wrote about Sonnet 18, having identified it as "the most familiar of the poems and the most indisputably Shakespearean, Elizabethan, and sonnetlike":

"There are many things to praise here, but I will use this poem as an instance of one of Shakespeare's greatest compositional powers--his capacity to confer greater and greater mental scope on any whim of the imagination, enacting that widening gradually, so that the experience of reading a poem becomes the experience of pushing back the horizons of thought." (p. 120)

"Pushing back the horizons of thought." Isn't that a fascinating way to think about a poem? Vendler continues for another two and a half pages examining everything about the sonnet: alliterations, rhymes and near-rhymes,repetitions, puns, ideas, and ends up by showing how the couplet, lines 13 and 14, ties things together. She does this for all 154 of 'em, and the book never becomes tiresome. It's a labor of love, a treasurehouse of ideas, and delightful to read - perfect browsing literature except for being too heavy to read in bed.


Jackie Lynch
April 24, 1998 - 06:47 am
Ros: "Pushing back the horizons of thought" indeed. This phrase itself almost stretches prose to poetry. That book sounds like a must read for me. The pleasure I have found here, exploring poetry, is impossible to measure. Thank you all for this celebration of my favorite muse.

Daphne Burrows
April 24, 1998 - 08:00 am
Loved Sonnet 18 - but was sad to learn (at Uni.) it was written about a man - not a woman. Ah well, it seems it was the fashion then to flatter one's friends. Here are a few lines written by a Paramour of Queen Elizabeth 1 (I am told): Set me whereas the sun doth parch the green Or where his beams do not dissolve the ice. Set me in high or low degree, In longest night, or, where clouds thickest be. In lusty youth or when my hairs are grey - Hers will I be, and only with this thought Content myself, although my chance be nought. Beautiful, isn't it? I guess I am a romantic.

April 24, 1998 - 09:33 am
"Pushing back the horizons of thought," -- that would be a good motto to adopt -- what one should do all through life. Ros, what are the "140 beats" of a sonnet? Please tell us more about sonnets.

Our Library has "National Poetry Month" signs up all over. So does our big bookstore. Yet I would not have paid any attention, or cared, without this Poetry Round Table! How much you all have contributed to my understanding about poetry, about creativeness, and the human condition.

Wm. H. Davies

My mind has thunderstorms,
That brood for heavy hours:
Until they rain me words;
My thoughts are drooping flowers
And sulking, silent birds.

Yet come, dark thunderstorms,
And brood your heavy hours;
For when you rain me words,
My thoughts are dancing flowers
And joyful singing birds.

Roslyn Stempel
April 24, 1998 - 11:50 am
Loma, is that the same W. H. Davies who is usually known for
"What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stop and stare?" If so, here he's departing from his usual dependence on rhymed couplets and uses an interesting abcbc scheme, just irregular enough to get our attention. The message is emphasized by the way he returns to the frame of the first stanza and changes just enough to shift the mood from gloom to joy. (My keyboard kept typing "gloom to bloom," but I didn't dare let it stand.)

Jackie and Daphne, thank you for your messages. That Elizabethan tribute to the "lovely" (meaning important and powerful) Gloriana the Queen is sweetly romantic indeed.

It's truly heartening to know that people read and enjoy the Poetry discussion even if they don't always participate. Just to know that there are so many of us out there who are thinking about poetry gives me a wonderful feeling! I hope we can continue to share this special pleasure and that we can bring others to "push back the horizons of thought," as Helen Vendler says.

Ros, the Poetry Pusher

April 24, 1998 - 02:16 pm
Dear Ros:

Even though I don't always post, I always read. Just thought I'd let you know.


April 25, 1998 - 06:08 am
Yes, Wm. H., or W. H. Davies, the author of Thunderstorms, also wrote Leisure which contains the lines: "What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stop and stare?", as well as The Example which was posted April 7th.

What works for me in finding old postings is to Search using the title or a few distinctive words, then if several are found, if you know the date you can just click on that one. One can understand why the entry #s are not searchable, as theoretically they could change. Dates, such as Apr 7, 1998, by themselves are not searchable, either.

Here is a poem, of rhymed couplets, that expresses the feeling of discovery, of wonder, of newness, "the first time". We need also to remember that children are smaller, and thus everything is relatively larger to them.

W. H. Davies

I saw this day sweet flowers grow thick --
But not one like the child did pick.

I heard the packhounds in green park --
But no dog like the child heard bark.

I heard this day bird after bird --
But not one like the child has heard.

A hundred butterflies saw I --
But not one like the child saw fly.

I saw the horses roll in grass --
But no horse like the child saw pass.

My world this day has lovely been --
But not like what the child has seen.

Roslyn Stempel
April 25, 1998 - 09:26 am
Pat, thanks for reminding us that you're there! Best thoughts to you.

Loma, what is your source for W. H. Davies? I've found a few often-reprinted ones in anthologies, but haven't seen "The Happy Child" before.

If you want to locate a message by its number without using the "Search" feature, here's a way of locating a previous message by number alone:
Choose a numbered message on whatever page you're currently on.
Click on the message number.
That number should appear at the end of the URL address at the top of the page.
Delete that number from the URL and replace it with the number of the message you want to find.
Press the Enter or Return key.
If WebX is functioning, it will go to the page containing the number you asked for, or a message number close to it. Be warned that there's not always an exact correspondence between the address and the message number - if you put up 241, and hoped to get to message 241, for example, the actual messages on the page might be range from 235 to 240, and you would have to click on "More" to get to the one you want. But at least it's faster than going back through endless pages of "Previous Messages."

April 26, 1998 - 09:09 am
Just to say, "hello" and let you know that I am among the "lurkers". I wish I had the time to be a part of this folder. I am among the many whose education was not strong atc all in the area of poetry, am mostly intimidated by it. I am learning and appreciating just by stopping by here to read the comments and verse posted. Thanks for being here.

Just this morning on "Sunday Morning" Charles Osgood eulogized Octavio Paz and read the same piece of poetry by him that you had posted. See how enriched I am just by reading along.

Also wanted to add that I thank Johann for sharing the original piece of work, I was particularly touched by it. I found as I came back in this morning and re-read some of the poems I had read for the first time yesterday, I got even more pleasure from them today as they were more familiar to me. Me thinks I've stumbled upon an important key there.

Incidental: "frogs plutter and squdge" brought a smile to me face.

Larry Hanna
April 26, 1998 - 02:36 pm
I saw a piece on one of the Sunday morning shows about a young man named Johnny Carol who goes around giving away books of poetry. It is his goal to increase the appreciation of poetry in America. He hands out the books on the street, in schools, and any other place he can. He handed out Shakespeares Sonnets in honor of the birthday celebration of Shakespeare. I did not ascertain who funds this effort. Just thought it was interesting.


Roslyn Stempel
April 26, 1998 - 03:57 pm
Larry, that young man has a wonderful idea. Even though Shakespeare's sonnets are available in a very nice paperback for $1.00, I hope that (1) he's an eccentric millionaire, or (2) some benevolent foundation is funding his effort.

Helen, the kind of lurker who notices things! What could be better?

While engaged in a futile effort to dispose of some of my books, I found the following poem reprinted in a paperback young-adult novel:


Of wounds and sore defeat
I made my battle stay;
Winged sandals for my feet
I wove of my delay;
Of weariness and fear
I made my shouting spear;
Of loss, and doubt and dread
And swift oncoming doom
I made a helmet for my head
And a floating plume.
From the shutting mist of death,
From the failure of the breath
I made a battle horn to blow
Across the vales of overthrow.
Oh, harken, love, the battle horn!
The triumph clear, the silver scorn.
Oh, harken, where the echoes bring
Down the gray disastrous morn,
Laughter and rallying!

from "The Fire Bringer" (1904), by William Vaughan Moody

Moody, an American, was known around the turn of the century for several verse dramas, of which "The Fire Bringer" is one. Some of his lyric poems appear in old school anthologies. I think the strongly inspirational tone offsets the slight awkwardness of rhythm and rhyme. (It's not quite irregular enough to be "modern" according to the standard of its time. )


Roslyn Stempel
April 27, 1998 - 06:22 pm
For me the name of Bliss Carman (1861-1929), like that of his friend Richard Hovey (1864-1900), has always been associated with a number of lyrical poems about the vagabond life, the joys of the open road and autumn in the country. Just now, thanks to the browsing inspired by our wonderful exchange of poetry pleasures in this discussion, I've unexpectedly discovered that he actually published, back in 1916, a volume called April Airs. And here's a charming, conventional, no-place-like-home poem called "An April Morning":

Once more in misted April
The world is growing green.
Along the winding river
The plumy willows lean.

Beyond the sweeping meadows
The looming mountains rise,
Like battlements of dreamland
Against the brooding skies.

In every wooded valley
The buds are breaking through,
As though the heart of all things
No languor ever knew.

The golden-wings and bluebirds
Call to their heavenly choirs.
The pines are blued and drifted
With smoke of brushwood fires.

And in my sister's garden
Where little breezes run,
The golden daffodillies
Are blowing in the sun.

Ahhh! Daffodillies again! And that's not the only interesting connection here. The anthology that yielded these verses was a later edition of one first published in 1899 with an introduction by Thomas Wentworth Higginson, that same Higginson who was the first to encourage Emily Dickinson back in the 1860's.

"Since language began," the editors of the anthology's first edition wrote, "men have always been making poetry of it, setting up arrangements of words and lines that have a mysterious power to start strange or sweet thoughts singing through the mind." (After such a pretty thought, we'll forgive those lady editors, creatures of their time, for writing "men" instead of "people," even though their collection included a number - though not a majority - of their own gender.)

The Poetry Pusher

Roslyn Stempel
April 28, 1998 - 04:46 am
It was almost a year ago that Marie Click brought to our readers' attention some poems of e. e. cummings (1894-1962) -- an innovator for his time because of his novel punctuation and line placement, but a poet who, we agreed, has worn well. He did occasionally bow to the standard forms, and here's an example to add to our discussion about sonnets:


if i have made, my lady, intricate
imperfect various things chiefly which wrong
your eyes (frailer than most deep dreams are frail)
songs less firm than your body's whitest song
upon my mind -- if i have failed to snare
the glance too shy -- if through my singing slips
the very skillful strangeness of your smile
the keen primeval silence of your hair

--let the world say "his most wise music stole
nothing from death"-- you only will create
(who are so perfectly alive) my shame:
lady through whose profound and fragile lips
the sweet small clumsy feet of April came

into the ragged meadow of my soul.

(From Is 5, published by Boni & Liveright, and cited in a 1928 Scott, Foresman anthology, Poetry for our Times.)

You'll note that this love poem, which seems to say that the poet apologizes for trying to convey in words the inexpressible beauty of his lady, has 14 lines in iambic pentameter, and although it doesn't quite meet the rhyme-scheme requirement of abba/cddc, etc., there are rhymes throughout. Furthermore, that theme of the inadequacy of the lover's attempts to describe his beloved, is a fairly standard one for "Italian" sonnet form.

Earlier references to cummings are found in messages 107, 108, 110, 268, 272, and 449.


April 28, 1998 - 08:13 am
Thank goodness for the internet! I've been puzzling over what I wanted to post for the April Poetry Month poem.

I thought I'd post the poem that keeps ringing in my head, but had a TIME finding it! Finally resorted to the Internet, and EUREKA!!

I expect everyone knows this one, and it has many unanswered questions about it. To me, it's about fear. Being afraid to try, afraid to look, and a tragedy when she does. But the question is, is it better to take a chance and look or live in the shadows of your own controlling?

Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror cracked from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.

Of course I'm speaking of Alfred Lord Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott :

The Lady of Shalott
by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Part I
On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And through the field the road run by
To many-towered Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.
Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.
By the margin, willow-veiled,
Slide the heavy barges trailed
By slow horses; and unhailed
The shallop flitteth silken-sailed
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shallott?
Only reapers, reaping early,
In among the bearded barley
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly;
Down to towered Camelot;
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers, " 'Tis the fairy
The Lady of Shalott."
Part II
There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.
And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot;
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls
Pass onward from Shalott.
Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
Or long-haired page in crimson clad
Goes by to towered Camelot;
And sometimes through the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two.
She hath no loyal Knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.
But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot;
Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed.
"I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shalott.
Part III
A bowshot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley sheaves,
The sun came dazzling through the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight forever kneeled
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.
The gemmy bridle glittered free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armor rung
Beside remote Shalott.
All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jeweled shone the saddle leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burned like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often through the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, burning bright,
Moves over still Shalott.
His broad clear brow in sunlight glowed;
On burnished hooves his war horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flowed
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra lirra," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.
She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror cracked from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.
Part IV
In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining.
Heavily the low sky raining
Over towered Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.
And down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance --
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.
Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right --
The leaves upon her falling light --
Through the noises of the night,
She floated down to Camelot;
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.
Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turned to towered Camelot.
For ere she reached upon the tide
The first house by the waterside,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.
Under tower and balcony,
By garden wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.
Who is this? And what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the Knights at Camelot;
But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott.

I hate the way that is displaying, but can't change it.

Love Tennyson,


Roslyn Stempel
April 28, 1998 - 02:07 pm
Ginny, thanks - it was so nice to read this pretty poem again. There's no denying the charm of the images. As a teen-ager I sympathized with Elaine's unrequited love, and sorrowed over her death.

Tennyson himself described Elaine's doom in this early version as the result of that glimpse of "Camelot" - or more correctly, that glimpse of Lancelot - that caused her to move from isolation into the real world. Could he have been hinting at the belief held by Victorian men that "ladies" should see life only in the mirror (i.e., through fairy-tales or the interpretation of their menfolk) and not directly, in order to avoid confronting its ugliness? The Victorian myth was that ladies were too delicate for coarse reality; that experience was reserved for women of the lower classes, those who had fallen (who pushed 'em over, by the way?), those with whom men could satisfy their needs without guilt.

Later, in Idylls, the poet came just a bit closer to the story Malory told, and admitted that Lancelot's connection to the Fair Elaine (the Lady in this poem) was a bit more earthy than just riding past her tower. In fact, wasn't he pledged to her only to throw her over when he met Guinevere? And wasn't there said to be, in fact, a little bundle from heaven somewhere in the picture?


April 28, 1998 - 03:53 pm
Ros: That's why I love Tennyson, there was a whole THING on it on the Internet, all the unanswered questions, etc., but, in the ways of the Internet, it's gone.

I don't know why it keeps ringing thru my head. I sort of think of it as a metaphor, especially now when "Camelot" seems to have its darker side, too. Didn't know about the little bundle, always sort of thought of it as isolated in its glory like the Lady...I really enjoyed your extrapolation, just shows who needs to read Idylls of the King AGAIN!!


I love Tennyson.


Ann Marie Thamm
April 28, 1998 - 07:32 pm
There is such "good stuff" in this forum...now in regards to Victorian ladies I venture to say that most of the senior citizens who are female are perhaps of such inclinations...I rarely go to the senior center here because it is so depressing...Mostly women there with a scattering of a few married men who seem to address the concerns of all the unattached women...Cockadoodle do! And I dont know what happens to the elderly married woman upon being widowed...I know of one who simply couldnt stand being alone and began to fantasize about marrying the dentist who was a cheerful bloke! Society seems to require those few men left here in our earthly travails to be a sweetheart to all whom they encounter...They "marry" all...But isnt it a sweet proposition to be able to just joke around these latter day mates??? Wished there was some poetry about this! Ann Marie

April 28, 1998 - 08:31 pm
What a marvelous variety of poems! Tennyson in The Lady of Shalott has such a lilt in his descriptions, but such a sad fate for a lady! I really liked Of Wounds and Sore Defeat for its message which is needed by all of us and especially by young adults. However, “the battle horn” “the silver scorn” seemed an unusual comparison! In Bliss Carman’s An April Morning I could see a color in each verse: green in the first; next greyed purple; reddish pink of new twigs and buds; blue; and in the last verse the yellow of daffydowndillies and the sun.

Bliss Carman also wrote a poem on trees, as have several poets, each in his own way. Bliss Carman’s TREES began with the lines: In the Garden of Eden planted by God, / There were goodly trees in the springing sod. Joyce Kilmer’s TREES is of course the best known: I think that I shall never see / A poem as lovely as a tree. George Pope Morris wrote the stirring WOODMAN, SPARE THAT TREE back in 1830: Woodman, spare that tree! / Touch not a single bough!. Also: Author unknown, but a school recitation: What will you be when we’re old and gray, / Dear little tree we plant today?. Henry Cuyler Bunner, THE HEART OF A TREE: What does he plant who plants a tree? / He plants the friend of sun and sky. Lucy Larcom, PLANT A TREE: He who plants a tree plants a hope. And the following which was read at an Arbor Day Celebration the other day:

SALUTE TO THE TREES (about 1909)
Henry Van Dyke
Many a tree is found in the wood
And every tree for its use is good. . . .
But the glory of trees is more than their gifts;
‘Tis a beautiful wonder of life that lifts
From a wrinkled seed in an earth-bound clod,
A column, an arch in the temple of God -
A pillar of power, a dome of delight,
A shrine of song, and a joy of sight!
Their roots are the nurses of rivers in birth,
Their leaves are alive with the breath of the earth. . . .

The founder of Arbor Day is said to have remarked that of all the holidays, Arbor Day (Tree Planting Day, April 22) was the only one that looked toward the future.

April 28, 1998 - 08:39 pm
I have a poem somplace that I must look up...I like it so well..it ends with the writer saying that when he dies, he will feed the tree under which he is buried. Sound familiar to anyone ?

Roslyn Stempel
April 29, 1998 - 07:06 pm
Department of Who'da-thunkit: When you think of Amy Lowell do you think of adult passions, fire, stately gardens, period pieces, modernist brilliance? Well, sans cigar, in another mood, another gender, and another persona, here's little Amy's quaint apostrophe to the


Slipping softly through the sky
Little horned, happy moon,
Can you hear me up so high?
Will you come down soon?

On my nursery window-sill
Will you stay your steady flight?
And then float away with me
Through the summer night?


I shall fill my lap with roses
Gathered in the milky way,
All to carry home to mother.
Oh! what will she say!

Little rocking, sailing moon,
Do you hear me shout -- Ahoy!
Just a little nearer, moon,
To please a little boy.


May 1, 1998 - 05:03 am
Ros, did Amy Lowell maybe have a little boy in the family or as a neighbor? It sounds so authentic. Crescent moon ... little horned moon ... rocking, sailing ... Just before coming home last night and reading this, we had looked up in the blue-black sky and there it was!!!

June, I have run across a poem or two in the past that end as you described, but never copied them. It is so hard to relocate anything (unless it is well known), isn’t it? I’ve been trying to relocate one about a railroad trip, glimpsing a few bright flowers just before going into a tunnel or over a bridge, and that is what the poet remembered most.

To close Poetry month, a piece of droll levity. It is long, but I don't see how it could be cut.

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)

I wrote some lines once on a time
In a wondrous merry mood,
And thought, as usual, men would say
They were exceedingly good.

They were so queer, so very queer,
I laughed as I would die;
Albeit, in a general way,
A sober man am I.

I called my servant, and he came;
How kind it was of him
To mind a slender man like me,
He of the mighty limb!

These to the printer,” I exclaimed,
And, in my humorous way,
I added (as a trifling jest),
“There’ll be the devil to pay.”

He took the paper, and I watched,
And saw him peep within;
At the first line he read, his face
Was all upon the grin.

He read the next; the grin grew broad,
And shot from ear to ear;
He read the third; a chuckling noise
I now began to hear.

The fourth; he broke into a roar;
The fifth; his waistband split;
The sixth; he burst five buttons off,
And tumbled in a fit.

Ten days and nights, with sleepless eye,
I watched that wretched man,
And since, I never dare to write
As funny as I can.

Roslyn Stempel
May 1, 1998 - 04:50 pm
Loma, the Hungry Cyber Critter has been swallowing my messages. I wanted to suggest that there's a poem called "Adlestrop" which might contain the imagery you mentioned about the train tunnel etc.

Also, as to Amy Lowell, I don't think she was ever sure which gender she would rather be. As she was one of the lofty Boston Lowells, she could do pretty much what she pleased, smoking cigars, playing roles, or whatever. An earlier generation was less openly "liberated" and much more privately permissive about such things.

The merry month of May at last - a nice mixture of religious and pagan symbols and rituals, and in our region at least, more rain than April could ever bring. Makes the flowers grow, of course.


Roslyn Stempel
May 4, 1998 - 05:30 am
Now must these men be glad a while 
That they had lived to see May once more smile 
Upon the earth; wherefore, as men who know 
How fast the bad days and the good days go, 
They gathered at the feast . . .

That's a bit from the section "May" in William Morris's The Earthly Paradise, a long chain of narrative poems linked by lyrics celebrating the months of the year.

Morris wove stories, hero-tales, and ballads about the days of old, about strong, daring men and brave, beautiful women, people who built wonderful societies and did heroic deeds. And yet, I think, there is no other poet living or dead whose lyric poetry - regardless of quality - revealed so much anguish, loss, regret, and pain of renunciation.

Morris was one of the most amazingly talented, successful, and respected men of the 19th century: artist, storyteller, scholar, poet; printer, designer of typefaces, books, fabric, furniture, and wallpaper; founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement, political pioneer, and many other things; but his personal life was full of sorrow and disappointment, and in his many small lyric poems, so full of the beauties of nature, we can read that poignant yearning for happiness.


Marie C.
May 4, 1998 - 11:41 pm
Both Tennyson and Ben Jonson, among others, wrote poems comparing a human's growth to that of a tree:

It Is Not Growing Like a Tree

It is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make man better be;
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sere:
A lily of a day
Is fairer far in May,
Although it fall and die that night;
It was the plant and flower of light.
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures, life may perfect be.

.................Ben Jonson (1573 - 1637)

Tennyson takes a more opposite position, saying that being like a tree is the very thing to strive for--will post his poem later as I have to go offline for a bit now.

Marie C.
May 5, 1998 - 12:41 am
Here is the Tennyson "tree" poem. I think it very typical of Tennyson--that sort of swashbuckling, "come-ye-lads" oratorial way he writes. But somehow, to me, Ben Jonson's poem touches a more important reality of living:

Live thy Life,
Young and old,
Like yon oak,
Bright in Spring,
Living gold;

Then; and then
Gold again.

All his leaves
Fall'n at length,
Look, he stands,
Trunk and bough,
Naked strength.

......Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)
Would love to hear what all of you think. ~~Marie

Roslyn Stempel
May 5, 1998 - 06:09 am
Marie, I must say that Tennyson's bluff-hearty short lines and his imagery of strength and endurance have great appeal. I was never "a lily of a day," though I can concede that, if we're speaking of lives, a short and beautiful one can be richer and more memorable than a long one which ends in loneliness, pain, and that constant sighing complaint that we hear when bare branches scrape together in an autumn wind.

I think there are many aspects of the "tree" metaphor that can be applied to human life: the steady growth, moving through stages that last long enough to be observed and delighted in; the long period of maturity, most often with spreading leafy branches which shelter and protect everything beneath them, yet are strong enough to withstand storms; the gradual weakening and loss of endurance when the tree becomes barren, fragile, and ugly; the final decay to the point that branches may break off and fall to the ground -- not just in a storm but often on a quiet, sunny day.

I also like a tree-metaphor used oh, so many years ago by the folk singer Buffy Saint-Marie:

I was an oak;
Now I'm a willow;
Now I can bend.

Dear Marie, let us learn to bend without breaking.


William Frost
May 5, 1998 - 01:41 pm

Marie, I like the poem you presented by Ben Jonson best representing my feelings on the tree's important reality of living. I wrote the following in 1985. The tree, a flowering plum is still here, persisting to live and promote living in so many ways.


Crocheted nest of a humming bird
holds corncobbed
in the eagle-spread
of supple-branching outreach

The sienna trunk pierces clay

at the hobble of calluses

in the random stream

of erosions in its bark.

Rooted dark and narrow

a shadow starts, spreads

ground through grey scale

broadens white on top of a bamboo fence

and melts.

A white cat sits

eyes lashed to the nest

with patience and envy

perhaps no more.

The nest dips within the reach

of the cat's leap

then springs up

released by the protecting hover

of the tiny bird.

The white cat claws

the darkening

narrowing canal.






That's how it is because it all happened last spring and the thing that matters is the morning after the storm when the tree leaned over in the sodden clay, its branches entangled, supported by drawn power cables.

Half the roots of the tree were torn.

You put aside nostalgia and raised the saw.

You cut off interfering limbs until the

power cables resumed their deceit of impotent sag.

You trimmed the tree to six diverging

arteries and left a dozen

precocious twigs.

You sealed the wounds and righted the tree,

erecting it with stranded wire

connected with a twist to the

liquidamber, set near, conceited

in its leaf-fallen ochre,

rotting black.

You protected the bark by wedging the

encircling wire with 4 wooden

tent pegs, a broken croquet mallet

and an old golfing hat

folded, stained with perspiration.

You scraped fungus off the lower trunk above

the torn roots.

(The tree had been rotting for

some time like the old man

opening ears and mouths of

children with doubtful stories

hiding the true one

the stress of reckoning told.)

You patted the still-wet soil around

the dead roots.

‘‘We are not prepared

to carve



on this proud trunk.''

Yesterday, the storm shimmered

in the shame of the aftermath

of a quick temper.

Today, jogs of tiny buds

lace the twigs

of the sculptured trunk.

Tomorrow promises creativity.





Roslyn Stempel
May 6, 1998 - 05:01 am
Bill Frost, thanks for the poem, a tribute to survival and "putting nostalgia aside." Apparently even a tree needs another tree to lean on.

It's good to see your name and your words once more in this discussion.


Roslyn Stempel
May 6, 1998 - 05:21 am
How often we've put a crying, disappointed child to bed with the reassurance that "tomorrow would be better." Adults need to remind themselves of that same hope, even when experience teaches us something different:


I spoiled the day;
Hotly, in haste,
All the calm hours
I gashed and defaced.

Let me forget,
Let me embark
--Sleep for my boat--
And sail through the dark.

Till a new day
Heaven shall send
Whole as an apple,
Kind as a friend.

(Frances Cornford)

Ros, the Poetry Pusher

May 6, 1998 - 12:20 pm
HI ALL...I am still searching for my poem about the tree...I can't even remember the Author, and that makes it more frustrating. I know it ends with him lying beneath the tree, (dead and buried) and feeding the tree. Have one more notebook to go thru and hope it shows up. In the meantime, I would like to offer a few words from William Blake.


Roslyn Stempel
May 6, 1998 - 04:37 pm
June, I'm so tantalized by the mystery of the "Tree" poem that I sat down and flipped all the way through Housman's Collected Poems to see if anything ended in the manner you described. No luck.

Blake's "Auguries of Innocence" -- like, I fear, much of Blake's more free-flying poetry -- has always baffled me. Can you cast some light on it for us? Much of it seems to be about being kind to animals and poor people, and about the doom that will eventually overtake a wicked world. There is a religious cast to it, but I have a lot of difficulty with the individual rhyming couplets - which, I learned in a footnote, were rearranged by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1863. My guess would be that the original arrangement was even more random.


Roslyn Stempel
May 7, 1998 - 06:30 am
The name of Ralph Waldo Emerson has been known to cause a sinking of hearts in many an English class, for the loftiness of his ideas about self-reliance, freedom, education, etc. was often obscured in a cloud of verbiage. This revered sage and self-confident utterer of major truths continued to have a great deal to say; ultimately, the wisdom dissolved into nonsense, and finally silence, as even that mighty brain succumbed to one of the scornful levelers of aging that we all dread.

As a poet, Emerson gave us "the shot heard round the world" to commemorate Lexington and Concord, and "beauty is its own excuse for being," as he praised the Rhodora, a Maytime flower. He also produced a short poem about lost opportunities:


Daughters of Time, the hypocritic Days,
Muffled and dumb like barefoot dervishes,
And marching single in an endless file,
Bring diadems and fagots in their hands.
To each they offer gifts after his will,
Bread, kingdoms, stars, and sky that holds them all.
I, in my pleached garden, watched the pomp,
Forgot my morning wishes, hastily
Took a few herbs and apples, and the Day
Turned and departed silent. I, too late,
Under her solemn fillet saw the scorn.

Alas! What I could have, should have, would have done yesterday, if only ...!


May 7, 1998 - 08:52 am
William Morris as a poet and having even more talents was a revelation to me! I always just thought of his wallpaper & fabric patterns with stylized green leaves and contrasting shades of fruit or flowers, and now I see he wrote very well, too.

Bill Frost, your line You sealed the wounds and righted the tree, is a strong and comforting one. Marie, the two tree poems are so different from each other. Isn’t that one of the qualities of a good poet, to be able to write about a common topic but with a fresh viewpoint? Tennyson, that master with words, used only three syllables in each line. And only 2 lines of 5 rhymed. He tells the qualities of the tree through changing times. Yet Ben Jonson’s words: And in short measures, life may perfect be, are memorable.

William Blake wrote some thoughts on joy:

He who binds to himself a Joy
Doth the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the Joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity’s sunrise.
- from MS. Notebooks

Man was made for Joy and Woe,
And when this we rightly know,
Thro’ the World we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
- from Auguries of Innocence

May 7, 1998 - 10:34 am
ROS...Thank you so much for searching for the poem I too am looking for. I appreciate your efforts. As to the poem by Wm. Blake. I really can't explain it...it is just something that touches something in me. There is so much we miss in just looking at the whole picture, and Blakes words make me realize how much more there is in every individual part that is usually overlooked. When you think that every thing that is, is comprised of little atoms, and each one holds the whole together...well.. WOW. Sorry..I know what I think and feel, but I do not have the talent to impart it.

May 7, 1998 - 07:42 pm
ROS....I was out doing exercises this afternoon, and out of the blue the name Louis Untermeyer jumped into my mind. He is the author of the poem I cannot find. I spent several hours searching the WWW and found articles on Untermeyer, but could not find any of his poetry. But I am determined.>G>

Roslyn Stempel
May 9, 1998 - 02:23 pm
June, they say the best way to remember something is not to think about it, and it will come to you when you're thinking about something else. I see this has worked for you so far, and maybe (I certainly hope) you'll recall the exact location of the Untermeyer poem in your notebook in the same way.

Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky read two charming poems, by poets who are also mothers, on Friday's PBS News Hour. I hope to find them online for a belated Mother's Day recognition - unfortunately Friday's show isn't online until Monday, so they'll be late. So many of the "Mother" poems are just too sentimental. I liked the two he read because they are about motherhood.


Roslyn Stempel
May 11, 1998 - 04:35 pm
Robert Pinsky, Poet Laureate, offered two poems on Friday night's PBS News Hour for Mother's Day. Here's one of them, in Pinsky's words:

"And here is Louise Glick, also writing as a mother looking at a child:

The Gift

Lord, you may not recognize me speaking for someone else.
I have a son. He is
so little, so ignorant.
He likes to stand at the screen door calling, 'Oggie,
Oggie,' entering language,
and sometimes a dog will stop and come up the walk,
perhaps accidentally.
May he believe that this is not an accident at the screen,
welcoming each beast in love's name. Your emissary."

(I'll try to find out more about Louise Glick and share the information. Pinsky's reading was, as always, appealingly natural and full of feeling. The transcript online didn't specify the line breaks but I tried to put them in where they would make sense. )


Jackie Lynch
May 12, 1998 - 07:10 am
In the Library, we are discussing authors we would like to have as guests at our dinner table. I can't stop at one.

May 13, 1998 - 07:08 am
The poems that are posted here, together with the discussions, seem to enrich one’s perceptions and enjoyment of things. Last weekend at three different times the poets lines added to the usual senses of sight, smell, and touch.

Arranging Mother’s Day roses and lilacs -- the beloved fragrant lilacs, the feeling swept over me:

Now must these men be glad a while
That they had lived to see May once more smile
Upon the earth.
- William Morris

While potting some succulents, the slanting morning sun on wet sand showed many colors, indicating that the miniature sand grains had originated from many kinds of rocks from unknown places:
To see a world in a grain of sand.
- William Blake

A mass of sweet woodruff in bloom at the back door, each white flower small and perfect, impossible to have been created by chance -- to me proof, if needed, of a Creator:
And a heaven in a wild flower.

June, Louis Untermeyer is such a familiar name but hard to find much on him. He edited at least one book of poetry I have, and somewhere in one of the books may be a few lines of a children’s poem, and another line he translated from German. (Why don’t all poetry books have proper indexes??) The librarian found one book of his: Long Feud, Selected Poems, published 1962 by Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. Untermeyer stated that the poems in it were from prior volumes and some later poems “the only ones I care to preserve.” Copyright dates ranged from 1914 through 1962. The jacket information stated he was “the author or editor of some seventy varied works, including his own poems and anthologies of American and British poetry which have become standard textbooks in colleges.” Wow! His poems seem well done, varied, and show great familiarity with the art of poetry. One in this book might be the one you were looking for. It is about a person who always felt insignificant in life. Below are the first two lines and the last verse. It is titled MATTER.

When I was a live man
A few years ago. . . .

And now as I lie here,
Feeding this tree,
I am more to the world
Than it is to me.

May 13, 1998 - 10:32 am
LOMA...What a happy thrill to read yourmessage and find those lines by louis Untermeyer.!! I searched and searched and couldn't locate that scrap of paper I had saved for a long time. Do you have the full poem ? If you do, would you please post it so I can copy it ? If not, I will go to our local library and hope to find it there. Reading the words you had posted, brought back to mind the thoughts that had led me to save it. That God allows us to be useful here on earth even tho our "selves" are no longer present. I would really like to read the entire poem once again, and I so appreciate your efforts. Thank you my friend.

Roslyn Stempel
May 13, 1998 - 12:29 pm
Loma and June, how wonderful to have shared this lifting up of our thoughts through well-loved poetry. June, I can understand why you remembered the Untermeyer lines - they are really meaningful.

Sweet woodruff - I love it! - I've nursed some along in my back yard for years and now it seems to be taking hold and spreading. To help it along I bought another big pot of it which has been perfuming the back entrance while I summon up energy to dig it a permanent home. As for the fragrance of lilacs, it brings so many poignant associations I can't begin to name them. This past 10 days or so, our whole neighborhood has been a "lilac walk" with the rich fragrance and many subtle shades from white to deepest purple bursting out of every yard.


May 13, 1998 - 05:52 pm
Ros, somehow sweet woodruff seems a perfect little plant with perfect little leaves and perfect little flower heads. The plant likes rain and snow, though not city water very much, but they do not totally droop if it gets a little dry. I've always kept them out of the dirt path before but after the moisture this winter and spring it has totally overrun the path and that seems fine too; I just walk on them! And yes, there is something about lilacs that brings many poignant associations.

June, isn't it frustrating not to be able to find a paper you have copied? Or find the place in a book again? I do try to keep any old poetry books I run across; however sometimes they turn up missing too. And just as bad or worse, sometimes the Library unloads some of the old books, so the source that once was, is no longer there!

This title was in the Granger's Index of 1924, so evidently it was written by 1923.

Louis Untermeyer

When I was a live man
A few years ago,
For all I might say,
For all I could do

I got no attention;
My life was so small
The world didn't know
I was living at all.

Such stolid indifference
I couldn't allow;
I swore that I'd matter--
Never mind how.

But after a lifetime
Of hunger and prayer,
I broke my heart trying
To make the world care.

And now as I lie here,
Feeding this tree,
I am more to the world
Than it is to me.

May 13, 1998 - 07:53 pm
LOMA....I thank you more than words can say for posting the Poem for me. I will print it out, and this time, make sure I do not misplace it. I am not neat enough to have separate books for various things...down through the years they have all been placed in notebooks...and sometimes loosely... waiting to be typed out. I still have odds and bits from papers and magazines that need to be typed out. I have a huge sheet of paper that was an advertisement for buggies (as in horse and buggies) that my maternal grandmother had written poetry on, and I have finally and laboriously typed out and put neatly away. So I am making headway, and the Computer is a great help. I am eager to study the poem by Untermeyer more thoroughly and find more that made it so impressive to me...sort of like looking at old photographs. I am not familiar with the woodruff flowers that you and Ros have written about. I wonder if they would be similar to sweet alyssum ? That has a cluster of tiny white flowers, and it also comes in a purple shade. Phlox are another ambitious flower that re-seeds itself anywhere and everywhere, and it comes in such a variety and combination of colors. I really appreciate it, as it does well in our hot summer climate in Hemet, and does not require a lot of water. Goodness..I have gotten carried away with words here tonite. May I thank you one more time Loma for your interest and efforts in finding my Poem. I so greatly appreciate it.

Roslyn Stempel
May 15, 1998 - 05:26 pm
Leafing through some poetry books at the library (I'd gone in search of Jane Kenyon but nothing of hers was there), I came on a book, Poems to Solve, by May Swenson (Scribner, copyright 1966), a compilation designed to encourage the reader to "make his own discoveries." Some of the poems were about animals, flowers, and birds. Here's an excerpt from "Feel Like a Bird":

Feel like a Bird Understand He has no Hand

Instead a Wing Close-lapped mysterious thing

In sleeveless coat He halves the Air skipping there

like water-licked boat Lands on Star-toes Finger-beak in

Featherless pocket ...

The words and the structure reminded me of Emily Dickinson. I don't know if the poet was striving for that effect, or if the spread-out typography was supposed to suggest the quick movements of a bird.


May 17, 1998 - 08:06 pm
May Swenson's words "He halves the Air / skipping there / like water-licked boat" is such an unusual a description of a bird, yet so apt, and so is "Finger-beak". Hadn't thought of it that way before, yet it's true.

The librarian helped me find the poem Adlestrop, but it is not the one I was searching for. It has a similar thought, though. Adlestrop is of a memory on a train of a brief stop - the sign giving the name of the town, a bit of landscape, a blackbird's call. The one I am looking for is of a glimse of flowers or a bright tree just before the train goes into a tunnel or over a bridge, and that is what he remembers of the journey. Please note these are not "senior moments"; ahem, just that one has so many things in one's brain that some things don't register at the time, yet they do later. Maybe this is a coincidence, but another poem in this old book is on somewhat the same subject:

Wilfrid Gibson

Somewhere, somewhen I've seen,
But where or when I'll never know,
Parrots of shrilly green
With crests of shriller scarlet flying
Out of black cedars as the sun was dying
Against cold peaks of snow.

From what forgotten life
Of other worlds I cannot tell
Flashes that screeching strife:
Yet the shrill colour and shrill crying
Sing through my blood and set my heart replying
And jangling like a bell.

Roslyn Stempel
May 19, 1998 - 05:44 am
Loma, yes, to me that poem recreates the experience we all have of some brilliant image triggered by a random association, often accompanied by sound or smell, that flashes through the mind, too quickly to be fully identified yet bafflingly familiar.

I've been reading poems by Rita Dove, who was the 1993 Poet Laureate and, as the book cover points out, not only the youngest poet so named but the first African American chosen for the position. Her subject matter ranges widely and the poems also range from difficult to accessible. I liked one called "In the Old Neighborhood," in which the poet returns to her childhood home to be matron of honor at a family wedding. She recalls:

I've read every book in this house,
I know which shelf to go to to taste crumbling saltines
(don't eat with your nose in a book!)
and the gritty slick of sardines,
[...]that was Romeo and Juliet,
strangely enough, and just as odd
stuffed green olives
for a premature attempt at The Iliad. [...]Fig Newtons
and King Lear,bitter lemon as well
for Othello, that desolate
conspicuous soul....

Doesn't this bring back to you the experience of "voracious" reading while eating various kinds of snack foods?

This paperback, Selected Poems, was published in 1993 by Vintage Books (copyrights by the author). and combines three earlier books, including Thomas and Beulah, which brought her the Pulitzer Prize in 1987. It is a striking group of poems celebrating the lives (from 1900 to 1969) of an African American couple born in the South whose families moved to Akron as part of the great northward migration. It rewards thoughtful reading.


William Frost
May 19, 1998 - 10:33 am
In my recent, regular browsing of this delightful Poetry Folder, I have found myself again and again returning to Jackie Lynch’s note #526, dealing briefly with the inviting of authors to be dinner guests. It has motivated me to fantasize on having lunch with a poet of my choice. In confidence, of course, I share with you my interest in having lunch with Jorie Graham, author of a recently published book of poems, “The Errancy”. The flyleaf says it best.....”Pulitzer Prize Winner Jorie Graham returns with great clarity and passion to her lyrical roots - and builds a rich musical meditation on desire.” Perhaps the following excerpt from “The Strangers” reflects my desire to sit opposite Ms. Graham at the corner table away from the window in the small French restaurant nearby. Here, at lunch, I would study her eyes searching for her desire to find, “.....its place in an age of betrayed values, an age when dreaming has been rubbed thin by reason, frayed by the speed of facts.” Only then will she read her poetry to me and I shall be surprised that her voice isn’t a bit like I had imagined it. Eating will be incidental, but we shall both notice the artistry of the chef’s presentation. The young guitarist on the narrow balcony will play continuously with suitable passion as I listen to the poet’s words.
thinking, rethinking, 
between Wednesday and Thursday, 
what if it doesn’t exist, the place 
where this hand lay flat for the first time 
against your heart, cotton-denim and flesh between, 
to take it forever, first-fruit, from its limb, 
tongue-tied, door slamming, cars stalled-out at traffic light- 
is it a muscular place? 
is it a cadence this open palm wants? 
betrothed to the instant, 
swearing allegiance, 
a little dialog between us like footprints, 
is it the wingbeat itself would cross through the envelope of flesh 
to get, this hand flat on you now, a badge, an x-ray, 
homing in, an hypothesis, monosyllabic, 
over the supple, gossipy, tin-can heart - unrelenting -  
to make you exist - 

Ann Marie Thamm
May 19, 1998 - 06:26 pm
William! Dearheart!! Dare I ask of you???? Does she recall him fondling her breast???? Ann Marie

May 20, 1998 - 07:10 am
And sit in the small French restaurant nearby at the corner table away from the window!!!?

May 20, 1998 - 08:45 pm
Frank Sinatra's funeral was today.

Bright is the ring of words
When the right man rings them,
Fair the fall of songs
When the singer sings them.
Still they are carolled and said -
On wings they are carried -
After the singer is dead
And the maker buried.

Robert Louis Stevenson

William Frost
May 21, 1998 - 12:24 pm

I used "window" to symbolize "world", a world voyeristic and inappropriate for a luncheon meeting with a wonderful poet. (Ann Marie, please copy. It is not by accident that the breast covers the heart!).


Roslyn Stempel
May 25, 1998 - 06:59 pm
"I shot an arrow into the air. It fell to earth, I knew not where." No one has ever posted any comment about that fragment, which I thought must have been part of the exposure to so-called poetry of anyone in my age bracket. So either I was totally wrong, or (as I suspect) nobody ever reads the heading of the discussion.

Anyway, here's an example of really dubious versifying, in a style called "antiquarian," by one Charles M. Doughty (1843-1926):

Driving, at misadventure, they were met, 
Of Frisic yawls, full of fierce weaponed wights; 
And whose long weather-boards shingled with shields! 
With these, that pirates were, they fight, for life; 
Few, against many.  And he, young valorous prince, 
Hurt of a grapnel, which was hurled, inboard; 
Being now his most men slain, was taken, uneath; 
By might of many inthronging champions 
And when those all, in the king's ship, had spoiled; 
They Cloten, did, on thwart row-bank, compel, 
To drag an oar....

How's that? Certainly a record number of commas per square inch, to say nothing of the convoluted syntax. And when you consider that this sort of thing is repeated in not one but SIX volumes of a work called "The Dawn in Britain," well, imagination quails. Doughty also wrote a prose study called "Travels in Arabia Deserta," which might have made easier reading.

Ros, the Poetry Pusher, but this is heavy pushing.

May 25, 1998 - 07:35 pm
ROS...That was HEEAAVVYY alrite. Charles Doughty would not be considered a favorite of mine, but then I am not one to judge anyone. PLLLLEEEAAAESSSSEEEE, tell me where that arrow landed.I have been reading that everytime I come here, and wracking my brain, to no avail. Anyone that went to school in my era heard that verse, but the rest of it is lost somewhere behind my eyes.

May 25, 1998 - 07:39 pm
P.S. Ros, I have used the "Star on my Paper" more times than you would believe. Those few words contain so much good common sense, and no matter how old we grow, we somehow are still a bit hurt if we are not recognized by what we have said or done. Thank you so much for giving us those words.

Jackie Lynch
May 25, 1998 - 08:26 pm
Ros: I try and try, but I can't remember the end of the "arrow" part. The next goes, sort of, I something a song into the air, it fell to earth I know not where, for who has sight so keen and strong that it can follow the flight of a song?

May 26, 1998 - 06:16 am
I sneezed a sneeze into the air
It fell to the earth I know not where
But hard and cold were the looks of those
In whose vicinity I snoze.


Roslyn Stempel
May 26, 1998 - 06:36 am
I shot an arrow into the air, 
It fell to earth, I knew not where; 
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight 
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air, It fell to earth, I knew not where; For who has sight so keen and strong, That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak, I found the arrow, still unbroke; And the song, from beginning to end, I found again in the heart of a friend.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As Ginny points out, it certainly lends itself to parody; and I wouldn't characterize it as great poetry anyway. What I mostly remember is that I was able to memorize it quickly (even though it didn't really make sense to me) and parrot it back to the teacher in order to be praised (and earn the groans and dirty looks of my classmates who thought I was a suck-up anyway, which I was, hating and bad-mouthing the teacher outside of school but being very obedient and goody-goody in class, which is probably why I ultimately became a teacher myself).Try setting that to music.

Ros, the ex-teacher's pet and poetry pusher

May 26, 1998 - 07:45 pm
Ros...And still a good teacher, and I am not a suck-up. (^_^) I was always the class clown..always in trouble by trying to be funny, in thinking it would make people like me. Thank you so much for the remainder of the poem. It may be simple, but really quite nice. I like it. Thanks again.

May 27, 1998 - 07:48 am
Oh Ros, I DID read your post about the arrow into the air from the very first, and yes, I DID know it. But we've had company, and even without that, often have trouble getting on the internet & staying on when I want to. No matter, I always seem to be a day or more behind and so am sorry I do not respond to everything, though I do enjoy all.

In fact, I'm still trying to figure out who to invite to dinner. John Neihardt for sure. Maybe 4 more, to make a round table for 6. The names keep changing; not enough is known of them as individuals. Would they be the same in person, as one hopes from favorite poems?? How to stimulate conversation, or would they all be eager to converse with each other?? I admire Bill with his polished ease.

Getting back to Longfellow's Arrow, Ros you must have had a not-the-best teacher! To have to learn it to suck-up!! And look at you now!! Such a good leader. Anyway, when we had that poem in class, our teacher explained the innate truth to us. And through one's life, occasions do come up to illustrate it.

The lines of Charles M. Doughty (1843-1926): And whose long weather-boards shingled with shields certainly describes the type of boat and its era, and is as clear as a picture in The National Geographic of an excavated boat. Maybe by the time you read six volumes of his antiquarian poetry you would get into the flow of it, as you do in reading Hiawatha. How would he be as one of the guests at the dinner table? Would he be able to dis-engage from the flow of this type of versifying in order to converse pleasingly (history and tales of research can be very interesting) on what he was studying?

Since we have been having some bombastic storms lately, here is a description:

TROPIC RAIN (2nd verse)
Robert Louis Stevenson

Sudden the thunder was drowned - quenched was the levin light -
And the angel-spirit of rain laughed out loud in the night.
Loud as the maddened river raves in the cloven glen,
Angel of rain! you laughed and leaped on the roofs of men.

Roslyn Stempel
May 27, 1998 - 11:30 am
Loma, Henry Ford II or some other tycoon, or maybe it was General George Patton, is believed to have said, "Never apologize, never complain, never explain." And what a vivid storm description! Would you happen to know the date of the poem? I don't have much Stevenson on hand. It seems to have leaped from that time when lyricists were loopily in love with long lines of alliteration (sorry). My dictionary tells me that "levin" is an archaic word meaning lightning, but Stevenson gained an extra "l" by using "levin light" instead of just lightning. Seriously, the alliterative tradition is a strong one in various Anglo-Saxon and Celtic languages as well as Norse. Many years ago we had some Welsh visitors who recited poetry as entertainment, the way we might tell jokes. Hearing all that alliteration in a totally foreign language was quite an experience.

If you've been following the current on-line BC selection, Cold Mountain, you might have noticed that there's an actual arrow-stuck-in-a-tree incident there, but it's a poplar rather than an oak. (Wonder what Longfellow would have done if his arrow had been found in a poplar. Hmm, cottonwood-rotten wood, gotten-good?)


Roslyn Stempel
May 27, 1998 - 04:24 pm
In the June 1998 issue of Atlantic Monthly is a two-page spread of beautiful brief translations of Greek poets by Brooks Haxton, a resident poet at Syracuse University who is currently at work on a book of such translations. One piece sounded familiar, so I hunted up an anthology which I've had, actually, since May 10, 1941, and sure enough found an 1858 translation of the same Epigram by the Greek poet Callimachus. Comparing the two tells us something about how poetry has changed, and also, I thought, about how translation has escaped from the stiff formality of earlier centuries:


They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead,
They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed.
I wept as I remember'd how often you and I
Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.

And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest
A handful of gray ashes, long, long ago at rest,
Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake;
For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.

-- Translated 1858 by William(Johnson) Cory 1823-1892)


Someone, Herakleitos, spoke to me about your death,
And I with fresh tears thought again how many times
the two of us would talk until the sun sank. You,
too many years ago, though sacred in my memory forever
as a guest and friend, sank also into ashes. Here,
meanwhile, your poems sing to me like nightingales,
only out of the darkness where no hand can reach.

(Kallimachos, 3rd Century B.C.E., translated by Brooks Haxton)

Freed from the singsong rhythm, and putting a slightly different spin on the time covered by the lines, doesn't the second version feel somehow closer to what Callimachus might have wanted to say?


May 28, 1998 - 03:11 pm
Regarding RLS, and Tropic Rain, somehow I never wondered at the term 'levin light' but just assumed it meant some kind of lightning. (I do a bit of assuming aften, on verse I do not entirely understand.)

It was Number 39 of Songs of Travel published in 1896. I think.

He had tuberculosis in the earlier 1880s. He went to the South Seas and bought property on the island of Samoa called Vailima in 1888 or after. Here is the well-known well-loved epitaph which he requested inscribed on his gravestone at Vailima:

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This is the verse you grave for me:
'Here he lies where he longed to be;
Here is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.'

John Bird
May 29, 1998 - 10:33 am
Perhaps you have the ability and interest to make a contribution to poetry - to put something back in - via some "pro bono" work. Perhaps you now have the time to do so. You can find the aspiring poets who need your advice and encouragement at Pro Bono Poetico http://members.xoom.com/probono/poetry.html

May 30, 1998 - 12:16 pm
John Bird, I just took a quick look at your Pro Bono Poetico site and it is very good! What does the name mean? (Please do not ask how many years of Latin I had in High School, or if I have been doing anything about it since then.) You mentioned time, and that is the problem -- often not able to get in to the 'net when desired, or get disconnected, or it is too slow. Did not see a general commentary place at your site, so will make some here, and you can sort them out if you wish. In the workshop, I was impressed with insight of 6W Middle Years, the mood of 9W jaisalmer, and 15W Haiku especially the one about the dastardly slugs munching our flowers while we are sleeping. In the Graduate poems: 1. White Birds with the lines "egrets bloomed in trees" and "the ultimate and perfest touch of class." 2. Sentence - often only too true; the doctor "Who ordered further tests at last, too late." 4. The Lion Roars - something we all dread, but what an totally excellent poem. 5. Fingals Head - "The basalt quills remain" - is this big enough that we viewed it from a plane once?

Sorry there is not time to do justice to everything. Right now I have been wrestling for a couple of days with wording for a response to the translations of Heraclitus!

Ann Marie Thamm
May 30, 1998 - 06:46 pm
Heraclitus! my Carian!! (is that your abode????) Ah me! I am only here awaiting your dear words...for to me there is no such thing as what most call "death"...Let me speak to you sweetly ...

"If you were coming in the fall, I'd brush the summer by With half a smile and half a spurn, As housewives do a fly.

If I could see you in a year, I'd wind the months in balls, And put them each in separate drawers, Until their time befalls.

If only centuries delayed, I'd count them on my hand, Subtracting till my fingers dropped Into Van Diemen's land.

If certain, when this life was out, That yours and mine should be, I'd toss it yonder like a rind, And taste eternity." Emily Dickinson

It is true...I would never tire of your conversation even if it were eternally in eternity....Ann Marie

Roslyn Stempel
May 30, 1998 - 07:51 pm
Anne Marie, thanks for so aptly linking that old Greek with Emily's excellent promises of loyalty and fidelity.

Loma, here's a belated addendum to your well-chosen tribute to Frank Sinatra: As I expected, Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky had something to say on the News Hour that week. He quoted two fragments from Virgil's 9th Eclogue, with the following introduction:

"Virgil's eclogues are conversations in verse between singers about topics like love, death, and the art of singing. In the 9th Eclogue, Virgil sounds for just a moment a little like the Johnny Mercer or Cole Porter or Gershwin songs Sinatra sang so memorably. Here in David Ferry's translation is a bit of [it]:

What was the song I heard you singing alone the other night
under a cloudless sky?
I remember the tune. If I could remember the words!"
Why are you gazing only at the old constellation rising in the sky?"

"And then" [Pinsky continues] "about that master among singers named Menalcas":

"Time takes all that we have away from us.
I remember when I was a boy, I used to sing every long day of summer
down to darkness,
and now I am forgetting all my songs.
My voice grows hoarse.
I must have been seen by a wolf.
But Menalcas will sing the songs for you when he comes.
The time for singing is when Menalcas comes."

How touchingly relevant, across the ages, that seems about Old Blue Eyes! There's a line from Auden's poem "Musee des Beaux Arts": "About suffering they were never wrong, those old masters...."


Jackie Lynch
May 30, 1998 - 08:49 pm
Ros: I can't tell you how much reading these words means to me. Poetry goes straight to my heart and makes my body tingle. I have too many things in my life right now to pursue some of my own researches into poets and their words, but being here shows me how much I have been missing my reading. My books are packed away and not easy to get to, but when I come here it is vastly beyond my meager collection. Thank you.

May 31, 1998 - 07:32 am
Two translations certainly show the influence of two translators! The one by Cory indicates he had just received word of the death which had happened some stime ago. The one by Haxton indicates that he was simply reminded of it. I liked Cory’s phrasing “how often you and I Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky;” while Haxton compares the sinking of the sun with the sinking of his old friend “also into ashes.” But death cannot take his poems which still sing to him like nightingales. Whatever, we are reminded that in generations long past there were those who were very adept at turning a phrase. This epigram is worth treasuring.

I note that the word epigram is a Greek-based word. By the way, are Kallimachos and Herakleitos Greek, and Callimachus and Heraclitus Latin spellings?

Here is another poem that has been translated. This one by a Persian poet whose name is also spelled several ways. I have seen three slight variations of the first verse, at least two of them being by translator James Terry White. The Greek and Chinese evidently also had similar sayings. The gist of the three verses seems to be soul-hunger rather than just hyacinths, with love coming last!.

Sa'di (Muslihu-’d-Din; Persian poet, c.1184-1291)
in his collection ‘Gulstan’ or ‘Rose Garden’

If thou of fortune be bereft,
And thou dost find but two loaves left
To thee -- sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

But not alone does beauty bide
Where bloom and tint and fragrance hide;
The minstrel's melody may feed
Perhaps a more insistent need.

But even beauty, howe'er blent
To ear and eye, fails to content;
Only the heart, with love afire,
Can satisfy the soul's desire.

Translated by James Terry White (1845-1920)

Marie C.
June 4, 1998 - 02:08 am
Your posts here in Poetry are wonderful and, to a poetry fan with no "credentials" on the subject, they are amazingly educational, albeit intimidating at times. To me, this is the most exciting place to "hang out" in cyperspace or in "real" space.

For the first time in many years, as I read your discussions and poems, I feel that excruciating thrill of learning things for the first time, of "getting it": those childhood feelings from our school-days when we suddenly understood long division and nouns and pronouns; and our introduction to great and classical literature, the point of no return to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.

I'd like to mention to you,William Frost, how addicted I've become to your poetry. Your poems grasp my mind and demand my attention and involvement. I am often shocked at their confronting me with what I had thought were my very private emotions. I print out copies of your poems and reread them. They have very much the same effect on me as Gabriela Mistral's works. I hope you take this a compliment.

Roslyn Stempel
June 4, 1998 - 07:08 am
(Funny, I thought I posted this message already.)

Marie, Welcome back. Loma, thanks for your "Hyacinth" contributions. The verse is familiar and the idea is one that I find it helpful to resort to on occasion.

Now I wonder if this message will appear? I'd hate to think we're getting back into one of those periods when SN or Netscape swallows everything up.


Ann Marie Thamm
June 7, 1998 - 08:07 pm
Ros! I so respect your and others contributions in this forum and of the wonderful knowledge of the written words expressed by poets now and also in the still vibrant words from ages past...I felt Heraclitus would be someone interesting to converse with...but I guess I needed poetry reflecting love and fate! In Rubaiyat Omar Khayyam says:
"Ah, Love, could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would we not shatter it to bits and then
Re-mould it nearer to the heart's desire?"
Fate has been fickle with me dearhearts...I think in my "old age" of those opportunities missed and at some possible twists in the road of life...I think back of looking into intense clear blue eyes of a man who played the accordian and showed some interest in ME! He unfortunately died of Lukemia...And then there was the Minnesota farmer who played tennis with me...What chances you must say! This is all in fun dearhearts...but do wish someone would guide me to a poetry book with thoughts along this line!!! Ann Marie

William Frost
June 7, 1998 - 08:38 pm
Marie Click,

Thank you for your kind words regarding my poetry. You have responded to my words, my feelings, in ways I could not expect, just hope. That my expressions gave rise to responses in you with similar expressions by Gabriela Mistrel is indeed a compliment, one I appreciate with great pleasure and humility.

I like Serene Words by Gabriela Mistral. Let's share it.



Now in the middle of my days I glean this truth that has a flower's freshness: life is the gold and sweetness of wheat, hate is brief and love immense.

Let us exchange for a smiling verse that verse scored with blood and gall. Heavenly violets open, and through the valley the wind blows a honeyed breath.

Now I understand not only the man who prays: now I understand the man who breaks into song. Thirst is long-lasting and the hillside twisting; but a lily can ensnare our gaze.

Our eyes grow heavy with weeping, yet a brook can make us smile. A skylark's song bursting heavenward makes us forget it is hard to die.

There is nothing now that can pierce my flesh. With love, all turmoil ceased. The gaze of my mother still brings me peace. I feel that God is putting me to sleep.

June 8, 1998 - 03:30 am
I've just dropped in to let you all know that I had a phone call from Ros: her computer broke down last week, and she's trying to get her service contract honored, and says she may travel to a Cybercafe so she can get in touch

I know she'll be thrilled with your posts, so do keep Poetry alive, just wanted you to know where she was.


Marie C.
June 8, 1998 - 11:23 pm
Dear Ann Marie--Your very sad--albeit eloquent--tale of potentially great loves nipped untimely in their bud, impells me share with you a Stephen Spender poem which expresses similar feelings on my part regarding a young man to whom I devoted my highschool years but who entered the Priesthood promptly upon graduation.

(This should be followed by something lighthearted, but the poem is quite sincere, and I hope it is one you like, also.)

The Double Shame

You must live through the time when everything hurts
When the space of the ripe, loaded afternoon
Expands to a landscape of white heat frozen
And trees are weighed down with hearts of stone
And green stares back where you stare alone,
And the walking eyes throw flinty comments,
And the words which carry most knives are the blind
Phrases searching to be kind.
Pull down the blind and lie on the bed
Take up the book and stare at the letters
Hieroglyphs on sand and as meaningless--
The story of others who made their mistakes
And of one whose happiness pierced like a star
Eludes and evades between sentences
And the letters break into eyes which read
The story life writes now in your head
As though the characters sought for some clue
To their being so poignantly living and dead
In your history, worse than theirs, but true.

Set in the mind of their poet, they compare
Their tragic sublime with your tawdry despair
And they have fingers which accuse
You of the double way of shame.
At first you did not love enough
And afterwards you loved too much
And you lacked the confidence to choose
And you have only yourself to blame.


Marie C.
June 8, 1998 - 11:27 pm
William--I've never read Gabriela Mistral's "Serene Words" before. It's wonderful, beautifully restrained passion. Is it a Doris Dana translation? Here is one of Mistral's less serene, yet still typical, poems:
One Word

I have in my throat one word
that I cannot speak, will not free
though its thrust of blood pounds me.
If I voiced it, it would scorch the living grass,
bleed the lamb, fell the bird.

I have to cut it from my tongue,
find a beaver's hole,
or bury it beneath lime and more quicklime
lest, soul-like, it break free.

I will not give it utterance
lest it roll vagrant
and be found by river-women,
twist itself in their braids,
or mangle and blaze the poor thicket.

I wish to throw seeds so violent
they burst and smother it in one night
leaving not even a syllable's trace.
or rip it from myself
with the serpent's severing tooth.
And return to my house, enter and sleep,
torn from it, sliced from it;
wake after two thousand days
newly born out of sleep and oblivion.

Never again to remember the word between my lips,
that word of iodine and alum stone,
or ever again that one night, the ambush in a foreign land,
the lightning bolt at the door
and my flesh abroad with no soul.

Remember when you quoted the poem about the Tarantella? The final verse of the above poem immediately came to my mind. I don't know why, but I know it is somehow a match. "....my flesh abroad with no soul..." Isn't that grand! ~~Marie

Roslyn Stempel
June 11, 1998 - 09:31 am
Bless Ginny's heart for letting you know about my computer problem. I finally got to the Cyber Cafe, and am struggling with an unfamiliar screen and the PC version of AOL, quite different from my dear old Macintosh. Wonderful to see that things are continuing. With any luck (other than bad luck) I should get my computer back in another week and will be able to catch up . . .Best to all poetry buffs . . .


William Frost
June 20, 1998 - 10:21 am

Your post has sent me off at a tangent as usual. I have been thinking a lot about words and their associations. My tape-loop memory has reminded me constantly of the word, “Mellifluous”, a beautiful word I came across as a young man and used it at every opportunity, perhaps incorrectly at times. I found it in a poem by Walter Savage Landor which I have completely lost and quoted it often to my then girlfriend, a literature student at Birmingham University during my “Love by Correspondence Course” days. Eventually she must have tired of its use and of me. We stopped communicating after she told me that she hated Landor having suffered his Latin poetry:

I strove with none, for none was worth the strife;
Nature I loved, and next to Nature, Art;
I warm’d both hands before the fire of Life;
It sinks; and I am ready to depart.

“Serene Words” by Gabriela Mistral was indeed a translation by Doris Dana. I got it from an early collection of Ms. Mistral’s Poetry borrowed from the local library with a number of pages blotting coffee stains but not detracting from the cover page, autographed by Ms. Dana. My knowledge of the Spanish language is insufficient to allow me to be too analytical. I find reading her translations easy and very pleasant and causing similar reactions in me when I attempt to read the originals in Spanish.

“One Word” is superb and “my flesh abroad with no soul” a wonderful line.

Now, what about others confiding in their “One Word”?


June 20, 1998 - 01:34 pm
BILL..."Mellifluous" is a lovely word..not too easy to spell tho. I would have a difficult time trying to find one favorite word. I love so many of them, and each one is necessary for the other.

I would just like to post this from Thomas Wolfe. I like it. I don't know why...it is just one of those groupings of words that appeal to me.

Tiger,Tiger, burning bright in the forests of the night,

what immortal hand or eye could shape thy fearful symetry ?

What the hammer what the chain ? In what furnace was thy brain ?

What the anvil, what dread grasp, dare it's deadly terror clasp ?

When the stars threw down their spears, and watered heaven with their tears

Did He smile his work to see ? Did He who made the lamb make thee ?

Ann Marie Thamm
June 23, 1998 - 07:49 pm
Marie! Thanks for the poetry...Love it!! Will copy it and laugh along with the lines as I think of the past...How true! How true! I think the greatest love story though in history was Heloise and Bernard who after having physically proved their love for each other on the floor of the chapel became shocked at their proclivities and thus vowed never again to meet face to face as they had this highly extreme love for one another...they wrote sad letters to each other the rest of their time on earth (They were Catholic and he a priest while she was a nun--religion can truely tear one apart if one departs from theology and manmade rules, but then how can one judge what is the right pathway that one must trod??? )Maybe they will meet again sometime in another time element...at least I hope so as true love comes not to very many..as for me I will await the accordian player but give naught thought upon the farmer...do I hear laughter????? Ann Marie

Roslyn Stempel
July 1, 1998 - 05:56 am
William Frost, your messages and quotations are ever interesting, and your citation of Landor suggests another interesting aspect of your poetic persona. I looked in my ModLibr "Latin Poets" but could find only one Landor translation, 6 lines or so telling Lesbia, from whom he was now parted, he still loved her but could no longer think well of her. Very conventional. An anthology of the Romantic period yielded many pages of verse, quite a bit of it published in later life and of a valedictory nature. Actually he lived to be 89 but had been bidding numerous farewells since age 78 in 1853, if not earlier. Always, though, he pointed out that he had enjoyed life and did not fear death.

My computer is convalescing still, and I find my poetry gears have not yet meshed after my considerable absence from cyberspace and indeed from poetry.


Roslyn Stempel
July 3, 1998 - 10:55 am
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

(Emma Lazarus [1849-1887] from "The New Colossus," 1883 - Inscription on Statue of Liberty)

Happy birthday to this land of promise! A happy, safe, and hopeful Independence Day weekend to you all.


Jackie Lynch
July 3, 1998 - 04:56 pm
What a thrill those words gve me. On birthdays, we usually look back at the past year: has it been one of growth, advancement, or was it static, running implace. Worse, was it a year of retreat? I am musing this year on the relief that one family is experiencing because they have their hero returned to them. DNA. The words on the Unknowns Tomb, "Known but to God" are thrilling, too. DNA.

Jackie Lynch
July 8, 1998 - 08:35 am
The California State Poet, who likenens his post as akin to being the State Bird, was speaking on NPR. He is working with schools, developing poetry writing workshops for younger children. There were several who read their poems, one was nine, a third grader, and she was most impressive. He read some haiku, and I fell under its spell all over again. Library, here I come.

Roslyn Stempel
July 8, 1998 - 08:32 pm
Jackie, was this the same man who traveled around giving away books of poetry? I saw that segment on the News Hour.

Perhaps at some time you've encountered two books by a poet named Kenneth Koch, who was one of the pioneers of poetry workshops for children. The titles are "Wishes, Lies, and Dreams," and "Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?" I forget which one came first. Anyway, they are guidebooks for fostering children's poetry-writing through introducing them to good poems (Blake's "The Tyger," for example) and encouraging them to use those as models for their own writing. As a teacher I found Koch's techniques practical for both elementary and high-school students, and some of the results were, as you say, very moving. He didn't "teach" poetry by confining children to a certain number of syllables or insisting on rhythm or rhyme, but instead showed them what poetry can be like and invited their free responses. Thanks for reminding me of a pleasant teaching experience.


Jackie Lynch
July 9, 1998 - 07:27 am
It was not that young fellow, the give-away-poems Appleseed. Robert Haas, I believe his name is, is much older. He described how he is translating the writings of , CRS strikes again, who is from Lithuania. He narrated one of their sessions, every morning from 9 to 12 in the Berkeley hills home: " I don't understand the clay pitcher," Haas opens. Poet replies," in Paris in the 30's, I lived in the quarter where the poor immigrants lived. In the cafes, the wine was served out of clay pitchers. " Each session is not only the struggle to nail down English equivalents to poetic expressions in Poet's language, but whole chapters of a very rich life.

Roslyn Stempel
July 10, 1998 - 09:20 am
Jackie, thanks for sharing that experience. I wish I'd heard the broadcasts. Translating poetry is a fascinating business, isn't it? It suggests to me that there's more to words than just the words themselves -- a kind of aura of meaning that just floats there and can't be captured. Think of those discussions where people are asked to name their favorite words, and think how different they are in another language. Henry James is said to have thought "summer afternoon" a beautiful phrase, but is it just as lovely in French, Spanish, or whatever language you know? The same with words popularly selected as "beautiful" in English -- silver, remember, mellow, wonder, lavender, and so on -- which are not quite so poetic (in our eyes) when in a different language. For example, the Polish poetry of Wislawa Szymborska doesn't look at all beautiful to me when I see it on the page, because the words carry no meaning. But undoubtedly to one fluent in Polish, there is much beauty in those strange-looking syllables.

So what does that tell us about poetry?


July 11, 1998 - 07:13 am
After a month due to modem failure, I'm trying to catch up, and am enjoying reading SeniorNet discussions at a faster (so far) rate. You all contribute so much -- isn't it great how everyone's thoughts add meaning?

It is so true that "there's more to words than just the words themselves -- a kind of aura of meaning that just floats there and can't be captured." I came across this poem, evidently written in the author's early years, even before planes. Can it be interpreted to convey an aura of other things also, such as an anticipated event, or life and its passing?

e.e. cummings (1894-1962)
Written in 1910

It was one of those clear,sharp,mustless days
That summer and man delight in.
Never had Heaven seemed quite so high,
Never had earth seemed quite so green,
Never had the world seemed quite so clean
Or sky so nigh.
And I heard the Deity's voice in
The sun's warm rays,
And the white cloud's intricate maze,
And the blue sky's beautiful sheen.

I looked to the heavens and saw him there,--
A black speck downward drifting,
Nearer and nearer he steadily sailed,
Nearer and nearer he slid through space,
In an unending aerial race,
This sailor who hailed
From the Clime of the Clouds. - Ever shifting,
On billows of air
And the blue sky seemed never so fair,
And the rest of the world kept pace.

On the white of his head the sun flashed bright;
And he battled the wind with wide pinions,
Clearer and clearer the gale whistled loud,
Clearer and clearer he came into view,--
Bigger and blacker against the blue.
Then a dragon of cloud
Gathering all its minions
Rushed to the fight,
And swallowed him up in a bite;
And the sky lay empty clear through.

Long I watched. And at last afar
Caught sight of a speck in the vastness;
Ever smaller,ever decreasing,
Ever drifting,drifting awayInto the endless realms of day;
Finally ceasing.
So into Heaven's vast fastness
Vanished that bar
Of black,as a fluttering star
Goes out while still on its way.

So I lost him. But I shall always see
In my mind
The warm,yellow sun,and the ether free;
The vista's sky,and the white cloud trailing,
Trailing behind, -
And below the young earth's summer-green arbors,
And on high the eagle, - sailing,sailing
Into far skies and unknown harbors

Roslyn Stempel
July 11, 1998 - 01:54 pm
Loma, if the poet was 16 when he wrote about the eagle, it's easy to conjecture that he was indeed thinking of the "vastness" of the world and his future and comparing himself to the soaring eagle. His youthful style was quite conventional compared to the startling experiments that characterized his later work. I like the images of the huge empty sky suddenly filled with dragon-like clouds that obscure but do not defeat the majestic bird.

Within a few years Cummings was to experience World War I and see a darker and uglier side of life.

I have just (5 minutes ago) installed a brand-new modem myself, which is supposed to be speedier. The instructions were baffling but I took a chance and clicked on Netscape, and here I am. What a relief! (Now almost the only thing that isn't new on my Mac is the circuit board, and if that breaks down I'm doomed: $99 an hour to fix it, IF it can be fixed, and $400 for the board itself if it has to be replaced.)

It's nice to be getting back, however slowly, to SN - more than a month now since ODTAA broke out. (In case that acronym wasn't current in your generation, it stands for One Dam' Thing After Another.)


July 13, 1998 - 11:31 am
Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright is a poem I have often read in Poetry Books and never could quite see why it was that popular. But reading it in the RoundTable format here, two lines especially were noted: In what furnace was thy brain?and Did He who made the lamb make thee?, and then everything popped into place! Those thoughts can apply to other things in life once in a while, too.

I too was surprised to find the style of the Eagle poem by e e cummings. Later he would write about Spring when the world is mud-luscious in the poem about the little lame balloon man.

ODTAA, so that is what keeps interfering with our days!

In Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations is the first verse of a poem by Marianne Moore. It seems to show her poetic mind; what an analogy. And her way with words; we’ve seen the shining shells of locusts and their wings, but the word katydid fits in her lines so much better and conveys the same picture.

The mind...is an enchanted thing,
like the glaze on a
subdivided by sun
till the nettings are legion.

Roslyn Stempel
July 14, 1998 - 05:17 am
Marianne Moore seems to have made a practice of using unusual words to convey her imagery. The same poem contains references to kiwi and apteryx, and the "unequival" fall of the gyroscope "trued by regnant certainty." Puzzle that one out! I can't resist referring to a long poem entitled "Poetry," which begins,

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.

In its original form the poem contains 30 lines. However, in her later editions she insisted that all of it be cut out except the 3 lines I've quoted here. Could she suddenly have tired of all the brilliant images she had concocted over the years?

Here's a short poem by Archibald MacLeish:

What Any Lover Learns

Water is heavy silver over stone.
Water is heavy silver over stone's
Refusal. It does not fall. It fills. It flows
Every crevice, every fault of the stone,
Every hollow. River does not run.
River presses its heavy silver self
Down into stone and stone refuses.

What runs,
Swirling and leaping into sun, is stone's
Refusal of the river, not the river.

The image is enchanting, and I'm still thinking about the metaphor he implies by the title.


Roslyn Stempel
July 14, 1998 - 05:30 pm
Ken, welcome to the Poetry folder, and thanks for posting a Dickinson favorite. I assume there was no personal referent there-- since, reading the bio behind your name, I feel you're anything but "Nobody" with all your academic and career accomplishments.

Do you have any particular interest in French poetry? Anything you'd care to translate (freely) and share with us? Or Russian, for that matter?


Roslyn Stempel
July 15, 1998 - 01:00 pm
Gee, can anyone else think of a cheerful poem to post? All I've been finding is stuff about age, disease, death, war, and things like that. Not what we need here on a hot summer day. Help!


July 15, 1998 - 06:58 pm
First lines of EVANGELINE
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines
and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green,
indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad
and prophetic,
Stand like the harpers hoar, with beards that
rest on their bosoms.

Were we the last generation in school to be fortunate enough to have to memorize lines from great poets' poems such as these?

Jackie Lynch
July 16, 1998 - 07:16 am
Stop the presses! San Francisco is looking for a Poet Laureate.

July 16, 1998 - 01:18 pm
Well, reading my last post on the poem Evangeline, maybe some would not interpret it as cheerful. Although I see it as a forest that is a part of the description of the idyllic land and its inhabitant’s lives, the words with voices sad and prophetic are a presage of what will later come. So here is one that seems simply charming.

Mary Mapes Dodge (1838-1905)

Grandma told me all about it,
Told me so I couldn’t doubt it,
How she danced, my grandma danced; long ago--
How she held her pretty head,
How her dainty skirt she spread,
How she slowly leaned and rose--long ago.

Grandma’s hair was bright and sunny,
Dimpled cheeks, too, oh, how funny!
Really quite a pretty girl--long ago,
Bless her! why, she wears a cap,
Grandma does, and takes a nap
Every single day; and yet
Grandma danced the minuet--long ago.

“Modern ways are quite alarming,”
Grandma says, “but boys were charming”
(Girls and boys she means, of course) “long ago.”
Brave but modest, grandly shy;
She would like to have us try
Just to feel like those who met
In the graceful minuet--long ago.

Roslyn Stempel
July 17, 1998 - 04:09 pm
Loma, I appreciated the lush greenness of the Longfellow quotation but I agree that it presages the sadness of Evangeline and Gabriel's story. Dodge's "Grandma" is certainly charming. I don't think my two grandsons would ever be interested in whether Grandma danced, floated, flew, or tunneled underground, but if I survive until Ariana is a teen-ager, maybe she will want to hear about those long-ago days of rationing, the scarcity of toilet paper, a time of rayon stockings, leg makeup, and servicemen on leave.


July 17, 1998 - 08:52 pm
Well, I don't know, our son when he was in grade school asked his father if when he was young he traveled by covered wagon! But a niece has already asked for stories of by brother's childhood. So maybe some will want to know more, some day. Getting back to Dodge's poem, does it have the tempo of a minuet, or is it just her way with words that paints the picture?

Roslyn Stempel
July 18, 1998 - 09:17 am
Groves' Dic. describes the classic minuet form as "two eight-bar phrases in 3-4 time, each of which was repeated; sometimes beginning on the third, but more frequently upon the first, beat of the bar....A second minuet was soon added, similar in form to the first.... The number of bars was extended, sometimes to 16 or even more..."

So the pretty poem doesn't in any way conform to the minuet structure. (I tried thinking of the words in rhythm with minuets I knew, but it doesn't really work.)Nevertheless, a pleasing idea.

My hero-poet-Laureate, Robert Pinsky, recited Frost's "Neither Out Far Nor In Deep" as a tribute to the sea, and also a poem of Elizabeth Bishop's very different in form and content which I haven't yet found. Think I'll risk copyright sin and post at least the Frost, and also an interesting one by Auden, and will hunt for the Bishop.

Thanks to everyone who is keeping the folder going. Apparently the criterion for survival is to have at least three people posting with some regularity (not necessarily always the same three). So far, we're in good shape.


Roslyn Stempel
July 18, 1998 - 04:23 pm
Here's the Robert Frost poem I mentioned earlier:


The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull.

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be--
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?

The manifest content of the poem is the fascination of any stretch of water that compels us to gaze at it even when it seems to be empty. But what else do you suppose Frost was thinking about? Didn't he usually have more than one "meaning" in mind when he wrote?


Jackie Lynch
July 19, 1998 - 08:51 am
Something in a Frost poem seems to zoom right into my soul, and it reverberates. It stays with me, echoing in my thoughts, not only the words but their rhythm. This one will be there for years, as I work over it, seeking its solution.

July 20, 1998 - 05:24 pm
Special Announcement

SeniorNet's web server crashed this afternoon. That means that posts that were made between about 5 am Pacific time until about 1:30 pm Pacific time have been lost. We are very sorry for the inconvenience and frustration over the loss of those posts. We apologize and hope that you will be able to somehow re-create any messages you made this morning and post them again.

July 21, 1998 - 10:44 am
I was browsing through some old books recently, while working at the antique shop, and came across a book of poems, copyright 1883, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Although her poetry is a bit flowery and overblown in part, it still speaks a message that is strong and ageless. Here is one, among many, that I particularly like.


Laugh and the world laughs with you; Weep and you weep alone.

For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth, but has trouble enough of its own.

Sing and the hills will answer, Sigh, and its lost on the air,

The echoes bound to a joyful sound, but shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you; Grieve and they turn and go.

They want full measure of all your pleasure, but they do not want your woe.

Be Glad, and your friends are many; Be Sad, and you lose them all,

There are none to decline your nectar'd wine, but alone you must drink life's gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded; Fast, and the world goes by.

Succeed and give and it helps you live, but no man can help you die.

There is room in the halls of pleasure, for a large and lordly train,

But one by one, we must file alone, through the narrow aisles of pain.

Roslyn Stempel
July 22, 1998 - 06:32 am
Marilyn, although I was quite familiar with the first rhymed couplet of Wilcox's poem, I'd never read the whole thing, and was fascinated. Thanks for posting it.

I agree that her verse is not exactly poetic and is often saccharine, but this piece reflects a surprising bitterness.

There's certainly plenty of truth in her lines. Yet I couldn't help thinking of today's ghoulish preoccupation, in the media at least, with other people's misfortunes, which to some extent contradicts the idea of "they do not want your woes." It seems that we positively gloat over someone's woes, want to see, hear or read all the gory details, pretend to share the sorrow ... and then forget the whole thing and go on to the next sensational loss, disgrace, or mutilation.

Have you ever speculated about just why verse like Wilcox's, which we might scorn as hackneyed doggerel rather than "real" poetry, has so much appeal? It seems to me that it's readable so it doesn't strain the understanding, it's rhythmic so we're carried along with the pulse of it, and it's anything but subtle, so we always know what the writer is driving at. There are many well-known American and British poets who wrote in that tradition. It seems to be most effective in conveying a "message," whether a reflection on human nature or a reaction to Nature's beauties.

Maybe we need more of this?


July 22, 1998 - 06:43 am
Robert Frost’s Neither Out Far Nor in Deep seems an exact description of my first view of the Atlantic Ocean. It was a November day at Revere Beach, Boston. A couple of benches on the sand, facing the ocean. A lady sitting in one, all the the time we were there. I was told people like to do that, there is something moving yet restful about it, like a fire in the fireplace. But if Frost had more than one meaning, what was it? His Mending Wall seems rather clear: Something there is that doesn’t love a wall would be the forces of nature, and the neighbor who says “Good fences make good neighbors.” may represent a person set in his ways. But this one - is the hint given in the title Neither Out Far Nor in Deep???

Marilyn E, thanks for posting Solitude by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Her first line is certainly familiar. Was she quoting from somewhere else, or is this where the saying comes from? Doesn’t Sing and the hills will answer remind you of The Sound of Music? Does the viewpoint of this poem come from facing pain and death? They want full measure of all your pleasure, but they do not want your woe. Strong and ageless indeed!

By the time this message had been pasted in and posted, Ros's good commentary showed up. Yes, nowdays the news seems to gloat over others misfortunes. I have noticed in the last several years that the TV newscasters have modified their delivery from seeming upbeat and triumphant to more serious about it; at least that is an improvement. But the news today is more that of onlookers, and maybe Wilcox's relates more to companions - seems they were sort of fair-weather friends.

July 22, 1998 - 01:30 pm
Ros and Loma: After viewing my posting of "Solitude", I can see that it's time for me to take the on-line course in HTML! The rhythm seemed wrong, when not seen in the right foremat. As soon as I know what I'm doing, I'll post another one out of the Wilcox book. (Which of course I bought!) Her thoughts on love and relationships are surprisingly timely---considering they are over one hundred years old.

Yes, the media does inflict everyone's pain and misery on us, on a continuing basis! When we hear about strangers and their pain (such as the schoolyard killings) we are horrified and outraged, but not really touched in a personal way. Also, the public tends to get impatient with victims or family members who mourn or stay in the limelight too long. Fred Goldman is a good example. People are tired of the OJ case, but Goldman won't let it go because to him it will never be over, and now he's being critisized constantly because he won't shut up and go away. The same thing applies to you or to me. It's OK to mourn or be unhappy for awhile, but then well meaning friends become impatient, and want you to "get on with your life".

It's human nature I guess---we enjoy being around pleasant and happy people, and we are depressed and uncomfortable around anyone who is suffering. Most of us will---or already do---bear our own personal sorrows and 'woes' and don't really expect others to understand or empathize. And somewhere down the line we all know that we're going to take that final walk alone. Sounds kinda maudlin, but true, nonetheless.

Roslyn Stempel
July 22, 1998 - 06:29 pm
Apropos of the references to the loneliness of the individual, here's a gloomy bit of verse by Matthew Arnold, another Victorian, from a gloomy little poem called "To Marguerite":

Yes! in the sea of life enisled,
With echoing straits between us thrown,
Dotting the shoreless watery wild,
We mortal millions live alone.

The rest of the poem is equally gloomy. In contrast with John Donne's famous "No man is an island," Arnold suggests that everyman is an island, and uses the sea as a metaphor for life and the loneliness of the individual in the vast universe. In Frost's poem, though I think he might simply have been commenting at that human tendency to stare at the water, perhaps there's also something about the way we try to "see" something in those aspects of our lives that are unfathomable to human perception yet always fascinating to contemplate: perhaps mortality, love, war, or just life itself?


July 25, 1998 - 09:46 am
Ros: "To Marguerite", is certainly in the same category with "Solitude". I like what little I saw--- am definitely leaning toward that Victorian, style of poetry, as I grow older. As you said in a previous post--- it's easy to understand, and speaks a message loud and clear. I'm glad I bought the old Wheeler, book. Not only am I enjoying it for it's own sake, but it has reopened my long neglected interest in poetry in general. Today I'm going to Barnes and Noble, to buy "HTML for Dummies". Between that, and the on-line classes offered, I should catch up before long!

Roslyn Stempel
July 25, 1998 - 05:10 pm
Marilyn, you're quite right about the comfort offered by the predictability and regularity of much Victorian verse. I must add, though, that I got an anthology from the library some time ago which contained not only the dear familiar ones but some really gosh-awful, hippity-hoppety, silly and/or sentimental verses which the anthologist had included in order to give a broader picture. So in defense of our own times, I want to remind everyone that it wasn't all Tennyson and Browning in those days!

Isn't it interesting to speculate what will survive from our century? Probably Frost, Eliot, and the other middle-of-the-roaders who seemed so daring when we first read them?

It sounds as if you're getting an intellectual workout with the learning tasks you've assigned yourself. But don't forget to keep on posting to Poetry.


July 26, 1998 - 04:04 am
Speaking of T. S. Eliot, here are two passages that I like but do not fully understand. He seemed to be absorbed in the dimensions of time. These are from Burnt Norton and often quoted.

But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the droughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.

Roslyn Stempel
July 27, 1998 - 06:16 am
Jackie L., what are the latest developments in the search for a Poet Laureate of California? Has anyone we know applied? You, for example? (smile) Seriously, it would be interesting to find out who is in the running.


Jackie Lynch
July 27, 1998 - 06:51 am
I haven't heard any more, but it is the post of Poet Laureate of San Francisco which is vacant. Much more interesting. Many people think of Los Angeles when they think of California, but San Francisco is another kettle of fish entirely. We in the north pride ourselves on our differences. Rod McCuen was from Southern California. We had Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

July 28, 1998 - 05:59 pm
Ros and Jackie: Poet Laureate of California---or San Francisco? Since I'm a native, I would like to hear more about this?

When you're looking for something to pass the time, join us in the Trivia discussion, in Arts and Entertainment. It's fun and fast moving , and anyone can post Q's or A's, at any time. This week we've been mostly exchanging nostalgic memories, which has been an interesting change of pace.

Roslyn Stempel
July 28, 1998 - 05:59 pm
Loma, I began re-reading Eliot's Four Quartets in order to respond to your comment about the lines from "Burnt Norton," and found I not only wasn't sure of the significance of all his references to time, past, future, present, etc., but felt as if I should tackle all four parts again and try to find some key. It seemed to me that each section is built of opposites, as if he is challenging the reader with a series of questions: What is time? What is life? What is the meaning of childhood? (He refers several times to the voices of children, some of whom seem to be hiding up in a tree.) What are love, beauty, humanity... and so on?

He says "In my end is my beginning." I might have thought it was the other way around. (As James Joyce cited in one of the short stories, reproduction is the beginning of death.)

It occurred to me that there might be some value in re-examining each of the quartets to see whether there is any resemblance to a work of music.

Frankly, I don't feel like hunting up a lot of erudite lit-crit about Eliot or about the Quartets, and would rather try to do a little amateur puzzling-out. Is anyone interested in pursuing this? I'd be glad to post selections, a little at a time.


Roslyn Stempel
July 28, 1998 - 06:04 pm
Marilyn, did you participate in the old Trivia discussions on non-Internet Seniornet in AOL? I hung around there for quite a while before I got to this Net, and also greatly enjoyed the old "Memories" and the one about old songs. I don't believe I've yet encountered anyone from those groups on this side of the Great Divide, though... unless they are using different names.


Roslyn Stempel
July 29, 1998 - 11:54 am
Some time back an abridged version of William Blake's "The Tiger" was posted and I've been meaning ever since to get back into a discussion of it. (We might have done this once before.) My own sense of its mystery and power was reinforced when I introduced it to a class of "inner-city" ninth-graders who had almost no acquaintance with verse, let alone poetry, not even nursery rhymes. They responded to this 200 -year-old poem with its strong rhythms and easy rhymes, and also to its sense of mystery and danger:

THE TIGER (1794)

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And, when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake (1757-1827)

These few lines contain an astounding number of words depicting violence and fear as well as an interpretation of the terrifying and limitless power that Blake saw in a Creator who could make not only the gentle lamb and the innocent children dancing on the green but a creature so ferocious and destructive, yet so beautiful, that the very stars beholding it would "water heaven with their tears." And notice the subtle difference between the first and last stanzas: The poet asks first who could frame, and then who would dare to frame the tiger's "fearful symmetry."


August 4, 1998 - 01:27 pm
Yes, Tiger, tiger, burning bright has a lot to it. This passage by William Wordsworth which comes from Composed Upon Westminster Bridge while not as deep is also more than a simple description, but an awareness, an openness by that particular person to that particular morning:

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Not many see the beauty of a city like this. Monet visited London once and painted a couple of pictures of the Houses of Parliament. I wonder if he felt like this, even though he, in visiting other places, may several times have thought Earth has not anything to show more fair.

Roslyn Stempel
August 4, 1998 - 01:27 pm

I am the ancient Apple-Queen,
As once I was so am I now.
For evermore a hope unseen,
Betwixt the blossom and the bough

Ah, where's the river's hidden Gold?
And where the windy grave of Troy?
Yet come I as I came of old,
From out the heart of Summer's joy.

The poetry of William Morris, whom I've cited in the heading for this month, moved from songs of heartbreak to songs of hope -- the heartbreak caused by his unhappy marriage to a neurotic and rejecting woman whom he continued to love devotedly, the hope stemming from his idealistic views of the "new" philosophy of socialism and his belief that all would be well if only the world could go back to an earlier time when men labored and were strong and honest, women were steadfast, noble and true, everyone shared, and all was rosy.

Alas! that earlier time existed only in the minds of Morris and his fellow pre-Raphaelites. Undaunted, Morris created his fantasy world in poetry and prose, peopled with tall, beautiful women (like his wife, Jane, but sweeter), who loved tall, handsome blond men (the true person concealed inside "Topsy" Morris's short, chubby, tousle-headed body).

What better use for poetry and romantic prose than, as Omar or Fitzgerald put it, to remold the world closer to our heart's desire? Morris was also a many-talented craftsman, artist of fabrics, architect, book designer, printer, typographer, founder of the Arts and Crafts movement, and lifelong enthusiast of a hundred different skills.

And among hundreds of pages of poetry good, bad, and indifferent we can find lines that really catch at the heart: For example, "A Garden by the Sea," which ends with the lover who dreams of lost happiness but hopes to regain it "within the jaws of death":
...An entrance to that happy place,
To seek the unforgotten face,
Once seen, once kissed, once reft from me
Anigh the murmuring of the sea."

Tell me that doesn't get you!


August 4, 1998 - 01:43 pm
Ahhh! In this RoundTable we find interesting poems (many of which we had previously glossed over, in reading) and interesting qualities of the authors.

William Morris seems almost "a man for all seasons." Incidentally, we have noticed in state capitals built around the turn of the century, depictions in painting or mosiac of the 3 "goddesses": Pomona (of fruit), Flora (of flowers), and Ceres (of grain, agriculture). How well Pomona is depicted in this poem!

Roslyn Stempel
August 7, 1998 - 07:19 am
Poems about August are hard to locate. I found one:

Now lithe young August like an Indian basks
His tanned and naked body in the sun,
And who beholds his comeliness but asks,
"For sure, is this the shy, white-withered one
Who fled in April down the woodland ways,
Hiding his face and weeping half his days?"
(Willoughby Weaving)

...A bit on the wispy side, don't you agree? However, the title qualifies it for inclusion this month. I found it in an "old" anthology, Poetry for Our Time compiled and published in 1928 by a man named Sharon Brown. He struggled with the concepts of "new" poetry, free verse, Imagism, etc., but really preferred the lyrical, and especially verse with good strong rhythm and "rime." This courtly anthologist referred to each author as "Miss," "Mrs.," or "Mr.," and punctiliously gave the married names of every lady -- for example, Ruth Comfort Mitchell was Mrs. William Sanborn Young and Frances Shaw was Mrs. Howard W. Shaw. Not that I'd ever heard of either of these ladies, I have to admit.

Here's a lyrical fragment from a great Irish poet of the early part of the century:


When the breath of twilight blows to flame the misty skies,
All its vaporous sapphire, violet glow, and silver gleam
With their magic flood me through the gateway of the eyes;
I am one with the twilight's dream.

A. E. (George William Russell)

And finally, a lush example of the true Pre-Raphaelite school, harking back to ancient times, filled with plenty of strong images, and at the same time teasing us with a question:


This is the glamour of the world antique:
The thyme-scents of Hymettus fill the air,
And in the grass narcissus-cups are fair.
The full brook wanders through the ferns to seek
The amber haunts of bees; and on the peak
Of the soft hill, against the gold-marged sky,
She stands, a dream from out the days gone by.
Entreat her not. Indeed, she will not speak!
Her eyes are full of dreams; and in her ears
There is the rustle of immortal wings;
And ever and anon the slow breeze bears
The mystic murmur of the songs she sings.
Entreat her not: she sees thee not, nor hears
Aught but the sights and sounds of bygone springs.
--John Payne (1842-1916)
From Collected Poems, 1903

Now, what do you think: Was "she" a fair English maiden musing in the summer fields? Or was she really a phantom of ancient days, a true "sibyl" weaving some kind of spell on the enraptured poet?


August 8, 1998 - 09:38 am
Roslyn: I was intrigued with, "A Garden By the Sea". Would you please post more of it? Also liked, "By the Margin of the Great Deep".

Roslyn Stempel
August 8, 1998 - 11:28 am
Marilyn, I'm delighted to share one of my Morris favorites:

I know a little garden-close,
Set thick with lily and red rose,
Where I would wander if I might
From dewy morn to dewy night,
And have one with me wandering.

And though within it no birds sing,
And though no pillared house is there,
And though the apple-boughs are bare
Of fruit and blossom, would to God
Her feet upon the green grass trod,
And I beheld them as before.

There comes a murmur from the shore
And in the close two fair streams are,
Drawn from the purple hills afar,
Drawn down unto the restless sea:
Dark hills whose heath-bloom feeds no bee,
Dark shore no ship has ever seen,
Tormented by the billows green
Whose murmur comes unceasingly
Unto the place for which I cry.

For which I cry both day and night,
For which I let slip all delight,
Whereby I grow both deaf and blind,
Careless to win, unskilled to find,
And quick to lose what all men seek.

Yet tottering as I am and weak,
Still have I left a little breath
To seek within the jaws of death
An entrance to that happy place,
To seek the unforgotten face
Once seen, once kissed, once reft from me
Anigh the murmuring of the sea.

Morris combined this kind of poetry of anguish, loss, and renunciation with an astonishing optimism and cheerfulness about the better day which was to come to England through enlightened political improvements. (Actually I think there's a great consistency in his character. It's not unusual for people with unsatisfactory personal lives to extend their yearnings to the broader political arena. As a corollary, that's one reason why it is foolish to expect our public figures to be ideals of domestic bliss and personal rectitude.)As a longtime Morris fan I feel free to criticize his clumsiness of phrasing and occasional awkward rhymes, but he could really work magic with a few words -- the "Dark hills/Dark shore" for example, or the three repetitions of "Once" in the last stanza.

Let me end with an apple-sweet morsel by Morris called "The Orchard":

Midst bitten mead and acre shorn,
The world without is waste and worn

But here within our orchard-close,
The guerdon of its labour shows.

O valiant Earth, O happy year
That mocks the threat of winter near

And hangs aloft from tree to tree
The banners of the Spring to be.

Picture a windless late-autumn day with a few bright apples still hanging from the trees. And I've always loved looking at bare branches in a snowy yard and seeing the winter buds beginning to swell.


August 10, 1998 - 10:19 pm
Ros, you had mentioned that it was hard to find any poetry about August. William Morris's line: all little sounds made musical and clear is surely descriptive. The birds are much quieter than spring. The locusts have worn themselves out. The neighbor dogs aren't so likely to bark as they did earlier when you walk by. Even the neighborhood kids play more quietly. Yet each sound is noticed. What a talent to be able to express something in a few words so well.

Roslyn Stempel
August 11, 1998 - 05:37 am
Loma, yes, the August heat and mugginess seem to change the noise level. Crickets chirp at night, a sound that has always seemed a bit sad to me and somehow is more poignant now that one's clock and calendar are no longer connected to the school year. Actually, just now we're having sidewalk repair in our city so the day's sounds, which begin about 5:30 with the birds' dawn discussion, reach a high volume at 7:30 when the various trucks roll in. The mechanical monsters have apparently intimidated the crows, those feathered bullies which usually congregate in the middle of the street hunting for edibles and arguing vociferously.


August 11, 1998 - 06:14 am
Ros, I'm sure somewhere there are poet's words that describe the noise and confusion of the city and of construction, too!

Roslyn Stempel
August 11, 1998 - 06:23 pm
Yes, I'm sure that I've recently noted some of the "industrial-noise" ones which were common in the 30's, but it will take me some time to hunt them down again. It would be interesting to compare them with the nature-note type. Thanks for mentioning it.


August 12, 1998 - 05:24 am
"Hog butcher of the world...?"

Carl Sandburg? If he is the correct poet for that poem (notice that I'm flying blind here...or was it Walt Whitman) I've always loved his Chicago poem. Such energy. Seems like Whitman was more talking about himself--wasn't he the "I celebrate myself and sing myself" guy?

YES, let's do TS Eliot! I came across a line of his the other day from....I think it was Prufrock, and it just blew me away in a new way, not having looked at that poem in years.

When you see Sandburg's peaceful cluttered home in the NC mountains with his beloved goats, etc., you marvel at how he wrote such a poem as Chicago (but maybe he didn't, and I've got the poets hopelessly mixed up).


Charlotte J. Snitzer
August 13, 1998 - 07:51 am

Let me straighten out your confusion. Hog Butcher was written by Carl Sandburg. I think it was in "The People Yes." Whitman celebrated the body (Song of Myself) and other personal things rather than what was happening on the American scene.

Eliot is a marvelous poet, but he abandoned this country to live and work in Englland. "The Wasteland" and "Prufrock" are really great pieces of work.


Roslyn Stempel
August 13, 1998 - 11:54 am
Right on the first guess, Ginny --that Chicago poem was written in 1914 by Sandburg. Now, there wasn't much hog butchering going on in Chicago in the days when Old Walt was singing the body electric; he concentrated more on the East Coast and the Civil War, though (without going back to check) I think he did glorify some aspects of agriculture and also the crowds of people in the cities. So Editor Eagle-Eye will award you two points for correct associations, which are after all the string by which we pull stuff out of our memories.

I heard Sandburg reading from The People, Yes some time after it appeared in the 1930's. I was thrilled to pieces and reluctant to recognize that this was a man who didn't know when to stop talking. We have been big Sandburg fans especially during our folk-song period, cherishing the American Songbag and the old 78 rpm records of his voice (wonderful in small doses) and our children were forced to listen to endless plays of "The Horse Named Bill."

Yes, let's tackle a bit of Eliot. You choose. Something easy to start with?


Roslyn Stempel
August 13, 1998 - 04:08 pm
Jackie Lynch, thanks to you, I felt truly well-informed tonight when I heard Lawrence Ferlinghetti introduced (on NPR's All Things Considered) as the new Poet Laureate of San Francisco. And when he read a recent poem, he still sounded so-o-o "Beat" - the same rhythms as Kerouac and Ginsberg, the same singsong pitch and volume -- it could have been the 60's yet. I like the idea of the "Poet's House" on Treasure Island. He spoke of the city as still "dancing on the edge of the world." Hope you and Marilyn will keep us informed.


August 15, 1998 - 06:30 am
Hey hey hey, right twice! Thanks, Guys, that's not bad for a crazy person.

I remember Whitman well, apparently, and Sandburg too. Am I the only one who has been to his home?

Oh, let's see: Prufrock? Or The Wasteland?

Charlotte: Why did he abandon America for England?


Roslyn Stempel
August 15, 1998 - 07:11 am
"Prufrock" by all means, as being earlier, shorter, and less complex. Perhaps someone else wants to suggest another choice, one of the shorter earlier poems, for example. I favor a chronological approach because Eliot's work, as well as his outlook, changed over the years.

I don't think we'd be violating any surviving copyrights if we posted small sections for discussion, especially if we avoid copying or extensively quoting critical footnotes, of which, g.o.k., there is what could be called a plethoretic plethora. (Quick, Ginny, what's the plural in Greek?)


Charlotte J. Snitzer
August 15, 1998 - 09:50 am

I had a horse his name was Bill He ran so fast he couldn't stand still He ran away one day and I ran with him.

He ran so fast he could not stop He ran into the barbershop and sank his eye-teeth in the barber's left shoulder.

I think after this comes:

I had a gal whose name was Daisy when she sang the cats went crazy with delirium, St. Vituses and all kinds of cataleptics.

I type this strictly from memory. We played those old '78's endlessly.

Ginny: I don't know if Eliot ever explained why he moved to GB, but I suspect he was turned off by American commercialism and felt he would find a more esthetic life in England


Roslyn Stempel
August 15, 1998 - 01:51 pm
Charlotte -- Thanks for the memories. The rest of it came back to me as I was frantically pawing through old albums trying to find "Songbag."

One day she sang a song about
A man who turned himself inside out
And jumped into the river --
He was so very sleepy.

Oh, what can you do in a case like that?
What can you do but jump on your hat--
Or your toothbrush
Or anything else that's helpless?

My husband, actually a very gentle person, has always loved "My name it is Sam Hall, it is Sam Hall ... And I hate you one and all, God damn your eyes."


August 15, 1998 - 05:32 pm
plethorbabble! LJ's our Greek expert. hahahahahaha


Roslyn Stempel
August 16, 1998 - 10:45 am
Well, here's the first bit, to start us off:

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

**See translation below**

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky,
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question...
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

"If I could believe that my answer might be to a person who should ever return into the world, this flame would stand without more quiverings; but inasmuch as, if I hear the truth, never from this depth did any living man return, without fear of infamy I answer thee.." (Inferno, Canto XXVII, ll. 61-66)The flame envelops the eternally condemned soul of a Roman whom Dante has beseeched to identify himself. The speaker is responding (hence the quivering of the flame) because he thinks Dante will never get back to the world of the living.

I copied the translation to assist us in getting started. However, I wonder if we could have a readers' agreement that we will try to use our own intelligence to look at and discuss the poem itself before resorting to footnotes written by some textbook editor.

The entire text of the poem is on-line without footnotes at Prufrock .


August 16, 1998 - 02:01 pm
Panic, panic. I looked at the Italian, and thought for one rare moment that the Prufrock (YES, I took a whole course in TS Eliot (obviously BS before senility...and didn't remember that....nor the Dante.)

Howsomever, I do spy that the Dante is the translation of the Italian, and the J Alfred Prufrock seems to be a reaction to same?

And so I'll print it out and study it for what good that'll do and give my so called reactions tomorrow. I'm looking forward to this, as when you read this in your 20's, eating a peach (hope this is the same poem) doesn't mean quite the same thing!!

Mercy, talk about starting from square one!


Charlotte J. Snitzer
August 17, 1998 - 09:53 am
Test for line breaks:

Mary had a little lamb his fleece was white as snow

Mary had a little lamb

It's fleece was white as snow

Charlotte J. Snitzer
August 17, 1998 - 09:56 am

How can I make line breaks in poetry appear the way they should? If I use one RETURN it appears in linear fashion. If I use 2 RETURNS it skips a line. Please help.

Char lotte

Charlotte J. Snitzer
August 17, 1998 - 09:56 am

How can I make line breaks in poetry appear the way they should? If I use one RETURN it appears in linear fashion. If I use 2 RETURNS it skips a line. Please help.

Char lotte

Charlotte J. Snitzer
August 17, 1998 - 10:06 am

Glad you could provide the rest of the song. It was all I needed to bring it back in its entirety. I remember Sam Hall too. I used to sing "What shall we do with a drunken sailor" to my 2-year-old, mainly because I have no singing voice and this was the only song I could perform well. Fortunately she survived without any ill effects.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
August 17, 1998 - 11:44 am

Wonderful to get back to some really great poetry! I sat and puzzled at the Italian and the translation until husband Milt straightened me out. I got my copy of Eliot and saw that the quote from Dante is indeed part of the poem or perhaps the impetus for his writing it.

At first glance the poem appears to be plain speaking and contemporary, but then we recognize all the ingenious metaphors The evening spread against the sky, the etherized patient, the half deserted streets reminiscent of a Hopper painting, the sawdust restaurants which serve bad food and may indeed have sawdust on the floor as they used to have.

Let's not fight any more he says, let's go and visit.

Additional notes re Eliot--grad. of Harvard. Worked for English firm Faber and Faber. (I guess that's why he went to live in England) Won a Novel prize and also Order of Merit from King George VI.


August 17, 1998 - 01:29 pm
I'm not ready, I'm not ready. Charlotte, did you learn about the line breaks? If not please write.

Listen, let's take it really slow, OK?

Back later,


Charlotte J. Snitzer
August 17, 1998 - 02:28 pm

I got the line breaks on email by putting in slashes at the end of each line. Milt my guru husband says it doesn't work on seniornet. Hope you can help.


Jeanne Lee
August 17, 1998 - 02:47 pm
Charlotte - To get a line break in your posting type <br> where you want the break to occur. To get a space between lines type <p>.

August 17, 1998 - 03:00 pm
Jeanne to the rescue! Thanks, Jeanne, now tell me, please how you got that to display!?! I went up to Page or Document Source, and such is the horror of my screen problems that it took me about 30 cross and 20 down scrollings, but then I don't undertand what I saw there. And it won't copy. What is all that stuff in front of and behind br?


Jeanne Lee
August 17, 1998 - 03:02 pm
Ginny, without spaces, type & l t ; for < and type & g t ; for >

August 17, 1998 - 03:09 pm
It's not working, Jeanne! &ltbr&gt

Jeanne Lee
August 17, 1998 - 03:09 pm
Ginny, you left out the semi-colons! The have to be there.

August 17, 1998 - 03:12 pm
OH!! OK, (Ros will skin us for this) OK: here goes: <br>



hahahahahahh Thanks!


Jeanne Lee
August 17, 1998 - 03:13 pm

Roslyn Stempel
August 17, 1998 - 05:44 pm
But where are the roses, the happy faces, the little pictures of elves rejoicing over HTML achievements? (I think there's something to be said for being a curmudgeon after all.)


Charlotte J. Snitzer
August 18, 1998 - 08:23 am
Thanks Jeanne and Ginny:

The interchange will be especially helpful to Milt when he gets home. He's out on his volunteer work right now. His prime interest on the computer is learning every aspect of how it works. It's also my reason for being able to handle this confounded machine. I'm really a Luddite at heart.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
August 18, 1998 - 08:27 am

You are really a poet at heart!


August 18, 1998 - 09:01 am
Me to go first??

OK, I happily took the Prufrock...interesting name...to my chair and reread Canto XXVII of The Divine Comedy...also called Dante's Inferno.

I figured since the poet chose to open with it, or maybe it inspired him, then I should read it, too. I've got the Ciardi translation: saw him in person once, another story.

Anyhoo, I was struck by the "Let us go then, you and I," and wanted to try to guess who YOU were and who I was?

The flame has just told the poet what Ros has placed here, that ...do I understand the flame correctly, that since he knows the visitor Dante will not get back to the real world, he sees no harm in telling Dante what he asked.

But, unless you read what he asked, you don't know. So you have to go back a bit to the lines,

Dante, traveling in Hades, asks the flame,

"Now, I beg you, let us know your name:
do not be harder than one has been to you;
so, too, you will preserve your earthly fame."

I was quite struck by the hortatory "Let us," repeated here again.

Because Eliot says, after he hears the answer, "Let us go then, you and I,"

The "then" seems to me to be a conclusion of some thought. Sort of a since these things are so, then.....(and yes, I did have to restrain myself from doing the quae cum ita sint). Anyway,

So Eliot says "let's go," and I'm assuming it's the reader and the poet, but I don't know yet?

And we're going thru wonderful images, where are we? Conflicting images, and we're going to "lead you to an overwhelming question...

What question? The same one in the poem? Tell us who you are and have everlasting fame?

The poet answers himself with the famous couplet which rhymes?!?

"Oh, do not ask, What is it?
Let us go and make our visit."

If I had a dollar for every time I parroted that without knowing for one second what it meant, I'd be rich.

I love analyzing poetry. I feel that as long as I can support my assertions as to what it's about with the author's own words, I'm right. hahahahah Have gotten into some wonderful discussions over the years, especially about "The Ancient Mariner," but for now, I don'kt know who WE are, I'm not sure WHAT the question is, but it seems fun so far!


August 18, 1998 - 09:02 am
Ros, shouldn't you put the poem and translation in the heading, and is there a misspelling in Treets?


Roslyn Stempel
August 18, 1998 - 02:45 pm
Ginny, I've hastily put a notice in the heading and discovered that I don't know how to format apostrophes, but will have to postpone the discovery until later tonight.

You alone are permitted to explicate Dante to your heart's content and to share your discoveries online. However, because this poem is early Eliot, before his religious and philosophical agonies, I hope we can look at it in a different way, enjoying the way he dealt with the language to create pictures of the society he had sought out after fleeing St. Louis. Think of it as Eliot Without Tears? Fun with Tom?


August 18, 1998 - 02:54 pm
OOPS! I hate to say this, but that's what I was doing?

hahahahahah Maybe we have different ways of doing it?

I personally want to just look at the poem for what it says, regardless of Eliot's background, which I would not know from these few lines, or anything else.

That's what I was trying to do, just take it as he wrote it?

That may be uninformed.


Roslyn Stempel
August 18, 1998 - 06:36 pm
Ginny, Yes you were, dear heart, yes you were, I can't resist pulling your leg but maybe it hurts your bunions ... Since we want to avoid those smiley symbols, I'll just have to insert "T-Z" to let you know I'm teasing not criticizing. Your examination of Bk 27 was just right. I read through it quickly and it led me to recall the Odyssey and our exciting visits last year to the underworld where the dead had to drink blood before they could speak, and I saw I was in danger of being dragged into Dante instead of thinking about J. Alfred, so I quit right there.

My point is that since poetry is made of words, I hope we can taste the pleasure of Eliot's words unencumbered by endless interpretive scholarly footnotes which could make the experience like eating a sandwich without removing the Saran wrap. So free-associate all you want, decode, connect, explain, compare, just don't drag in Professor Blotz's commentary.

Just think of all the concrete images in this poem! All kinds of food, several kinds of weather, beaches, hair styles, dress lengths, collars and ties, furniture, a feast of things all wrapped around the self-conscious indecisive misery of this rather stuffy young-old man who is (or is not) in love, who did (or didn't) go to a tea-party, who spoke (or didn't speak) his mind to someone who cared (or didn't care). Puzzle time!


August 19, 1998 - 04:42 am
Ros; how exciting, YES, a puzzle! Oyster shells on the floor? YAY! We can go about it differently, never thought about his age at this point, I am a definite nit picker.


AND I will come away richer for seeing the wonderful spell of his words instead of only (I will always see) the semi colons.

NOW how about the rest of you??


Roslyn Stempel
August 20, 1998 - 12:23 pm
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

We're introduced to the drawing-room where the party is occurring. Can't you just picture it?

And then there's a pleasant little surprise in the lines about old-style London fog, in which "Old Possum" makes an appearance as he uses cat-metaphors to describe the fog. (It was as "Old Possum" that T. S. Eliot published the famous collection of poems about his favorite cats which formed the lyrical background for the long-running musical "Cats.") Do you suppose this is the first appearance of feline figures of speech in Eliot's published writing?

Those famous pea-soup fogs disappeared after World War II when the burning of soft coal was abolished and the atmosphere cleared amazingly.


Roslyn Stempel
August 21, 1998 - 12:58 pm
Ginny, the Pac-Senior has just come along and gobbled up a long message of additional thoughts about the first stanza of Prufrock, which I'll have to recreate off line and post later. Meanwhile, think on the next segment?


Charlotte J. Snitzer
August 21, 1998 - 04:26 pm
Jeanne on Ginny:

Regardfing the line breaks: GOTCHA!!

Thanks much.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
August 21, 1998 - 04:30 pm
What I meant was:

Jeanne and Ginny:

Regarding the line breaks. GOTCHA!!!

I'm embarrassed by the typos.

Much thanks.


August 21, 1998 - 04:49 pm
Now, Charlotte and All, as payment, join Ros and me in looking at Prufrock, such fun. Post your thoughts!!

I want to do The Ancient Mariner and can't unless you all help with this one!!


Charlotte J. Snitzer
August 21, 1998 - 05:18 pm

The second verse is absolutely gorgeous. He joins Sandberg in personification of the fog. It's yellow, it lingers, lets the soot fall upon it's back, leaps like a cat and falls asleep like one. He has really observed and enjoyed his cats. However, his book about cats is not his best work. I think this is much more exciting. I always wondered why they made the musical " Cats" instead of doing somethings with his more important work.

I always loved Eliot's work even though I know he was a bigoted, bitter and very unhappy man.

Charlotte ,

August 22, 1998 - 05:25 am
All riiiiiiiiiight!! Charlotte's here! Where are the rest of you?? Do come on in!!

This second verse is startling, isn't it? The cat images are very powerful, love it. I guess that's why he's such a great poet, stays in the mind, word pictures!

I've never read his cat books, and absolutely HATED Cats. Did you all see it? It seems you either love it or hate it. Hated it to the point that I gave up my seat at intermission to a person who loved it who was seated behind a pillar. If I'd had a book to read and flashlight, I would have. Awful, just awful.

OK, we can see we're in a room. And in the room the people go and they're talking of Michaelangelo. For some reason, maybe it's just because I just came back from Florence, and all those museums, I'm seeing here a museum. The empty clattering hall, the vast room, people talking of Michaelangelo. That's what I'm seeing. "Pictures at an Exhibition," Missoursky?

I don't know where we are or WHO we are, but it's interesting anyway.


August 22, 1998 - 05:26 am
Charlotte: I didn't know he was bigoted? In what way?


Roslyn Stempel
August 22, 1998 - 12:09 pm
Ginny, Eliot's anti-Semitism was a sore point for many people who otherwise admired him. To some extent it's perceptible in his early work (examples abound, will clue you if you don't find them yourself), but I think it became more conspicuous as he grew more involved in Anglo-Catholicism. And, I believe, the disclosures of his private writings years after his death offered additional evidence. One must remember that Great Britain was a profoundly anti-Semitic nation and we can speculate that in adopting the country Eliot eagerly embraced the reification of a prejudice that he probably already had.

I've never really been uncomfortable about it, and I must say that I had a mystical thrill when I visited his gravestone (or his memorial stone, I don't know if he's actually lying under it) in the Poets' Corner of the Abbey and read the lines from Four Quartets that are engraved there.

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats was published as a dear little orange-bound book in a Hallowe'en-orange dust jacket, one dollar in the U.S., probably three-and-six in England. I encountered it first in 1945, immediately bought a copy for a friend and walked a mile to leave it on her doorstep, have since given it to others. Really it's "cute" because it's Eliot applying his poetic sense and wit to a homely subject. We also had the Caedmon recording of Eliot and other poets, and it was delightful to hear that dry, scratchy, elegant voice intoning not only excerpts from The Wasteland but The Rum-Tum-Tugger and the Jellicle Cats as well.

However, I want you to know that I didn't see Cats, would not have dreamed of going, though I have nothing against those who saw and enjoyed it.

Charlotte, actually all of Eliot's plays have been staged and some had great success and very long runs here and in England. We saw "Murder in the Cathedral" and "The Cocktail Party" with traveling British casts and they were great. Can't remember much about "Confidential Clerk." With "Cocktail Party," he lulled you with Noel-Cowardish sophisticated humor and then came at you with serious philosophical questions about Christian faith, ethics, martyrdom, and such.

Frankly, I shouldn't care to see anything made from Prufrock, in fact I shudder at the thought.


Roslyn Stempel
August 23, 1998 - 08:54 am
Ginny Anderson's mother is awaiting surgery for a hip fracture and Ginny will probably be less active in the discussions for the time being. I hope we can continue with Prufrock.

Charlotte, I am hopeful that you will continue to comment, and I hope anyone else who drops in will go to the Prufrock link, print out the poem, and have a go at it in whatever way seems appropriate to your view of poetry. We're definitely trying to avoid "scholarly" interpretations and want to look at the story he tells, the images he used, and where we think he might have been headed in this rather early work.

(My original post containing my thoughts about the opening stanza were gobbled up during one of the Net's tantrums, and I've tried to restruct them just to go on record, not that they are in any way earth-shaking.)

Eliot's title combines the suggestion of comedy (the eponymous hero's name) with a hint of romance ("Love Song"). Possibly the epigraph from Dante suggests that the hero feels he has reached a point of no return and can therefore speak his feelings to the mysterious "you" in the first line. (This ghostly companion, this 20th-century Vergil, seems to disappear in later stanzas.)

Prufrock is trying to leave the sordid environs of his erotic one-night stands and is moving upward, socially at least, to a more refined world of tea-parties and women who speak of cultural matters. In terms of the geography of London it would be possible to follow, on foot or in a taxi, a single curving chain of streets from the crowded slums to the wealthier areas. The poet says instead that the streets are following him, pursuing him toward some vague "overwhelming question."

He tells his Vergil not to ask what the question is, but just to go with him to the point where he feels he will encounter his destiny.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
August 24, 1998 - 08:14 am
I have always felt that Eliot's description of the women who are wandering in and out of the room was his way of describing them as cultural dilletantes. After all you can't be criticized for liking Michaelangelo.

So glad we are discussing this poem. Don't drop it. We're going to Cleveland to see our son and his family for a few days, but I'll be back here the end of the week.

Ginny: I am in recovery from a fractured hip. Don't worry. Your Mom will do fine.


Roslyn Stempel
August 24, 1998 - 10:02 am
Charlotte, I think you're exactly right about the women as dilettantes - especially when Prufrock says it twice - it's a safe topic for those who want to be heard talking about art. Especially when at that time there were so many astonishing new developments in art, they weren't being very adventurous, were they?

We'll keep Eliot's candle burning until your return.


August 25, 1998 - 09:28 am
Do keep on with Eliot's Prufrock. This is one of many poems I have never understood, and your comments help. These discussions force / entice one into delving into it, and I hope soon to have time to enter into the discussion.

Roslyn Stempel
August 26, 1998 - 01:20 pm
And here's the next segment to be considered, lines 23 to 36:

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

A number of elements catch my attention here: First, I noticed the concentration of references to "time."

Next, I see that Eliot continues to use rhyme, though in a scheme that's just irregular enough to nudge at our awareness.

Third, he uses many repetitions: "There will be time....There will be time...." and so on.

Next, again and again there are phrases coupling two words with "and": "murder and create," "works and days," "lift and drop," "time for you and time for me," "visions and revisions," "toast and tea," "come and go," creating a slow pulsing rhythm that somehow suggests tedium rather than excitement.

I'll wait for someone else's further comments before adding more of my own.


August 28, 1998 - 08:52 am
One office where I worked when I was young, had a salesman who had been an English major. He could recite poetry like this by heart. He did it over the phone, of course, so the boss would not know it was not business. I don't remember who he quoted, Eliot or Donne or even Shakespeare, but I loved the sound of his words though not understanding it all. And that is how I have tended to view poetry like this, marvelous to hear aloud, but just try to get the general gist. In fact, Eliot himself said something to this effect: “For the poem is a thing in itself, and should be enjoyed even before it is understood." and: “...when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.”

Changing the subject somewhat, where was he when he wrote this? One reference says he write it about 1909-11, though it was not published till later. Would the setting be St. Louis? He then went to Harvard, then to England about 1914? "Toast and tea" seems more England, but would he have been there yet. The yellow smoke indicates what? factory and fireplace smog? Why yellow? from the type of coal being used? What does it portray, especially the fact that it does not go upward and dissipate?

He certainly was able to feel older, and maybe strained, as these wonderful lines show: "There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet," and also: "And for a hundred visions and revisions, / Before the taking of a toast and tea." And by now, we sould all be ready for a hot cup of tea - haha.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
August 31, 1998 - 08:53 am
Hi Everyone: I'm back

I'd just like to comment here that one of the things most people do not realize is that you cannot read poetry like prose. The same lines must be read over and over again and the payoff is most gratifying.

I went back to my Eliot, bought during my college days which began in my forties, so the book still holds together. Found notes, comments from teacher which said that "works and days of hands" comes from a Greek writer on husbandry in the 6th century B.C.

Another of his comments: "a hundred visions and revisions comes from Alexander Pope's "Rape of the Lock." Went back to that, but found the poem too long for me to go through on my first day back from Cleveland and visits with grandchildren. So enough of the scholarly approach which Ros doesn't doesn't encourage anyway.

In the second stanza Eliot continues the fog and smoke analogy. I wonder if this means that this gives people time to compose their faces so that they will appear as they wish to appear to people they meet.

It seems as if the narrator is trying to reassure his listener which is probably a woman that they have a great deal of time to make decisions, indecisions and to change plans altogether before tea time. It is obvious that this is taking place in England where Eliot lived most of his life.

Perhaps there is a hint of violence in the line which suggests that there is time to either murder or create, All this discussion is going on quietly between two people in a room where others seem to be behaving as though they are at a cocktail party.


Roslyn Stempel
August 31, 1998 - 11:15 am
Loma, thanks for your comments, which I'll respond to more fully in the near future. I have always assumed that Eliot wrote, or at least revised, Prufrock in England, but that might not be true. Certainly the fog references suggested to me London in those days of soft coal in everyone's grate and before central heating was even dreamed of there.

Charlotte, I hope I don't appear in your nightmares as an admonitory specter wagging a bony finger and forbidding you to look at footnotes. It's just that I think much is to be gained, as you say, from repeated reading and letting the poet's words shape themselves into some kind of meaningful whole. As MacLeish said, "A poem should not mean, But be." Your message (like Loma's) suggests that you agree. I think there's a danger in doggedly following a trail of footnotes in pursuit of "meaning," because so often what the poet has selected to quote or build on is merely a word, name, or turn of phrase that pleased him and triggered his own poetic ideas. Think of the number of times you've used some familiar tag like "What's in a name? A rose by any other name..." But would you want someone to sit down and read all of Romeo and Juliet in order to figure out your meaning?

If the poet himself chooses to annotate his work, as Eliot does in "The Waste Land," then I think the notes deserve careful attention, but again, if you read "The Waste Land," did you immediately rush to the library for Jessie Weston's From Ritual to Romance? And if you did, were you disappointed? I was.

Well, enough of that. I hope you follow my thinking. As for the "cocktail party" idea, I maintain that it was a bona fide afternoon tea, because those were much more common than cocktail parties in the earliest years of this century.

I felt from internal evidence that Prufrock's companion, real or invisible, was male. His target at the social gathering was female.


August 31, 1998 - 05:57 pm
What line are we now up to? 35 or so?

I thought this "To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet " was oddly comforting. Sort of saying you won't be overwhelmed, you will have the time you need to meet and face whatever comes. It possibly suggests that the author might have been uncomfortable about revealing himself to everybody he met, may be a private person. I really like that line. Also like the one about the smoke curling around the house like a cat, very evocative.

I guess because we're reading Dickens in the GB the smoke reminds me of London, too.

I still think it's a museum, can almost hear the footfalls on the floor. Why would women be talking about Michaelangelo?


Charlotte J. Snitzer
September 1, 1998 - 09:02 am

You are right on about the way to read poetry. I find the more I read the same lines, the more real it becomes. Continual rereading also reveals new ideas I did not recognize before.

You may be right that Eliot is talking to a man. I had forgotten he was homosexual, but was also married to a woman.


Roslyn Stempel
September 2, 1998 - 12:48 pm
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
  To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair--
[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple
pin-- [They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:--
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
  So how should I presume?

Roslyn Stempel
September 2, 1998 - 01:20 pm
In this segment, Prufrock's racing mind weighs the possibility of turning tail and fleeing the tea-party. He is rapidly reviewing his shortcomings: the thinning hair, his overly-prim dress, the cravat a hallmark of good taste but his skinny limbs so unattractive. As he seesaws between advancing and retreating, his sense of deja vutempts him to chuck the whole thing: been there, done that, will anything be different this time? When I try to engage the interest or even the attention of one of these fashionable long-gowned women who look one up and down like a zoological specimen, how shall I begin?

And here I think we should remember the more formal definition of "presume," which is to encroach, to go beyond previously established boundaries, to take for granted without permission. In short, Prufrock might be planning to accost the woman of his dreams without the sanction of a formal introduction. (When Stanley, in darkest Africa, said, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume," he was saying, "We haven't been introduced but I think I know who you are.")

I'm not aware of any homoerotic overtones here. If we continue to use the epigraph from Dante as a clue, then Prufrock has an invisible guide and companion as he seeks to leave his sordid haunts and breach the walls of the high-class social establishment, where "hands...lift and drop a question on your plate." ("And what is it that you do, Mr., er, Prufrock?" we can imagine the hostess saying as she offers him a watercress sandwich or a sweet biscuit.)

Several of the images in this segment are picked up again, or expanded on, later in the poem.


September 2, 1998 - 02:45 pm
...i have measured out my life in coffee spoons...

how nice to see that phrase again. i have thought of it often...the enthusiasm of my freshman english teacher...whose love of the poem informed my own continuum of life with other kinds of measures.

Roslyn Stempel
September 3, 1998 - 06:13 am
Fairwinds, how nice to see a message from you here -- and a reference to what is for me a significant phrase that always evokes the fragrance of coffee and the image of a delicate little sterling spoon. I've tried unsuccessfully to remember which "significant adults" influenced my love of poetry. I'll let this simmer a while and maybe my aging brain will come up with a memory. ( With classical music it was clearly a certain counselor who encouraged me to listen to the Sunday symphony broadcasts.)


Charlotte J. Snitzer
September 3, 1998 - 08:29 am

Second thoughts on whether the narrator is talking to a man or a woman:

I think he is talking to his wife in the second verse.

In verse 3 he seems to be considering an approach to a man.

I will go over verse 3 and write more later.


Roslyn Stempel
September 6, 1998 - 09:01 am
 Lines 55 - 74:  

And I have known the eyes already, known them all--
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
 And how should I presume?

  And I have known the arms already, known them all--
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
 And should I then presume?
  And how should I begin?
      .      .      .      .      .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?...

  I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.


September 6, 1998 - 09:08 am
I'm still getting the reject here, the man who puts on a mask to commune with others, and I know the hair on the arms is greatly symbolic of something, but I forget what.

To me, it shows that his obsessiveness or whatever you want to call it, even in the throes of imagination, is stopped short by the reality of hair on arms. He doesn't do well, I would suspect, nor does he appreciate human converse, so he puts his thoughts out in verse.

Where he's protected.


Roslyn Stempel
September 6, 1998 - 09:13 am
This segment contains vivid imagery that (for me) evokes the tea-party setting, recalls the opening mise-en-scene, and offers more than a glimpse of Prufrock's self-disparagement and self-consciousness and his hesitant efforts to break through emotional isolation into a human contact. As well, it contains the first of the marine metaphors that will lead us to the terrible conclusion.


September 7, 1998 - 11:10 am
The two lines: "I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas." is quite a departure from the rest of the scene but it certainly picks up on his negative feelings. "A pair of ragged claws", not a man at all. "Across the floors of silent seas"; no activity, no recognition. "Scuttling"; neither a forward nor an effective motion.

Yet though he sees himself so disparagingly, he is still invited to teas / social activities.

Rubynelle Thyne
September 7, 1998 - 01:31 pm
Seems to me the "persona" was talking to himself all along--chiding himself for having lived only the programed, "correct" life, never having dared ("and do I dare" now? No, I wouldn't succeed; I have nothing interesting to offer--my life has been measured only in stylish, meaningless trivia i,e., coffee spoons.

I often quote that bit and also "evening spread out like patients etherized on a table. I love the mysterious quiet of the few moments between day and evening when it seems all the world stops, in a no-time/all-time--

And, haven't you seen yourself "like a spider pinned upon the wall"--I forget the words now! but mean the moment just before you make a speech or enter a roomful of new people who haven't seen you since you divorced or remarried or such--

Larry Hanna
September 7, 1998 - 02:35 pm
Rubynelle, great to see you posting here in the B&L. I sure hope you will become a regular participant as we have some great discussions. Ros does a fantastic job with this Poetry discussion.

Everyone, this is a red day for me when I see someone from our Gwinnett County, Georgia SeniorNet Learning Center who I personally know posting on SeniorNet.


Roslyn Stempel
September 7, 1998 - 03:58 pm
Loma, thanks for your insights. Keep those deep-sea images in mind as we approach the end of the poem.

Yes, welcome indeed, Rubynelle. As I read your message I seemed to hear it in the gentle, melodious tones of Georgian speech which I'm sure is the way you sound. I have to tell you, irrelevantly, that not only is that bit about the evening being spread out one of my favorites, but when I emerged from the fog after delivering my first child - my word! it was 46 years ago! -- I found myself quoting those very lines. Of course the nurses thought I was nutty.

Stay with us -- we range from Bartlett's Familiar Quotations to Bill Grogan's Goat and everything in between, so there is, as Ann of Green Gables said, plenty of scope for the imagination.


September 8, 1998 - 05:15 am
Rubynell, Welcome, welcome!~! We love our Larry here, and will miss him so much as he journeys to the heartlands. What a wonderful post, that Gwinett crowd must be as great as Larry says they are, and you've certainly come to the right place here!

I still say they're in a museum!

Ros, you quote poetry in momentous situations, too?



Roslyn Stempel
September 8, 1998 - 07:37 am
Ginny, I used Bartlett, or rather the Oxford Dic. of Quot., to locate John Donne's "a bracelet of bright hair about the bone," from his poem "The Relic." It's the reference to hair that comes to my mind first, although there is Browning's "Porphyria's Lover," in which the eponymous swain strangles the girl with her own long hair: "...All night long we have not stirred, And yet God has not said a word." Then there was the sad case of John Ruskin, who nearly fainted away when he discovered his bride's pubic hair, the first he'd ever seen. It put a crimp in their relationship, believe me. But I won't be led down Freudian byways in this discourse. Been there, done that. A light touch of body hair, in a safe place like the lady's bare arm, can be seen to be quite seductive. Admirers of Marilyn Monroe, who apparently was as fuzzy as a peach, have written of the enchanting effect of that silvery facial down as it caught the light. Well, de gustibus, etc.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
September 8, 1998 - 08:15 am
Hi Joan, Ginny, Ros et all:

Just wanted to let you know that I found this place and think its great! A good start for the day before getting into writing in my journal or into book discussion.

Love you all,


Rubynelle Thyne
September 9, 1998 - 01:28 pm
Thanks, literary-minded friends! What fun this is!

Eliot's sounds are so right--the scratching c's of scuttling (reinforced by the brittle t's) and claws, and his conversational, inobstrusive rhyme and meter. Oh, Eliot is the master craftsman! I appreciate especially his elegance without patronization. He expects the reader to recognize the illusions and images. Did he or Sandburg creare (or recreate) the cat/fog image? By the way, aren't Ole Possum and CATS delightful!

The "Do I dare disturb the universe" --Are you familiar with Robert Cormier's young adult novel THE CHOCOLATE WAR? it's protagonist has this line on a poster in his locker. Every young teen I've known to read the book is engrossed and disturbed by the disastrous effect of the boy's daring to disturb the universe of school.

Sorry about my misquotes and mis-mechanics first time here. I was too excited about discussion possibilities provided here!

Charlotte J. Snitzer
September 9, 1998 - 02:12 pm
To follow up on my previous post: What I meant was that I am reading the outline of all the previous work you wonderful people have been doing.

Now for my comments on the 3rd verse of Prufrock: I think the narrator realizes his is aging. He can see it in what is happening to his body. He is uncertain as what to do. Should he reverse his direction. Should he challenge fate by going against the passage of time. He has seen everything, done everything and doesn't know where to turn.


Roslyn Stempel
September 10, 1998 - 05:59 am
All these wonderful responses suggest consensus on Prufrock's mental condition: He was one unhappy camper. Charlotte, yes, you're capturing the essence of Prufrock's discouragement, the sad youngish man who feels so isolated and unloved. Loma and Rubynelle, I like your sense of the way Eliot used word structure to convey a mood, as in the case of the "ragged claws" bit combining despair, alienation, and incompleteness.

Notice also how he used vowel sounds, bunching short i's together in a stanza - begin, pin, pinned, fix, wriggling, spit - within the lines. And why did he watch the smoke -- suggesting that he lingered to observe, rather than just "see" it? We get a view of the "lonely" vowels - gone, dusk, watched, smoke, lonely - here.

This poem was written around 1909. Sandburg's "Fog" appeared in 1922. Perhaps Sandburg read Eliot but somehow I don't think it was the other way around. Aside from the similar metaphors, which might be coincidental (or unconscious on Sandburg's part) it would be interesting to compare the style and content of the two poets, both from America's heartland yet to outward appearances quite dissimilar.


September 11, 1998 - 08:23 am
Hi, I need some help in finding a little poem, maybe a Zen thought that begins "Sixty six autumns I have seen.........." Anyone heard of this little gem?

September 12, 1998 - 06:08 pm
Mimi, I looked for Sixty six autumns I have seen..... in Bartlett's 9th and 16th editions and in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations 3rd edition, and did not find it. Quotes can be so tantalizing; hope you find it.

September 12, 1998 - 07:54 pm
If Prufrock was written about 1909, what is the setting?? St. Louis? When did he leave there? When did he go to London? If St. Louis, I think along the Mississippi river some restaurants serve oysters on the half-shell. Could this be the meaning of “And sawdust [on the floors of] restaurants with oyster-shells” ? If London, it could be the walk to the front door, as I believe shells were used in earlier times.

No matter which, the streets outside seem to not be in the best part of town. Yet inside it seems rather well-to-do and cultured -- the women’s conversations, arms that are braceleted and white and bare, skirts that trail along the floor, music in a farther room, perfume, the stair..... And a life of some indolence: “ For I have known them all already, known them all: / Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons / I have measured out my life with coffee spoons,”

Just what are coffee spoons? A spoon that is smaller than our familiar teaspoon? In parts of Europe their silverware set includes more sizes than ours, with a smaller spoon (so it won’t fall off the saucer), a smaller fork (ditto, for the dessert plate), and knife (for the sandwich plate). So would the coffee spoon be a smaller spoon, used for tea?

Even the items served -- tea, toast, the marmalade, cakes and ices, on porcelain -- seem a marked contrast to his view of the rather mean streets outside -- “certain half-deserted streets, / the muttering retreats / of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels. ....... streets that follow like a tedious argument / of insidious intent ....... the yellow smoke that slides along the street ....... narrow streets....of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows.”

September 12, 1998 - 08:03 pm
Why am I under the impression that marmalade is a British taste? Would you have tea and marmalade in St. Louis? I never heard of it except for AA Milne, until I went to England and it's everywhere there.

What a super post, Loma. I had no idea there was even such a THING as coffee spoons, when I see something like that in a poem I just let it wash over me and end up having no clue at all!


Roslyn Stempel
September 13, 1998 - 08:42 am
I logged on intending to post the next segment of Prufrock, and became so absorbed in the discussion about coffee spoons that I nearly got cut off because I'd been daydreaming instead of posting.

I think we need to remember that if the setting is London (and Eliot had been in London and Paris as a student before he decided to settle), it's only a short hop from a squalid slum to a block of more desirable flats and houses. I've always assumed that they were going through some unpleasant neighborhood to arrive at their destination.

If we want to cling to the Inferno metaphor, how many ugly areas did Dante and Vergil traverse before reaching a pleasanter place? I don't know if this is apt; it just occurred to me.

Ginny still likes the idea of the museum. In London I guess it would be the British Museum, certainly a location surrounded by all kinds of dwellings. This was the Tavistock area of Virginia Woolf and (in the words of Severin Darden) "that whole crowd."

Silver coffee spoons might indeed have been a hallmark (no pun intended) of gentility. And perhaps because of the association with my own family's silverware I was led to the thought that Prufrock feels he is seen as an arriviste, a Johnny-come-lately, one who is pushing himself into a society where he doesn't quite belong. That's why he hesitates on the stairs; that's why certain ladies seem to turn away when he addresses them; that's why the footman, in a later stanza, snickers as he holds out his coat.

More in next message; don't want to get cut off again.


September 13, 1998 - 09:48 am
Ros, and everyone else: I don't mean to change the subject, but has anyone ever wondered about the term "movers and shakers"? Where it originated? I would never have guessed, but read in my local paper yesterday, that it is from a verse by the same name, by Arthur William Edgar O'Shaughnessy(1844-1881)

We are the music makers,
We are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams:
World-losers and world forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
We are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.

Roslyn Stempel
September 13, 1998 - 01:30 pm
Marilyn, yes, glad to see it here and thanks for posting it. I think the last two lines of the third stanza are also often quoted:

"For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth."
You might want to share your thoughts about what O'Shaughnessy was saying about past, present, and future?

Now, if I may, back to coffee spoons:

The after-dinner coffee spoon is half the size of a teaspoon and is for the small cup of black coffee and for nothing else. You stir sugar with it and possibly taste the coffee. But you drink the coffee from the cup, leaving the spoon in the saucer.
(Emily Post,Etiquette, ninth edition, 1955.

Do note how subtly Emily was cautioning the hapless boor against doing the unforgivable - drinking coffee from the spoon, my word! But one misses the days of Emily Post when there was a "right way" and you could look it up.

Our 1952 set of Gense "Ellipse" stainless steel tableware has coffee spoons, which I sometimes remember to use, but I checked and found that our Rogers Brothers "Eternally Yours" silverplate from 1947 didn't. I still have 6 of my mother's sterling coffee spoons, always kept polished, hardly ever used. Her silverplate from 1913 didn't have coffee spoons but did have what Emily calls orange spoons and we called grapefruit spoons, like a slender teaspoon with a pointed tip.

One important aspect of life in the early years of this century was that the number of "external" things one had to learn was finite. Menus were formal, table settings were formal, prescribed conversational exchanges were formal, and even a newcomer could absorb enough of these conventions to be at least outwardly comfortable in "polite society." There was still, of course, a subtle "finish" and an unspoken language that the truly elite possessed, and a subtle way they could communicate, always politely, the inferiority of the unqualified parvenu. I speculate that Eliot might have been using this kind of situation as a springboard for a deeper examination of a right way of living - a "blessed way" - not only socially but morally and spiritually - and what might have seemed to him at the time the futility of ever catching on.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
September 14, 1998 - 01:08 am

Since coffee spoons are so tiny, I would think that the narrator's life is not satisfactory because its events come in such miniscule experiences, limited in size like what would be delivered in such small servings.


Roslyn Stempel
September 14, 1998 - 06:32 am
Charlotte, yes, I think you're right. The coffee spoon, the smallest implement in this polite setting, would give one only half a teaspoon of sugar, hence only half a teaspoon of life. Get a life, Alfred, or at least get a bigger spoon.


Roslyn Stempel
September 14, 1998 - 06:40 am
Here's the next segment, lines 75 to 98, which seems to take us back not only to the earlier stanzas but to the epigraph, as well as providing numerous other tantalizing references:

     And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
  Asleep ... tired ... or it malingers,
  Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
  Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
  Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
  Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter
I am no prophet--and here's no great matter;
  I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
  And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

  And would it have been worth it, after all,
  After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
  Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
  Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
  To have squeezed the universe into a ball
  To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
  To say: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
  Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all"--
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
    Should say: "That is not what I meant at all.
    That is not it, at all."

Roslyn Stempel
September 14, 1998 - 02:22 pm
Mimi, I looked through Grainger's Poetry Index, which lists hundreds of thousands of poems published since the 19th century, but couldn't locate any poem that begins with the line you cited. I'd like to scout further. Is there some background you can give?


Roslyn Stempel
September 15, 1998 - 04:53 pm
Loma, you were correct in your conclusion that the poem was not written in London. However, neither was it written in St. Louis. I looked at a biography, being very careful not to cheat by reading any interpretive material, and found that Prufrock was one of four poems produced by Eliot between 1910 and 1912, when he was a graduate student at Harvard, so the setting could very possibly be Boston/Cambridge. He did go to London, Paris, and Germany one summer, but it's more reasonable to assume that poems were produced while he was settled at the University and not while he was wandering from city to city.


September 18, 1998 - 01:16 pm
Not to switch away from Prufrock, for there is MUCH more to investigate, but here is an easy poem about the month of September, and surely we can identify with much of it.

Helen Hunt Jackson was born in Amherst, MA, and was a friend of Emily Dickinson. She married a banker in Colorado Springs, CO. She wrote poems, novels, and a book against the government treatment of Indians. She either lived her last years in a cabin, or was buried, at the top of Seven Falls, CO. Seven Falls is a tourist attraction near Colorado Springs. This poem was printed in her book “Poems / Verses” in 1873, and we had to memorize it in grade school, except for the last two verses.

Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)

The goldenrod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.

The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook.

From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes' sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And autumn's best of cheer.

But none of all this beauty
Which floods the earth and air
Is unto me the secret
Which makes September fair.

'Tis a thing which I remember;
To name it thrills me yet:
One day of one September
I never can forget.

Roslyn Stempel
September 18, 1998 - 04:00 pm
Loma, thanks for the post, so full of lovely images. I don't think we had to memorize that particular one, but I do seem to recall it was in the "Poetry" books which were occasionally passed around so that we could take turns sing-songing stanzas aloud, thus ruining any music they contained. When I taught fifth grade there was a "September" poem I had the children learn, of which I can remember only the first stanza:
Remember September!
Before she said goodbye
She taught the youngest robins
The proper way to fly.

I had an autumn poem that I used to use, which contained the phrase "asters, deep purple" and I can remember how astonished the kids were when I brought some purple asters from my garden and they could see something real which previously had just been words.

Guess what! or maybe you already knew: That yellow fog Prufrock describes actually was St. Louis fog, according to a biographer - a combination of the river mists and yellow industrial haze. So your connection to St. Louis was quite correct. He waited until he reached Harvard to put it into a poem.


Rubynelle Thyne
September 19, 1998 - 02:58 pm
The HHJ poem was introduced to me as a round in my grammar school in Easley, SC. Is quite pretty when sung by juvenile voices "brightly and lightly" as our leader instructed us! Thanks, LOMA for the reference. I'd forgotten that!

The discussions about Prufrock are beguiling. Wish I were a more profficient Net user so could Participate more.

Know we haven't exhausted Prufrock. "Burnt Norton'' is deeper and more wonderful, I think. I'd really like to get into some 1890' poems, British, primarily. Hardy's "I leant upon a coppice gate" has real associative matter for our present decade, as does Arnold's "Dover Beach"--two"fin de siecl" ones I find myself quoting from.-----Maybe in Shirley Waters' Word processing class I'll find spell check and how to get italics!

Roslyn Stempel
September 20, 1998 - 11:57 am
Rubynelle, you've hit on two of my favorites. Do please post your thoughts and comments, and don't worry about getting the format just right. There are kind people looking over our shoulders who help us out of our dilemmas.

If you look back to Message 262 you'll find part of "The Darkling Thrush" quoted, and I've just re-read it in the past couple of days. We touched on Hardy's poetry when Great Books was beginning the discuss Jude the Obscure. I believe the messages preceding #262 also referred to Hardy. As for "Dover Beach," it is one of my own absolute sentimental favorites even though I know many critics pick holes in it for being trite and not, in fact, really being true to Arnold himself. (I think it may be the current fashion to make fun of Matthew Arnold. Have you ever seen a poem titled "The Dover Bitch"?)

We've dealt with quite a bit of Victorian poetry here, partly because nearly everybody loves it and partly because there are no problems about copyright violation if we want to cite an entire poem.

Just at the moment I'm enjoying two collections of Scottish poems, many in dialect, and hope to cull a few for posting. They were popular when we discussed a few some months ago. Heaven knows there are no copyright problems there--the later of the two books appeared in about 1920.


Rubynelle Thyne
September 21, 1998 - 11:57 am
Thanks, Roslyn, for your guidance to Hardy (wish I could have done Jude the Obscure with the group) and the bitchy allusion to Arnold--how can I find that parody?

To Elliot--having been retired now three years (though I usually loved h.s.teaching), I feel really smug when I read the" Eternal Footman. . . snicker . . .afraid" lines. It's oh-so-nice to revel in reading, painting, going, philosophising when I please, where I please; albeit some of the activity happens internally, sitting right here! My dreams & goals have changed somewhat, but I'm accomplishing many of them, and I no longer ache to be heard as a Lazarus or another; and not being listened to feels Ok since I've found other vehicles of expresson. Frankly, I still thrill to using the "correct" spoon, but I'm no Prufrock in my needs!

Charlotte J. Snitzer
September 21, 1998 - 03:29 pm
Hi all:

I'm still here, but am a little behind on Prufrock. Will get there soon. Just wanted to say that my eldest daughter and her husband used Dover Beach as part of their wedding ceremony about 30 years ago. They're still married.


Roslyn Stempel
September 21, 1998 - 07:57 pm
Charlotte, the closing lines from "Dover Beach" would certainly have been appropriate for the late 1960's, when we were indeed "here as on a darkling plain, full of confused alarms of struggle and flight, where ignorant armies clash by night." So the admonition for lovers "to be true to one another" was apt.

Poor Alfred is dragging a bit, we must try to brisk up and finish with a flourish before September is gone.

Rubynelle, I think I have "Dover Bitch" here somewhere and if so I'll e-mail it to you. Because our copyright status is rather cloudy I try to avoid posting recent poems in their entirety.

I'm glad you're experiencing that wonderful reawakening of the flames of intellectual inquiry. Once the fog and fuzz of lesson plans, grades, and raging adolescent hormones is left behind, it's good to discover there's still a mind left that can function at an adult level.

I'm clinging to the idea that Prufrock is nerving himself for one more try at courtship and fears that the lady is going to be worse than indifferent. And we get back to the Dante metaphor when he says he has "come back to tell you all." His head on a platter? He's had some bad times, hasn't he? But what about "I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker"? Does that mean he had his chance and muffed it? Any ideas?


September 21, 1998 - 08:14 pm
What is meant by the eternal Footman?? Is this a type of servant, or is it a literary allusion, and if so, to what?

And by the way, what is a morning coat?? Seems rather formal, think not to be worn for dinner which is in the evening, though OK for tea in the late afternoon.

Prufrock's indecision and his mind going hither and yon, reminds me a little bit of Whitman who sometimes threw varied stuff in his lines.

It is interesting to note that with his rhymes being somewhat-- would you say not consistent, only a few stand out (such as the Michelangelo lines), but the whole thing reads so beautifully as poetry.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
September 22, 1998 - 02:08 pm
Hey: We haven't finished with Prufrock yet. Where is everybody? I think we are at the line:

"I have known them all already, known them all--"

I take that to mean that he understands all those who have made judgements about his personal character. They have pinned him up like a bug on a wall. It has destroyed his own opinion of who he is and he doesn't know how to start to rebuild his personality. He has known most of the women and already rejected them, but sometimes he is diverted from his opinion of them by the scent of their perfume or something in their body language or dress. Perhaps he thinks he should try again.


Roslyn Stempel
September 23, 1998 - 07:07 am
Loma, a morning coat is also known as a cutaway, a jacket which is waist-length in front and tapers down to about knee-length swallow-tail in back. It's worn with striped trousers. Until the earliest years of this century it was considered appropriate for certain daytime formal social wear but its use diminished until it appeared only at the most solemn occasions. It was succeeded by the so-called lounge suit or sack suit, the prototype of what we think of as a suit today, with a hip-length jacket that was the same length all around. I suspect that if Prufrock wore a morning coat, with its accompanying high stiff-collared shirt, to a tea in 1910 or 1912, he might have been dressed more formally than the occasion required.

Dear old Emily's pages on the duties and dress of a footman make hilarious reading. I'll excerpt them in a later message. I have to add that whenever I see that capitalized "Footman" I think of the Frog Footmen in Alice in Wonderland.

Charlotte, fear not, we're still working on Prufrock. The last segment is worthy of considerable discussion, don't you agree?


Roslyn Stempel
September 23, 1998 - 02:27 pm
Well, about footmen, if you really want to know:

Footmen come under the direction of the butler. They wait on table, attend the front door, telephone and write down messages, and clean and polish silver. They may also do considerable cleaning, sweeping, carrying wood, and moving furniture. Their regulation livery consists of a tailcoat and trousers to match, brass or silver buttons, stiff starched collar and shirt, white lawn tie, striped waistcoat, and white cotton gloves. At tea-time the footman (always under the butler's supervision) places the tea-table, puts on the tea cloth, and carries in the tea tray, and also the tray of cocktails if these are served. At a formal party the footmen (notice the plural) line up in the hall to assist entering guests and, in the hall outside the dining room, line up to receive the dishes that are to be brought to the table.

Now, I ask you. This information comes from the 1955 (ninth) edition of Emily Post's Etiquette, which opens with an acknowledgement that of course things have greatly changed since the first (1922) edition of the book appeared.

Has any one of our readers had an acquaintance with footmen? Not I, nor butlers either, though I have encountered several "housemen" who gravely and impressively assisted the hostess at ladies' afternoon club meetings.

I seem to recall that in earlier centuries it was considered important for footmen to be very tall, so this was clearly a career opportunity before basketball was invented. And it's not surprising that novelists poked fun at the elaborate liveries of footmen in the homes of the nouveaux riches, and gave them ridiculous names. And Prufrock, nervous and insecure, might well have been intimidated by a liveried servant whose formal courtesy barely concealed his contempt.


September 23, 1998 - 05:14 pm
What, we don't all have footmen? Plural? What kind of people am I writing to here? With lawn ties? I've got a lawn tie on, they're having a ball digging new drain lines for our charming footmen's septic tank, such fun they keep hitting bedrock. The footmen are very busy, and we all have lawn all over ourselves.


September 23, 1998 - 08:04 pm
Well, butlers in some of the English novels were rather supercilious, so guess a footman could be also. Isn't it surprising that they were still around in 1955?

Charlotte J. Snitzer
September 24, 1998 - 09:17 am

I feel for you. My son who has two acres on the outskirts of Cleveland dug the foot-deep trench himself, with the help of a neighbor. He was proud of himself, but poor Mom back in NY wrung her hands .


Emmagene Richards
September 24, 1998 - 05:23 pm
Hello All, Having enjoyed some poetry written by members of SeniorNet, I thought I would like to share a poem with you that I wrote after the death of my mother in l983 It's called "The Face of Grace"

She stood before thelmirror And viewed a lovely face. Long brown hair and lovely eyes, It was the face of grace

But when she raised her weary hand, To smooth the silky hair, She found to her profound surprise, It was no longer there.

Instead she saw a stranger who Had stepped into her view. And she heard her mind's denial saying, "No! This can't be true."

Where is the one whose lovely youth Brought smiles to every face? I knew her well. I knew her long. She was the face of grace.

The years have gone, none can say where. There is no place to look. The cover's changed, but still the same Are the words within the book.


Roslyn Stempel
September 24, 1998 - 06:33 pm
Emmagene, thank you for sharing your words with us. Having also written a poem when my mother died, I can understand (and I'm sure many other readers can, too) the feelings that inspired you. Although the pretty auburn curls and smooth rosy face were long replaced by scanty silver and wrinkles, my mother, at 85, still said that she felt young inside.

I hope you'll visit again and enjoy with us some of the great poetry, old and modern, that reflects our moods and stimulates our minds.


Rona Patterson
September 25, 1998 - 08:11 pm
I wrote this in after my Mother Died Today is the day my Mother died . Today is the day I cried and cried . I didn`t believe I could live without her . I wish I could go back to the way we were

I do not weep , my eyes are dry . never do I forget , as her special days go by . Always special in my memory. of my treasure chest , she holds the key .

As a child I never left her side . I thought we would always be together . and then she died . Twenty years have now passed . it is true , our lives pass so fast .

Therefor make each of your days a special day . for the ones that you love , never let them fade away . Be sure that every moment you have together stays in your heart for ever and ever .

September 25, 1998 - 08:38 pm
Emmagene and Rona, thanks. Words from experience and the heart.

Roslyn Stempel
September 26, 1998 - 08:50 am
Rona, even after several years "on the Net" I still get a special thrill seeing a message from a distant place. Thank you so much for sharing your remembrance of what must have been a beautiful mother-daughter relationship.

If your busy life includes writing poetry "just for fun," have you visited the Seniornet Round Table "Poets Press" If not, you'll find it by clicking on the "Writing" folder listed in the Round Table index.

By the way, is there any Australian writer of poetry or fiction that you especially like?


September 26, 1998 - 06:12 pm
What lovely thoughts in here, I love this folder. Ros, where are we now in the Prufrock? I've lost my place again!


Roslyn Stempel
September 27, 1998 - 08:10 am
I've just lost my effort to post the last segment of Prufrock and it will take me some little time to key it in again with the correct HTML marks. However, be assured that we're on the last leg, though some comments remain about the preceding segment.

I have gained many more insights from other people's comments, and have also seen many new things as I reviewed what I thought was a wholly familiar work. I hope there's been some reward for everyone who has shared this experience.

More anon.


Roslyn Stempel
September 27, 1998 - 08:29 am
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor--
And this, and so much more?--
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
  "That is not it at all,
  That is not what I meant, at all."

      .      .      .      .      .
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
  Am an attendant lord, one that will do
  To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
  Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
  Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous--
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old ... I grow old..
. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

    Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

    I do not think that they will sing to me.

  I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Shakespeare's tragic prince, seeking to right wrongs and even lead his country, cries out, "The time is out of joint; Oh, cursed spite! That ever I was born to set it right." Prufrock, having perhaps dreamed of himself in such a role, acknowledges that he is just another "attendant lord," destined to a humbler position. He considers trivial choices, what to wear, what to eat, and sadly fears rejection even by the mermaids of his imagination.

And then come those last three chilling lines.


September 28, 1998 - 04:46 am
I love this section of the poem, how well Eliot has caught the awakening when a person finds that, after all, one will NOT be Hamlet, one will just swell the crowd.

I really don't think Eliot did much crowd swelling, but for those of us who DO, it's certianly recognizable (sp). These are my favorite lines, and the most memorable, I think, the mermaids (of his imagination oh, good point, Ros) are singing, but he doesn't think that even they will sing to him. The whole section, to me, is about the loss that aging brings, it's sort of a progression. At first there will be time, now our parameters are limited and our goals were not meant to be reached in the first place, we need to accept our lot in life. But we can't.

Now the last lines leave me a bit puzzled, tho. Almost seems to be saying the company of the mind is preferable to that of human kind. of course, that's carried out in the hair thing, too.


September 28, 1998 - 08:20 am
It is interesting that in his first verse he mentions oyster shells (in relation to restaurants), midway he expresses: I should have been a pair of ragged claws Scuttling across the floors of silent seas, and at the end the mermaids, wind and waves, chambers, seaweed. This last seems to have been brought about by his thinking of growing old: I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. I would guess he had seen retired men doing this.

Yet this is interspersed with the industrial town with its mean streets outside, and cultured gatherings for tea inside.

Roslyn Stempel
September 28, 1998 - 05:24 pm
Loma, that's a great compilation of marine images you've listed. And the last few lines are the most melodious in the poem, with not only rhyme but repetition ("sea" four times plus "seen" repeating the sounds).

I had an idea that Prufrock recognizes he's not going to end it all right there, he will survive, getting older as we all do (after all the poet was in his early 20's when he wrote this), but not living the magnificent life he had once hoped for. I didn't see it as a reference to aging but to the way life drags rather sadly on. He had apparently abandoned his opportunity to express his feelings to the woman he was intending to court.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
September 29, 1998 - 07:10 am
Ros It's been great getting back to reading Eliot. I didn't have a hard time with him "at all. at all." Poor guy, he must have had a tough time with all those proper Brits.

I think he's feeling as lonely as the men he sees leaning out to see what's going on outside while smoking their pipes. Maybe it would have been better if he was a sea creature without human feelings. He is afraid to make an approach to a possible lover and can't face taunts of failure that would make him feel he is like John the Baptist whose head was carried in on a platter. Nor can he stant the prospect of servants snickering behind his back

Her reaction makes him wonder if it's worth trying at all. After all they have experienced together, he doesn't know what he means. Is it worth continuing to try if she still insists it'not what she meant at all.

He then denigrates himself because he is not like Hamlet. Nor was he ever meant to be a Hamlet. Maybe his role should have been as Hamlet's attendant, put there to move the story along. He is deferential, careful and cauatious in what he says, but also a little stupid. almost ridiculous, like the Fool.

However, the use of the word "Fool" reminds us that sometimes the fool is very wise, so use of that word continues his feelings of ambiguity.

He laments his aging that allows him to wade along the edge of the water, rather than to swim boldly out into it. He remembers the past when he felt the magic of the sea but thinks it will no longer be magic for him.

He enjoys ruminating on the past, his romping with lovers, but human voices wake him from his dream and perhaps ends it along with all future dreams.

I understand that he wrote this in his 20's, but perhaps he was trying to write what he thinks the future might be from the point of view of an elderly man.


September 29, 1998 - 08:06 am
Eliot to me often mixes times, “...a perception not only of the pastness of the past but of its presence..” and "time present and time past..." (quoting him from other writings), as well as locations in this poem. I see him at Harvard (or where ever) being a part of this easy continuous social gathering of teas, and knowing someone that was also a party to this, a professor or something, who had once showed some promise but settled into something less, and Eliot could empathize with. Haven't you had a time or two when it seemed you could fully see someone? And this someone was very self conscious and aware of signs of aging -- his balding head which may indicate an age of the thirties to later forties, contrasted to the female bare arms downed with hair which I think you are more aware of in your teens and early twenties.

A lot of it seems exaggerated in his mind. Though properly dressed he thinks "They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!" Now how could they know? - even with men who dress in suits and we know well at church or work, we would not be aware their arms and legs are thin until a company picnic when they came in shorts and t-shirts. Likewise, "The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase" and "Though I have seen my head brought in upon a platter" while it has cowed Eliot's persona, is something most of us have had happen to us and have seen happen to successful leaders also.

Is this why this poem is well liked by students and older? It is about a ranging back and forth of the mind, day-dreaming and reality, loneliness and culture, timidity and uncertainty. Not to mention Eliot's way with words, with lines that touch people.

Roslyn Stempel
September 29, 1998 - 02:39 pm
Loma and Charlotte, you've provided two interesting and perceptive interpretations with many subtle differences -- both truly thought-provoking. Knowing that Eliot wrote this poem when he was about 22, I cling to the idea of its adolescent overtones; but on the other hand, when were we ever wiser about the world than when we were 22?

I'm really delighted with the way this discussion worked out, and grateful for the continuing interest and support of those who participated as well as those who just lurked. I hope we can approach another important work in the same way, in the future. ( This discussion is not, of course, closed, if there are any other comments.) Meanwhile, on to a small bundle of Scottish dialect verse, and to the plentiful supply of poetry about autumn.


September 29, 1998 - 07:39 pm
hi all...have enjoyed your comments. just one other thing about the eternal footman in pruefrock. for some reason i thought he represented death. anyone know?

September 29, 1998 - 08:02 pm
Fairwinds, a fairly current Bartlett's has no reference to "footman" other than Prufrock. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations has one by William Hazlitt (1778-1830) from Footmen: "But of all the footmen the lowest class is literary footmen" (italics were given in the quotation). Oh my!

Was Prufrock's footman a representation in his mind of Fate, or was he a prim proper and snobbish servant who added to Prufrock's feeling of uncertainty and inferiority, or was he a literary allusion by Eliot we know not what?

Rona Patterson
September 29, 1998 - 09:23 pm
Thanks Roslyn , Yes I was very close to my Mother.She lived in Tasmania in her later years and I didn`t get to see her in time, I was there but she didn`t know me. I have sent in two poems to Poets press one 519 12 December Elizabeth Concert. The other 555 Bill Gates 30 December. I just play around I don`t have a lot of spare time. I`m thinking of one now about my Wedding Day on 18th April 1998. Rona

September 30, 1998 - 03:06 am
Fairwinds: I thought that too, about the footman. Remember Emily Dickenson and Death who kindly stopped for her as a Coachman?

Nobody BUT the aged worry about eating a peach. If Eliot WAS only 22 he was remarkable prescient or he had elderly friends. Do I dare to eat a peach? Don't think I've ever heard a 22 year old worry about that.

I took the awakening from the mermaid's song to be a rude jerking back into the world of reality which I think Prufrock didn't excel in, and I'm wondering anew at the name. "Frock" is a little bit prissy, no?

Can we actually be thru? Think this was a splendid experiment, can't wait for the next opus. Thanks to everybody for great comments, I've enjoyed them. Still think it was a museum, and Eliot saying Prufrock's existence like a museum visit: see others getting on with their lives but don't feel capable or enabled.


September 30, 1998 - 06:29 am
For a change of pace:
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

I like to hear of wealth and gold,
And El Doradoes in their glory;
I like for silks and satins bold
To sweep and rustle through a story.

The nightingale is sweet of song;
The rare exotic smells divinely;
And knightly men who stride along,
The role heroic carry finely.

But then, upon the other hand,
Our minds have got a way of running
To things that aren't quite so grand,
Which, maybe, we are best in shunning.

For some of us still like to see
The poor man in his dwelling narrow,
The hollyhock, the bumblebee,
The meadow lark, and chirping sparrow.

We like the man who soars and sings
With high and lofty inspiration;
But he who sings of common things
Shall always share our admiration.

Chris Tannlund
October 2, 1998 - 08:26 pm
Now on-line! The debut issue of Tintern Abbey: The On-Line Journal of Contemporary Poetry, theme: "The October Project." Celebrate autumn with the finest poets on the net.Featured Poet: Charlee Jacob. Autumnal poetry by M.Alexander, Virginia Beesley, Nancy Bennett, C.E. Chaffin, Robert Duffy, Heather Hadley, Larry Kilman, Leonard Kress,Jennifer Ley, James Brian Livingstone, E. McGrand, Michael McNeilley, Denise A. Nardone, Patricia Ranzoni, David Sutherland and Robert Zordani. The issue #2 theme will be "Mothers," and issue #3 will be a special "All Formal Poetry" issue. Please visit the on-site guidelines for discussion of these themes, list of future themes, and complete submission guidelines at http://home.earthlink.net/~tannlund/

Roslyn Stempel
October 3, 1998 - 04:28 am
By a curious coincidence the first poem I decided to copy from the 1900 volume The Edinburgh Book of Scottish Verse was also by Dunbar, a different Dunbar of course, but a theme that is not dissimilar to the idea behind Paul Laurence Dunbar's which Loma posted.


William Dunbar (c1460-c1520)

Who thinkit that he has sufficience,
Of gudis has no indigence;
Thoch he have neither land nor rent,
Great micht, nor hie magnificence,
He has eneuch that is content.

Who had all riches unto Inde,
And were not satisfiet in mind,
With povertie I hald him shent;
Of covatice sic is the kind:
He has eneuch that is content.

Therefore I pray you, bruder dear,
Not to delight in dainties seir;
Thank God of it is to thee sent,
And of it gladly make gude cheer:
He has eneuch that is content.

Defy the warld, feigned and false,
With gall in hairt, and honied hals:
Wha maist it servis sall soonest repent:
Of whose subchettis sour is the sals:
He has eneuch that is content.

Gif thou has micht, be gentle and free;
And gif thou standis in povertie,
Of thine awn will to it consent:
And riches sall return to thee:
He has eneuch that is content.

And ye and I, my breder all,
That in this life has lordship small,
Lat languor not in us imprent;
Gif we not climb we tak no fall:
He has eneuch that is content.

For who in warld most covetous is
In warld is puirest man, I-wis,
And most needy of his intent:
For of all gudis no thing is his,
That of no thing can be content.

Dunbar's language is a mixture of 15th-century English with a bit of early Scottish vernacular. The sense is easy to grasp despite the unfamiliar words. The poet tells us that no man is poor who is content with what he has, even if he lacks property, high standing, and power. The world of falsehood, of "honeyed throat and bitter heart" dooms its subjects to unhappiness. He who has much should be gentle and generous; he who has little, if he accepts his lot, will find himself enriched. The man who is covetous is the poorest man, for no matter how much he has he can never be satisfied.

This book is full of old Scottish ballads, unfortunately rather tedious to transcribe, but I'll try to get one into the folder before the end of the month.


Roslyn Stempel
October 3, 1998 - 05:13 am
I hope you'll take note of Chris Tannlund's link to "Tintern Abbey," in Message #730 above. This offers a collection of poems around the autumn theme, very appropriate to our current subject.

It's worth a visit.


October 3, 1998 - 06:01 am
This is great, love it. Love the Scotish poem, and of course, the Tintern Abbey, now if I could JUST stop wanting a garage!


Roslyn Stempel
October 6, 1998 - 05:51 am
I've been trying to refresh my memory about the formal structure of poetry. Much of what we have been reading is constructed along fairly formal lines, and even "Prufrock" has quite a bit of structure, as people noted when they found rhyming couplets, for example, strewn among the freer lines.

Of course this is not the be-all and end-all of appreciation, but as I've doing a bit of background reading I find that recalling some of these features enriches my enjoyment of even the pieces that appear to be totally random.

Can you recall the examples you memorized to help you recall the various meters of English poetry? I've been trying to bring them back to mind.

Iambic is easy to keep track of because it corresponds to the natural rhythms of English speech:
I THINK that I shall NEVer SEE
a POem LOVEly AS a TREE.

Trochaic reverses the stress pattern:

Anapestic, described in one manual as "the natural gait of a horse walking", or clip-clip-CLOP:
The AsSYRian came DOWN like a WOLF on the FOLD.
And his COhorts were GLEAMing in PURple and GOLD.

Dactylic, the manual tells me, comes from the Greek meaning "a finger with one long and two short joints":
THIS is the FORest priMEval; the MURmuring OAKS and the HEMlocks...

Do, please, search your memories. Did you have a set of models like this, either in high school or in a college literature course?

We've discussed informally the various ways that the poets use rhyme, rhythm, and the actual sounds of words. The current Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky recently published a wonderful little book, The Sounds of Poetry, that shows how we experience poetry through our speech-sense, whether reading silently or speaking it aloud.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
October 8, 1998 - 08:07 am

I usually avoid reading dialect, but the Dunbar poem was worth it.

Also thanks for the lesson in prosody. I always had trouble with it. Memorizing the rhymes will definitely help.


October 8, 1998 - 09:03 am
What's our next selection? Am ready to go, loved that last experience.


October 8, 1998 - 06:37 pm
Joaquin Miller (1837-1913)

Behind him lay the gray Azores,
Behind the Gates of Hercules;
Before him not the ghost of shores,
Before him only shoreless seas.
The good mate said: "Now we must pray,
For lo! the very stars are gone.
Brave Admiral, speak, what shall I say?"
"Why, say, 'Sail on! sail on! and on!' "

"My men grow mutinous day by day;
My men grow ghastly wan and weak."
The stout mate thought of home; a spray
Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.
"What shall I say, brave Admiral, say,
If we sight naught but seas at dawn?"
"Why, you shall say at break of day,
'Sail on! sail on! and on!' "

They sailed and sailed, as winds might blow,
Until at last the blanched mate said:
"Why, now not even God would know
Should I and all my men fall dead.
These very winds forget their way,
For God from these dead seas is gone.
Now speak, brave Admiral, speak and say" --
He said, "Sail on! sail on! and on!"

They sailed. They sailed. Then spake the mate:
"This mad sea shows his teeth tonight.
He curls his lip, he lies in wait,
With lifted teeth, as if to bite!
Brave Admiral, say but one good word:
What shall we do when hope is gone?"
The words leapt like a leaping sword:
"Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!"

Then pale and worn, he kept his deck,
And peered through darkness. Ah, that night
Of all dark nights! And then a speck --
A light! a light! at last a light!
It grew, a starlit flag unfurled!
It grew to be Time's burst of dawn.
He gained a world; he gave that world
Its grandest lesson: "On! sail on!"

Since Columbus Day is the 12th, this poem reminds us why the holiday. The first lines and the last seem especially memorable. Joaquin Miller settled in California and his poems were quite popular for a while. I once found an old book of his Songs of the Sierra with gilt-edged pages in an old book store, but it was $65.00 so I walked away.

Jackie Lynch
October 8, 1998 - 07:55 pm
That is what we can revere Columbus for, his daring voyage, not his "discovery". I got goose pimples reading thosel lines. They seem to be written to be, not read, but declaimed. Thrilling. Thank you.

October 9, 1998 - 01:19 am
Loma: wow, I haven't seen that in years! Thanks so much, it sure brought back memories, and so topical. Had forgotten Columbus Day was coming.

There used to be a book with this poem in it and many others which as a child I read over and over. I think, for some reason, the Reader's Digest put it out, but I sure did burn up the pages. Don't know what happened to it, maybe it was American Heritage's publication. Lots of patriotic and historic poems, most of which actually rhymed. Walt Whitman, (who didn't rhyme), etc., can almost see the book as I write.

Happy Memories.

Love the Dickenson in the heading, too. How topical. Gaining in appreciation of Dickenson daily.

Sail on!


Roslyn Stempel
October 9, 1998 - 04:40 am
Loma, thanks for reminding us of Joaquin Miller's poem. Did you ever have to memorize it, or parts of it? Columbus Day had some kind of special significance in Chicago, maybe because the city hosted the World's Columbian Exposition in 1892 and 1893. ( My mother's family arrived from Europe while the Expo was still on, and I have some genuine souvenirs, small varnished oak gimcracks, a needle book, a bank.) We used to get a whole day off from school.

Notice how the iambic tetrameter of Miller's verse makes it seem like ordinary speech, although the theme and the exciting refrain of "Sail on!" elevate it above the everyday.


October 9, 1998 - 10:51 am
Ros, thank you for giving us the background "hows" of the poems. I can see it after you bring it out; otherwise I just like a poem because it strums along for me.

Here is a clickable which may not last long. It is The Washington Post dated Sept. 20th. It is a pantoum which is the most unusual poetry form I have ever come across. The pantoum originated from a Malay song form in which the 2nd and 4th lines of the 4-line verses become the 1st and 3rd of the next verse.

This one is quite definitive of the Great Depression of the 1930s. It is by Donald Justice, "a brilliant craftsman" who according to the Post taught for many years at the Iowa Writers Workshop.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/books/features/19980920.htm">Pantoum of the Great Depression

Roslyn Stempel
October 9, 1998 - 11:54 am
Loma, many thanks for describing the pantoum and posting the link. I've printed out Justice's pantoum to save and savor. For those of us who lived through the Great Depression and felt its effects, it is indeed a haunting poem. The way the lines are interwoven, sometimes simply repeated and sometimes changed just a little, is truly, as Robert Hass suggests, "magical."

"No audience would ever know our story." I think that one sentence says so much about the difference between those times and today: suffering and keeping quiet about it instead of spilling everything. My mother used to repeat an old Yiddish folk-saying (I'm sure there's something like it in every culture) to the effect that when a bear walks in the forest and an acorn falls on his head, he growls and grumbles; but if the whole tree falls on him, he is silent.


October 9, 1998 - 03:46 pm
Isn't this fascinating? I learned something today, never heard of the pantoum and loved the poem. Also the folk saying about the bear.

Good stuff, I wonder how many other forms of poetry there are out there I've never heard of.


Roslyn Stempel
October 9, 1998 - 05:55 pm
Here's the first part of a Scottish ballad, "Tam Lin," which combines romance, danger, magic, fairyland, and a feisty girl (who can't or won't say no) into one lovely adventure. (Check out Ginny's explanation about ballads in the On-Line Book Club.) "Tam Lin" is good for October since it ends on Hallowe'en. Because it's told in 42 verses I think I'll post it in 3 or possibly 4 takes, depending on where the episodes break. Anyway, I'm enjoying the bouncy ballad rhythm (four iambic feet to the line) and the melodious rhymes as well as the suspenseful story:


'O I forbid you, maidens a'
That wear gowd on your hair,
To come or gae by Carterhaugh,
For young Tam Lin is there.


'For even about that knight's middle
O' siller bells are nine;
And nae maid comes to Carterhaugh
And a maid returns again.'


Fair Janet sat in her bonny bower,
Sewing her silken seam,
And wish'd to be in Carterhaugh
Amang the leaves sae green.


She's lat her seam fa' to her feet,
The needle to her tae,
And she's awa' to Carterhaugh
As fast as she could gae.

And she has kilted her green kirtle
A little abune her knee;
And she has braided her yellow hair A little abune her bree;
And she has gaen for Carterhaugh
As fast as she can hie.


She hadna pu'd a rose, a rose,
A rose but barely ane,
When up and started young Tam Lin;
Says, 'Ladye, let alane.

"What gars ye pu' the rose, Janet?
What gars ye break the tree?
What gars ye come to Carterhaugh
Without the leave o'me?'


"Weel may I pu' the rose,' she says,
'And ask no leave at thee;
For Carterhaugh it is my ain,
My daddy gave it me.'


He's ta'en her by the milk-white hand,
And by the grass-green sleeve,
He's led her to the fairy ground
At her he asked nae leave.


Janet has kilted her green kirtle
A little abune her knee,
And she has snooded her yellow hair
A little abune her bree,
And she is to her fauther's ha'
As fast as she can hie.

I think most of the Scottish words are self-explanatory, except for "abune" meaning above,"bree" meaning brow, and "gars" meaning compels or makes.

I guess one of the fascinations about ballads is that we read all kinds of character and emotional quality into just a few economical and well-placed words. I'm sure you can imagine just what happened between Fair Janet and the alluring Tam Lin when he took her milk-white hand and led her to the fairy-ground without asking her permission.

More next time.


October 10, 1998 - 05:42 am
Another thing about ballads is their memorability. If you take what happened here and condensed it into a few prose words, the story would soon either be lost or embellished all out of reason.

(Remember the old parlor game in which you whispered a sentence to the person next to you and by the time it got to the end of the line it was completely changed)? That's the way a ballad would be, I think, if it were not catchy and had a good tune.

I was surprised at the LYRICS to Lord Randal, which Charles printed in the Book Club Online, that's not the way I had remembered it.

I think some of the oral traditions took on lives of their own.

Now THIS one, I'm surprised anyone could remember? Maybe it's the dialect? Would be nice to follow up with The Lady of Shallot.

Thanks for bringing this one forward, Ros, had never heard of it.


What's the date on this one, Ros??


Rubynelle Thyne
October 11, 1998 - 08:49 am
Thanks for intro to "Tam Lin." Don't think I ever read it before, nor had my husband Scotty, born in Scotland. He recorded a few Scottish ballads appropriately for me, and beautifully read, when I was teaching. And you know what, this was the only tape ever "lifted" from my player between classes one day. I told Scotty this was really a compliment to him!

I love Dickenson too, her attitude and "prosody" or rather intentional lack of rules except her own.

More on prosody from Burns, this from "Stanzas on Naething"
The poet may jingle and rhyme,
In hopes of a laureate wreathing,
And when he has wasted his time,
He's kindly rewarded wi--naething.

and later:"The drowning a poet is--naething".

Burns surely didn't feel really that way!

Rubynelle Thyne
October 11, 1998 - 09:06 am
Rubynelle, again, with a neighbor over my shoulder, I agree, Ginny, about the "remembered" often being different from the original--if anybody ever knew that, and I'm sure lines and stanzas were invented when lines were not remembered! I collected six recorded versions of "Barbry Alllen" which bored my seniors greatly except for the fast bluegrass versions they wanted to square dance to!

I know the quoting of Burns came out wrong in form-I thought i had done it correctly indented per MLA!

Roslyn Stempel
October 11, 1998 - 11:18 am
Rubynelle, I'm so glad to see you posting again and happy that you're enjoying Tam Lin. You and Ginny are both right about the emendations that ballads undergo, because of their very nature. One book I've been enjoying, a 1958 Viking Book of Ballads from English Speaking Nations, gives three or four versions of many of the best-known ballads, and contains some helpful explanations of the origins and dispersion of the earliest ones.

And, Ginny, I've found a reference to the original "Frankie Silver" ballad, and the lyrics are printed in a book published by Duke University years ago. Also, I now have the ballad "Fair Margaret and Sweet William" which is cited in Cold Mountain in the chapter entitled "Bridebed Full of Blood." Again, there are several "Sweet Williams" and several other ballads in which a dream of a bloody bed is mentioned, but this is the one that corresponds exactly to the citation in the novel.

Well, here's the next segment of "Tam Lin":


But when she came to her father's ha'
She looked sae wan and pale,
They thought the lady had gotten a fright,
Or with sickness she did ail.


Four and twenty ladies fair
Were playing at the ba',
And out then came fair Janet
Ance the flower amang them a'.


Four and twenty ladies fair
Were playing at the chess,
And out then came fair Janet
As green as onie glass.


Out then spak' an auld grey knight
'Lay owre the Castle wa'
And says, 'Alas, fair Janet!'
For thee we'll be blamed a'.'

'Hauld your tongue, ye auld'faced knight,
Some ill death may ye die!
Father my bairn on whom I will,
I'll father nane on thee.


'O if my love were an earthly knight,
As he is an elfin gay,
I wadna gie my ain true-love
For nae laird that ye hae.


'The steed that my true-love rides on
Is fleeter nor the wind;
Wi' siller he is shod before,
Wi'burning gold behind.'


Out then spake her brither dear--
He meant to do her harm:
'There grows an herb in Carterhaugh
Will twine you and the bairn.'


Janet has kilted her green kirtle
A little abune her knee,
And she has snooded her yellow hair
A little abune her bree,
And she's awa' to Carterhaugh
As fast as she can hie.


She hadna pu'd a leaf, a leaf,
A leaf but only twae,
When up and started young Tam Lin,
Says 'Ladye, thou's pu' nae mae.


'How dar' ye pu' a leaf?' he says,
How dar' ye break the tree?
How dar' ye scathe my babe,' he says,
That's between you and me?'


'O tell me, tell me, Tam.' she says,
'For His sake that died on tree,
If ye were ever in holy chapel
Or sain'd in Christentie?'

Again, this part of the tale is quite clear. "Ance" means once, and "sain'd" means blessed or baptised.

This version is almost identical, my book says, to that collected by Robert Burns, but there are two or three other versions. I'll try to make time tomorrow to key in the remaining 22 verses and post them on the two following days. (After that I'll probably discover that the whole thing is on the net somewhere. Well, mustn't grumble, as I'm told they say in Minnesota.)


October 11, 1998 - 06:32 pm
Posting the ballad in segments makes it easier reading than seeing the whole thing in a book, it seems to me. I have heard that balladeers traveled from castle to castle, always sure of receiving hospitality in exchange for their stories. And that they retained them almost word perfect, thus the original story stayed intact. Oh dear, was this based on fact? -- Janet seems a headstrong girl!

Rubynelle, loved the lines from Burns you quoted. What a wry humor.

Roslyn Stempel
October 11, 1998 - 08:37 pm
Loma, I think "headstrong" is exactly the right word to apply to the fair and feisty Janet. But stay tuned, her courage stands her in good stead when the fairy folk come riding by.

All the books say that a true ballad must tell a story -- and isn't this a great story? It apparently dates from the 16th century. The last part is downright spooky, just right for Hallowe'en.


Roslyn Stempel
October 12, 1998 - 07:00 pm
In the next segment of this 16th-century ballad, Janet learns about Tam Lin's true origins and calls on her courage to help him. The word "teind" in stanza 26 means a forfeit, in this case a human sacrifice, and an "aske" in stanza 37 is a newt or lizard :


'The truth I'll tell to thee, Janet,
Ae word I winna lee;
A knight me got, and a lady me bore,
As well as they did thee.


'Roxburgh he was my grandfather,
Took me with him to bide;
And ance it fell upon a day,
As hunting I did ride.


'There came a wind out o' the north,
A sharp wind an' a snell,
A dead sleep it came over me
And frae my horse I fell;
And the Queen o'Fairies she took me
In yon green hill to dwell.


'And pleasant is the fairy land
For those that in it dwell,
But ay at end of seven years
They pay a teind' to hell;
I am sae fair and fu' of flesh
I'm fear'd twill be mysell.


'But the night is Hallowe'en, Janet,
The morn is Hallowday;
Then win me, win me, an ye will,
For weel I wat ye may.


'The night it is gude Hallowe'en,
The fairy folk to ride,
And they that wad their true-love win,
At Miles Cross they maun bide.'--


'But how should I you ken, Tam Lin,
How should I borrow you,
Amang a pack of uncouth knights
The like I never saw?'


'You'll do you down to Miles Cross
Between twel' hours and ane,
And fill your hands o' the holy water
And cast your compass roun'.


'The first company that passes by,
Say na, and let them gae;
The neist company that passes by,
Say na, and do right sae;
The third company that passes by,
Then I'll be ane o' thae.


'O first let pass the black, ladye,
And syne let pass the brown;
But quickly run to the milk-white steed,
Pu' ye his rider down.


'For some ride on the black, ladye,
And some ride on the brown;
But I ride on a milk-white steed,
A gowd star on my crown:
Because I was an earthly knight
They gie me that renown.


'My right hand will be gloved, ladye,
My left hand will be bare,
And thae's the tokens I gie thee:
Nae doubt I will be there.

'Ye'll tak' my horse then by the head
And let the bridle fa'
The Queen o' Elfin she'll cry out
"True Tam Lin he's awa'!"


'They'll turn me in your arms, ladye,
An aske but and a snake;
But hauld me fast, let me na gae,
To be your warldis make.


'They'll turn me in your arms, ladye,
But and a deer so wild;
But hauld me fast, let me na gae,
The father o' your child.


'They'll shape me in your arms, ladye,
A hot iron at the fire;
But hauld me fast, let me na go,
To be your heart's desire.


'They'll shape me last in your arms, Janet,
A mother-naked man;
Cast your green mantle over me,
And sae will I be won."

William Frost
October 13, 1998 - 03:21 pm

This is the last verse (28) of Burn's ballad, HALLOWEEN:

Wi' merry sangs an' friendly cracks,
I wat they did na weary;
An unco tales, an' funnie jokes-
Their sports were cheap an' cheery:
Till butter'd sow'ns, wi' fragrant lunt,
Set a' their gabs a-steerin;
Syne, wi' a social glass o' strunt,
They parted aff careerin
Fu' blythe that night.

This is a more modern poem on Halloween I wrote a few years ago.
Perhaps it too requires a bit of translating.
Don't try too hard, just enjoy opening your door to costumed children.


It was all too simple
The sun blushing, picking the teeth
Of a skyline erecting monolithic points
Gaping at two above the quarter-faced clock
Of the moon where a star hovers bright
No flag bearing a leaning, but wisely
A beckoning to the party.

There were those with masks
Hiding naked with the foreign clothed.
They cannot face the footlights
Where the audience exists, where applause
Lifts masks to the swing of the spots
Between true actors all
To portray reality.

She was quiet, mask on lap
High in slit black covering light
On white tights, tight.
Ruffle cuffs a theme, a wave between
Firm of body and unincorporate oval
Face frame haunt of eyes unmasked
Crown of wig, peppered with foreign sheen.

"I have no wand!" she said
And the chorus spun around her
Promising magic.

Roslyn Stempel
October 13, 1998 - 05:47 pm
William Frost, it's nice to see your name and your post here again. I thought of you when Chris Tannlund's message (See #730 above) came in about the online poetry collection Tintern Abbey. In an e-mail exchange he expressed interest in and respect for poetry by seniors. Perhaps you'd find the site interesting if you haven't already visited it.

Well, I found out that sowns is a dish made of oatmeal husks, and I assume that lunt and strunt are also edibles/potables. Otherwise the message of the Hallowe'en merriment is quite clear.

And thanks for your own joyous contribution, though I have to confess I wasn't sure about the time of day or night.

Best wishes.


Roslyn Stempel
October 15, 1998 - 04:49 am
Here's the last part of "Tam Lin." It seems to me that the excitement of the climax is enhanced by the repetition of certain lines adding a kind of galloping rhythm to the chase:


Janet has kilted her green kirtle
A little abune her knee,
And she has snooded her yellow hair
A little abune her bree,
And she is on to Miles Cross
As fast as she can hie.


About the dead hour o' the night
She heard the bridles ring;
And Janet was as glad at that
As any earthly thing.


And first gaed by the black, black steed,
And syne gaed by the brown;
But fast she gript the milk-white steed
And pu'd the rider down.

She's pu'd him frae the milk-white steed,
And loot the bridle fa',
And up there rase an eldritch cry,
"True Tam Lin he's awa'!"


They shaped him in her arms twa
An aske but and a snake;
But aye she grips and hau'ds him fast
To be her warldis make.


They shaped him in her arms twa
But and a deer sae wild;
But aye she grips and hau'ds him fast,
The father of her child.


They shaped him in her arms twa
A hot iron at the fire;
But aye she grips and hau'ds him fast
To be her heart's desire.


They shaped him in her arms at last
A mother-naked man;
She cast her mantle over him,
And sae her love she wan.


Up then spak' the Queen o' Fairies,
Out o' a bush o' broom,
'She that has borrow'd young Tam Lin
Has gotten a stately groom.'


Out then spak' the Queen o' Fairies,
And an angry woman was she,
'She's ta'en awa' the bonniest knight
In a' my companie!


'But what I ken this night, Tam Lin,
Gin I had kent yestreen,
I wad ta'en out thy heart o' flesh,
And put in a heart o' stane.


And adieu, Tam Lin! But gin I had kent
A ladye wad borrow'd thee,
I wad ta'en out thy twa grey e'en,
Put in twa e'en o' tree.


'And had I the wit yestreen, yestreen,
That I have coft this day,
I'd paid my teind seven times to hell
Ere you had been won away!'

[eldritch, eerie, unearthly; gin, if; kent, known; borrow'd, ransomed; yestreen, last night; coft, bought; wood, tree; teind, tithe]

There are several versions of this ballad with slight differences in the text. You'll have noticed that we never found out what Janet did with the holy water. In some versions she throws it on Tam Lin, washing away the fairy spell (though where she stowed it during this wild ride I have no idea).


October 15, 1998 - 07:35 pm
What an adventure that ballad is! Thanks, Ros.

October 16, 1998 - 07:50 am
I should have said thank you too to William Frost, for both verses. Bobby Burns Halloween certainly fits in with "the Scottish vernacular."

An interesting contrast in the two Scottish poems: Burns tells of a simple convivial gathering with songs, stories, and jokes. In Tam Lin Janet goes out in the dead of night to grab the knight and hold on even when he changes into a snake and a wild deer and a hot iron, and the frustrated Queen of Fairies (no sweet thing she!) angrily said she would have substituted a stone for his heart (and worse) had she known Janet would be coming to save him "the father of her child."

Roslyn Stempel
October 17, 1998 - 01:56 pm
Loma, you're right on the mark with your comment about Burns. Although he used much traditional material and incorporated many of the themes into his work, he wasn't dedicated to the telling of long and often sad or gruesome stories which characterized the traditional Scottish ballads. R. L. Mackie, editor of A Book of Scottish Verse, one of the sources I used, said of Burns:
"He never seeks to enter the twilight land of ghosts and fairies, beloved of the balladists....[H]e is not tormented by horror of the all-encompassing night. With these reservations, we may say that in Burns, Scottish vernacular verse reaches the perfection of which it is capable."

Another editor described Burns's interests as running more to "love songs and bawdy tales" than to ballads, though interestingly enough, the version of Tam Lin we've been looking at is the one Burns collected.


October 17, 1998 - 02:12 pm
Tell you what, this folder is a feast, isn't it? So many images and ideas, I love it, tho I have nothing to add, I've really enjoyed it.


Roslyn Stempel
October 19, 1998 - 11:52 am
I want to share an autumn poem that I consider one of the most piercingly beautiful works I know. It's full of prosodic tricks, which I hope to point out later; but first let me just post the poem itself, written in the latter half of the 19th century by a man who was an astonishing innovator:

To a Young Child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie.
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889),

You can see that it's about much more than the falling leaves.


October 19, 1998 - 04:09 pm
Spring and Fall is complex on two levels: its thought, and its word arrangements. All Hopkins' writing isn't like this, is it?

Meanwhile, here is another seasonal verse, this one quite literal:

Charles Turner (1808-79)

The hay has long been built into the stack
And now the grain; anon the hunter's moon
Shall wax and wane in cooler skies, and soon
Again re-orb'd, speed on her wonted track,
To spend her snowy light upon the rack
Of dark November, while her brother Sun
Shall get up later for his eight-hours' run
In that cold section of the Zodiac:
Far from the Lion, from the Virgin far!
Then onward through the last dim month shall go
The two great lights, to where the kalendar
Splits the mid-winter; and the feathery snow
Ushering another spring, with falling flakes
Shall nurse the soil for next year's scythes and rakes.

Charles was an older brother of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and I'm not sure if his last name was Turner or Tennyson; he is in the Oxford Companion to English Literature under Tennyson. He published some volumes of sonnets.

The Harvest Moon is generally considered to be the one in September -- the first full moon nearest the autumnal equinox, and the Harvest Moon in October. I assume the "two great lights" are the cold winter sun and moon.

Roslyn Stempel
October 20, 1998 - 06:26 am
Loma, that poem has a fine musical rhythm and, as you suggest, is quite graphic in its depiction of the seasonal rhythm that carries us from autumn through winter and to the first hint of spring. In structure and underlying thought I believe it represents everything that's charming about Victorian verse.

To the best of my knowledge, everything of Hopkins that was published, even the well-rhymed pieces, reflects his innovative progress toward free verse. He is best known for the introduction of "sprung rhythm," by which he meant that the lines should be heard as normal speech even though they conformed to conventional syllable-count. He accomplished this by putting accent-marks on the words that would normally be stressed in speech. I can't reproduce the accent marks so I'll demonstrate with capitalized syllables instead:

To a Young Child

MARgaRET, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
LEAVES like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
AH! AS the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie.
And yet you WILL weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
SORrow's SPRINGS ARE the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It IS the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

This poem never fails to move me deeply. I could write a long paragraph about every line in it. The compressed imagery, the amazing use of alliteration, the mysterious, possibly invented words like "wanwood" and "leafmeal" and "unleaving" -- wonderful! And the last two lines are amazing in their depth of understanding.


Roslyn Stempel
October 21, 1998 - 06:30 am
I want to post a bit of verse that I think might speak to all of us. It dates from somewhere between 1910 and 1919, and I found it in a small 1919 volume, The Book of Modern British Verse, edited by William Braithwaite. Not unexpectedly, most of the poems in the book are related to World War I, but there are several that address what later came to be called "women's issues." Please share your reactions. It's rather conventionally constructed, isn't it? But do you think Anna Wickham speaks truth?


Strict I walk my ordered way
Through the strait and duteous day:
The hours are nuns that summon me
To offices of huswifry,
Cups and cupboards, flagons, food
Are things of my solicitude;
No elfin folly haply strays
Down my precise and well-swept ways.

When that compassionate lady Night
Shuts out a prison from my sight,
With other thrift I turn a key
Of the old chest of Memory.
And in my spacious dreams unfold
A flimsy stuff of green and gold,
And walk and wander in the dress
Of old delights, and tenderness.

--Anna Wickham

I don't think she was alone in regarding her monotonous daily routine as a prison from which she longed to escape -- Even in these more liberated times, the things that must be done, the inescapable "dailiness" can make us appreciate whatever escapes we can find, whether in dreams, travel, books, or just a change of scene.

I'll be offline from the 22nd until the 27th. I hope someone will keep the light on in the Poetry folder.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
October 23, 1998 - 06:16 am

I enjoyed your poem from the early 20th century. There was little awareness of women's problems then. It was well written in the tradition of Alexander Pope. Glad that its worth was recognized so that it remained for us to enjoy.


October 23, 1998 - 06:23 am
Yes, that's a good one, exactly the way I feel about reading. Can sit down and, not with "thrift" but with a thrill open a book and be swept away. It's interesting, too, in that, as Charlotte says, I wasn't aware that there was much of that type of thought then.

Of course there would be, though! I do believe people are the same, no matter when they lived. I don't subscribe to some of the theories that the Romans must have been aliens from outer space, so advanced was their culture and achievements! Anything we can't understand we relegate to outer space, when, in fact, the Greeks had shown remarkable advances for the time.

Perhaps they just flourished in each other's company: the best feeding off the best, and creativity abounding. Kind of how I feel about our books sections, where we, who normally sit in the corner with a book, can find kindred souls to chat with. It's really great.

There are probably very few of us who can't understand this poem, from whatever "prison" we'd care to list. Some people don't mind doing the same thing physically over and over, and it's murder to some, but I think ALL need an escape.

Enough rambling, what are your thoughts? We'll surprise our Ros when she gets back from her trip.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
October 24, 1998 - 05:43 am

You must be very young to have escaped life as it was before the women's movement. I was a fifties housewife who was finally liberated by Beauvoir's The Second Sex. I didn't wait for Betty Friedan to bring her ideas to the women of this country.

Remember that women's writing was so ignored that they had to take men's names in order to get attention and to be published. Remember George Sand whose real name was Mary Ann Evans and George Eliot, though I cannot at the present time recall her real name.

I started college just before the women's movement began, tried to do research on the history of women's suffrage. The libraries had very little. What they had was ancient and falling apart.

Glad to hear that they have reinstalled the memorial to the ladies from Seneca Falls in the Capital building in Washington. Only, I wonder why they didn't show them when they were younger and a little more attractive. Probably it was because they were too burdened with womanly responsibilities and couldn't do very much till retirement.


October 25, 1998 - 08:49 am
Charlotte, I think I was thinking of the prisons people erect for themselves, in their minds? Can't remember who said , "Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage."

I do agree that the world hasn't recognized women very much or favorably when it has. Astute remark you had on the appearance of the women portrayed.

I was mostly thinking of the way we tend to look at things, and the mind prisons lots of us live in today. The walls, maybe, which we erect for whatever reasons, and maintain.


October 25, 1998 - 09:49 am
Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for a hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above
Enjoy such liberty.

by Richard Lovelace (1618-1658)
from Lucasta (1649) To Althea: From Prison

October 25, 1998 - 02:07 pm
LOMA!! Fabulous, thanks so much, I didn't have it in my books of quotations. What do lines 3 and 4 mean, everybody?


October 25, 1998 - 02:32 pm
Ginny, I would guess the 3rd and 4th lines expand on the thought behind lines 1 and 2. Even though he is in jail, since he is not beleaguered by guilt, he can retreat in his mind, just like the hermits (who sought quiet and comtemplation away from the crowd). Line 5 might indicate that he needs the anchor of Lycastra's love, or perhaps the anchor being his love and thoughts of her.

October 26, 1998 - 01:50 pm
I looked up "hermitage" and found it to be a "secluded retreat," or "place where a hermit lives." Then I looked up "hermit," and found "one who lives alone in a secluded spot: recluse."

So he's saying that an "innocent" mind and a "quiet" mind? What's a quiet mind? take that for a hermitage?

I think you're right, Loma, and is he saying here he's innocent? I see he's in prison. How fascinating, how much a poet can say in just a few words.

Now, on that "if I have freedom in my love," is he ASKING here? Where do you get the anchor part?

I must go look back at your Depression Poem without delay, Ros had cited it in the Frankie Silver discussion.

I love looking at poetry, and note that Frances Mayes in her book Under The Tuscan Sun makes references to speaking poetry while walking. An interesting book.


October 26, 1998 - 02:26 pm
I think the old hermits chose to be by themselves and their thoughts, choosing to live simply in a small hut or even a cave. The poet is chosing to be like that so that the prison will not be so hard on his spirit. And the focus of his thoughts is Lycastra, his anchor or mantra. I don't know the whole poem, but would guess he is not "asking" but just that his love for her (or her love for him, or both) is his focus/anchor/mantra. And thus he has freedom -- of a sort anyway -- rather than the totally frustrating and demeaning feeling of being jailed. This is how I see it.

Now the poem "The Mummer", that is harder for me to respond to because I have too many thoughts and they seem too complicated, same way with "The Ballod of Frankie Silver."

October 27, 1998 - 12:06 pm
Ginny, I just happened to think about "iron bars do not a prison make." I see it that the writer WAS in prison, but refused to have his spirit imprisoned. Maybe you see it that the writer's prison was MENTAL, that it did not take the physical iron bars to make a prison for that person? Sort of like Ann Wickham's The Mummer? Here are two passages which seem to indicate something to that last effect:

We are, each of us, our own prisoner. We are locked up in our own story.
~ Maxine Kumin

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950), 1921
1st verse

Ah, could I lay me down in this long grass
And close my eyes, and let the quite wind
Blow over me--I am so tired, so tired
Of passing pleasant places! All my life,
Following Care along the dusty road,
Have I looked back at loveliness and sighed;
Yet at my hand an unrelenting hand
Tugged ever, as I passed. All my life long
Over my shoulder have I looked at peace;
And now I would fain lie in this long grass
And close my eyes.

October 27, 1998 - 12:54 pm
Loma, boy I love that St. Vincent Millay one! Wow!~! Have just come in from a 3 mile walk in the gorgeous autumn here and noticing things I'd not noticed much or appreciated and then there's the Edna St. Vincent Millay....and something new to think about.

No, I thought he WAS in prison and was thinking that he was saying that it's not the physical things which make a prison for us, just as you said, it's the mental things and he can be free if....he has her love. Then you said something that got me started thinking that maybe he was protesting his innocence, anyway, I love to thrash about in a poem and get what I can out of it. Of course, there's usually a background info explanation, too.

Now, that St. Vincent Millay is just to the theme of Under The Tuscan Sun, I love it!!

October 27, 1998 - 12:55 pm
Oh, and the Kumin, too, locked up in our own stories, a prisoner of our own stories. Where DO you find these?


Roslyn Stempel
October 27, 1998 - 06:14 pm
Loma and Ginny, Lovelace was actually in prison when he wrote the poem addressed to Althea. (Poets traditionally used Latin names when apostrophizing their ladies, real or imaginary. Lucasta was said to be a real person, either Lucy Somebody or Somebody Lucas, to whom he was betrothed but who married another man when she discovered he was languishing in a foreign jail.)

Here are his two best-known poems:


Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
To war and arms I fly.

True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.

Yet this inconstancy is such
That thou too shalt adore;
I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
Loved I not honour more.


When love with unconfined wings
Hovers within my gates,
And my divine Althea brings
To whisper at the grates;

When I lie tangled in her hair
And fetter'd to her eye,
The Gods that wanton in the air
Know no such liberty.

When flowing cups run swiftly round
With no allaying Thames,
Our careless heads with roses bound,
Our hearts with loyal flames;

When thirsty grief in wine we steep,
When healths and draughts go free--
Fishes that tipple in the deep
Know no such liberty.

When, like commited linnets, I
With shriller throat shall sing
The sweetness, mercy, majesty,
And glories of my King;
When I shall voice aloud how good
He is, how great should be,
Enlarged winds, that curl the flood,
Know no such liberty.

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;

If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.

Richard Lovelace (1615-1658) was one of a group sometimes called the "Cavalier Poets," who were young, generally wealthy, and identified with the Royalist cause in the days of British king Charles I, before that profligate and unfortunate monarch lost his throne and his head to the Puritan followers of Oliver Cromwell. (You'll recall that their opponents eschewed the lacy collars and flowing curly locks the Cavaliers affected, adopting instead plain stiff collars and a very close haircut; hence the name "Roundheads."

It was Lovelace's Royalist political efforts that landed him in prison more than once. His royalist sympathies are expressed in "Althea." He also went to France as a kind of mercenary - hence the significance of "Going to the Wars."

The poetry of Lovelace is characterized by conceits -- that is, extended metaphors, often seemingly paradoxical, with images that go on for several lines, the significance of which is finally revealed at the end. In "Althea" we can find several fanciful descriptions of being bound and yet free. In "Lucasta" his images are almost oxymorons - contrasting terms suggesting unfaithfulness which is actually constancy. The stanzas oftenest quoted from these poems are removed from the rather sensual content, perhaps to make them seem loftier.

Some exquisite examples of the extended metaphor can be found in the religious poems of George Herbert (1593-1633),. for example "The Collar," "The Pulley," and "Virtue."


October 27, 1998 - 06:20 pm
Have you noticed that often when your awareness has been expanded, as in these discussions, that it is not unusual to come across something that very same day or the next, that ties in with it? The Library Nook had a posting in it today about The Story Circle Network and the Maxine Kumin quote you asked about, Ginny, just popped out of its web page.

October 28, 1998 - 04:04 am
Hey hey, oxymorons and conceits, I'd say we're, if I may say so without being a bit conceited hahahahahah, on a roll.

Yes, Loma, increased consciousness, love it!

Ros, welcome back, love the backgrounds, love the discussion.

Dip of spring water this morning.


October 28, 1998 - 04:05 am
Hey hey, oxymorons and conceits, I'd say we're, if I may say so without being a bit conceited hahahahahah, on a roll.

Yes, Loma, increased consciousness, love it!

Ros, welcome back, love the backgrounds, love the discussion.

Like a dip of spring water this morning.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
October 28, 1998 - 01:55 pm

Thanks for the Lovelace poem. It is indeed a work of art. I always wondered where that famous quote came from, although I deplore its glorification of war. Those 16th century poets (am I right about the era?} had lots of money and time to induilge in exquisite poetry.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
October 28, 1998 - 03:01 pm

HaHaHa. I tracked down your comment on Maxine Kumin and found the Story Circle by going to the clickable. What fun! I'm a writer and am always on the lookout for new opportunities. Don't know if I'll join them, but I requested more info.


Roslyn Stempel
October 28, 1998 - 04:56 pm
Before I lose track of it, here's the third verse of Millay's "Journey." I'll skip the second because it's more of the same, typical of that period of Millay's writing:

Yet, ah, my path is sweet on either side
All through the dragging day, -- sharp underfoot
And hot, and like dead mist the dry dust hangs--
But far, oh, far as passionate eye can reach,
And long, ah, long as rapturous eye can cling
The world is mine: blue hill, still silver lake,
Broad field, bright flower, and the long white road;
A gateless garden, and an open path;
My feet to follow, and my heart to hold.

Reminds you of your teen years, doesn't it? How about that "far, oh far" and "long, ah, long"? I used two of her sonnets with 9th grade students: Not in a Silver Casket Cool with Pearls, and Sweet Love, Sweet Thorn. I like them both; the second one is clearly based on Elizabethan love poetry, not totally without success. I'm tempted to post them to get your reactions.


Jeanne Lee
October 28, 1998 - 05:10 pm
Just so everyone knows ahead of time: Marcie's Message

October 29, 1998 - 04:08 am
Ah, our Ros is back, and in fine form! Which era of poetry was it that they "died for love?" Pining away literally? Was that some kind of national hysteria or something?

Or international??

Charlotte!! I didn't know you were a writer! Did you see our Author's Corner? That's for published authors, look it over!

I wish I could write, actually we DO write here, don't we? I used to think I had a lot to say, but find all the pearls of great wisdom I HAD seem to have sloughed off somewhere and nothing's left but a few "wows" and "gee whizzes." Yet, I'm enjoying YOUR good ideas, anyway.


Roslyn Stempel
October 29, 1998 - 04:19 am
Here's one of the religious poems of George Herbert (1593-1633) , in which he uses metaphors such as comparing life to a road and disappointing achievement to a failed harvest:

1     I struck the board, and cried, "No more!
2         I will abroad.
3     What! shall I ever sigh and pine?
4     My lines and life are free; free as the road,
5         Loose as the wind, as large as store.
6             Shall I be still in suit?
7         Have I no harvest but a thorn
8         To let me blood, and not restore
9     What I have lost with cordial fruit?
10               Sure there was wine
11       Before my sighs did dry it; there was corn
12           Before my tears did drown it.
13       Is the year only lost to me?
14           Have I no bays to crown it?
15   No flowers, no garlands gay? all blasted?
16               All wasted?
17       Not so, my heart; but there is fruit,
18               And thou hast hands.
19           Recover all thy sigh-blown age
20   On double pleasures; leave thy cold dispute
21   Of what is fit and not; forsake thy cage,
22               Thy rope of sands,
23   Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee
24       Good cable, to enforce and draw,
25               And be thy law,
26       While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
27               Away! take heed;
28               I will abroad.
29   Call in thy death's-head there; tie up thy fears;
30               He that forbears
31           To suit and serve his need
32               Deserves his load."
33   But as I rav'd, and grew more fierce and wild
34               At every word,
35       Me thought I heard one calling, "Child";
36               And I replied, "My Lord."

Herbert, whose poetry was almost entirely a reflection of his profound religious beliefs, here appears to be representing himself (or the "I" of the poem) as wearying of his restricted and melancholy life and trying to free himself from the habits of obedience, but in the end being inexorably drawn back to God. "The Collar" of the title might be seen as the bond that keeps him connected to his faith. I don't know if he was an ascetic, though some of the imagery of self-denial and repression suggests that.

The word "suit" in lines 6 and 31 has the archaic meaning of pursuit, seeking, wooing.

Herbert died at 40, not so young an age for that time, but still young. Any comments?


October 29, 1998 - 04:42 am
Suit? Line 6?? Another cage, I see!! Love that rope of sand, want to think on this one a bit?

Is this like the "thread" in Brideshead Revisited which Father Brown talked about letting people go on, but which draws them back in the end?


Charlotte J. Snitzer
October 29, 1998 - 05:06 am

Of course we're all writers. All we have to do is remember to write our ideas down before they disappear.

I thank my mother who insisted that if I wanted to be a writer, I should learn to type. That certainly makes it easier on the computer except when I run into tech. trouble. And I thank Milt who is so interested in learning everything about how the machine works that he immediately drops whatever he's doing to come to my aid.


Roslyn Stempel
October 29, 1998 - 07:31 am
Charlotte, you asked about Lovelace's dates: 1618-1658, another example of the shorter life-span in those centuries. (I understand he died poor and neglected too.) Apropos of your comment about the glorification of war, I've found myself doing considerable censoring as I've looked for appropriate selections for this discussion. And I think this is why many of these tags of poetry that are familiar to us have been lifted out of some otherwise embarrassing context. Well, isn't there some fanciful trope about diamonds in a dust-heap or something like that?

I hope you'll have time to join the discussion about "Mending Wall" one of Frost's most familiar. (It's not my absolute favorite but it will give me a chance to post that.)


Roslyn Stempel
October 29, 1998 - 07:48 am
Ginny, thanks for the line-number correction. Yes, this is a poem that invites plenty of thinking. "Rope of sands" is an interesting image, perhaps suggesting that to the misguided soul, unworthy materials can be mistaken for genuine ones. I liked "no harvest but a thorn," and the two lines that follow, the sighs drying the wine, the tears drowning the "corn," meaning grain in general. Those two short three-beat phrases, "All blasted? All wasted?" are marvelous.

John Dewey had a memorable definition: God is the force that draws men toward the good. (Again I'm taking it out of context.) Centuries earlier, Herbert used the metaphor of the individual being drawn toward the good in this and in another poem, "The Pulley," which I want to post next.


October 29, 1998 - 08:02 am
Waaaaaaa, snif? I need some help?? Youngest son moving from home, setting out on own. Somewhere in The Wall Street Journal I read about some poem from Ralph Waldo Emerson? Something about being true to yourself no matter what money you make, etc. Thought I'd do a card with said poem within? As a going away present?

Does anybody know what poem this might be?

Sorry to interrupt fabulous discussion, want to go think a bit more on the no harvest but a thorn.

Bibical implications?


October 29, 1998 - 06:25 pm
Ginny, this is not Emerson, but it carries the "to thine own self be true" theme. It is from Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act 1, scene iii, in which Lord Polonius is bidding Laertes farewell. To put in its context of the action you'd probably have to have all the preceding scene iii, and then before it scenes i and ii, but these are the words of advice and contain the subject of "to thine own self be true." It would be nice to type spaces between the sentences/thoughts for quicker understanding, but I've never seen Shakespeare do that; and actors often seem to say a whole big tract in one breath.

. . . My blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Roslyn Stempel
October 30, 1998 - 05:17 am
Here is the text of "Mending Wall" in the block format in which Frost originally published it in 1921. If you look at the literal content first, what is he saying about the task and the circumstances?

Mending Wall

by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen ground swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs.
The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending time, we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go beyond his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Charlotte J. Snitzer
October 30, 1998 - 05:30 am

I love this site and appreciate all the work you've been doing. Of course I'll keep coming!!!


I know exactly how you feel. We have three kids and had to let them all go to follow their bliss. They are all 500 to 3000miles away. We keep in touch by E-mail, phone and visits about twice a year. We get to see them, but unfortunately they don't get to see each other often. Now there are 5 grandchildren, school and summer activities also limit them.


Thanks for the opportunity to read Polonius' speech again. I always thought it was a wonderful, powerful speech. Too bad everyone else in the play thought of him as a foolish old man. But that was probably because people didn't live so long then. They were really ancient at 50 and they didn't have the respect that Asians have for their elders.


October 30, 1998 - 05:58 am
Loma, thanks so much, I knew somebody would come thru here!

Charlotte, the strange thing is, I FEEL 20, and he LOOKS 5, and it's just a wrenching thing, tho....I don't know. I'm in a miasma. Went to visit Mother Sunday again, and she wanted to get out a bit for a ride, just, tho, for a LITTLE bit. So we went to Cleveland Park and parked under the trees and watched the children on the swings and the dogs, etc. And all I could think of was that this was the very spot where I used to pick up my oldest son when he was 4 at lunch time after his pre-school and take him down for a picnic and try to teach him the seasons: Fall: See the leaves are falling? .... Seems like a wheel turning around...am not sure I like getting older. I guess it beats the alternative, but I want more.

Roslyn, did you want the Mending Wall in the heading? It's actually one of my favorite poems.


Roslyn Stempel
October 30, 1998 - 06:55 pm
The curious thing is, Ginny, that as a mother stands on the shore and watches her child sailing away, it is she, not the departing youth, who dwindles. We become smaller.

Add a quarter of a century and imagine seeing a well-dressed middle-aged stranger with an expensive haircut get out of his car and come to hug you. The arms feel familiar but who is this man with the important job, the busy life, the thousand responsibilities that your chicken soup or chocolate chip cookies, your folk-songs or your private jokes can no longer soothe or divert? We become smaller.

After my father-in-law's stroke in 1969, when we went to see him in the hospital, he looked at Ed and said, "You used to be my son." And to me, "You used to be my daughter-in-law." Now we understand exactly what he meant.


October 30, 1998 - 07:43 pm
Oh my, Ros and Ginny, what chords you strike! We too have three kids, all with young families, and they all live far from us.

Mending Wall was one of the poems we had in school. (For some reason even though I had some English Literature I never had Shakespeare.) What our teacher tried to get us to think about was what was "Something there is that does not like a wall" -- the forces of nature/weather, and "Good fences make good neighbors" -- the mindset of some people. Sometimes you see different things on the computer screen than you do from the pages of a book, and now I also notice the physical properties of making the wall -- a dry wall, that is, one without mortar. The stones had to be well balanced and placed so both sides of the wall would hold together. Evidently, if the stones didn't fall right away, they would hold up and be adequate to fence in cattle, but still were subject to winters and to hunters bent on digging out rabbits. Frost certainly could take simple specific rural things and yet there was a broader scope. Thanks, Ros, for posting the poem and the commentary.

October 31, 1998 - 05:03 am
I love Mending Wall, and always have. I love Frost's spare words in which he paints a picture of a seemingly simple thing but gets right to the point: Something there is that doesn't love a wall.

Notice he doesn't start out with "there's this wall?" How are we going to take this? In sections??

I went back to post 791 and printed it out again, what do you mean, Ros, in block format like Frost liked??

No spaces??

What could he have meant by that?

Mending Wall

by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen ground swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs.
The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending time, we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go beyond his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Even in the first four lines we've definitely got the vision of "something" shrugging its back (don't they call this "heave?" What do they call the spring freeze that swells up the earth in New England? We don't have it here in SC).

Anyway, here:

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen ground swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

Frost starts out with a bang, with the image, anthropormorpic? (sp) of something sensate which rejects the very idea of a wall at all and attempts to shrug its huge shoulders and throw it off.

We've lived here on our farm 18 years and you do a lot of nature watching in that time, I've often marveled at the land's attempts to take back and over come and over grow our pitiful attempts at controlling the environment.

Sometimes riding down the interstate you can see an old frontage road which has been abandoned, and how the earth has tried to and usually succeeded in taking it back. I've often wondered if nature will succeed ultimately, in thowing off everything we lay on it's back.

Those dry stone walls are an art. The Romans perfected the dry stone placement, and many of theirs still stand, but they built deep foundations first.

Here in New England, I expect the stones came from land which was plowed and the stones piled up at the end of the field and made into a wall just to get rid of them.

They must have some frosts in that area of the country: where WAS Frost from, anyway, to make gaps even two can pass abreast!

Roslyn, that was absolutely poetic: shrinking. I wish you'd post that in that study on Gerontology they are doing on the Round Tables!


Roslyn Stempel
October 31, 1998 - 06:11 am
Loma, I think you're right about getting a different angle on the poem when we are staring at it on the screen. (I'll mention a specific point later.) Your English teacher gave you a good background for appreciating "Mending Wall," explaining the intricacies of construction. How ingenious humans have been in making use of what Nature offers even when the offering at first appears to be an obstacle!

Ginny, thanks for sharing your personal experience with the caprices of what we can't resist anthropomorphizing and calling Nature with a capital N. Even in a city garden we add sand to clay or loam to sand, water the desert, throw chemicals at barren soil in order to defy the existing conditions. I wonder if Frost was teasing us with the idea that maybe we'd be better off leaving some things alone.

Frost was economical with words. It's early to introduce a mechanical aspect of the poem, but I noticed as I read it that the vocabulary of the poem is smaller than the total number of words on the page. He uses straight repetition as well as putting the same words in a different order.


Jo Meander
October 31, 1998 - 11:04 am
0000H WHAT A NICE PLACE! I'll be back!

William Frost
October 31, 1998 - 07:58 pm
British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes died of cancer October 28. His tumultuous 7-year marriage to troubled American poet Sylvia Path generated much controversy but it inspired much of his best writing. Many Plath fans blamed Hughes for her suicide although she had tried to kill herself three years before she ever met him.

It seems to me that a lot of Hughes’ work resulted from forms of assignment as distinct from spontaneous inspiration. Perhaps this is why he was chosen to be Poet Laureate to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Among many assignments, he was directed to write a poem marking Princess Diana’s funeral. Let us share it now.

6 September 1997

Mankind is many rivers
That only want to run.
Holy Tragedy and Loss
Make the many One.
Mankind is a Holy, crowned
Mother and her Son,
For worship, for mourning
God is Love, is gone.
Love is broken on the Cross
The Flower on the Gun.

It took 18 months to kill Ted Hughes. His last book of poems, “Birthday Letters” was published at the beginning of this year and became a best seller. I cannot see Hughes as a free poet which makes him kind of special.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
November 1, 1998 - 04:37 am
William Frost: Hi

Sylvia Plath had men mental problems from the time she was young girl in Winthrop, Mass. She also had terrible problems with her mother. All of these things became exacerbated when she was no longer the icon which Mademoiselle Magazine made her. She was an excellent poet who found anonymity and ordinary life burdensome. This reaction often occurs in people who have been made into icons. It sometime results in suicide.

Princess Diana was also an icon. She tried to use her public image for good causes like banning weapons, but she was an unhappy woman who tried to drown her troubles in drink and excess in spending for clothing.

Hughes ' poem indeed sounds like it was written on an order from the Queen. It could have been about anyone.


Roslyn Stempel
November 1, 1998 - 07:53 am
William Frost, welcome back. I can't think of any better adjective than "assigned" to describe Hughes's tribute to Diana, since "mediocre" doesn't quite fill the bill. I must admit that "Birthday Letters" left me indifferent and I didn't finish reading it. Reading his obituary saddened me. I have no way of understanding what their relationship was, but-- absent serious abuse -- I've never thought it wholly fair to burden one half of a failed union for the suicide of the other half. Being too old to regard Plath as an icon, I dutifully read her poems, liked some of them, found others just tiresome harping.

Charlotte, your comments rang a bell with me. As you pointed out, Plath's troubles antedated her marriage. I've wondered from time to time, learning just a bit about British (including Welsh) expectations of the woman in the home, whether her feeling of confinement was stronger there than it might have been in the U.S. But was there ever a woman, stuck in the kitchen with two demanding babies, who never stared hopelessly at a messy house, wrung her hands and wept instead of getting dinner, let the laundry pile up, and dreamed of freedom? If there was, I wonder what price she and her spouse paid for that miraculous feat of total coping.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
November 2, 1998 - 11:38 am

Regarding woman's place in society: I heard a fascinating interview with Frank Stasio over NPR on Sunday and then got a repeat on NPR's Website. It was about a book called "The Alphabet Versus The Goddess" by Leonard Shlain, a surgeon who is chief of his department in laproscopic surgery. He claimed that our patriarchial society began with invention of the alphabet. And that there is something anti-female in the written word that attracts men who traffic in ethereal abstractions. He further says that this attitude began with the Hebrew patriarchs and also with Buddha, Confuscious, Marx and Hitler, although he admits Hitler was no patriarch. Buit as literacy spread, so did patriarchy.

Shlain maintains that literacy is based in the left side of the brain which is predominantly male and results in the way men view things: abstractly, linearly, sequentially, etc. and is responsible for math. and map reading ability. The right side of the brain is predominantly female and is based on images, art, nurture and caring. He says that our present society is now image- based due to the arrival of the photograph, TV, The computer, etc. and that most of the information we receive today is based on images.Man is now getting in touch with his female side. Shlain feels we are moving into a new golden age when we will experience a golden age of right brain values emphasizing tolerance, caring and respect for nature. Interesting and hopeful idea itsn't it?


Charlotte J. Snitzer
November 2, 1998 - 12:28 pm
About Mending Wall:

I have seen many of these walls in New England. They are made without cement and are balanced, one stone on top of another. They are hard to keep in place, that's why the poet and his neighbor meet to replace them. He has a sense of humor and questions why they need this wall when there are no animals to contain. "My apple trees will not eat your pine cones." But the neighbor only repeats "good fences make good neighbors."

The poet persists. "Why is that?" he says. "Isn't it for cows? Here there are no cows. " Before I built a wall he thinks, I want to know what I was keeping in and what I was keeping out. He would like to achieve some understanding with his neighbor, but the man is insensitive and adamant as an old stone savage.

It reminds me of a poem I wrote which I think is funny rather than tragic:


A fire engine was there beside the ambulance
when they came in
the neighbors who never visited.
Vivian, Bruno, Irene and April from next door.
There we lay, side by side
flat on our backs in our king-size bed.
Milt with vertigo
Me with a fractured hip
----------------------------------------------------- ( No tears please. This happened two years ago. We are now fully recovered.)


Roslyn Stempel
November 2, 1998 - 05:36 pm
Charlotte, Ginny had previously questioned Frost's reference to "elves" as a possible cause of the repeated collapse of the wall. Do you think he might have been playfully pondering the difficulty of maintaining man-made structures in the face of natural forces such as the heaving of frozen ground? As you pointed out, this kind of stone wall had no cement to hold it in place, so it almost represented a defiance of natural law.

There's an interesting example of the way we learn to understand something that's implied but not stated: Maybe it's an example of metonymy, or is it synecdoche? Frost says, "He is all pine and I am apple orchard," and of course he refers to the plantings and not the people. And when he describes his neighbor as "an old stone savage," I see a stone-age man, not a man made of stone.

Frost seems to be questioning his neighbor's fear of abandoning tradition as much as he questions his view of fences.

This poem, like others of Frost's, has been appropriated to suit many points of view - One-World inclusiveness, "not walling out," as well as a strong national defense, "Good fences make good neighbors." In fact, much of Robert Frost's work can be subjected to this kind of as-you-like-it interpretation. In any case, he remains wonderfully accessible.

Have you some Frost favorites? "I'm going out to clean the pasture spring" became a household word in our family, at least the "You come too". I used "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" many times in school. The children were delighted when they had memorized it and could recite it and make soapsuds pictures on dark blue construction paper. "Choose Something Like a Star" has always been meaningful to me, as have "Fire and Ice," "Acquainted with the Night" and "Neither Out Far nor in Deep."

You didn't say whether your formerly aloof neighbors retreated or became friendly, or did it no longer matter?


Charlotte J. Snitzer
November 3, 1998 - 05:58 am

I am totally embarassed. Left out an important line in my own poem. Didn't remember it till I was in the shower. It should have read:

"There we lay, side by side
flat on our backs in our king-size bed
incapable of welcome."

Without the line "incapable of welcome" the poem doesn't convey its meaning. ---------------------- Visitors

A fire engine was there beside the ambulance
when they came in
the neighbors who never visited
Vivian, Bruno, Irene and April from next door.
There we lay side by side
incapable of welcome
Milt with vertigo
me with a fractured hip.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
November 3, 1998 - 06:36 am

You are right that the wall is in defiance of natural laws.

"He is all pine and I am all orchard" is called personification. I had to look it up. It slipped my mind too.

We once took an intensive Elderhostel workshop on Frost, I think it was in Poulteny, Vermont. We saw films, heard recordings, and learned that his reverence for his work superseded his support of his family, often in trying times. I can still see him standing in the wind at the Kennedy inauguration trying to read the poem he'd written for the occasion.

I don't think he made much money from his work, but that is the choice artists and writers sometimes have to make to live the creative life.

I enjoy his references to the ordinary things in country life he must participate in as I enjoy W.H. Auden's, perhaps more bitter accounts of life in the city.


Jackie Lynch
November 3, 1998 - 06:56 am
Something in Frost gives me the sense of hidden laughter, not quite bubbling out. His "something" is not named, but we know, after reading the entire poem, that he, also, doesn't like a wall. To me, his "stone" neighbor is not so much a savage as a man who is constricted by stone he has selected to hide within, and proudly. Fulfilling expectations whitout any thought as to their consequences or their long ago stimulus. Resisting vehemently the forces of reason, blindly holding on to the status quo. Yet, the humor bubbles along underneath. "I" know better than he, "I" have choices to make in maintaining this wall which he doesn't even see are possible.

Frost's economy with words moves me as it lends me to create wonderful mental images: nature's first green is gold; woods filling up with snow; two paths diverged in a wood; ice is nice and will suffice; we were hers before she was ours. And my all time favorite, which sounds like a description of a musical number: two tramps in mud-time. So many memorable lines.

Frost was from San Francisco. To learn that he had left here, he might almost have moved to Greenland! (Not that I'm parochial.)

November 4, 1998 - 09:10 am
Love all the points so far! I saw something, sort of a wry humor, too, Jackie: "Stay where you are until our backs are turned!" behind these words. Charlotte, enjoyed the poem, so glad you all are fully recovered! Wish I could have taken an Edlerhostel on Frost.

My volume of Frost is here in front of me, seems to be a Christmas gift from my parents in 1964. It has all his works, and the Mending Wall is from a book, I assume, called North of Boston which includes "Mending Wall," and the startling "Death of a Hired Man," "Home Burial," "Blueberries," and "After Apple Picking," to name a few. Homey country themes with big meanings underneath.

I'm always struck by how a person's own background influences how he reads something. In reading the Bible, for instance, before we started out with a vineyard, it was so many words about vineyards, sure I know like I do for anything else, that you have to prune, etc., etc., but NOW when I read the words, they jump out in such an electric way I nearly get a shock. The words mean something different now than they did before I had actually worked IN a vineyard.

The Romans perfected building with dry stone, but their land, as far as I know, doesn't heave. Maybe it does, but there's plenty standing up today, so it must not be much....what's been allowed to stay, that is.

To me, anybody who has spent time observing nature feels a force there, call it what you will. Frost starts out the first line with it, the very first word is "Something." One wonders to whom or what he refers?

Is he referring to Nature? To Proper philosophies or righteousness? What's the word I'm looking for here? A philosophy that all intelligent men would aspire to?

Then he proceeds to tell us what it's not:

It's not hunters.

It's not elves.

The wall itself is unnatural, and Frost wants his neighbor to see it for himself.

But his neighbor can't. Can only repeat what he was told, like (similie) a stone age savage....moving in the darkness of ignorance... (I do like that Stone Age reference, very clever and humorous).....repeating what he's always been told when the need is no longer there.

"Good fences make good neighbors " is a true statement, but I think Frost is using what he sees in nature to make a point about the nature of human beings and the walls we build up between us.

As a "touchstone," in our family we've always used this: "He will not go behind his father's saying,
and he likes having said it so well, he says it again,
'Good fences make good neighbors.'"

We don't all like the meaning portrayed there, tho.


Roslyn Stempel
November 4, 1998 - 10:13 am
Yes, I remember the telecast of the inaugural and Frost struggling in the glare of the winter sun as he tried to read his poem. We didn't realize until afterward that much of it was taken from a nearly identical poem he read before the Phi Beta Kappa Association in 1941; I believe he did add some lines appropriate to the inaugural occasion.

Frost did this kind of borrowing and re-dedicating more than once, and I think he had a perfect right to do it, having been marvelously prolific over many years. We know that many of the greatest composers re-worked and re-used their themes, and the history of art reveals both working sketches and details of completed works showing how artists incorporated the same idea into more than one painting. In Frost's case much was made of his having sent a poem to a young woman which she was encouraged to infer was written especially for her; but it turned out to be "Dust of Snow," which was published in New Hampshire in 1928:

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

I wonder if what he wanted to tell her was that her admiration, help, or kindness had "saved some part of a day" for him, and the rest just popped into his mind, perhaps not even recalled for the forty or so years after its publication.

The continuing popularity and appeal of Frost's work exemplify to me the power of the artist's persona despite everything that may be revealed about the artist as a human being.


November 5, 1998 - 06:17 am
Didn't Kennedy use these lines of Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening to conclude his campaign speeches sometimes?
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

When we took youth leadership training, they told us it was important (in order to reach the youth to 'get 'em where they are') to know where they are coming from. Now where is Frost here? He had lived in New England about 25 years and he farmed as well as taught and wrote poetry. So he wrote about something he knew well. That is where he is. He knew what the 'Something' was:

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun
He knew that much of it was caused by temperature changes back and forth in early spring just as little plants may die then because that heaving breaks their hair roots. And in that land, you could clear your fields of stones but next year many more showed up. He knew, and he was not against the maintenance (otherwise, he could also say, Something there is that does not like mowed grass, or painted houses, etc.). In fact, it was he who initiated the wall-mending:
But at spring mending-time . . . .
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
While it is work, it does not chain down his mind, and he is a little whimsical:
Oh, just another kind of out-door game
Spring is the mischief in me
It seems to me he is trying to get his neighbor to 'lighten up', but no:
He moves in darkness as it seems to me

Two different people, two different viewpoints - one open to expeditions of the mind and the other not raising his thoughts beyond the tried-and-true. But still they are neighbors, working well together.

Roslyn Stempel
November 5, 1998 - 10:44 am
Loma, yes, and I seem to remember exactly the way JFK looked as he pronounced that quotation, turning to leave the hall or lecture platform. In subtle ways like that he registered as an intellectual or at least as an educated man - before that was unpopular -- and in those years, neither the public nor the media seemed to want to know whether he was actually familiar with Frost's poem or some PR flak was feeding him the appropriate sign-off for a worshipful audience.

Thanks for your apt comments on "Mending Wall." I think you're absolutely on target in suggesting that Robert Frost was writing about what he knew; and because he knew farming and the New England terrain so well he could afford to be a bit whimsical as he suggested that mysterious other-worldly powers were at work. However, he does place himself in a slightly superior position by his willingness to keep peace with his neighbor and continue the spring wall-mending even if he questions its practical effect. Do you agree that the one who compromises, in order to preserve neighborliness, is a touch above the "stone savage" who just goes on repeating his father's adage?

Isn't it a tribute to Robert Frost's depth and skill that we can find so many things to discuss, without even having dealt with the prosodic or "poetic" aspects of the piece?


Roslyn Stempel
November 5, 1998 - 04:18 pm
Ginny, I think we've all reacted to Robert Frost's teasing suggestions that there is "something" in nature that can't be fully perceived or understood by humans. Did you have the feeling as I did that he neither tries to withstand it nor attempts to follow it, but just acknowledges that "something" is there?

When I read your words about understanding the biblical references to vineyards, I had to stop and think whether I'd ever actually seen a vineyard. I have a dim recollection of something at Monticello. Otherwise my associations would be with things seen on television or film. Anyway, does the reference to "laboring in the vineyard" resonate? Is there something about grape-growing that more fully involves patient, often unrewarding, painstaking labor than do other kinds of agricultural work? Or is it something about the end product?

To digress: Frost has a poem entitled "Wild Grapes" which has many layers of meaning. I was sent back to it by a reference in a wonderful and inspiring book by Dr. Claudia Osborne, Over My Head, which tells the story of her long and ultimately successful struggle to regain some of her mental skills after a serious closed-head injury. (She is a "friend of friends of mine" so I know a bit about her.) Before her accident she was a practicing physician, and although she can no longer treat medical patients, she is able to teach medical students and is also much involved in helping other people who have suffered closed-head injuries that resulted in memory loss, aphasia, and various other problems. "Wild Grapes," a poem Claudia selected to recite at her rehabilitation "graduation ceremony," gave me a picture of what she was like as a girl and as a mature woman before her accident, and also suggested something of the enormous will and strength of drive that helped her make a recovery so impressive that many people don't realize how severely impaired she still is. (If that's puzzling, read the book and find out.) She didn't achieve recovery alone, and it tells much about how effectively therapists and family can work together to help someone who is herself also willing to work hard. Maybe that's what we want to read into Robert Frost, true or not.


November 5, 1998 - 08:37 pm
Interesting, isn't it, that Mending Wall reads like poetry; only afterwards you notice it has no rhyme. In Eliot's Prufrock his words keep going everywhere, then afterwards you notice some rhymes. In other poems the rhyme and meter direct the flow. So many ways to use words!

Charlotte, you too have expressed yourself well in the poem you wrote. It must have helped to put it into words, and we hope all is better now.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
November 6, 1998 - 05:01 am

I enjoyed the slow, detailed way you took us through Mending Wall. So relaxing.


November 6, 1998 - 07:50 am
An article in the October 18th issue of The New York Times says that a new edition of the Roman poet Horace who lived B.C. is selling well, considering the price -- it has Latin on one page and English on the other. The translation of the Roman poet Ovid has also sold well -- it was done by Ted Hughes, author of Birthday Letters about Sylvia Plath. Jonathan Galassi, editor in chief of Farrer Straus & Giroux, has published his translation of the poems of Eugenio Montale, Italian Nobel laureate.

References in movies, the internet, poems by celebrities or authors in the news are also factors in people's interest in poetry. These are just a few points in the article. Here is a clickable to read it in full. I do not know how long articles like this stay available.

Howard Kissel's article 'We Thirst for Verse'

Roslyn Stempel
November 6, 1998 - 12:03 pm
Loma, thanks for the link to Howard Kissel's column, which was interesting and provocative. Who is he, by the way? The name is somehow familiar. Now we should put our heads together and think of an accessible poet to recommend to Oprah. I'd suggest Nikki Giovanni for a start; or Rita Dove, though as a former Poet Laureate she doesn't need the boost. Maya Angelou? Her private life was colorful enough to attract a lot of readers.


November 6, 1998 - 06:06 pm
Charlotte, thanks, I appreciate that!

Loma, your posts are always interesting, too. I saw a new translation of Dante's Inferno in B&N the other day, by the Poet Laureate of the US?? Who is he, Ros, I know you know him, but I just opened it and scanned it and I really like what he's done with it, think it's different: was to me, anyway. I'd like to read it.

Ros: on the vineyard, it's not a vineyard thing per se? I expect it would apply to anything agrarian? The next time I hit one of those verses I'll put it here and we can all test my theory out by saying what, if anything it means to us? I expect it might apply, in fact, to anything at all. Working in a bakery.

Well, I did notice similie, what other things should we have been noticing about Frost's poem?

Here's a brief thought by Frost himself: "Granted no one but a humanist much cares how sound a poem is if it is only a sound. The sound is the gold in the ore. Then we will have the sound out alone and dispense with the inessential. We do till we make the discovery that the object in writing poetry is to make all poems sound as diffrerent as posssible from each other, and the resources for that of vowels, consonants, punctuation, syntax, words, sentences, meter are not enough. We need the help of context-meaning-subject matter. Theat is the greatest help towards variety. All that can be done with words is soon told. So also with meters--particularly in our language where there are virtually but two, strict iambic and loose iambic. The ancients with many were still poor if they depended on meters for all tune. It is painful to watch our sprung-rhythmists straining at the point of omitting one short from a foot for relief from monotony. The possibliities for tune from the dramatic tones of meaning struck acorss the rigitidy of a limited meter are endless. And we are back in poetry as merely one more art of having something to say, sound or unsound. Probably better if sound, because deeper and from wider experience."

Actually, that's a pretty long article and it's interesting because of the points it brings up and the strange cadences of his natural speech?


Roslyn Stempel
November 7, 1998 - 05:11 am
Ginny, the Poet Laureate is Robert Pinsky and I couldn't resist buying his bilingual Inferno, only $8.00 in paperback and I think it's wonderfully readable and graceful, though I could manage only a few pages before having to return to the "assigned" BC books. Anyway:

Midway on our life's journey, I found myself
In dark woods, the right road lost. To tell
About those woods is hard - so tangled and rough

And savage that thinking of it now, I feel
The old fear stirring: Death is hardly more bitter...

You and I have the same edition of the collected Frost; mine was a gift at a "surprise" 40th birthday that many years ago. I also like the statement a few paragraphs down:
No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.

If we changed that to "few tears" and "few surprises," do you suppose that would reveal the secret of Robert Frost's accessibility and popularity?

More anon.


Roslyn Stempel
November 7, 1998 - 05:24 am
Charlotte, glancing back through recent messages I found your posting about language bias, men v. women and right brain v. left brain. .My initial reaction was skepticism but I have no informed foundation for that. Since Jackie, LJ Klein, and I (and we hope also some lurkers) are currently struggling in the Non-Fiction discussion with the first of two massive discussions about how the brain works, maybe after we've finished I'll be able to respond with more substance. (Care to join us? It's challenging, stimulating, and beautifully written, and there are strange new words on almost every page.)

Yes, Ginny's messages are always directed toward clarifying our thoughts. Actually, she should get full credit for the whole Frost discussion because it was at her urging that "Mending Wall" became our focus this month.


November 7, 1998 - 05:26 am
Because she loves it!!

Ginny: I'd love to read the Divine Comedy?? I expect it's more of a Great Books thing? The Sir Gawain is very short, maybe we should be thinking on the lines of the Dante one for the next time.

ISN'T his prose strange, Ros??

Roslyn Stempel
November 7, 1998 - 05:40 am
Here's a November poem by Robert Frost, written in 1938, that we could address at all levels: rhyme and meter, surface meaning, political context, deeper symbolism:

We saw leaves go to glory,
Then almost migratory
Go part way down the lane
And then to end the story
Get beaten down and pasted
In one wild day of rain.
We heard 'Tis over' roaring.
A year of leaves was wasted.
Oh, we make a boast of storing,
Of saving and of keeping,
But only by ignoring
The waste of moments sleeping,
The waste of pleasure weeping,
By denying and ignoring
The waste of nations warring.

DESCRIPTIVE POWER: What's your opinion: How does it compare with other autumnal verse you've read?

RHYME SCHEME?? I think it's aabacb, followed by dcdedeed. Does it fit any prosodic structure that you know?

Several REPETITIONS: the participial/gerundive "ing" used 8 times; "the waste of" twice, and the echoing rhyme of the "or" syllable; "ignoring" used twice very effectively.

The METER isn't quite iambic pentameter, it's more like a galloping combination. What would you call it? It is definitely rhythmic, isn't it?

Like Hopkins's "Spring and Fall: To a Young Girl," it mourns for the death of the year and for our own mortality. If we look at the date, we can understand the prophetic reference to "nations warring."

How did this poem affect you? It is not one I seek out frequently but I think it has meanings.


November 7, 1998 - 06:51 am
November seems an unusual poem considering the author. The first lines are are both wonderfully descriptive of fallen leaves, and different from most other autumn poems. Definitely a galloping meter. Ros, does the rhyme scheme have another 'd' on the end? Usually with his poems I picture him sort of taking notes and then thoughtfully constructing. This one I picture coming to his mind almost full-blown.

By the time you get to the word 'wasted' you know this poem is not about leaves. In fact, in Frost's world, in the fields, in the woods, fallen leaves (as well as other plant remains) are a part of the soil maintaining itself.

It seems to be the rather anguished thoughts of a man of peace. Unfortunately, as Coco Chanel once said, "It takes one to make a war, two to make a peace."

Roslyn Stempel
November 7, 1998 - 01:23 pm
Loma, thanks for catching my missing "d." Guess I kept wanting to wrench this into sonnet structure. There's certainly a touch of bitterness in these economical, carefully controlled lines.


Jo Meander
November 7, 1998 - 08:37 pm
Hello to all in this wonderful spot. I think the iambs are less graceful in effect because it is "trimiter" -- only three iambs per line, in contrast with sonnet or Shakespearean pentameter, where the longer lines flow gracefully. The clipped spareness goes with the barren, wind-swept images of first six lines and the rueful commentary in his conclusion. What is it we are saving when so much is being wasted? Those quickly wind-swept leaves suggests the inevitablity of terrible events occuring and destined to increase. I think his images are perefect for the tone and purpose.

Roslyn Stempel
November 8, 1998 - 07:12 am
Jo, "the winds of war"? I hadn't thought about the analogy to the sweeping effect of political forces, but it really seems apt. Thanks for the interpretation.


November 8, 1998 - 07:33 am
I interpreted the leaves quite literally to be young men in uniform and the 'one wild day of rain' a battle and/or war.

'We make a boast of storing . . .' could be encouraging the young in education.

I had a great-uncle, back about the time of World War I, who was adamantly opposed to war on the basis that it was the armament manufurers making profits. No matter his reasoning, he would have cherished this poem!

William Frost
November 8, 1998 - 04:09 pm
I have read Robert Frost's powerful "November" again today.

This day marks Rememberance Day in England when "'Tis over" cries out through churches as people remember that on November 11, 1918, World War I ended.

Canada marks November II, Tuesday, Rememberance Day, and here in the U.S.A., Veterans Day is marked.

"The waste of nations warring."

I shall read "November" again.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
November 8, 1998 - 06:10 pm
Ros and Ginny:

Robert Pinsky sometimes appears on Lehrer's News Hour on PBS. You can hear him read his poetry on the web at Academy of American Poets. Also you can hear the ceremony which gave him the title on Millenium Evenings-Poets Laureates. This is an hour long ceremony in which previous winners Rita Dove and Robert Haas also appear.

As for the discussion of Left brain-=right brain: It can be heard on the web on NPR. Sorry I don't know how to make these a clickable, but will try to get Milt to learn it and teach it to me.


Roslyn Stempel
November 9, 1998 - 08:07 am
William Frost, thanks for your comments on Frost's "November" and for your reminder of the significance that 11:00 A.M. November 11, 1918 will always have. Having grown up in Chicago where "Armistice Day" was a school holiday, observed in the assembly hall the previous day with songs and a Boy Scout sounding Taps on his bugle as we "faced East," I have an ingrained recognition of the original day of remembrance. We lived just west of Lake Michigan and on the 11th, at 11 o'clock, we all ran outside and, as I remember one child's mother telling us, "looked to the lake." The impact of the observances for me as a child was emotional and mingled with the impact of personal losses and a misguided feeling that this "Great War" had ensured peace for us. How wrong we were in those early 1930's -- Sino-Japanese conflict was already making the inside pages if not the headlines.

I have a collection of "Modern British Verse" published in 1919 which is filled with poetic reflections on the war and permeated with the inescapable force of the experience, bringing out the violence, mud, privation, fear, and pain, the suffering of those at home as well as those in the armed forces.


Roslyn Stempel
November 9, 1998 - 08:18 am
Charlotte, I try not to miss any of Robert Pinsky's PBS appearances, but the Poet Laureate ceremony is new to me and I'll try to find it.Thanks for the information

. I think I've mentioned before my distress over poets who drone monotonously and mumble and drop their voices. Pinsky meets my highest expectations of the poet who reads to an audience: eye contact, a pleasant but serious expression, variety of tone, and a pace slow enough for listeners to understand the words. Becoming familiar with his voice has allowed me to hear it in my inward ear when I read his poetry and his prose - the latter, incidentally, nicely rhythmic but not at all flowery.

I'll gladly second your recommendation to find him on television and on-line with Real Audio.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
November 10, 1998 - 02:15 pm
Hi all you poetry lovers:

I got Milt our favorite techie to figure out how to get the clickable. Here is what he says:

An excellent web page for poets is The Academy of American Poets (www.poets.org/) The Academy of American Poets

If you want to hear poets reading their own work, just click onto the hyperlink Find A Poet.

If you want to see a video of the April affair at the White House when the Clintons named Robert Pinsky as our new poet laureate, just click onto the hyperlink Millennium Evening at the White House. Then click onto "see a video". You must have Real Player plugin to view the video, which lasts for about an hour.

Roslyn Stempel
November 10, 1998 - 05:03 pm
Charlotte -- and Milt -- many thanks for posting the link to the Academy. I clicked on it and found I would have to download yet another plug-in (seems to me I've done several already) so had to postpone the venture for another day. But I've visited the Academy site before and it is definitely worth exploring.


Rubynelle Thyne
November 13, 1998 - 12:03 pm
Dear All--You make me feel rich and beautiful!

Pinsky's "dark woods" evoke many Frost bits; however in Frost poems the dark side is usually mysterious rather than blatant as here. Frost makes beautiful presentations of sadness and anger mostly sublimated and sometimes exquisite, as in"Fire And Ice" or the wistful "you come too" in the one beginning with "I'm going out to clear the pasture spring." With Jo M. I see "November" as a statement about the inevitablity of the terrible, and I fear that in this end-of-century awfulness, our society/world is as a whole reinforcing that idea.

I prefer Frost's almost haiku turn in many of his poems, and the shorter one are my choices to ponder on, but I do enjoy performing his narrative and long lyrical works!

A special memory of teaching days: In a class of wonderfully alive eleventh graders, my chief concern was a sensitive, brilliant, disillusioned fellow with whom most of the guys wouldn't socialize. He was often absent and rarely did daily assignments, but when he did turn in something, it was poignantly his own. One assignment was the research into and personal explication of any poem we all had in some book to be presented with an oral interpretive reading of the work. Other students were excited by the project, worked hard on determining meaning associated with the technical aspects, and presentation day was wonderful ! Students were called on by arbitrary name-pulling, and Fred was called up early. He said, "I'm not ready. I'll do mine last." Not quite trusting him to perform, I said, "All right" and class continued, the class responding to reports with acclaim and good-natured jibing. Then Fred went to the lectern. He looked around the class calmly, then gave a heavenly exposition and perfect reading of "Birches." The class remained spellbound, several students as I, having teary eyes, then there erupted a sincere ovation.

Roslyn Stempel
November 13, 1998 - 08:19 pm
Rubynelle, your account epitomized what makes all the gritty minutiae of teaching worthwhile. Thank you for sharing this moving experience. Clearly you were a dedicated and sensitive teacher. Poetry was never in the official curriculum of my low-achieving ninth-graders -- they were supposed to be drilled on important things like pronouns and adverbs, slogging through several workbook pages each period and checking them before the bell rang -- but I sneaked it in anyway, and I never regretted it.


Jackie Lynch
November 13, 1998 - 09:04 pm
Wow! You two, what a treat your students must have had with you leading them, whether they needed it or not, to the joys of poetry. Thank you for all of us who used to be sassy teenagers in high school.

November 14, 1998 - 04:44 am
It is good that there are teachers like you, Ros and Rubynelle, to help expand students' minds.

Roslyn Stempel
November 14, 1998 - 01:52 pm
Here's one of my Robert Frost favorites, published in the 1940's:


O star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud--
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says, "I burn."
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats’ Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

The reference to "Keats' Eremite" is to the 1820 sonnet "Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art," in which Keats calls the distant star a hermit, faithful and unchanging. His is a love poem, however, while Frost's seems to be a caution to remember man's small place in the universe and not to be too much influenced by heroes and ideologies.

There shouldn't be a space in the middle of the poem, but for some reason the line break wouldn't appear without a space.


Edit Note: Ros, I edited and removed the extra line. The browser didn't like the marks that were used for quotation. LCH

Roslyn Stempel
November 15, 1998 - 07:21 am
Thanks, Larry. When I looked at the source code I couldn't recognize anything different. What didn't I understand about marking it?


Larry Hanna
November 15, 1998 - 07:58 am
Ros, The problem seems to have been the type of quotation marks around "I burn." I tried several things without success until I took out the marks that were slanted left and right and replaced them with what you see now and then everything seemed to be fine. I don't understand why but that seemed to be the problem.


November 15, 1998 - 06:05 pm
This poem Choose Something Like a Star carries a more abstract thought than Frost's generally do. Choose something like a star for stability "So when at times the mob is swayed To carry praise or blame too far. . ." -- is that sort of like anchoring with the phrases "This too shall pass" or "In a hundred years it won't matter" which seem to be helpful thoughts for many people?

If I have a HTML tag to go after a quotation mark, I leave a space. And one after the tag too, for good measure. That seems to make stuff behave.

Roslyn Stempel
November 15, 1998 - 08:01 pm
Loma, I agree with your comparisons to "This too shall pass" and "the hundred-year test" (the latter one of my favorites). There's a kind of cold purity about this poem that appeals to me; maybe it's the absence of any homespun rural images, the classic apostrophic opening, "O star," and the very dignified rhyme and meter.

As to that mischievous tag, I not only left an extra space, I tried putting the line-break on a separate line, but to no avail. Cyber-gremlins, I guess. Fortunately Brave Sir Lawrence was on hand to slay the demon.


November 16, 1998 - 03:48 am
Brave Sir Lawrence! I second that!!


Charlotte J. Snitzer
November 16, 1998 - 05:40 am

I loved the lines about the star. It can only do what it has to do. Man says: put it into the terms we have given to heat so we can understand. (Farenheit or Centigrade), but that is hubris and an answer is not required.

I love Frost's sense of humor.


Jackie Lynch
November 16, 1998 - 05:58 am
The Star is. No hint of the spiritual, only a pragmatism. By concentrating on the real, the distractions of the crowd and its transitory attentions will not lead one astray.

Roslyn Stempel
November 16, 1998 - 07:22 am
Jackie, Loma, Charlotte, I'll cherish this trio of responses to the "star" poem. We need to remember, don't we, that there are grander things in the universe -- not necessarily spiritual, as you point out --than our petty fads and foibles. Thanks for sharing your reactions.


Roslyn Stempel
November 16, 1998 - 10:54 am
Ginny, in an earlier message you referred to the "strangeness" of Robert Frost's prose. Distinctly strange, as if he had been falling asleep in a hammock on the lawn and mumbling to himself in a fragmented way. Funny, isn't it, that we can excuse obscurity and fragmentation in poetry but not in prose? Yet the musing tone of the introduction seemed to me to be definitely un-poetic, since it seemed to start out and go nowhere. Well, he was old. We have to excuse the failings of old people.


November 17, 1998 - 11:32 am
Thank you, Charlotte, for The Academy of American Poets clickable. It is quite a site. The page on Robert Pinski discusses Dante's Inferno: Robert Pinsky

It indicates in the 1900s there have been over 50 English translations, with Pinsky being one of the best. In the 1800s one of the translators was Longfellow. This page has a link to Dante and Longfellow. Pinsky's seems to read much easier than Longfellow's. It seems to me that if Pinsky could make the first and third lines rhyme, fine, and while usually they did not they did end with the same consonant sound.

This page says, "We've unearthed a series of four sonnets that Longfellow composed as a meditation on his own experience translating Dante's Divina Commedia." These sonnets represent his feelings being deeply immersed in Dante and finding strong chords when entering an old cathedral. I guess I've felt very much the same, and so I like them all. He responds to the windows, the organ sounds and unseen choirs, the melodious bells, the sculptures and statues, but it is so long that I will just do the first sonnet and parts of the others in the next post.

November 17, 1998 - 11:47 am
from Four Sonnets
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
a meditation as he was translating Dante

Oft have I seen at some cathedral-door
A laborer, pausing in the dust and heat,
Lay down his burden, and with reverent feet
Enter, and cross himself, and on the floor
Kneel to repeat his pater-noster o'er;
Far off the noises of the world retreat;
The loud vociferations of the street
Become an undistinguishable roar.
So, as I enter here from day to day,
And leave my burden at this minster-gate,
Kneeling in prayer, and not ashamed to pray,
The tumult of the time disconsolate
To inarticulate murmurs dies away,
While the eternal ages watch and wait.
. . . . .
I enter, and I see thee in the gloom
Of the long aisles, O poet saturnine!
And strive to make my steps keep pace with thine.
The air is filled with some unknown perfume;
The congregation of the dead make room
For thee to pass; the votive tapers shine;
. . . . .
And Beatrice, again at Dante's side,
No more rebukes, but smiles her words of praise.
. . . . .
Ah! from what agonies of heart and brain,
What exultations trampling on despair,
What tenderness, what tears, what hate of wrong,
What passionate outcry of a soul in pain,
Uprose this poem of the earth and air,
This medieval miracle of song!

November 18, 1998 - 08:36 am
Encarta's Quote of the Day:

When power narrows the areas of man's concern,
poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence.

~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Roslyn Stempel
November 18, 1998 - 10:34 am
Loma, isn't that first part wonderful? There were actually six sonnets in Longfellow's Dante sequence, two published somewhat later than the ones that appeared in the old Atlantic. The whole sequence metaphorically represents Longfellow's escape into the joyous yet demanding labor of translation as a series of visits to ancient cathedrals. I was interested to learn that, according to biographers, he was working out private griefs such as the death of his long-courted and much-mourned second wife (his first had also died, years earlier), and public concerns over slavery and the Civil War. Longfellow had traveled and studied in Europe and his writings served to enlighten Americans of the period who had little knowledge of anything beyond their ocean borders.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
November 19, 1998 - 04:32 am

Thanks for the tip about Pinsky. I read his discussion of how he did the translation and listened to him read. His work far outshines Longellow's translation.

I enjoyed his discussion of terza rima, but will have to study his explanation of rhyming consonants a bit more.


November 20, 1998 - 06:36 am
Thanks Ros, your information on Longfellow makes it even more interesting. But as you said, Charlotte, Pinsky's translation reads much easier for us.

Is it time to bite the bullet and post what is probably the best known poem of the month?

Thomas Hood (1799-1845)

No sun--no moon!
No morn--no noon!
No dawn--no dusk--no proper time of day--
No sky--no earthly view--
No distance looking blue--
No road--no street--no "t'other side this way"--
No end to any Row--
No indications where the Crescents go--
No top to any steeple--
No recognitions of familiar people--
No courtesies for showing 'em--
No knowing 'em!
No traveling at all--no locomotion--
No inkling of the way--no notion--
"No go" by land or ocean--
No mail--no post--
No news from any foreign coast--
No Park, no Ring, no afternoon gentility--
No company--no nobility--
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member--
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds--

This poem to me is not depressing but instead shows a wry humor, as demonstrated by the way he put the word November at the last, rather than the first. Hood was a Londoner and surely business went on. England is farther north than the United States and so has much shorter days in the winter, and there must have been a lot of London fog: "No sun-no moon …no top to any steeple" . Did they have candles then? Or was it whale-oil larmps? Heating and probably cooking was by fireplaces and the parts of the house farther from the fire probably did not get the heat. Still I think they were used to it.

In contrast, now we have electricity, central heat, warm cars, and fresh fruit and flowers only minutes away at the grocery store. We do have a lot to be thankful for!

Roslyn Stempel
November 20, 1998 - 12:29 pm
Loma, thanks for the sardonically cheerful salute to November. It certainly contrasts with some of Hood's bitter lyrics like "Song of the Shirt," "The Bridge of Sighs," and "The Dream of Eugene Aram" - this last about a murderer. On the other hand, there's a jolly one, "Sally Simpkin's Lament," too gruesome to post here, the song of a bereaved maiden whose sweetheart was bitten in two by a shark.


Roslyn Stempel
November 20, 1998 - 01:42 pm
I finally got through to the Atlantic excerpt from Longfellow's translation of Canto 23 of the Paradiso. I agree that it sounds heavy-footed and rather clumsy, especially as it's blank verse rather than terza rima. I wouldn't dream of apologizing for Longfellow but I have to wonder how his translation might have struck me 130 years ago. There are vogues in translation as in other forms of literature. The brief passage in the interview which compares Pinsky's late-20th-century language with Longfellow's 19th-century solemnity illustrates that. However, consider these:

Poet, who guidest me, look if there be worth in me sufficient, before thou trust me to the arduous passage.
Poet, you who are to guide me, estimate my valor, to learn if it is mighty, before you intrust me to the difficult test.
Poet, you who must guide me,
Before you trust me to that arduous passage,
Look to me and look through me - can I be worthy?
Poet - dear guide - 'twere wise
Surely , to test my powers and weigh their worth
Ere trusting me to this great enterprise.

They're all recognizably similar to the lines rendered by Pinsky and by Longfellow; yet each one has a distinctive style.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
November 21, 1998 - 05:27 am

Those poor Brits. I always thought England was a great place for Aamericans to live, but I could never face November. That poems tells it like it really must be.

Ros: Pinsky's translation is so much better. I'm going back to the Academy of American Poets right now to read more.


November 21, 1998 - 06:03 am
Longfellow's translations remind me of the King James Bible -- you must gear yourself to it, then it is beautiful.

But between the two translations, even the verb tenses change: L - "who guidest (guides) me"; P - "who must guide me". I guess tenses is the right word. Latin was always pretty clear on them. Well, maybe this example is not quite a change of tenses, but it does seem to affect how it reads to me. By the way, isn't it the first of the Inferno that T. S. Eliot had at the beginning of Prufrock?

Ros, would you consider posting a selection FOUR ways -- the original, Longfellow, Pinsky, and any other well-considered one such as Binyon, H.C.Cary, whoever.

Roslyn Stempel
November 21, 1998 - 07:14 am
Loma, thanks for the great idea: I will work on it for the early part of next week. If you own a favorite translation of the Inferno, would you be willing to contribute ten or 12 lines once I have located a canto that is available in all my translations? Let's compare notes in a day or two.

Charlotte, I think I'd be willing to accept some gloomy November days in order to enjoy the early, early spring flowers and mild temperatures. Despite the difference in longitude, isn't there something about the Gulf Stream currents or something of that nature that makes the English climate milder than our midwest?


November 21, 1998 - 02:40 pm
Jeepers, have I missed something? Are we doing Dante's Inferno? sorry to be so obtuse. I think I have the Ciardi? I heard him speak, too, (Ciardi, not Dante)!!

When will you start? Can I put up an ad??


November 21, 1998 - 04:49 pm
Waaall, Ginny, itsa like this. First the mention of the Academy of American Poets website. Then a mention of Pinsky in it. Then in it was Pinsky's translation of the Inferno. Then more links . . . . You know how it goes. I do not have a copy of the Inferno, never was even interested in it before, but following some of the aforesaid links was interesting, as is the complexities of translation. Hope you do have Ciardi, and correlate with Ros as to what portion of text to compare. Unlike the books folders, this folder does not follow a what & when schedule but seems more like whatever develops, and it's interesting - and often unexpected.

Roslyn Stempel
November 21, 1998 - 05:41 pm
Ginny, as Loma points out, it's not exactly a done deal, but one thing led to another, and the idea of comparing translations seemed to have some appeal, and since I do have several Infernos and the Italian text as well, I thought I might try, for example, part of Canto 23 (is is?) from which Eliot took the epigraph for Prufrock. How does this sound to you? The question of "the best" translation also seems to arise vis-a-vis Gawain and the Green Knight.

There were no strong objections, incidentally, to Ancient Mariner. I got two responses from the 5 e-mails I sent to former posters. (Whatever has happened to Marie Click?) So Coleridge is still on the agenda. Stay tuned.


November 23, 1998 - 07:36 am
Listen, I'm just totally lost here. My text says that the lines from "The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock," at the top are from Dante's Inferno XXVII, lines 61-66?

But I don't see Count Guido da Montefeltro anywhere.

Here are lines 61-66 from Dante's Inferno book XXVII?? can that be correct? John Ciardi, trans.

"'Night falls,' it added, 'the sun sinks to rest;
do not delay but hurry toward the height
while the last brightness lingers in the west.'

Straight up through the great rock-wall lay the way
on such a line that, as I followed it,
my body blocked the sun's last level ray."

That's XXVII.

Here's XXIII, lines 61-66:

"And he: 'From the Eternal Counsel flow
the powers whereby the water and the tree
we have just passed, emaciate us so.

all those who sing while weeping in their pain
once loved their stomach-sacs beyond all measure.
Here, thirst and anger wring them clean again.'"

Neither one of those is it, I need some more guidance?


November 23, 1998 - 07:50 am
I also have, by way of comparison, when we figure out the right lines, the sumptuous Easton Press volume in leather with silk endpapers, as pretty a book as you'd ever want to hold. It says the translator is Melville Best Anderson, the illustrator, William Blake. Lines 61-66 of Book XXIII are not it, let me go look at XXVII.

Nope, but the Ciardi and the Melville, as they call it, could NOT be more different. This is going to be fun!


November 23, 1998 - 09:17 am
Oh, Ginny, to have such a nice book! Isn't it a thrill? I used to think that it was the contents of the book that counted, but now think how it is presented is very important, too. Back on the subject, here is the Latin at the beginning of Prufrock for comparison with translations:

S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

November 23, 1998 - 02:37 pm
Loma, Yes it is a thrill!! But, it's strange, it makes you feel guilty that you haven't read it!!! It's the strangest feeling. You think that all books that are great should be in such editions, but if there's one you haven't read in THAT version, no matter how many times you read it in another binding, you have or I do anyway, this awful guilt!!


That's Italian, I think, and starts out "If I believed..." but unfortunately my Italian just goes so far. I seem to remember something about if the spirit thought he would ever get back to the real world, he'd be in trouble for talking, but since nobody had, he was safe? But I can't find anything whatsoever that looks like that@ Thanks for putting it there I have printed it out to keep looking!


Charlotte J. Snitzer
November 24, 1998 - 04:57 am

Thanks for all the Dante info. Will check out all the links and whatever books I have and see what I can contribute.


November 24, 1998 - 12:52 pm
Here is what I found in a Prufrock site on the web about Eliot's Dante quote. I do not understand how this fits in with Spender's interpretation of Prufrock. Ciardi's translation reads well--but something must have inspired Pinsky to do his own. The "literal' Italian-to-English translation is from a translation site on the web and seems a bit funny.

S`io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

epigraph: The Inferno by Dante Alighieri:
Canto XXVII, lines 61-66: (tranlated by John Ciardi)
"If I believed that my reply were made
To one who could ever climb to the world again,
This flame would shake no more. But since no shade
Ever returned- if what I am told is true-
From this blind world into living light,
Without fear of dishonor I answer you."

Stephen Spender, in T.S. Eliot:
"The epigraph from Inferno, Canto XXVII, casts light on his case. Prufrock's sin of "acedia" is that he does not act in some way which would transform his passive condition of being the object of his circumstances into an active one. He knows that he is in hell and, morally, he takes this as a reason for not acting upon his knowledge."

English translation from Italian (line breaks may be wrong here):
S`io believed that my answer was
To person who never returned to the world,
This staria flame without piu jolt.
But perciocche giammai of this bottom
I do not return alive some, s'i' I hear the true one,
Without infamy topic I answer to you.

November 25, 1998 - 02:46 am
Jeepers, Loma, that's great. And for some reason, I do see the Ciardi now, and it was even underlined from when we did it before in the Prufrock?

Curioser and curioser!!

But you are correct!! I do see those lines now, and also these, in the Melville Best Anderson:

(feel like the curtain has been rent aside, I can find them now, have no clue why couldn't before:)

Lines 61-66 of the Melville Best Anderson, Canto XXVII:

"If I supposed myself as answer making
to one who ever could return on high
Into the world, this flame should stand unshaking:
But since none from this yawning cavity
Every returned alive,if truth I hear,
Fearless of infamy, do I reply

So now we have those two comparisons, anyway. I think, believe it or not, I have a third somewhere. Got off on a tangent reading about gluttony: must be a signal to me for the holidays!!


Roslyn Stempel
November 25, 1998 - 10:00 am
Remember a Groucho Marx song that starts out, "Hello - I must be going." That's me today, just signing on to apologize for having been among the missing for a few days . . . will be back after the turmoil of Thanksgiving subsides to a dull roar ... definitely not as young, as spry, or as efficient as I used to be, or maybe I never was.


November 25, 1998 - 10:03 am

Have a
Happy Thanksgiving!


November 25, 1998 - 12:18 pm
Surely there is a Thanksgiving poem or two, to carry us over tomorrow, but I do not have one. Here is one than could be considered a Thanksgiving prayer, credited to Bobby Burns. It is not in the Scottish vernacular, but didn't he just use that when he chose to?

O Thou, who kindly dost provide
For every creature's want!
We bless Thee, God of nature wide,
For all Thy goodness lent:
And, if it please Thee, heavenly Guide,
May never worse be sent;
But, whether granted or denied,
Lord, bless us with content!
~ Robert Burns (1759-1796)

William Frost
November 25, 1998 - 04:13 pm

The Burns verse you quote is from his, "A POET'S GRACE". The verse should be subheaded, "BEFORE MEAT" The second verse is subheaded, "AFTER MEAT" and is as follows:
O Thou, in whom we live and move,
Who made the sea and shore,
Thy goodness constantly we prove,
And, grateful, would adore;
And, if it please Thee, Power above!
Stll grant us with such store
The friend we trust, the fair we love,
And we desire no more.

His, "AT THE GLOBE TAVERN" is another grace and contains a "tup- or wether-head". I will save this for another occasion, allowing you time to translate the vernacular.

November 26, 1998 - 07:19 am
William, thank you for more information on the Robert Burns "Poets Grace." Happy Thanksgiving to all.

November 28, 1998 - 07:45 am
So by now we have two translations of Dante's lines quoted at the beginning of Prufrock, by Ciardi and Anderson. They have the same gist but a slightly different way of expression, and for me, reading both helps my understanding. Maybe someday I will understand better why Eliot put them there. Is it to indicate Prufrock is so passive that he feels no hope?

What is there in Dante that over fifty translations have been made this century alone? Something in it that strikes each poet's chords and they don't think the other translators have got it quite right? We see that in a lesser extent in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight also. I ran across a religious web site yesterday and their Quotes page was all quotes from Dante! I wish I had bookmarked it and looked to see who the translator was. The quotes selected were very appropriate to today.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
November 30, 1998 - 06:17 am
Hi Everyone:

I just got Pinsky's translation of Dante (only $ 6.40) and it's fabulous. It has facing pages in Italian, great foreword and intro. by Pinsky. I can't put it down.


William Frost
November 30, 1998 - 09:13 am
It has been asked, “What is there in Dante that over 50 translations have been made this century alone?.....”

Intellectual snobbery perhaps. Like the person who stopped liking Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto when he heard the mail man whistling it.

We have all been guilty of this from time to time, but it isn’t as prevalent as in former years. There certainly appears less injection of foreign phrases into text these days. (Injected in italics, of course.)

I love it!

Roslyn Stempel
December 1, 1998 - 04:38 am
Dear William Frost, what is the "it" that you love? Is it Dante? Is it translation? Could it be Tschaikowsky's Piano Concerto? Is it intellectual snobbery, par exemple? Is it the injection of foreign phrases - in italics, evidemment?

This question of translation brought to the surface an incident from my teen years when I found a poem of Heinrich Heine translated into English and asked a young man recently arrived from Germany if he would turn it back into German for me. He did, but I've never been able to locate the original poem, presumably because his "translation" reflected his own perception of the English and hence was at two removes from Heine.

If you join the January Book Club discussion of E. F. Benson's Queen Lucia you'll encounter many examples of the pretentious and inaccurate use of foreign phrases, though I can't remember whether they are italicized in the text. This kind of fun-poking is usually described as "delicious," meaning that we-uns are sophisticated enough to recognize how gauche it is. Alas, it quickly becomes, as Georgie would say, tarsome.


December 1, 1998 - 04:48 am
As an aside, you do know that Lucia was based on an actual person? Marie Corelli. hahahahah

Benson wrote the society he knew, and he knew it very well, indeed! hahahah

Are we reading the Dante? Should we read the gluttony for December?



Roslyn Stempel
December 1, 1998 - 04:51 am
Loma, many thanks for your energetic pursuit of the Dante quotations. Maybe you could share something from the religious website you mention. (What is it? Would it be interesting to check out in connection with Elmer Gantry?)

Charlotte, I'm so happy every time someone else "discovers" Robert Pinsky. His prose writing is melodious and readable too. If you're in a book-buying mood you might enjoy his small volume The Sounds of Poetry, in which he presents many aspects of rhyme and meter and incidentally provides an impressive defense of the way in which the melody and meaning of contemporary poetry are conveyed by the way it is presented on the page.


Roslyn Stempel
December 1, 1998 - 05:03 am
Ginny, I was just about to post a guilty and apologetic message to you when I discovered yours. No, I didn't know that Lucia was actually Marie Corelli. I read one of her novels but don't remember a thing about it, though I recall her reputation as a supposed shocker, for her time.

A bit of Dante would be a pleasant and challenging activity. I do like the Pinsky because I'm such a fan and because it's contemporary in a nice way; but I'd be glad to use Dorothy Sayers as my text-of-reference if you will choose a section for us to consider. (I have a couple of other translations that are, however, rather stodgy.)

In the course of hosting this discussion I've read through a mass of "poetry," mostly 19th and 20th century and largely forgettable. What I find myself speculating about is the poetic impulse, what makes the clumsiest of us try to distort our sentiments into rhyming couplets or tear our prose apart and redistribute the segments and call it poetry. By the same token, what can cause the tears to spill over when we read some hackneyed and obvious lines that - however tritely - reflect our own feelings, touch some deep spring within us?

When I taught fifth grade my class had a "theme song," one we used as we walked down the hall or waited to get into the assembly. I forced the kids to learn it because I love it and it was part of my reputation as a weirdo. Of course it has many repetitions but the gist is: "If I had the wings of a dove, I would fly, fly away and be at rest. But since I have no wings I have to sing, sing sing..."


Charlotte J. Snitzer
December 1, 1998 - 05:40 am
Ros :

Thanks for the theme song for your fifth graders. We have two fifth graders in our family. I am passing the song on to where they live in Spokane and Berkeley via E-mail. You may never know where it will end up.


December 1, 1998 - 05:45 am
Could we.....stomache (ouch) gluttony? I'll get the Pinsky today and compare it with the Ciardi and the Best??


December 1, 1998 - 05:55 am
Gluttony?? Shouldn't that be AFTER Christmas, AFTER we've eaten all the goodies, and can repent at leisure?

December 1, 1998 - 06:29 am
Hahahah, well, which sin do you think we should tackle then? hahahahah

Wrote ahhahaha on the Dentist form yesterday!


December 2, 1998 - 09:48 am
The Dante quotes I had found in the religious site (which I did not bookmark unfortunately) quoted John Ciardi's translations from Paradisio. I had copied two. One might apply to Elmer Gantry. Here is the one I like:

Oh grace abounding that had made me fit
to fix my eyes on the Eternal Light
until my vision was consumed in It!

I saw within Its depth how It conceives
all things in a single volume bound by Love,
of which the universe is the scattered leaves.
~ Dante - Paradiso XXXIII, 85-90

Somewhere I thought I had found another translation of the Dante lines that T.S.Eliot had quoted at the beginning of Prufrock, but drats, where is it?

Speaking of quotes, Ros, how does Quod libet translate? Because it pleases? as in, pick something that you like?

Roslyn Stempel
December 2, 1998 - 11:11 am
Loma, Ginny will correct me but that is my uninformed and idiomatic translation. I associate it with one section of Bach's "Goldberg Variations," so titled, in which the composer broke from the traditional musical forms into a kind of free-for-all, sprightly and dance-like.

Here's Dorothy Sayers's rendition of the stanzas from Paradiso:

O grace abounding, whereby I presumed
So deep the eternal light to search and sound
That my whole vision was therein consumed!

In that abyss I saw how love held bound
Into one volume all the leaves whose flight
Is scattered through the universe around;

How substance, accident, and mode unite
Fused, so to speak, together, in such wise
That this I tell of is one simple light.

These are Dante's prayerful words after St. Bernard has asked the Virgin to grant the poet a glimpse of the "True Light" of the three-fold Divinity. He cannot describe what he saw, only try to convey his joy and how it made him feel.


December 2, 1998 - 11:30 am
Well, I like both John Ciardi's and Dorothy Sayers' translations of these lines in Paridiso! Especially with your giving the background, Ros. Strange to think that the author of Lord Peter Wimsey would have also translated Dante, even though she had studied at Oxford.

Roslyn Stempel
December 2, 1998 - 04:37 pm
Loma, isn't it interesting to think about the ways in which people are remembered after death? Certainly Sayers's name is associated generally with Lord Peter and Harriet. However, she was a serious Christian scholar, a lecturer at Cambridge, and a Dante expert, and in fact this was a lifelong vocation. She was heard on BBC Radio in, I think, the 1940's and wrote and produced plays with religious themes. Like Caroline Heilbrun, a serious scholar and important pioneer feminist writer whose pseudonymous Amanda Cross took on a life of her own, Sayers found widespread popularity with her lighter work.

Dorothy Sayers was a "liberated" woman in the days when such liberation was available only to a privileged few. There is said to have been a son born out of wedlock (quaint, outdated phrase) whom she always identified as her nephew.

If we examine Sayers's detective fiction we can find many literary jokes and insider references to scholarly matters, coming from both Lord Peter and his lady. Perhaps she thought initially that she was writing for a select audience that would understand all her little jokes.


December 2, 1998 - 08:57 pm
Bright is the ring of words
When the right man rings them,
Fair the fall of songs
When the singer sings them.

Still they are carolled and said -
On wings they are carried -
After the singer is dead
And the maker buried.

~ Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
Songs of Travel, I. The Vagabond, XIV

This seems to apply to Dante, Frost, Coleridge and many others.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
December 3, 1998 - 05:22 am
Hi Everyone:

What Pinsky is doing is something new and unusual. He rhymes consonants rather than vowels. They are not exact rhymes and there is no sing-song effect as there is in the rhyming of vowels.


December 5, 1998 - 05:56 am
Here are three lines from Dante's Inferno and from four great translators. This all comes from the internet, but alas, I could not find one by our Dorothy Sayers.
I picked these three lines because they stand alone better than most. They seem to say the same thing, yet in different ways, and so sometimes the reader's understanding.

Dante: INFERNO, Canto XXXIII, 151-153

Ahi Genovesi, uomini diversi
d'ogne costume e pien d'ogne magagna,
perche non siete voi del mondo spersi?

Ah, Genoese! ye men at variance
With every virtue, full of every vice
Wherefore are ye not scattered from the world

Ah, Genoese, a people strange to every
constraint of custom, full of all corruption,
why have you not been driven from the world?

Ah Genoese!--to every accustomed good,
Strangers; with every corruption, amply crowned:
Why hasn't the world expunged you as it should?

Ah, men of Genoa! souls of little worth,
corrupted from all custom of righteousness,
why have you not been driven from the earth?
Dante wrote this in the early 1300s, in his native Italian rather than in scholarly Latin, which was most unusual for those times. The people in his Hell were all of prestige and/or power who had acted for selfish motivations and against the common good. (A problem of all times.) Somehow at this time of year, in contrast to his message to the Genoese, one thinks of the message from O Little Town of Bethlehem. Dante's point in The Divine Comedy was that people should adjust their characters both for their own souls and for the effect they have on others.

Roslyn Stempel
December 5, 1998 - 06:14 am
Loma,thanks for pulling together the collection of examples. And here is the comparable "terzain" from Sayers:
O Genoa, where hearts corrupt and rot,
Lost to all decency! will no man hound
Thy whole tribe from the earth and purge this blot?

...and of course the first line of the following stanza echoes "hound": "For with Romagna's vilest spirit I found...."


Roslyn Stempel
December 5, 1998 - 06:28 am
Charlotte, I've been pondering your comment about the freshness of Pinsky's "consonantal rhyming," because, although I really enjoy reading his translation (in spite of some of his brutally direct language), I'm not at all uncomfortable with Sayers. Pinsky's half-rhymes, innovative in this setting, follow a respectable tradition. I don't think it's that alone which distinguishes his version.

I believe we would find that a majority, or at least a plurality, of Commedia translations are in prose, because the translators were not primarily poets but scholars seeking to convey Dante's meaning and unwilling to risk corrupting that with a clumsy attempt at versification. Every one of them provides some kind of apologetic note offering his or her work as an aid to approaching the original rather than a substitute for Dante. Pinsky is an established poet, granted a scholarly one, with ideas about poetry that are central to his being. Further, as our contemporary he casts his discourse in a form comfortable to him and well-known to us. Longfellow certain sounds formal and stodgy; but his lines fit perfectly with "Psalm of Life" and "Hiawatha," so I think we have to grant him at least the virtue of consistency.

Returning to Sayers, I noted that her translation was published in 1949, long past the time when unrhymed and divergent poetic forms would have been shocking. She chose the terza rima form as a homage to the original, and deviated from it with frequent "sprung" rhythms and occasional half-rhymes. Rather than finding her version too sing-song, I enjoyed the sensation of closure that a good classic rhyme can provide.


December 6, 1998 - 08:46 am
Exploring Dante is quite a trip! Also seeing how well liked the Robert Pinsky and Dorothy Sayers translations are, and Longfellow's verses about entering an old Cathedral when he was immersed in translating.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) was married in 1795, and the next year he wrote The Eolian Harp, a poem to his wife, and of their home or Cot as he termed it. These are the last lines, which express how he felt:

I praise Him, and with Faith that only feels;
Who with His saving mercies healed me,
A sinful and most miserable man,
Wilder'd and dark, and gave me to possess
Peace, and this Cot, and thee, heart-honour'd Maid!
He wrote Frost at Midnight in 1798. I'll post part, the first part here and another part separately, because of its length. I have added a line space at each sentence end as it seems to read with better comprehension that way.
The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by an wind. The owlet's cry
Came loud--and hark, again! loud as before.

The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.

'Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings-on of life,
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not;
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,
Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.

December 6, 1998 - 09:04 am
Frost at Midnight, last part, by Coleridge:
Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the interspersed vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought!

My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore,
And in far other scenes! For I was reared
In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.

But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity, doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.

Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Roslyn Stempel
December 6, 1998 - 12:20 pm
Loma, thanks for sharing the Coleridge poems with us. What do you think is the gist of "Frost at Midnight"? Can you abstract his meaning for us? I thought he might have started out with one idea and gradually shifted to another; but then, that's what Wordsworth seemed to do, and they were great buddies.


December 6, 1998 - 12:58 pm
The gist of "Frost at Midnight"? It seems to me that Coleridge's poem is on several levels: His satisfaction with home life - I remember times when the children were growing up and for some reason I was up the the middle of the night, the feeling of quiet and fullness. His relationship with God, which he always seemed to be aware of in relation to Nature, at least I never noticed him mentioning it in churches. His thoughts and memories, which he struggled to put into words; always a poet. Perhaps these lines in the poem express it:

Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit
By its own moods interprets, every where
Echo or mirror seeking of itself,
And makes a toy of Thought.

But him awake in the quiet of the winter night with the sleeping child. That is unto itself. While I do not think he saw it that way, if I were in charge of writing a Nativity play I would seriously consider having Joseph speak the lines in my prior two posts.

Roslyn Stempel
December 8, 1998 - 05:50 am
Loma, I've just glanced back with enjoyment at the lovely quiet winter images in "Frost at Midnight." He certainly conveyed a peaceful picture of nature and a fullness of emotion. As perhaps you know, the "babe" in the poem was his son, Hartley, who also wrote poetry but never attained the success of his father.

William Frost, I can never see John Ashbery mentioned without thinking of you. My December poetry treat will be the paperback The Mooring of Starting Out: The First Five Books of Poetry, surely a bargain and probably a brain-buster so if you're still tuning in I might need help in understanding them. Since I know the meaning of "wether" and "tup," I also await with interest your posting of the Burns poem you promised.


Roslyn Stempel
December 10, 1998 - 07:15 am
Since human life is short compared to the long sweep of time, is there anything that endures? Here's a fragment from "The Interpreters," by Algernon Charles Swinburne, a Victorian poet known for long rolling lines and lush imagery:
The years live, work, sigh, smile, and die, with all
They cherish;
The soul endures, though dreams that fed it fall
And perish.

In human thought have all things habitation:
Our days
Laugh, lower, and lighten past, and find no station
That stays.

But thought and faith are mightier things than time
Can wrong,
Made splendid once with speech, or made sublime
By song.

Remembrance, though the tide of change that rolls
Wax hoary
Gives earth and heaven, for song's sake and the soul's
Their glory.
The poet seems to be pursuing the old question, "If a tree falls in a forest with no one to hear it, is there still a sound?" His answer is, yes, but human awareness enriches nature's wonders by making them endure in memory.


December 10, 1998 - 07:44 am
"Human awareness enriches nature's wonders by making them endure in memory", AND the printed word preserves it. Thus a love of books, or rather, what is in them. That applies to great writers. On a personal plane, we have (sometimes) letters, journals, even photo albums. How much of our own soul feelings and memories will be passed on? This poem evokes a lot of meditations.

December 14, 1998 - 08:54 am
Andrew Lang

As one that for a weary space has lain
Lulled by the song of Circe and her wine
In gardens near the pale of Proserpine,
Where the Ægæan isle forgets the main,
And only the low lutes of love complain,
And only shadows of wan lovers pine;
As such an one were glad to know the brine
Salt on his lips, and the large air again--

So gladly, from the songs of modern speech
Men turn, and see the stars, and feel the free
Shrill wind beyond the close of heavy flowers;
And, through the music of the languid hours,
Thy hear like ocean on a western beach
The surge and thunder of the Odyssey.

Andrew Lang (1844 - 1912) was a Scottish historian and mythologist. As Swinburne says, "In human thought have all things habitation".

Jackie Lynch
December 14, 1998 - 05:33 pm
Yes, yes, yes. "...like ocean on a western beach the surge and thunder..." When I am in the doctor's office and something too dreadful to comtemplate is being done to my body, I take me to that western beach, feel the heat of the sun and the cool of the breeze, hear the shrill of the gulls and the bark of the dogs, smell the salt that has blown all the way from Japan. Somedays I would like to stay there forever.

How well the words create that lovely picture. The author suggests the excitement of a quest in opposition to the dread lethargy of men's lives. To me, it suggests the peace and tranquility that is absent from so many of my days. But then of course, I am not a man.

Roslyn Stempel
December 15, 1998 - 09:03 am
Loma, see Message No. 356 for an earlier comment about this evocative sonnet. In addition to its imagery of the sea it reflects the way in which a great work of literature comes to occupy a space in memory so that we can recall it when we need it.

Jackie, your comment reminded me of how a friend of mine described the way she endured an MRI: "I went twice around my favorite walk on the lake shore in front of my cottage." I recently had a full spinal MRI and found it actually rather pleasant; the tempo of the rhythmic thumping inspired a replay of most of the musical score from The Fantasticks. Can't say I've been so successful with other and more painful procedures. However, I agree that it's important to have some kind of refuge for the spirit to flee to. Poetry and music are helpful.


Roslyn Stempel
December 18, 1998 - 11:17 am
And now for something completely different ... John Ashbery, and this is really "quod libet" or "whatever you think it is":
Of who we and all they are
You all now know. But you know
After they began to find us out we grew
Before they died thinking us the causes

Of their acts. Now we'll not know
The truth of some still at the piano, though
They often date from us, causing
These changes we think we are. We don't care

Though, so tall up there
In young air. But things get darker as we move
To ask them: Whom must we get to know
To die, so you live and we know?

This poem is titled "The Grapevine" and comes from The Mooring of Starting Out: The First Five Books of Poetry, published in 1998 by Ecco Press. The copyrights range from 1956 to 1997 to cover the first appearance of all the selections. It is almost the "easiest" in the 383-page book, though I don't think any two of us can interpret it in the same way.

What are your thoughts?


December 18, 1998 - 12:02 pm
"...thinking us the causes Of their acts." and, "...some still at the piano, though They often date from us..." It's murky to me, but is part of the author's thoughts that great writers / thinkers through the ages do affect others even into later generations? Whether they know it or not? But past and future gets all mixed up to me, especially in the last two lines. Would like to see other's opinions.

Roslyn Stempel
December 19, 1998 - 11:44 am
Loma, I don't want to impose my own versions of a poet like Ashbery, but since he never does tell us exactly what he means I guess we have a right to (maybe an obligation to) compose our own floating interpretations. Your suggestion about a cultural heritage is certainly tenable, especially if we pay attention to "piano."

I've read "Grapevine" about 10 times and I keep coming back to the idea of ancestors and generations: "We" might be the adult young, "they" might be parents or grandparents, "some still at the piano" might be the next generation. Or literally, as a grapevine ascends from the earth it twines around, branches out, spreads and bears fruit, until one loses sight of its origin .. as you know if you've ever tried to untangle one from the shrubbery it has invaded as it climbs ("so tall up there/ In young air").

Anyway, I think it sounds marvelous, rhythmic, musical, and all that. Have you tried saying it aloud? Robert Pinsky recommends this for helping us understand poetry.

I hope someone else looks in and gives us a different reading.


Roslyn Stempel
December 20, 1998 - 04:34 pm
Jackie Lynch, if you happen to look in, here's a poem that made me think of you. I'm posting it in honor of the new discussion you will be leading. It comes from The Book of Modern British Verse, published in 1919, and the "modern" in the title refers to the Georgian Period (George V, that is), which encompassed World War I.
(by Anna Wickham)

I have to thank God I'm a woman,
For in these ordered days a woman only
Is free to be very hungry, very lonely.

It is sad for Feminism, but still clear
That man, more often than woman, is a pioneer.
If I would confide a new thought,
First to a man must it be brought.

Now, for our sins, it is my bitter fate
That such a man wills soon to be my mate,
And so of friendship is quick end:
When I have gained a love I lose a friend.

It is well within the order of things
That man should listen when his mate sings
But the true male never yet walked
Who liked to listen when his mate talked.

I would be married to a full man,
As would all women since the world began;
But from a wealth of living I have proved
I must be silent, if I would be loved

Now of my silence I have much wealth,
I have to do my thinking all by stealth.
My thought may never see the day;
My mind is like a catacomb where early Christians pray.

And of my silence I have much pain
But of these pangs I have great gain;
For I must take to drugs or drink,
Or I must write the things I think.

If my sex would let me speak,
I would be very lazy and most weak;
I should speak only, and the things I spoke
Would fill the air a while, and clear like smoke.

The things I think now I write down
And some day I will show them to the town.
When I am sad I make thought clear;
I can re-read it all next year.

I have to thank God I'm a woman
For in these ordered days a woman only
Is free to be very hungry, very lonely.

Good luck as you undertake to prove or disprove the truth of this acerbic observation.


December 21, 1998 - 06:44 am
"When I have gained a love I lose a friend" -- it is hoped that if she marries, through the years (though there will be times it seems not so) that she will find her husband to be her best friend.

It seems difficult to find Christmas poetry to post. Several old ones are seen in comments but are hard to locate -- or like Milton's, do not seem my cup of tea at all. These two reflect old England in the days of the knights, when Christmas was evidently the main time for jollity, and the roaring fire was obviously a necessity. Lowell's lines are so distinctive; definitely identifiable to this poem. The spacing between lines I arbitrarily did.

- James Russell Lowell, 1848

Within the hall are song and laughter,
The cheeks of Christmas glow red and jolly,

And sprouting is every corbel and rafter
With the lightsome green of ivy and holly;

Through the deep gulf of the chimney wide
Wallows the Yule-log's roaring tide;
The broad flame-pennons droop and flap
And belly and tug as a flag in the wind;
Like a locust shrills the imprisoned sap,
Hunted to death in its galleries blind;
And swift little troops of silent sparks,
Now pausing, now scattering away as in fear,
Go threading the soot-forest's tangled darks
Like herds of startled deer.

But the wind without was eager and sharp,
Of Sir Launfal's gray hair it makes a harp . . . .
Singing, in dreary monotone,
A Christmas carol of its own . . . .

Sir Launfal's raiment thin and spare
Was idle mail 'gainst the barbed air,
For it was just at the Christmas time . . . .

from MARMION (Sir Lochinvar)
- Sir Walter Scott, 1808

Heap on more wood!-- the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We'll keep our Christmas merry still.

England was merry England, when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.

'Twas Christmas broach'd the mightiest ale;
'Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;

A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man's heart through half the year.

Roslyn Stempel
December 21, 1998 - 12:00 pm
Loma, many thanks for coming to the rescue with image-rich Christmastime verse. Both excerpts are the backward-glancing kind, aren't they? - harking back to an idealized earlier time, and wonderfully emphasizing both the spiritual nature of the festival and the ways in which the celebration relieved the burdens of winter weather and everyday drudgery. I heard an interview on the Canadian station yesterday, with a woman who's written some of these books about simplifying life; she talked about ways in which folks are now trying to simplify the excessive gift-giving, over-elaborate decorating and food-gorging, and extended "celebrating" that threaten to make a grudging obligation out of what could be a heartfelt festival of joy.

Best holiday wishes to all, and let's keep Poetry alive from now until the millennium and beyond.


December 21, 1998 - 07:37 pm
"My mind is like a catacomb where early Christians pray."

What a state of mind that must be! Are women of today ever in such a mindset?...better to be remembered as one who will "laugh and play in the sunshine everyday, and in a year be on my way"....

The Gift
What can I give you, my lord, my lover,
You who have given the world to me,
Showed me the light and the joy that cover
The wild sweet earth and the restless sea?

All that I have are gifts of your giving---
If I gave them again, you would find them old,
And your soul would weary of always living
Before the mirror my life would hold.

What shall I give you, my lord, my lover?
The gift that breaks the heart in me
I bid you awake at dawn and discover
I have gone my way and left you FREE.
Sara Teasdale 1884-1933
Arent we women today truely liberated? Or do you poets read something else in these lines???? Just wondering! Ann

Jackie Lynch
December 22, 1998 - 06:10 am
Ah. The pain. Many of us know that pain. Men ask what do we want. Why do we seek equality? We are equal, aren't we? I suppose some men have to surrender the unique self to the combined selves that a union makes. They are ones who know our pain. Somber reflections ...

Charlotte J. Snitzer
December 24, 1998 - 06:28 am

I loved the Lowell poem. Such richness in description is reminiscent of Sir Gawain. Never did I read about observing a fire in such gorgeous detail..


Roslyn Stempel
December 24, 1998 - 04:47 pm
Ann, your contribution really made me stop and think. I have to say that when I read Sara Teasdale in my youth I thought she was terrific, just as I thought Millay's poems about love were terrific. But today, reading the one you posted, it seemed out-of-date and rather sad. (Unless, of course, she was jesting, or putting a brave face on the fact of a mid-life crisis, or sulking after a quarrel .) What woman today would admit, without at least thinking it over, that she was a Galatea or a Trilby who had been entirely molded and shaped by her lover?

I think lovers of both sexes "become" like the beloved - at first in the intensity of the early relationship when there is a need to assume the other's tastes and attributes; later through long association when at least one of the partners has adapted and adjusted to the tastes and attributes of the other. But to imply that there will be nothing left except what he created in her? I don't think so.


December 28, 1998 - 12:33 pm
Sara Teasdale has a very easy way of writing. Good poetry, yet the rhyming does not seem obvious, at least to me.

Yet what is her meaning in this poem? I tend to agree with Ros's conclusion. So is she afraid of commitment? Therefore is her saying she was going to leave him so he would be free, what might be considered a "tactful" cop-out?

The poet does not say more, but it might be interpreted differently depending on the reader's experience. Was he jealous and controlling and wanted her to inter-act only with him? Was his circle of friends and associates still far above her, and snooty and demeaning? Was he the type that seemed to do this with one girl after another?

Jo Meander
December 28, 1998 - 08:11 pm
Loved the recent poetry. (I haven't read all the past posts!) In the Lowell poem, perhaps the loved one is older, more learned, and the speaker feels young and unprepared to be equal in achievement and vision? Maybe she feels she will bore him and he will stop loving her. She may be leaving him so that his life will not be affected by her limitations. OR she may be seeking personal growth that he would not permit her to experience!

December 29, 1998 - 09:45 am
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

I thank all who have loved me in their hearts,
With thanks and love from mine. Deep thanks to all
Who paused a little near the prison-wall
To hear my music in its louder parts
Ere they went onward, each one to the mart's
Or temple's occupation, beyond call.
But thou, who, in my voice's sink and fall
When the sob took it, thy divinest Art's
Own instrument didst drop down at thy foot
To hearken what I said between my tears, . . .
Instruct me how to thank thee ! Oh, to shoot
My soul's full meaning into future years,
That they should lend it utterance, and salute
Love that endures, from Life that disappears !

Her prison-wall might have been her poor physical health. Wasn't she much confined to the couch? Wasn't it her words, her poetry, that attracted Robert Browning to her? I like it how she values her own writing, and people who respond to her.

Chris Tannlund
January 1, 1999 - 08:17 am
Tintern Abbey: The On-line Journal of Contemporary Poetry, Volume 1, Number 2, is now available for viewing, at http://home.earthlink.net/~tannlund/. This issue's theme is "Mothers." Featured poet: David Sutherland. Contributing poets include: C.E. Chaffin, Julie Damerell, Jennifer Crystal Fang-Chien, Richard Fein, Larry Kilman, Mary E. Ladd, Karen Masullo, Joanna A. Piucci, Rowena Silver, Deborah Q. Smith, Bruce Taylor, K.A. Thomas, C.K. Tower, Shari Diane Willadson and Kenneth Wolman.

We are now actively seeking submissions for issue's # 3 & 4. Tintern Abbey #3 will be a special All Formal Poetry issue. Contemporary poets everywhere are breathing new life into the old forms - share your explorations with us! Send us your Ballads, Odes, Sestinas, etc. Submission deadline 1/31/99, for publication 3/1/99. #4 will be devoted to Poetry about Poetry, a perennial favorite, the poem as subject of the poem. Submission deadline 3/31/99 for publication 5/1/99. We continuously seek submissions on a myriad of future themes as well, all of which are listed in our Submission Guidelines. Visit now for a complete listing, and for a more in-depth discussion of the #'s 3 & 4 themes.

Tintern Abbey: http://home.earthlink.net/~tannlund/

Roslyn Stempel
January 1, 1999 - 09:27 am
I've just posted a link to the complete text of Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," which appears in a treasury of on-line poetry produced by the University of Toronto. (Full copyright acknowledgement of this magnificent resource will appear here shortly.)

I hope everyone who's interested will find and read at least the first 30 or 40 lines so that we can begin our discussion by deciding how detailed we want this exploration to be.

Once embarked on the ship-like rocking of Coleridge's meter and rhyme, it's easy to move along; not so easy, perhaps, to pause and analyze each stanza. So: decisions, decisions.


January 1, 1999 - 06:59 pm
Happy New Year! This verse is for today.
1st verse. 1858.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Out of the bosom of the Air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow.

Chris, your contemporary poetry journal Tintern Abbey is nice. I liked two of the poems especially. The name and the picture is that of the ruins of Tintern Abbey which is located on the river Wye in England?

It is interesting that Wordsworth wrote Tinturn Abbey which was published in 1798 in a book Lyrical Ballads which is credited with introducing romanticism into England. This book was published with his friend Coleridge and it included his The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. So there is a kind of coincidental connection between these two adjoining posts.

Ros, is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner unusual in the way it presents its story? - the old mariner detaining one of the wedding guests. What is "the line" to a sailor -- the equator?

January 2, 1999 - 06:48 am
YAY!! Are we doing the Ancient Mariner?? Yay!!

When shall we start discussing the first 40 or so lines?


Charlotte J. Snitzer
January 2, 1999 - 07:07 am
Ros: Thanks for the An cient Mariner and for the two links. I've started reading as you suggest. It's amazing how much I remember from studying the poem in High School. It may be that early rote learning helped.

Jo: So glad to see you here. What a pleasure to have met face to face at the luncheon.

Loma: The Longfellow poem is lovely, but scarcely a consolation for me. My daughter and her family who live in Spokane are flying home today from Midland, Michigan. They change planes in Minneapolis which is getting the brunt of today's storm. Our other children who spent the holidays with us are now safely at home in Berkeley and Cleveland. Can't wait for a call or email so we can go back to our normal quiet, sometimes dull, lifel

Happy New Year to all.


Roslyn Stempel
January 3, 1999 - 06:45 am
Loma, yes, the Line is the equator, as you surmised. Coleridge was shaping his poem to resemble an ancient ballad, though he was basing it on a third-hand report of a (supposedly contemporary) mysterious incident. His contributions to Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads were meant to deal with the supernatural, the spiritual, the mysterious. You'll recall from our encounter with Scottish ballads a while back that they seemed to jump into the middle of a story and just paddle along from there, and that might account for the framing incident of the wedding. Wordsworth himself often framed his long and wearisome narratives by describing a meeting with some ancient graybeard seated on a stile, or gathering leeches, or wandering on the rocks.

Charlotte, isn't it amazing what drifts back to us on the tides of memory? Unfortunately for me, the first two lines of "Mariner" are always followed in memory by the next two lines of Longfellow's "Wreck of the Hesperus," so I get:

It is an ancient Mariner
And he stoppeth one of three;
And the skipper has taken his little daughter
To bear him company.
I suppose we could entertain ourselves by putting together more of those familiar lines that scan and rhyme so well. Do you know any?


January 3, 1999 - 08:37 am
What my husband and I discovered once, what drifted back to memory when something we were talking about brought up the subject, were the lines:

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

We were from different schools, town and country, but we both knew the lines well. Our kids with more recent schooling knew none of this, and probably thought we were nuts.

The first 40 lines -

Early on in these lines the wedding guest - "the bride groom's next of kin" - calls the ancient mariner "grey-beard loon". I do not know that the bird loon was known in England, but loon was also a Scottish word meaning something to the effect of insignificant fellow. Indeed, with "long grey beard and glittering eye" and "skinny hand", the ancient mariner must have presented quite a contrast to the wedding party.

Soon the wedding guest is listening "like a three years' child." Thinking back to our youngest grandson, yes, a three year old does listen, learn, and absorb.

This verse seems to show the pull between the wedding proceeding, and the mariner's compelling glittering eye & words when he told of the ship sailing under the sun which was rising:

"Higher and higher every day,
Till over the mast at noon--"
The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,
For he heard the loud bassoon.

Jo Meander
January 3, 1999 - 03:55 pm
Hi, Charlotte! Hello to all and Happy New Year. I must reread this old favorite so that I can say something sensible ... or try to!

Charlotte J. Snitzer
January 4, 1999 - 05:34 am
Hi all:

I read the first 40 lines of the Ancient Mariner, and am impressed with the brevity of the lines. That's probably what made it good choice for school kids. It was easy to remember, so it spanned both states and continents. I am still trying to get back to Sir Gawain, also reading Russell and looking at The Professor and the Madman and Sister Wendy's Meditations which we got as gifts for the holidays. Don't know where to start. "So Many Books, So Little Time," the slogan on a sweat shirt my daughter gave me some years ago.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
January 4, 1999 - 05:38 am

How about doing Pinsky's translation of Dante's Inferno? It's really great and only about $6.40 from B and N. For anyone interested in translation, the original language is on its facing page.


Jackie Lynch
January 4, 1999 - 06:26 am
Pinsky wrote about how poetry is physical, or something. Got a good review. Has anyone read it?

January 4, 1999 - 07:17 am
Oh I'm so glad we're reading The Ancient Mariner, it's always been one of my favorite poems. I love the rhythm and the sing song ryhme and look forward to learning such a lot more about it here.

Line 22 is just one example of Coleridge's skill: the ship is dropping merrily out of sight, and the scansion does, too.

Merrily (3 syllables)
did we (2)
drop. (1)

Thus the line itself drops, too.

Love it. The whole poem is full of such wonders, I can't wait to read it with you all...thanks for putting it in the heading, Ros.

I have always been confused about the directions of the sailing, may even get out a globe this time and see if I can figure it out. Why NOT?

The sun is currently coming up on the left and sinking on the right. Will go get a map, just for the heck of it.


January 4, 1999 - 08:24 am
Heading south puts the rising sun on the left and the setting sun on the right. A little southwest, otherwise they would hit Africa, and they evidently were heading for the Pacific which would mean around the south of South America.

Did they see any land after they left England? The mariner says the ship did "drop" from the sight of the church, the hill, the lighthouse top. He must have had a good concept of maps, that north is the top, thus they "dropped" south? Or is that how it seems when you are sailing, that the land stays and that you "drop"? - wouldn't you think it would seem that it is the land that slowly drops out of sight?

Interesting isn't it, how the storm seems to have taken them so far, after they passed the equator, all the way to the Antarctic snow and ice. How their mood must have changed from leaving England in high spirits.

Simple words, but there is a lot to see in this rime.

Roslyn Stempel
January 4, 1999 - 09:07 am
Jackie, the most recent book by Robert Pinsky (see earlier message No. 878) is The Sounds of Poetry, published by Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 129 pages, hardcover, retailing for $16, and it is really very satisfying, worth more than one reading. His other writings about poetry are available in paperback at about $12.95, and so, I suppose, will this one eventually be.

Charlotte, I think reading and discussing parts of the Inferno would be rewarding, but frankly -- given the complexity and length of the work and the relative slowness of our reading-discussing rate -- I'd hesitate to tackle the whole work here. The introduction and translator's note alone are formidable enough to warrant some hours of reading and thinking. After we've finished with "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," and the essential elucidatory prose pieces by Wordsworth and Coleridge, we might test the waters again and see whether, how much, and which sections, we want to approach.

Loma and Ginny, suffice it to say it was a long voyage south, and by the time they had braved all that Antarctic weather and rounded the Horn, the Mariner had already done the Homerically foolish deed that caused all the trouble on the return trip. Here again I'm guessing that Coleridge took advantage of the folk-ballad's traditional vagueness of chronology and didn't bother to specify how long the ship was southbound.


Pat King
January 5, 1999 - 09:24 am
Finally, here I am in a Poetry discussion, I hope. This is my first posting in this category though I have exchanged E-mails with Roslyn and Eileen. As I told them, I am what I recently learned is "an established poet". That means that I have had a lot of poetry published (but no book). I write both contemporary and traditional poetry. I need to read some of what poets have been saying at this location before I put in a poem if that's what's been done. Roslyn, I may need more help from you as I participate here.

January 5, 1999 - 12:34 pm
Pat King, good to have you here and congratulations for being an established poet! A few posts back was an announcement of an on-line poetry magazine looking for traditional poems for its next issue -- have you seen it? -- Sorry the Net is too slow right now for me to go back to look for it. But you probably know of lots of places. Please stick around, and cast your poet's eye on things.

Jackie and Charlotte, we did touch on Pinsky and Dante's Inferno a bit during November and into December but there is lots more; if one could zero in on one part. Pinsky's Sounds of Poetry in itself would surely be good.

Meanwhile back to the Ancient Mariner. Ginny, you describe the skill of the author in the lines "Merrily we did drop" so well. Now lines 41 - 62 begin to describe how far from merry they did drop. Due to a terrible, huge, lengthy storm: "With sloping masts and dipping prow ... The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast." Then after all that noise and fury and stress they came to the land of snow and ice, an almost surreal world, though here again was a sound; its own noise. What image-pictures Coleridge creates!

Though I may see some things rather literally, it takes others to see much more, to know the background, and understand the author's skills and subtleties.

Roslyn Stempel
January 5, 1999 - 04:29 pm
Welcome, Pat King, I'm glad you found us. Before I forget, Chris Tannlund's message about "Tintern Abbey," his poetry website, is No. 916. I agree with Loma that you would find it interesting and perhaps you'd be willing to contribute some of your work.

As you can see, we're currently reading and reacting to Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." You'll note that each of us responds and interprets freely according to our particular individual approach to the appreciation of poetry. There are no rules and there's no strict schedule as with some of the other discussions. As the host/discussion leader I usually look, as well, for some relevant background material, which in this instance will refer to the English Romantic Movement and especially to the relation between Wordsworth and Coleridge at the time when "Mariner" was written for inclusion in Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads.

I hope you will feel free to share one of your poems with us, and that you'll also feel comfortable telling us about how you wrote (and possibly rewrote) it.


Roslyn Stempel
January 6, 1999 - 12:04 pm
What is "Romanticism" as it applies to English poetry? It's the name applied to a school of poetry that emerged in the late 18th century and marked a distinct change from the style and subject matter of the earlier classic period.

This was a time of revolutions abroad, marked changes in society, a new attention to "the common man" and the everyday world, in contrast with the lofty addresses to the nobility and references to the ancient Greeks and Romans that had previously been considered appropriate.

William Wordsworth (who incidentally had been in France and was filled with the excitement of the French Revolution and the new style of government there) was one of the leaders and innovators of the movement. He believed that the poetry of the time should deal with individual experience, particularly in relation to Nature, should reflect in concrete terms the poet's thoughts and feelings about what he saw around him, and should be written in simple, everyday language, using rhyme and meter but not necessarily depending on the elaborate figures and often-strained rhyme schemes of the classic style. Wordsworth first published in 1798 a collection of poems, titled Lyrical Ballads, which embodied his new beliefs. His collaborator was Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whose principal contribution was "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

But if Romanticism emphasized the natural, the real, and the poet's feelings, how did such a masterpiece of the supernatural creep in? That was part of the Romantic vision: not natural phenomena alone, but the poet's perception of a world beyond the visible and tangible. The ancient ballad form - used, as we know, to narrate encounters with many a ghost, fairy, demon, and monster - was a perfect vehicle for this other aspect of the new poetry.

Lyrical Ballads proved successful enough to warrant a second edition in 1800, and this new issue included Wordsworth's "Preface," which contains one of the most misquoted definitions of poetry ever circulated. I'll copy it into a later message, and explain.


January 6, 1999 - 03:52 pm
Ros, thanks for telling explaining about the then new trend of Romanticism in poetry. This Rime of Coleridge's surely was a good way to introduce it!

Evidently there was a Romanticism movement also in art: the emotions painted in a bold, dramatic manner, pictures of nature in its untamed state, or other exotic settings filled with dramatic action. This poem here is clear as a dramatic picture:

The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around
After the albatross came
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!
Does the line "It ate the food it ne'er had eat" about the albatross indicate it was not normal to be in that area?

Roslyn Stempel
January 7, 1999 - 07:05 pm
Loma, I don't know what albatrosses normally eat; my interpretation was that the sailors fed the bird from the ship's stores. Maybe the encyclopedia will provide hints about the bird's usual habitat and diet.The Mariner seems to be suggesting that the ship was following a hitherto untracked path through the Pacific Ocean and maybe that particular albatross had not previously seen humans.

Various notes indicate that there were at least two sources contributing to Coleridge's original idea for a plot, though whichever one he chose, he vastly embellished it. Part III is pretty scary.

As we move along, we really have to put aside any hope of a logical sequence or a reasonable resolution of the plot, and just enjoy the musicality and the way Coleridge succeeded in using simple language to picture fantastic scenes.

Wordsworth had some reservations about this poem. He claimed credit for some of it, the ideas at least, but found his style and Coleridge's were too different to permit a true collaboration. He also criticized its construction. Charles Lamb didn't like the "miraculous aspects" but was fascinated by the way Coleridge depicted the Mariner's inner experiences.

January 8, 1999 - 06:18 am
He shot the albatross with what? A cross-bow! Gadzooks! A cross-bow! Muskets were used by that time, in our Revolutionary War. There must have been an overlapping in using weapons.

Changing the subject a bit, here is a poem in honor of the weather, at least in the northern part of the US. The meter is almost a shock after being immersed in the flowing words of Coleridge, but like Coleridge the descriptiveness paints a clear picture:

John Gould Fletcher

Black swallows swooping or gliding
In a flurry of entangled loops and curves:
The skaters skim over the frozen river.
And the grinding click of their skates as
they impinge upon the surface,
Is like the brushing together of thin wing-tips of silver.

Roslyn Stempel
January 10, 1999 - 04:43 pm
Loma, the Britannica tells us that albatrosses eat all manner of fish, but that they also follow ships and eat refuse thrown overboard; so I'm not sure what "the food it ne'er had eat" could have been; unless the implication was that the Mariner's ship was so far off course that no other ship had ever sailed there. The encyclopedia mentions the superstition about killing an albatross but also adds that sailors nevertheless caught them with baited lines and made rugs, etc., from their feathers and pipes from their hollowed bones.

Part of the idea for Coleridge's plot for the Mariner came from two journals of ocean voyages by explorers in the early 1600's, when it might not have been unusual for sailors to use crossbows instead of muskets. And, of course, maybe it was easier to scan and rhyme "crossbow" than to squeeze in "arquebus" or find a rhyme for "musket."


January 15, 1999 - 09:23 am
Not to mention, that if the Albatross is a sign of the grace of God, then the crossbow makes an ideal crucifix!


January 16, 1999 - 03:31 am
I have always thought and always argued that the Ancient Mariner is an allegory for the crucifixion so of course Charles's idea is a stunner. To be fair, nobody has ever agreed with me, but HEY!! Life is short, back in a mo.


January 16, 1999 - 05:40 am
Part I ends with the ship coming out of the ice:
.... With my cross-bow
I shot the albatross.
Part II ends with the ship becalmed:
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.
Part III ends with his shipmates dying:
And every soul, it passed me by
Like the whizz of my cross-bow.
Part IV ends with him coming to feel love for the sea creatures:
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea.
Interesting, isn't it?

Roslyn Stempel
January 16, 1999 - 07:50 am
Bravo, Charles, that's a nice parallel. Ginny, there is much in what you say, though I'm not sure if Coleridge ever expressed his intention of producing an allegory. It would be interesting to learn more in detail about your theory. Loma, yes, Coleridge's marginal notes suggest to me too that the spell under which the Mariner was suffering was not broken until he put aside his superstitious fantasies about the supernatural and acknowledged the wonder of the multitude of life-forms existing in the deeps and in the skies. At that point the chain broke and the dead bird fell into the sea.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
January 16, 1999 - 01:22 pm
Hi all:

I think when this poem was written, albatrosses had become extinct. However, I think the species has now revived. Does anyone know?


January 16, 1999 - 01:54 pm
Charlotte, you may be interested in THIS about ALBATROSSES

Charlotte J. Snitzer
January 17, 1999 - 06:47 am

Thanks for the info. Glad that the albatrosses are still around and that the kids are working on them.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
January 17, 1999 - 06:50 am

Lovely poem about some pretty rotten weather.


Roslyn Stempel
January 17, 1999 - 11:34 am
Pat Scott, thanks for the interesting albatross link. The reference to the extinction and resurrection of the birds sent me back to Britannica, where I learned that one particular species, the short-tailed albatross, had been "virtually exterminated" by the way sailors wantonly used the feathers and bones (see earlier message), but that at least 12 of the original 13 species still existed at least in 1970, the date of our encyclopedia . Extinction being a rather final and irreversible biological process, I was glad to learn from your link that they have survived and even flourish.


January 17, 1999 - 03:56 pm
Seven: The days of Creation. The Seven parts of The Rime of the Ancient Matiner. The Seven Chapters of The Magic Mountain........

Christian Theology 
Mariner expresses Love for Sea Creatures 
(The beginning of Redemption) 
Movement to State of Grace 
(From Hell to Purgatory) 

Part V begins with selflessness selflessness=sleep rain=symbol of purgation Oh, sleep! it is a gentle thing... And when I awoke, it rained


January 18, 1999 - 09:03 am
The thoughts in these postings are great! So many facets to perceive!

Going back to the albatross, here are excerpts from the World Book to round out the descriptions:   Large sea birds found over nearly all oceans, except the North Atlantic. Two species of albatrosses are commonly found along the Pacific Coast of North America. The best-known is the wandering albatross of southern seas. It has a white body and darker wings and tail. The spread wings may be up to 11 1/2 feet from tip to tip. The albatross sometimes follows a ship for days. It feeds on scraps of food thrown from the ship, or on fish and squid. Albatrosses come to land only to breed. Sailors have long had strange beliefs about the albatross.

If part of the idea for Coleridge's plot for the Mariner came from two journals of ocean voyages by explorers in the early 1600's, the silent sea - could that be the Sargasso Sea? It is a place of slow current. The areas of calms with little wind are near the equator and the horse latitudes, and believe the Sargasso Sea is within the latter. In it is all that seaweed where little crabs and shrimps and Sargasso fish crawl over it - where slimy things did crawl ... upon the slimy sea.   The death fires danced at night ... The water like a witch's oils, burnt green, and blue and white - could this be a combination of two things? Since the water in the Sargasso Sea is rather circular, the oil and other refuse from ships accumulates. The death fires, was that Saint Elmo's fire often seen around masts of sailing ships, being a steady discharge of electricity?   And ghost ships had long been legendary in the Sargasso Sea. Coleridge had his ghost ship come out of the red setting sun which made an exceptionally dramatic picture. The water snakes - were they eels? Eels begin their life in the Sargasso Sea, then spend part of it along the Atlantic coasts of North America and Europe, turning silver when mature. We know more about these things now, but back when Coleridge wrote this they must have seemed wonders indeed, and easily could make up into a terrible experience.

January 19, 1999 - 03:21 am
Gosh what marvelous posts, All!! Have printed a couple of them out.

Pat: thanks so much for the Albatross site, had no idea they were not extinct. See what we learn in our books sites? I note it's a site for children, and I note I read every word. I don't know if that means I'm childish or they present things better for kids, but I surely enjoyed it.

Charles: What good points, keep thinking about the rain. Could symbolize more than rain. Water, blessing, got to go back and relook.

Loma: Great Sargasso Sea Stuff, am once again totally turned around by the winds blowing north and south etc. I did think Coleridge did a wonderful job decribing ice floes...wonder if he'd ever BEEN to one?

Ros: the analogy is not as clear as it once was to me, maybe as we go I can regain it. Do you know if Coleridge ever traveled to or knew any accounts of travel to icebergs? I found his description of the sounds they make fascinating. He knew something from somewhere.

I love this poem, I think it's very cleverly crafted and the scansion and devices keep stopping me: just to mention a couple:

The similies: "As who pursued with yell and blow
Still threads the shadow of his foe
And forweard bends his head.


I'm using the edition with the Dore illustrations. Though some of them are inaccurate, all of them are spectacular, and one finds some pages with only one verse. Just a total experience. Never noticed some of the inaccuracies before, but still think he's the best.

How about that ice?

"It cracked and growled, and roared and howled
Like noises in a swound!"

How did Coleridge know that?

The marvelous alliteration:

"The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew
The furrow followed free;"

And note the tricks in scansion: lots of sing song iambs and then suddenly:

"Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down.

What is that? A dactyl? Followed by trochees? Or possibly one trochee followed by iambs? Whatever it is, it's different.


"Day after day, day after day," (Is this two dactyls here? With extra stresses? I don't know what this is, but I know what this is:)

"We stuck." ( A spondee. Two stresses, physically making the line stop with the ship's stopping).

Very nice. And then it begins its ryhthmic sing song iambs agian.

Very nice.

As to the theme, it appears to me to be sin and redemption as Charles said.

The Mariner kills the "bird of good omen," who even attended church (vespers) services. Sailors are notoriously superstitious people, and the bird came to symbolize deliverance.

Then the Mariner, who knows why, shoots the bird with a CROSS BOW! Good grief, that's like shooting a sparrow with a cannon.

And so the sin is the Mariner's.

Immediately nature changes, now here is a problem, as the sun now comes up upon the right, they WERE heading south, now they've swung around and are heading north, and even tho they've got a "good south wind still blew behind" the sailors blame the Mariner,

"For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay
That made the breeze to blow!

Maybe because they're going the wrong direction. Coleridge never does say why they set out or where they intended to go or why.

So in that the sailors blame the Mariner.

Then the glorious

"Nor dim, nor red, like God's own head,
The glorious Sun uprist.

Things start to go better, and the sailors take on themselves the sin of the Mariner:

"'Twas right, said they, such birds to slay
That bring the fog and mist."

So here, though the sailors did not do the actual sin, they take up the blame by agreeing in their minds that it was the proper thing to do.

Coleridge seems concerned here by sins of both commission and omission, and we can find that parallel in the awful tale of the rape of the small child in the Vegas Casino and the friend who did nothing to help.

So the entire ship enters into a sort of Hell, as they all bear the burden.

The ship stands still, the heat is intense, and instead of repenting, the sailors attempt to cast the blame on and make a scapegoat OF the Ancient Mariner:

"Ah! well-a- day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Intead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.

In this action the sailors attempt to shift blame by selecting a sacrificial victim, the Mariner, without repenting themselves, and it's their inner lack of compassion which dooms them. I think this is where I once thought the analogy began, but I need to see if my theory holds up in the light of my hahahaha mature years! hahahahahha

More later,

Charles, I totally missed the 7 stuff. Great job.

I wonder if this is the origin of the common understanding of the meaning of albatross around one's neck? Expect so?


January 19, 1999 - 08:44 am
What you all are pointing out is invaluable to my understanding poetry and this poem. Seven. yes. Sin and redemption, yes. Coleridge's marvellous skill with words, aaaahhh yes.

We must have not dwelt on it long in school. I just remember the "Water, water" lines, and the teacher explaining that the sailors considered killing an albatross unlucky, and that was where the term "albatross around your neck" came from.

Where the ship was going or why, does not seem to be a part of the story. Somewhere south of the equator. Then they had a storm that blew them south all the way to the snow and ice of Antarcta. Do you suppose Coleridge patterned his graphic descriptions after the journals he based part of his poem on? Then in the poem after the albatross came, the winds blew the ship northerly, again a long way.

Can anyone explain what the term "vespers nine" in line 76 means? Also "silly buckets" in line 297?

January 19, 1999 - 02:54 pm

"Vespers nine" means nine days (nights). In Middle English, a "vesper" means an evening or evening star, so that the Albatross perched for nine evenings. Now, why nine??

And "silly buckets": Notes from the 1901 Bates Edition, indicate that this means only that the buckets were "empty" or "useless". Earlier meanings of the word were "blesssed" and "innocent". Thus the heretofore useless buckets become blessed vessels for the dew - the cleansing, restorative rain. Rain being an ancient symbol for the purgation of the soul.


January 20, 1999 - 05:00 am
Silly buckets meaning empty or useless buckets -- the word silly has changed a bit through the years. Thanks, Charles, for finding the meaning.

Vespers nine meaning nine evenings would fit in the verse. I see it as a time of the full moon, which shines through the mist. Would there be a lot of moonlight for nine nights? Is there another meaning for vespers? Evening vespers, a Catholic hour of worship?

Regarding the aspect of a light through the mist, usually here when it is going to snow, or has just snowed, or is thinking about snowing again, the evening sky is overcast and not dark but glows all rosy red. The red must be from the city lights reflecting. It's pretty wierd if you stop to see it and think about it.

January 21, 1999 - 07:08 am
Give a new meaning to the term, "Silly Billy" doesn't it? Wonder where that originated? I remember years ago at a hotel in London somebody stole the breakfast order off the door so when it didn't arrive, I called down and they said somebody had been playing "Silly Billy!"

I think it was one of the Kings, tho?


January 21, 1999 - 07:08 am
Can't you have Vespers at 9pm or is that Compline?


January 21, 1999 - 01:11 pm
In the Websters 1913 Dictionary on the web, it says vespers is the evening prayer and compline the last prayer of the day, after sunset, and gives a quote evidently about 9 o'clock. Several times it has seemed that it would be nice to have a good Catholic dictionary available on the Internet. There is a dictionary of Coleridge's time, but it needs to be more detailed.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
January 23, 1999 - 07:15 am

Great post on the Ancient Mariner. Would like to get into it, but too involved with the knights, Russell and Mann.

I wanted to congratulate Barbara St. Aubrey on her award, but can't find where to put it. I thought she was here. Also tried Sir Gawain. Isn't there some place congrats can be put so she can see it.



January 23, 1999 - 08:47 am
Charlotte, you might try the Library...Nook under Books & Literature.

These lines (232) seem so poignant:

Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.
Rereading the poem, there are many lines that are worth memorizing. The ones Ginny quoted (103) certainly paint a picture in the mind:
The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free
And a short one is (212):
... the star-dogged Moon.

January 24, 1999 - 05:27 am
Thomas Wolfe originally was going to call a novel he was writing Alone, Alone from his favorite poem but eventually named it Look Homeward Angel.


January 24, 1999 - 08:20 am
This was Thomas Wolfe's favorite poem!? Well, his choice of title was less sad and negative.

I wonder how many famous artists have illustrated this poem?

I have read that in the days this was written that a poet was not considered to have arrived unless he wrote long narratives such as this.

Jackie Lynch
January 24, 1999 - 08:51 am
The descriptions of the ice--Patrick O'Brien wrote about ships trying to get through Tierra del Fuego to the Pacific. Storms, ice, snow, wind, calm, mist, etc. It took 30 days or so for this fleetlet to make it through. On the Pacific side, they soon encountered tropical weather, sun, heat, etc.

The very words enchant me. They toll: Alone, alone, all all aone, alone...I have to read Pinsky's book about the sound of poetry.

Pat King
January 27, 1999 - 08:15 am
Hi, I haven't been on here in a while, but this morning I was working on some of my "poems in progress" and thought I would send hellos to other poets here. I am going to follow a suggestion that I plug into Writing, Language and Word Play because I think I might find some useful information to assist me in my writing. I am working not only on my poetry but on a couple of essays as well.

I was talking to an E-mail friend recently about the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, and asked her for the origin of the following lines: "My candles burn at both ends; it will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends, it gives a lovely light." It is part of Millay's poem "A Few Figs From Thistles." Now I want to find the whole poem and re-read it. Anyone here remember and like her poetry?

If a poet can write even one poem that touches one person, that is "a lovely light" and a touch of immortality, in my opinion. That is what each poet aspires to, and hopes to follow in the footsteps of the predecessor-mentors. Now I must get back to work-I am trying to discipline myself to not only enjoy my poetic SeniorNet friends, but continue to expand my own poetic horizons.

Have a good day. Pat

January 27, 1999 - 01:38 pm
I have read your posts, but these last few days SeniorNet has been too slow for me - 54 minutes to post in one discussion and get here - hope to be back on a better day! Pat, please join in and keep coming back.

February 1, 1999 - 11:02 am
This computer, like the Mariner's ship, is resuming speed again. It is so hard to not be able to get more than a few pages in the RoundTables before it goes into the doldrums.

At the end of the narration by the Ancient Mariner, the wedding guest "went like one that hath been stunned". Indeed, the poem is stunning, in that sense -- all that imagery, and Coleridge's skill.

William Frost
February 6, 1999 - 04:34 pm
It seems that correspondents are taking a breather from the ongoing treatises on Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere” It gives me time to sort out some of my thoughts on this brilliant poet.

First, I am finding that you move too quickly for me. I am still wrestling with inspired thoughts on T.S.Eliot. I continue to bristle at someone’s proposition that Eliot’s pea-souper fog might be in Boston, not London. And I must find out if Eliot’s bust still stands quietly in the window of the old library of Merton College, Oxford University.

Back to Coleridge. My researches have uncovered a source I must share with you. If you can spare a couple of days, or weeks, click on the following:

A Coleridge Companion The book is by John Spencer Hill and is published by London: Macmillan Press, 1983. Some of the contents that interested me were Coleridge’s unique relationship with Wordsworth, his love for Sara Hutchinson (Asra), and the German influence on his brilliant use of the Supernatural. The effects, especially in his work, “Kubla Khan” of his crippling addiction to opium were of interest. (In 1830, Britain imported 22,000 pounds of raw opium). Southey was a bit hard on Coleridge when he commented on “The Rime”, “A Dutch attempt at German sublimity”. And much more. I like best, Coleridge’s remark, “Poetry gives most pleasure when only generally and not perfectly understood”.

February 7, 1999 - 07:26 am
William, thanks for the clickable to A Coleridge Companion. It does have a lot of well-written information. It is not only a good source, but is extremely well presented on the web site. It is a good example of a worth-while topic to be found on the internet.

I was surprised to see that Coleridge, while he seemed to have lived near a port, never had taken a sea voyage until after he wrote the Rime. However, he did revisions and rewritings after the trip. That explains why the writer seemed to have some acquaintance with sailing, although his dramatic parts may have come from true mariners' experiences.

And it explains the cross-bow! When first published, it was in archaic language as if written of a time long before. Since the public didn't understand the archaic language and words, he changed that aspect of it.

Coleridge remarked, “Poetry gives most pleasure when only generally and not perfectly understood.”   Didn't T. S. Eliot say something like that too?

William Frost
February 7, 1999 - 09:04 am

I am pleased we share A Coleridge Companion. I look forward to many hours of further readings. It is well presented indeed.

Yes, T.S.Eliot wrote, "Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood". (Dante, 1929). But I like his: "Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotion know what it means to want to escape from these things". (Four Quartets, Little Gidding, II). He also wrote: "...The poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into its meaning".

It is with these things in mind that I appreciate The Ashbery poem, "The Grapevine" that Ros shared recently. (Ashbery's use of the definite article in the title was the spark plug for me).

February 8, 1999 - 08:26 am
As Ros has indicated that other matters will occupy her time for a bit, I propose that we complete the Ancient Mariner , as I'm enjoying everybody's comments.

I, too, like a leisurly pace and suggest we take Part the Third for this week: do any of you have any different ideas?

William, thanks for those thoughts and the research, and William and Loma: the Companion is marvelous! Lots there to assimilate!

With Loma, I was surprised that Coleridge had not traveled before he wrote the piece, he sure had an accurate imagination.

OK, following my idea of the allegory of the crucifixion, which is becoming a bit strained at this point with the introduction of the Spirits, I have some problems with Part Three and will appreciate your input. I know William himself is a poet and so his comments will be invaulable. I fear I am a journeyman, a picker of bones, and need to learn to stand back and regard the entire carcass rather than rush in for the kill.

So here at the end of Part II, the mariners, faced with bad luck, have attemped to shift the blame of the sin of killing the bird back on to the Mariner without repenting of their own culpability: they agreed it was right (said they, such birds to slay....) to kill the bird. And in their haste to be SURE the blame is shifted, they hang the body of the bird itself around his neck.

But now we have a Spirit (neither departed souls nor angels) (WHAT, then??) Coleredge quotes Michael Psellus and Josephus on these spirits. I know nothing of these men: do any of you have any information you can share on them and these peculiar spirits?)

Coleridge says they are all around, and this particular spirit was following them. Now is this sort of a guardian angel spirit or a ????

The mariners dream about him, "And some in dreams assured were/ Of the Spirit that plagued us so;/ Nine fathoms deep he had followed us/ From the land of mist and snow."

So is he the spirit of revenge or????? One of Dore's illustrations in the book shown at the top seems to suggest a spirit with wings rising up out of the depths or floor of the sea where many sailors lie asleep in the watery deep. But Coleridge says these spirits are not the souls of the departed.

A ship seems to approach, how well Coleridge does this, you can feel the anxiety here, the hope. And the mounting horror as the sailing ship moves with no sails nor breeze and plunges in front of the sun. Gives you chills.

OR are there sails? Transparent? Wonderful imagery of the sun in jail here.

And a WOMAN on board, the WORST for a sailor of that time, women being total bad luck on a ship, and her mate DEATH. She is Life in Death. They're playing for the souls of somebody and SHE wins. And the mariners curse him and die and their souls pass by like the whizz of a cross bow.

Now, here I am confused. If she's Life in Death, and she wins, why do they all die? The Ancient Mariner's not dead, so must we assume they were playing for HIS soul? And perhaps they had been playing for each one of the men and Death won all of them but this last one?

And who ARE these new Spirits and what relationship do they have to the other Spirit?

This reminds me of early illustrations of death bed scenes where Death himself in a hood, would attend the bedside of the dying. Always scared me to death!

Emily Dickenson had a nice thought on that:

"Because I could not stop for death
He kindly stopped for me.
His carriage held but just ourselves
And immortality."

Apologies, too lazy to look it up. Yet this antrhopormoric representation of Death has recently been revived in the Television Series "Touched by an Angel" in which a man plays the Angel of Death. Interesting. He's always at the moment of Death too (and I hear the actor causes a near riot if he needs to get on a commercial plane).

That's all I can think of for Part the Third, going off to scan in some of these illustrations for your comments, let us hear from you!


February 9, 1999 - 08:57 am
Ginny, we will look forward to your scanning in some illustrations. I have wondered how many noted illustrators there have been for this poem.

So much to ponder on this Rime! There is a lot more here to plumb.   Such wonderful questions, but I have a luncheon to go to, club deposits and letters to do, a meeting tonight, 'and miles to go before I sleep'....

Also, could we think about inserting a few poems in honor of Valentines Day?

Jackie Lynch
February 9, 1999 - 06:22 pm
I have always loved Marvell's To His Coy Mistress, or whatever the title is. "The grave's a dark and private place, but none I think do there embrace". All I can recall off the top of my head, but quite a nicely phrased entreaty. Not very subtle, though.

February 10, 1999 - 05:33 am
(verses 1, 2, and 5)
Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago
In this kingdom by the sea
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child, and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love,
I and my Annabel Lee,
With a love that the winged seraphs in heaven
Coveted her and me. ....

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those that were older than we,
Of many far wiser than we,
And neither the angels in heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee. ....

"We loved with a love that was more than love" - this always seemed to me to be a most touching love poem.

February 11, 1999 - 06:04 am

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

It seems to me that most poems about love are about either new love or lost love. Shakespeare would often mention decay. Yet this seems to be his last sonnet, and one we can agree with.

Jackie Lynch
February 12, 1999 - 06:10 pm
Loma: Shakespeare can always get to me. What a treat to re-read those dear lines. A friend gave me "The Reader's Journal" for my birthday. It is charming, and has quotations scattered around. The first one is appropriate here, I think:

A truly great book should be read in youth, once again in maturity, and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight. by Robertson Davies

That sonnet did not mean to me in my 20's what it means now. Davies' metaphor equating moonlight to old age has a bitter sweet twist.

February 13, 1999 - 10:01 pm
Isn't it interestng, Jackie, that we see some poems and books differently at different stages of our life experience, and others stand as they were?

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
I love her for her smile--her look--her way
Of speaking gently,--for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of ease on such a day--

For these things in themselves, Belovèd, may
Be changed, or change for thee,--and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheek dry,--
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on, through love's eternity.

The 43rd Sonnet which starts, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” is by far the most familiar, and was used at many weddings.

February 14, 1999 - 06:02 am


February 15, 1999 - 07:17 am
Anne Bradstreet (ca.1612-1672)

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov'd by wife, then thee.
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole Mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompetence.
Thy love is such I can no way repay.
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persever
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

Anne Bradstreet had a good education, married Simon Bradstreet in 1628, and emigrated to Massachusettes. They had 8 children, yet she could still feel this way!

Rubynelle Thyne
February 16, 1999 - 03:52 pm
Loma:DRAFT--Response to SrNet poetry 2/15/99 Anne Bradstreet’s “To my Dear and loving Husband” I have long loved as a Love poem, because of its beautiful sincerity and style. Bradstreet was reared in the house of a Puritan nobleman for whom her father worked and came to the Colonies with her fat r and husband, both of whom became Massachusetts’ governors; thus we know she was no simple, inexperienced girl nor blind adherent to Puritanism. Yet her devout Puritan faith required submission to her husband, governor, and church, and forbad question g God’s ordained plan for her in the harsh wilderness. Because of these conditions, I marvel the more at her apparent joyous acceptance of her lot (read “Upon the Burning of our House July 10th,1666”) and appreciate the real love she obviously felt for er husband. I’ve been “otherwise” involved too long and only today lurked at the Roundtable. I haven’t read , and I can’t cite references to support my memory; also I apologize if I’m redundant. But about Coleridge and his ancient mariner-- The poet with his riend Wordsworth are generally credited with starting the Romantic era in English literature, and his exquisite works embody and, I think, honestly serve as examples of elements we attribute to Romanticism. Some of the them are stylistic components whi set up and maintain the eerie mood In “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Always a careful craftsman, Coleridge skillfully used the old ballad form, simple familiar settings, archaic diction, practices and dogma of less sophisticated people in an earl r time, for instance, as well as the widespread belief in the Middle Ages that many spirits, good, evil, and capricious, and guardian angels freely roam the universe. These components, though contrived, certainly effect my wilful acceptance of his wedd g frame and keep me spellbound as the.obsessed mariner himself throughout the inner narrative. Additionally, the heavy use of symbols and the obvious moral(s) evoke new levels of thought and meaningful associations each time I read the poem.

Jackie Lynch
February 17, 1999 - 08:44 am
Emily Dickinson:

1 The bustle in a house 2 The morning after death 3 Is solemnest of industries 4 Enacted upon earth.

5 The sweeping up the heart 6 And putting love away 7 We shall not want to use again 8 Until eternity.

February 18, 1999 - 05:38 pm
Jeepers, we've lost a lot of posts here, I'm so sorry, thanks for all the great poetry, so meaningful. I can't recreate what's lost so we'll go on better than ever!! We've still got YOU!


February 21, 1999 - 11:11 am
The next two paragraphs Is a reply that was lost in the crash the other day. I had evidently composed it off line, and happened to run across it.

Rubynelle, thank you for all of your thoughts. Yes, Anne Bradstreet must have been an exceptional woman! Do not worry about being redundant -- even if it is a thought expressed before, each person's viewpoint is individual and valued, and helps round out our understanding.

Jackie, Dickinson's poem is especially timely today, with LJ Klein's passing. "The sweeping of the heart / and putting love away" -- yet part of it stays when one has walked a ways with that person,.

Going back to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, after all the narration of all the events, these lines come swinging out; truly A LOVE SONG FOR THE WORLD.

He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

Patricia R. King
February 23, 1999 - 08:37 am
Here I am once more after some inactivity at this site. And then I come back to find out about the "crash"so perhaps it is just as well I took a metaphorical "sabbatical." I have writing more poetry, and here is a little two-liner I send along for your perusual:


Permission now granted

by retirement, I do.

Loma, your printing of the Anne Bradstreet poem on the 15th brought to mind a book I have in which I thought that poem might appear;unfortunately it is not in there. Perhaps the book is only of British poets. Anyway, that gives me something to research. Thanks, Pat King P. S. Hi, Rosyln

February 24, 1999 - 06:56 am
Patricia, thanks for the "two-liner" you wrote, and keep it up!

A recent post in another discussion seems to strike a chord with one part of the Rime. This is from the "Walking, Hiking..." discussion, in which the host is theoretically leading the walkers across the globe, longitudinally this time, going according to the total the participants have walked. The walkers are in Antarctica! The host says he goes to the library to get information.   Here is the post:   Icebergs bordering Antarctica . "Early explorers ... sailed by these 100-200 foot cliffs of ice for days on end." Can you imagine that? The feeling from the descriptions of the last parts of this post seem to fit with lines 51 - 70 in   Rime of the Ancient Mariner .   Coleridge must have really studied journals and listened to sailors (as well as having great talent with words) to be able to express it so aptly.

Patricia R. King
March 3, 1999 - 12:30 pm
Hi,again. I seem to have lost my subscription list (perhaps due to SN's difficulties, but I was subscribed and I saw it and my others recently) of which this location is one, yet there is my recent message entered here. Confusion reigns - but I will make sure I re-subscribe myself after this message. A friend of mine and I have been our favorite Edna St. Vincent Millay poems, and wonder if others here would tell me what their favorite(s) are. Also, is anyone familiar with the poetry of Robert P. Tristram Coffin? A long neglected Maine poet, who, perhaps because his poetry rhymes(imaginethat) and is of the more traditional "school," is largely forgotten by many. Many of his are favorites, but look for his "Crystal Moment," someone or anyone, and let me know what you think. Bye, Pat

March 3, 1999 - 01:30 pm
Pat, I too have lost my subscription list. And have been rather busy these last few days and am not caught up yet. We would love to have you post some of your favorite poems here.

Patricia R. King
March 11, 1999 - 01:18 pm
O. K. Loma - will do but not today. What about copyrights - can we put whole poems in? Pat

Jackie Lynch
March 29, 1999 - 06:09 am
Just a suggestion: Since there is a trip to London in the offing, and since Shakespeare was named the Man of the Millenium by the London Times, why don't we "do" some Shakespeare? Has anyone seen Shakespeare in Love? I'm going to try for it next weekend.

March 29, 1999 - 07:08 am
Jackie, yes, I've seen it and liked it very much, tho I don't think it was BETTER than Life is Beautiful.

Some sonnets would be great here!


March 29, 1999 - 02:47 pm
Ginny: Agree. I thought Shakespeare in Love was terrific, but Life is Beautiful was even better. Tom Stoppard cracks me up. I like his schtick. Ever see Rosencrantz and Guildernstern are Dead?

Patricia R. King
March 30, 1999 - 09:04 am
Hi, Pat again, where've everybody else, only a few posts lately. I thought I would tell you that I loved Pride and Prejudice ( A&E-BBC) so much I wrote Colin Firth a letter praising his work in that film and now of course he is in Shakespeare In Love as Wessex, though I am off the subject of poetry here, I just had to tell y'all he wrote me back, and I may write a poem about that!!!! I have been reading more Edna St. Vincent Millay and Robert P. Tristram Coffin (Maine poets) and hope others like them too. Bye.

March 30, 1999 - 05:20 pm
No, Pat! Did he really? Wow, how exciting for you. I don't have much luck (not that I've written that many famous people, in fact, I've written only two, and heard from one, so I guess that's better than nothing!)

I didn't think he got much screen time in Shakespeare in Love. Wasn't he in Amadeus, too?

We better put a poem in here, we're way off the subject!


brun hilda
April 16, 1999 - 10:33 am
Does anyone recognize who wrote this poem from the first stanza? Learned it in grade school when American poets were featured almost exclusively. Taught it to my grandaughter and then realized I couldn't tell her the author. I've been unable to find a resource on the internet with a listing of first lines that takes me anywhere. You know how that can be! It's driving me crazy! Then I remembered there was a Books section on SeniorNet. Help!!!

A little peach in an orchard grew. A little peach of emerald hue. Warmed by the sun and wet by the dew. It grew.

April 16, 1999 - 03:35 pm
I bet Roslyn knows, Brun Hilda (cute!) I'll write and see!

Stay tuned!


April 16, 1999 - 06:01 pm
Brun Hilda:

Well, that was fast, here's Roslyn Stempel's reply on your query: (Roslyn was the host of this folder and we hope she'll be able to return to us here soon).

"I found it in Louis Untermeyer's 1923 "This Singing World." Here is "The Little Peach," by none other than Eugene Field:

A little peach in the orchard grew--
A little peach of emerald hue;
Warmed by the sun and wet by the dew,
It grew.

One day, passing the orchard through,
That little peach dawned on the view
Of Johnnie Jones and his sister Sue--
Those two.

Up at the peach a club he threw--
Down from the tree on which it grew
Fell the little peach of emerald hue--
Mon dieu!

She took a bite and he a chew,
And then the trouble began to brew--
Trouble the doctor couldn't subdue--
Too true!

Under the turf where the daisies grew
They planted John and his sister Sue,
And their little souls to the angels flew--Boo-hoo!

But what of the peach of emerald hue,
Warmed by the sun and wet by the dew?
Ah well, its mission on earth was through--

Field died in 1895, only 45 years old. A skilled professional journalist, he is remembered today for the saccharine and sentimental "poems of childhood" which he himself is said to have described as "Mother rot" and to have churned out in order to pay his bar bills. Clearly the unsentimental "The Little Peach" is meant as a comic verse, in the curiously sadistic style of the 1890's. I was interested to learn from the Britannica article that he was one of the originators of the daily "personal essay" newspaper column, and that Field and his brother published "Echoes from the Sabine Farm," a rhymed translation of Horace.


Thanks so much, Ros, for the poem and the background information!

YOU are a peach! (But not a green one)


Jackie Lynch
April 17, 1999 - 06:36 am
I have been researching Shakespeare's sonnets, looking for something we might want to discuss. Not much there for discussion; pretty words, lovely phrasing. All about love. Anyone have one they especially like? If not a sonnet, then why not "do" a play. Those of us who are thinking about the London Literary Pilgramage may be interest in reading King Lear. After all, it, too, is poetry.

April 17, 1999 - 07:16 am
Jackie, I've always loved the sonnet which starts:

"Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.
Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds
Nor bends with the remover to remove."

I love that. I have spend more time pondering over those three lines. What IS a "marriage of true minds?" Is it one where the partners agree on everything, have the same interests and goals? Did you SEE that awful article in People magazine this week about the strange couple? THEY were apparently a marriage of true minds, or did he kill her?

Do we have any marriage anywhere where one or both partners did not try to alter when they alteration found?

Who or what is the "remover?" Time??

Love those lines,


Jackie Lynch
April 18, 1999 - 07:12 am

Sonnet CXVI

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

Jackie Lynch
April 18, 1999 - 07:22 am
Ginny: I have a friend who is always judging people; that one is rude if he does not call her within five minutes of her page. This one says let do lunch, and then never calls back to confirm. Rude? Yes. What she doesn't see is how demanding she is. She says she treats people as she wants to be treated, but she can't take people as they are. To me, the marriage of true minds is that non-judgemental acceptance of one another, warts and all. Another friend says, that's just me, the way I am. She is accepting herself, and not judging. Some of us have a mental accounting system going on: I did this for you, now you "owe" me one. What I give freely should not have a price tag attached. Can this be what he meant? Love which is freely given, not hostage to being weighed against what is received?

April 18, 1999 - 03:24 pm
Jackie, that is SUCH a good post, one wants to hit REPLY so I can address all the STUFF and it displayed so prettily, too!

You said,"She says she treats people as she wants to be treated, but she can't take people as they are." So that would be a perfect example of not having "true minds," unless both were in synchonization with hers. Don't you often find that the more sensitive people are to slights the more critical they are of others and the less aware they are of how they themselves treat others?

I think Agatha Christie said once that people who are super sensitive are themselves more likely to give offense.

I love this sonnet. He may well have meant exactly as you suggest. I had to read your own post about a dozen times to grasp the idea!

That non judgmental "acceptance of each other, warts and all," as you said, is what I do think "alters when it alteration finds," means, the alterations being differences in one's own character or opinion? So an alteration might be that you believe in one thing strongly and I don't and neither one of us tries to alter the other.

You know, you often hear of the "perfect marriage," and I've always wondered what is meant by that? ARE there couples so compatible that they agree on every single thing? Do any of us personally know any? Or is it enough to agree on the "important" things?

Of all the "mental accounting systems," the "saving stamps" is the worst: you did this on December 12, 1997 and that on November 2, 1966, and I'm saving all my green stamps to redeem when the time is right.

You often meet "stamp savers," and it's pointless to try to get a dialogue started, there is no marriage of true minds there unless you have a martyr complex. I wonder how Shakespeare KNEW so much?


Jackie Lynch
April 19, 1999 - 06:06 am
GInny: I, too, wonder how he was so wise. Reading the sonnets, scanning, really, I found such richness: rich in words, rich in insight, rich in metaphor. Bloom, who wrote that book about Shakespeare inventing humans, noted that The Bard uses something like 20,000 diferent words where other playrights would use a mere 5,000 or so.

True minds. To thine ownself be true. What else does he say about "true"?

brun hilda
April 21, 1999 - 12:05 pm
Oh Ginny...THANK YOU SO MUCH! I got a lot more than I had expected. So great to be older and wiser...when I was a child, I think the humor in the poem escaped me. I love this folder..how drab life would be without music and poetry..

Jo Meander
May 3, 1999 - 03:52 pm
Is the peach intended to tempt us into a T.S. Eliot discussion -- "Do I dare to eat a Peach?" Prufrock?

May 3, 1999 - 04:13 pm
I grow old 
I grow old 
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled

May 3, 1999 - 04:30 pm
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.


Patricia Robinson-King
May 20, 1999 - 08:41 am
Hi,Pat King has returned to this site after an absence of about a month. I am an admirer of the poetry of Robert P. Tristram Coffin as I may have noted in here before. Does anyone here know and like his poetry? His poems are in the traditional style and many rhyme (a scheme which doesn't seem to apply to contemporary poetry).

Roslyn, please let me know about how much of a poem or (all) of poems can be put on here- I am concerned and I think you are, about copyright. Thanks. By the way, the name I am now registered with here is the name I use "professionally" for submitting my poetry to various markets. I haven't been too active in my writing due to some physical problems, but I am vowing I will overcome pain with concentrating on my writing.

Best wishes to all, and I will be back here again soon. Pat

Jackie Lynch
May 21, 1999 - 06:38 am
Hi, Pat. Why don't you post a few lines? I seem to recall that it does not infringe on a copyright to post text for purposes of review. I believe that there are no limits on the amount of material your wish to "review". After all, you are not using another person's work to make money for yourself. I am curious, and always eager to find a new author to enjoy.

I have found that my friends in SeniorNet are very warm and supportive. While I have not had physical problems, I have had losses to endure this spring. While I am here, in SN, I feel relief and comfort, thanks to the many "angels" here.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
May 31, 1999 - 08:43 pm
Hi All:

Not much activity here lately. How about something on the same level as TS Eliot, W.H. Auden, John Donne, Sylvia Plath or how about Ted Hughes book about his marriage to Sylvia?


Patricia Robinson-King
June 15, 1999 - 12:58 pm
Hi, again, Pat here. I tried to get a message on here earlier but was unsuccessful. So I will try again. I would like to know the title of the book by Bloom about the Bard inventing humans and also the use Will made of some 20,000 words as opposed to 5,000 that other (I presume ordinary-oops)playwrights use. As a poet myself, I am intrigued by how many of our every day maxims that we quote can be traced to Will,and how poetry plays a part in the journey of discovery we call life. When reading his Sonnet 103 I find a common ground for poets, a sort of mirror image is what I get from it. To quote: "Alack, what poverty my Muse brings forth...." A consolation to those of us who find the well dry when we lower the metaphoric bucket. I would like to hear other opinions on that sonnet, please. Pat

Rubynelle Thyne
June 17, 1999 - 06:30 pm
How delicious to disallow resistance to this "favorite" and hold off intended work! It's my birthday, and at this 66th one I am weighing "not the dust and injury of age," thankful that my dears also seem to find joy in our "love's fresh case."-----I think of many wonderful paraphrases of the same or nearly the same idea: Eliott's "still point turning," for instance, and really, how do we tell the dancer from the dance? (Sorry about credits). We seniors, especially SeniorNetters, ARE the dance, the dancing, certainly fresh cases even in love, mine as in couples, wonderful, wonderful and then, again most wonderful; and the readying for new SrNet Intro classes, my planned, necessary "work," a Frost's ideal vocation.

June 17, 1999 - 06:36 pm




Jackie Lynch
June 18, 1999 - 06:14 am
Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, by Harold Bloom. I heard Mr. Bloom speak, when his book came out and he was on the book tour. He mentioned that most plays used fewer words than WS. My memory may not be the best, but I'm pretty sure he said 20,000, maybe it was Hamlet. The book is 700+ pages, and is better suited for reference than straight-through reading, I've heard, since many of his points are made again separately as he discusses each play. I'll wait for the PB, as it costs $35 list.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
June 24, 1999 - 07:31 pm

Charlotte J. Snitzer
June 24, 1999 - 07:42 pm
Alaack what poverty my Muse brings forth,
That having such a scope to show her pride,
The argument all bare, is of more worth
Than when it hath my added praise beside!
O, blame me not, if I no more can write
Look in your glass, and there appears a face
That over-goes my blunt invention quite
Dulling my lines and doing me disgrace,
Were it not sinful then, striving to mend,
To mar the subject that before was well?,br> For to no other pass my verses tend
Than of your graces and your gifts to tell;
And more, much more, than in my verse can sit,
Your own glass shows when you look in it.

Will Shakespeare post by Charlotte S.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
June 24, 1999 - 07:51 pm

I thought I'd put the sonnet in so others can comment on it. I think he is complaining that he can at the moment produce only inferior writing. Whatever he does spoils the subject and is disgraceful to him. It it a 16th century version of writer's block. His muse is superior to whatever he can write. He knows there is much more in the mirror of the muse than he can ever put in his poem.

I do not call myself a poet though I have done some public reading of my work and have had some publication.

Charlotte S.

Jackie Lynch
June 25, 1999 - 06:21 am
Charlotte: It is also praise for the lady's beauty, perceived by the poet to be so much greater than words can describe. He is bemoaning, but also he is flattering his love, don't you think? The Muse and the Beauty are not the same, are they? That seductive ol' devil, his use of language gets to me every time.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
June 26, 1999 - 04:18 am

I think the Muse is a personification of the lady. She is more ideal and more beautiful than any lady could be.


Rubynelle Thyne
July 10, 1999 - 02:34 pm
Wonderful new biography/criticism of the Bard in literary myth and documented evidence plus "logical" speculations, so noted, from the works and allusions in others' works. Good reading, and important! I'm hating to put it down. A niece has it from her library and has shared it graciously as I visit her briefly on a vacation tour.

Ginny--thanks for birthday wishes. They worked!

July 10, 1999 - 07:15 pm
          THOU still unravish'd bride of quietness, 
            Thou foster-child of silence and slow time, 
          Sylvan historian, who canst thus express 
            A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme: 
          What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape 
            Of deities or mortals, or of both, 
              In Tempe or the dales of Arcady? 
            What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? 
            What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? 
              What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? 

2. Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd, Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone: Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare; Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, Though winning near the goal--yet, do not grieve; She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

3. Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu; And, happy melodist, unwearied, For ever piping songs for ever new; More happy love! more happy, happy love! For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd, For ever panting, and for ever young; All breathing human passion far above, That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd, A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

4. Who are these coming to the sacrifice? To what green altar, O mysterious priest, Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies, And all her silken flanks with garlands drest? What little town by river or sea shore, Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel, Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn? And, little town, thy streets for evermore Will silent be; and not a soul to tell Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

5. O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede Of marble men and maidens overwrought, With forest branches and the trodden weed; Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! When old age shall this generation waste, Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,"--that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Keats, John. 1884. Poetical Works.

July 11, 1999 - 08:09 am
Thanks, Charles..

I haven't really read that since H.S. days ...brings back great memories of the teacher and the class.

Jackie Lynch
July 11, 1999 - 10:42 am
How did he, at his young age, have such insight? The image of being suspended in time, on the right side of consummation, seems like a very mature viewpoint; yet Keats was in his mid-twenties when he died, wasn't he? What could he have written at 40, at 60? Thanks, Charles. Much to relect upon.

July 11, 1999 - 04:01 pm
What a joy to revisit this marvelous Ode! And so timely, thanks, Charles!!


July 22, 1999 - 07:43 am
Can someone supply the words for Joyce Kilmer's poem "Trees"?

Forever grateful Lanark

July 22, 1999 - 10:37 am
Here is the link to TREES and other poems by Kilmer.


Jackie Lynch
July 23, 1999 - 06:44 am
Speaking of Trees, Disney's Fantasia first lighted the poetry fire in me, I believe. My family was always singing, so I absorbed meter and rhyme with my mother's milk. My mother loved Edgar Guest, Amy Lowell, etc. Vivid word pictures, all.

Patricia Robinson-King
July 27, 1999 - 07:47 am
Hi, everyone. I haven't posted here in a while because I have had the wonderful excitement of a grandson's wedding which really should inspire a poem by me sometime. But, in the meantime, if you don't mind, I would like to share with you that I have a poem on the Internet which I am told will remain on the site for a year. If you will go to the web site of the following you will find three poems, the third of which is mine, along with a brief bio of the three poets, including mine: www.sustainableseas.noaa.gov - this is a national ocean site off the coast of Georgia, Grays Reef. It was and is so great to have been one of the three selected out of a lot of entries, and I did want to share this with my seniornet friends. Another reason to show the world that seniors have something to give to the world. (And you know the saying: if you do not toot your own horn, no one else will -ha! ha!) Best to all. Pat

Jim Olson
August 1, 1999 - 04:28 am

What a lovely poem and what a great project I found (sustainable seas project) in finding it.

I liked yours the best of the three.



See that cabin there With seaweed by the door? That is my destination When I reach the shore.

See how the sea breeze passes Blowing sea and sand? I will make my home there, On that point of land.

Watch as the boat comes closer, Soon we will be there! Stay with me a moment, The day is warm, and fair.

Each of us needs a harbor A place of quiet keep. Mine is by the ocean Where the years stand deep.

See that cabin there With driftwood near the door? Stay with me a moment When we reach the shore!

-Patricia Robinson-King

Patricia: Yes, but you had good cause to toot your own horn.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
I'm glad someone was able to find a clickable to the above poem.

Here's a parody I wrote on it some time ago:


I think that I shall never see
a season that is fashion-free

When no longer I'll be pressed
to seek perfection in my dress

As I wander round the town
Hems go up. Hems come down.

Black is out. Color's in
What e'er I choose, it's no win.

Ruffled chic replaces straight.
Last year's clothes are out of date.

Poems are made by fools like me,
Out of step but fashion-free.

Charlotte J. Snitzer

Jackie Lynch
Charlotte: Love it. Thanks. The best way to start the day is with a smile; I'm smiling now.

Charlotte J. Snitzer

Thanks for typing in Pat's poem. It's really good.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
Hi All:

Looks as is if there has been little activity in here lately. Has anyone seen FREDY NEPTUNE by Les Murray? It looks pretty unusual--A novel in verse. It might be an interesting one to do here.

I'll try to find a review.


Or Charlotte - Have you read aany Vikram Seth? I've been wanting to read somethiing by him but don't know wherre to start. Your post made me think of his novel in verse, The Golden Gate...This from Ray Mungo:

From Raymond Mungo - The New York Times Book Review:
A novel written all in sonnets,/ 'The Golden Gate' by Vikram Seth/ Depends for its appeal upon its/ Charming views of life and death,/ Love and work ofyuppies in/ That trendy Calif. county, Marin. . . . Mr. Seth, that sonnet-logger'll/ Please you with verse from great to doggerel. . . . 'The Golden Gate' is quite delicious:/ A modern tale that seems to last/ For weeks, for years, perhaps for ages,/ Through 307 poem-packed pages./ Even the contents and dedication,/ Acknowledgments and author's notation/ Are sonnets. The only disappointment:/ Its 13 chapters fall one short./ Without the last, we must abort/ The nearly holy anointment/ Of Vikram Seth as laureate poet.

Charlotte J. Snitzer

Just read the reviews on Amazon on THE GOLDEN GATE. They are unusually unanimous in praise. It's in paperback for about $14.00. Maybe we should do it in GB for a wonderful change. Anything that can bring comparisons to Eliz. B. Browning and Armistead Maupin may be well worth a try.



I don't think this 'qualifies' for Great Books. How about nominating it in BC Online??

From the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass. Walt Whitman. Clinton’s favorite pick-up poet.

In some ways this poem could serve as the official poem of our Books and Literature, here….You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself….. Out of the dimness opposite equals advance. We talk a lot about the diversity of ideas and how they are presented – and how they are received here. Opposite equals advancing in our understanding. I like that.

Have you reckoned a thousand acres much? Have you reckoned the earth much? Have you practiced so long to learn to read? Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems? Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems, You shall possess the good of the earth and sun . . . . there are millions of suns left, You shall no longer take things at second or third hand . . . . nor look through the eyes of the dead . . . . nor feed on the spectres in books, You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself. I have heard what the talkers were talking . . . . the talk of the beginning and the end, But I do not talk of the beginning or the end. There was never any more inception than there is now, Nor any more youth or age than there is now; And will never be any more perfection than there is now, Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now. Urge and urge and urge, Always the procreant urge of the world. Out of the dimness opposite equals advance . . . . Always substance and increase, Always a knit of identity . . . . always distinction . . . . always a breed of life. To elaborate is no avail . . . . Learned and unlearned feel that it is so. Sure as the most certain sure . . . . plumb in the uprights, well entretied, braced in the beams, Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical, I and this mystery here we stand. Clear and sweet is my soul . . . . and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul. Lack one lacks both . . . . and the unseen is proved by the seen, Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn. Showing the best and dividing it from the worst, age vexes age, Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, while they discuss I am silent, and go bathe and admire myself. Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of any man hearty and clean, Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be less familiar than the rest. I am satisfied . . . . I see, dance, laugh, sing;

I am developing here (in SN B&L) a new respect for the opinions of others and I thank you all for that. "I am satisfied."

Rubynelle Thyne
Funny...Years ago, after 5 approved chapters, I aborted an MA thesis on Whitman's pessimism. Sophomoric me, I began to feel why should I waste others' reading such an obviously valid theory. It would be interesting now to be reminded of some favorite passages. The first to come to mind now is" . . .look for me under your bootsoles." This in relation to my views about being of service after I depart my body. How about more favorites?

I thought I'd see if I had any trouble posting here, Charlie said he was. We can't have discussions refusing to let people POST!! hahahah

So far so good, now to see if I can post!

Rubynell, imagine knowing that much about Walt Whitman! Do you remember anything about what made him pessimistic?



How about this one?:
Hast never come to thee an hour,
A sudden gleam divine, precipitating, bursting all these bubbles,
Fashions, wealth?
These eager business aims- books, politics, art, amours,
To utter nothingness?

I wonder where the phrase 'burst your bubble' came from. Probably from Shakespeare like all other phrases.

Charlotte J. Snitzer

So glad you are making things happen here again. I haven't looked at Whitman since reading it aloud on a bus to Pittsburgh to meet my new husband's family.

Thanks for that wonderful quote. Maybe we should start a Whitman discussion here. I'll look to see what I can find.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
We watched this program the other night and learned that Stanley Kunitz at the age of 90 had published a new book of poems.

Found this wonderful poem in Poet's and Writers' Mag. He had written it at age 79:

Passing Through

I'm passing through a phase
. gradually I'm changing to a word.
Whatever you choose to claim
of me is always yours;
nothing is truly mine
except my name.
I only borrowed this dust.


"I only borrowed this dust".....like that

The carrion-eater's nobility calls back from God;
Never was a carrion-eater first a carrion-eater---
Back there in God creatures sat like stone
--no light in their various eyes.

Life. It was Life jabbed a spoon in their mouths.
Crow jackal hyena vulture worm woke to necessity
--dipping into Death like a soup.

gregory corso

Charlotte J. Snitzer
Charlie : I loved this beautifully written dip into the darker side. Also adored your quote from Whitman. It sent me back to my Leaves of Grass bound in green fabric and purchased in 1942, Found this quote from Robert Louis Stevenson:

"A book of singular service, a book which tumbled the world upside down for me, blew into space a thousand cobwebs of genteel and ethical illusion, and having thus shaken my tabernacle of lies, set me back again upon a strong foundation . . . .But it is only a book for those who have the gift of reading."


Charlotte J. Snitzer

Charlotte J. Snitzer

Maybe you gave up on Whitman because he is so optimistic. His preface to LOG is what we really need in this country today.

"The Americans of all nations at any time upon the earth have probably the fullest poetical nature. The U.S. themselves are essentially the greatest poem. * * * Here at last is something in the doings of man that corresponds with the broadcast doings of the day and night. Here is not merely a teeming nation of nations. * * * Here is action untied from strings * * * Here are the roughs and beards and space and ruggedness and nonchalance that the soul loves. Here the performance disdaining the trivial unapproached in the tremendous audacity of its crowds and groupings and the push ot its perspective spreads with crampless and flowing breadth and showers its prolific and and splendid extravagance. One sees it must indeed own the riches of the summer and winter and never be bankrupt while corn grows from the ground or the orachards drop apples or the bays contain fish."


Charlotte J. Snitzer

Loved your selection from W which I read in GB. Let's continue to dip into this great poet to see what good things we can come up with.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
Whitman must have read Melville. It's so like him.:

""it is a thing most sorrowful, nay shocking to expose the fall of valor in the soul. Men may seem detestable as joint stock-companies and nations; knaves, fools and murders there may be; men may have mean and meager faces; but man in the ideal is so noble and sparkling, such a grand and glowing creature, that over any ignominious blemish in him all his fellows should run to throw their costliest robes. That immaculate manliness we feel within ourselves, though all the outer character seems gone; bleeds with keenest anguish at the undraped spectacle of a valor-ruined man. Nor can piety itself at such a shameful sight completely stifle her upbraidings aginst the permitting stars. But this august dignity I treat of is not the dignity of kings and robes. but that abounding dignity which has no robed investiture. Thou shalt see it shining in the arm that wields a a pick or drives a spike. that democratic dignity which on all hands radiates without end from God; Himself. The great God absolute! The center and circumference of all democracy! His omnipresence, our divine equality"!

Charlotte J. Snitzer
Of course we would wish that he had included women too. But what a marvelous way to get back to the essence of who and what we are.


Charlotte J. Snitzer

Patricia Robinson-King
Hi, Pat here. I heard Garrison Keillor read a poem last week which really caught my ear. But, I didn't get the poet's name, or the title of the poem. The closest I can suggest is that her name is Marge Piercy, the poem was about "An old woman who lived in a shoe" - first line of first stanza; "An old woman who lived in a box" first line of second stanza, etc. Brilliant in its analysis of hunger, homelessness, etc. Tile of poem could be something about Blessings, or that could be the name of the book in which it is found. I do know that Knopf is the publisher. Could anyone help me out here?

I would like to share one other thing with you - a poem of mine won first place in the October Critics Committee of the Poetry Society of Georgia. Everyone knows there is no income in publishing a poem; but glory for a prize comes in second, (*_*) Have a good day.

Patricia!! That is wonderful news!! Many congratulations!! That is so fine, I know you are proud of that!

Roslyn Stempel, former leader of this discussion, has mailed me this letter from Lill Mattsson, (lill.lennart@swipnet.se)

Lill is fron Sweden, and sends us this page of her work, you may all want to take a look! Lill's poetry

Thanks so much, Ros and Lill! I'm sorry it took me so long to get it here and we're very glad to have you all the way from Sweden, Lill!!


Patricia Robinson-King
Thanks, Ginny, for your kind words about my poem which won first place - guess what - first place gets $10. I got the check two days ago. Who says poetry doesn't pay, at least once in a blue moon (*_*).And one other thing, I have been made an Honorary Member of our Poetry Society of Georgia. So, my cup runneth over. Now, about finding the poet in my previous posting. Her name is Marge Piercy and the book is The Art of Blessing The Day) title of poem still eludes me but I am going to investigate trying to get the book if it is reasonably priced. By the way, Lill's page is so beautiful, but I will have to wait to go in and read as I have a lot of correspondence to catch up on. Cheerio for today, Pat

Charlotte J. Snitzer
Glad to see some action here again. Patricia CONGRATULATIONS on your wonderful news. I tried to get Lill's page, but it's all in Swedish. Will check out Marge Piercy now.


Patricia Robinson-King
Charlotte, I tried the Lil page, too, but cannot read Swedish. It looks interesting enough to provide us with a translation. About Marge Piercy, I have discovered that she has written many, many books, and if you locate a copy of that book with that poem I spoke of here, I wish I could just have a copy of the poem without having to buy the book. Its cost is O.K., but I have a tendency to buy too many books, and would be most content with having the above. If anyone else can help on this, please chat in. Have a good day. Pat

Charlotte J. Snitzer

So glad you cued me in on this poet. I had read her novels and didn't think they were so great. However, I think poetry is her true metier. Don't know why I didn't realize it before, she did publish 15 books.

I found another poem by her and it was so good that I decided to get the book. Not only that, but I am getting copies for my daughters who are interested in Jewish themes, but turned off by the traditional ones.

Here is the poem below:

Love and thanks.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
There was an old woman who lived
in a shoe. her own two shoes,
men's they were brown and worn.
They flapped when she hobbled along.

There was an old woman who lived
in a refrigerator box, under
the expressway, with her cat
January, they died curled together.

There was an old woman who lived
in a room under the roof. It
got hot, but she was scared
to open the window. It got hotter

Too hot, too cold, too poor,
too old. Invisible unless
she annoys you, invisible
unless she gets in your way.

In fairy tales if you are kind to an old woman, she gives you
the thing you desperately need
an unconquerable sword, a purse

Charlotte J. Snitzer
bottomless and always filled,
A magical ring. We don't believe
that anymore. Such tales were
made up by old women scared

to be thrust from the hearth
shoved into the street to starve.
Who fears an old woman pushing
a grocery cart? She is talking

to God as she shuffles along,
her life in her pockets. You
are the true child of her heart
And you see living garbage.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
was an accident, but I'm afraid to change it.


O, Charlote!!! I spent hours on pondering your emphasis on the last few lines - looking for the deeper significance!!!

Patricia Robinson-King
hi, everyone. I have written Charlotte offlist about her kind generosity in finding and putting that poem on here, but wonder what others think of it - it really thrusts reality to us at how fortunate many of us are who as an author put it "live lives of quiet desperation." Btw, I have written yet another poem for a contest to be held on the 9th of this month. Will good things come in threes and I will win that one, too? I shouldn't even think that, but the thought was irrestible. Another btw, Charlie W, that was hilarious about your trying to find hidden meanings in the bold print in that poem. Just hope you don't mind my laughing at that, because sometimes that isn't funny, especially if it is a poem of mine that someone doesn't understand. Pat

Patricia - Glad you saw my intended humor and didn't take offense...

Charlotte J. Snitzer
Yay. I finally heard from Pat through an email. Hope we can keep things going here. Charlie I know you are busy with B&L as I am, but let's try to revitalize this folder.


Patricia Robinson-King
CharlieW: I am glad that your remark was "intended humor," which is of course, how I responded. I think a previous posting of mine tells that the sometimes too analyzed response of the reader can go too far, but I do try to remember what my Mom used to say: consider the source - ha! Now, I hope you don't take offense at that! (*_*) I recently read something that struck home: for those of us with physical infirmities, we pay a price for living a long life, but con-sidering the alternative, at least it's a bargain - yes? Charlotte, I have written you offlist, but do want to say here that I think it is important to give this category vim and vigor enough to keep it going. I really cannot get into the Books and Literature sites very often, but do try to read some of the listings when I can. Have a good day to all. Pat

Anyone have any suggestions for the direction to be taken here? WHat was the original intent?

Good question, Charlie. I think originally Roslyn hoped to...let me see, Roslyn, a great lover of poetry, was mentioning the great Czech poet and it went from there. I think we talked her into opening this in order to view and maybe chat about some works of poetry, known and little known.

But perhaps we need a new direction here, got any suggestions?


Robert Frost used one of his early poems in his Christmas cards years later. I though it would be timely to take a look at it during this season. What particularly strikes you about this poem? Is it the "small bird"? Is it the cleamtis wound around the cord of wood? Is it the image of the wood nestled between a living tree and a stake? Or is it that "smokeless burning of decay"? I've spent some time in the Maine woods. There is a magical feeling to coming across something that speaks of an earlier act of civilization and which has been obviously untouched for years....

There are three readings of the Frost poem in the link. I particularly like the one by Peter Davison - although I like Maxine Kumin's phrasing - I don't care for her voice!

Frost clearly points out the “order” that nature holds for us, that affirming, comforting thought that things “are” for a reason. “The view was all in lines”, the trees in the snow-encrusted woods “straight up and down.” Is it that about nature that brings us to an imitation of it? To attempt a creation of some perfection that we hope might be eternal? Someone has stacked a woodpile there almost as a mirror to the living trees, orderly and neat, “four by four by eight” and nestled between one of the “tall slim trees” and “a stake and prop.” The stake and the prop, though, is about to loose its usefulness after the years, but the living tree continues to grow. What are we to make of that? Is he just contrasting the permanence of nature to the impermanence of what man makes? Maybe not only the impermanence of what man makes (as contrasted to nature) but the inherent temporal nature of man’s focus. Frost speaks, after all, of “turning to fresh tasks” and forgetting “his handiwork.” Does God (or Nature) forget "his" handiwork? And ultimately, there’s the “slow smokeless burning of decay.”

Why would Frost have selected this poem to include in a Christmas card? It does feel right to me – but I’ll have to think on that one some more.

Rewrite#4 1965: Lorne Warner


I can be used, if you know how,

use me with tender Loving care,

I will bring Joy and Laughter to all

that use me with caution.


and I will display my Cunning and Evil force

That you will know,

that I am more powerful than all the armies in the world.

I have destroyed more lives

than "ALL" the wars in history.

I have cause billions of accidents,

destroyed more cars and homes

than all the floods, hurricanes and tornadoes

put together.

I steal millions of dollars each year,

I find my victims among the

rich and the poor alike,

The young and the old, The

strong and especially the weak.

I am in the air and on the ground

In offices, factories and on the roads

I have created lovers and tear them apart at my will.

I grow to such great proportions, that I cast black shadows over every field of labor.

I am relentless, insidious

and totally unpredictable.

I bring, sickness, poverty, abuse, and divorce

I shall destroy you and all you have forever

Once I have you in my grip you are mine

I am your most dangerous enemy and you came to me for a good time

Hahahahahahaahaahhah………I have got you now.

You are mine till your "DEATH"




Lorne, we had a crash and lost most of the posts on SeniorNet the day before yesterday from noon Pacific time till about 6 pm Pacific time.

We lost losts of great posts. And some headings.

I'm sorry if your post was lost, can you repost it?


Thanks Lorne... I lifted your poem, Who Am I, to read to the 6th graders at their DARE meeting

I am just out on pass from the night from the hospital again. In bad shape now. Time is very short now. Would you re- post it for me and give my best wishes to all the folks for me, too weak to type muchs



Hi Lorne: Here's the poem that I printed out and read to the 6th graders last Monday.

Merry Christmas... Miss you ...

Rewrite#4 1965: Lorne Warner


I can be used, if you know how,

use me with tender Loving care,

I will bring Joy and Laughter to all

that use me with caution.


and I will display my Cunning and Evil force

That you will know,

that I am more powerful than all the armies in the world.

I have destroyed more lives

than "ALL" the wars in history.

I have cause billions of accidents,

destroyed more cars and homes

than all the floods, hurricanes and tornadoes

put together.

I steal millions of dollars each year,

I find my victims among the

rich and the poor alike,

The young and the old, The

strong and especially the weak.

I am in the air and on the ground

In offices, factories and on the roads

I have created lovers and tear them apart at my will.

I grow to such great proportions, that I cast black shadows over every field of labor.

I am relentless, insidious

and totally unpredictable.

I bring, sickness, poverty, abuse, and divorce

I shall destroy you and all you have forever

Once I have you in my grip you are mine

I am your most dangerous enemy and you came to me for a good time

Hahahahahahaahaahhah………I have got you now.

You are mine till your "DEATH"



Pat Scott

Sorry to hear that you are ill again.

You post is still there. It's here.

Get well soon,


Jim Olson
We often use our Christmas cards to reach friends we have made throughout the years and for many it is the only time during the year that we communicate with them.

Perhaps Frost had this is mind rather than any significance of the season and the seasonal imagery of the poem. Maybe he felt if there was one thing he wanted to say he best do it at this time and the poem represented that summary of his main themes.

It certainly reflects many of the central images in other poems of his and is of a length to use in a card.

Was this something he did in his later years? It is a good message from an older man to his friends.

Jim, Charlie's gone till after the New Year but I know he'll be so glad to see you here!

Aren't YOU leaving, too, thought I saw somewhere you would be on the road?


Jim Olson

Our travel plans have been put on hold for 4-6 weeks, the time my doctor says I will need to heal two broken ribs sustained in a fall on a slippery patch of ice last week.

Oh gosh, Jim, so sorry, I know that hurts. Got kicked in the ribs by a horse once and thought I hung it up there for a while. I was in my 20s at the time, remember coming to in the muck in the barnyard and thinking that my lung had been punctured, I KNOW that hurts!

Do they tape them now or just let them follow nature's way? So sorry.


Jim Olson

I think fractured ribs are now treated the same way as fractured clavicles- evidently they heal better if left alone and lungs are free to breathe.

I won't be scurrying up Frost's two pointed ladder of After Appple picking "Toward heaven still" until nature does some healing.

I guess that is the way Frost would have it- poetically at least.

I wonder if there is a fellow bird watcher following the Frost thread.

I recall he seems to use the Junco in several poems with its distinctive white tail feathers that suddenly reveal themselves and flash at you when they fly away.

Or hop around behind that decaying wood pile.

Loved the wood pile and the Who am I.

Hello ... I came here to see if there is poetry to share...is there a page with just poetry on?.... I have a self published book....Christmas & more...that's what it is Christmas verses and others that I have written over the years.... I love to write but haven't had much time lately...back to working full time etc etc.... I'll be back to see you again....Judy in PA

Jim Olson

There is a separate discussion called Poets press under Writng Language and Word play where poets share their work.

William Frost
Hedy Lamarr died 1:19:00. My son Christopher Frost wrote this poem when he was a student at UCSC:


The coal-grey flash behind conscience’s eyelids
has the erotic mysticism of Hedy Lamarr’s flotation
in murky swamps, in ice-fogged metal, in an
angular sensuality, in a poison dream of nights
of broken winds, dreams, skulls, and wishes.
They have pumped radiation though my head
(but not before leaving the room). A television
ghost dance, a body floating naked in a lake,
my quick dose media burn, leaving me laid back,
spread-eagled limbs, gothic in their Protestant disarray
as if screened silvery from any irony inherent
in the purity of cupped palms filling with
blood - our communion unaltered - my lying
in the street, disembodied, all kept under my tongue
and I, unknowingly, swallow down the oily
mercury bilge, the blood pouring serene
down my open face, a silvery screen.
The floating, as if mist through Spanish Moss,
as if the scars will show. Breath tests,
numbers on a chart. Web belt straps bite
into memory with clinical measurements
of the mechanics of arousal - the antiseptic
caress of the scalpel’s gliding furrow,
the spongy, pungent flesh, a cheesy quality
so often left untapped, like an Austrian
starlet nude and filmy, like the scent of
the past, the whiteness of the walls around metabula rasa.
Eyes unfocus, roll jubilantly free
in calibration of an edge-dance, such a
tender tight rope (such a soundless fall).
Give me a Rosetta Stone, some rune or talisman.
The cracked crystal of my ill-running watch
catches the sun, then is dark.
Time must have a stop.
To be alone and know it, to be scared
and to care;
it’s to be freeze-framed, floating
face up, naked in a lake,
through a cover of trees.
Forever in a moment.


(Copyright Christopher A. Frost, 1977)

Wow, Bill, thank you so much for sharing that, it's perfectly obvious that great poetic talent runs in the Frost family. Have we asked you if you are any kin to Robert Frost? I can't remember.

That's very fine! Thanks for sharing it.

Ginny I wish we could get this poetry thing up and running again.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
January 26, 2000

Here’s a poem I’ve been wanting to share for years. It’s from a newspaper clipping which states that it is from a Robert Penn Warren Reader, so I assume it is by RPW ------------------------------------------------------------------

Mediterranean Beach, Day After Storm

How instant joy, how clang
and whang the sun, how
Whoop the sea, and oh,
Sun, sing as whiter than
Rage of snow, let sea the spume

Let sea the spume, white, fling,
White on blue wild
With wind, let sun
Sing, while the world
Scuds, clouds boom and belly,
Creak like sails, whiter than,
Brighter than,
Spume in sun-song, oho!
The wind is bright

Wind the heart winds
in constant coil, turning
In the --forever--light

Give me your hand.


I don’t know of any other poem so full of the sounds of poetry.


I like poetry and enjoyed this one Thank You.


How do I paint a picture to men to rally their spirits to rise again lost and lonely, forgotten souls no aims , no future, no hopes, no goals.

How can I as one of them. Give faith and courage to stand again, What can I say, What can I do, To paint a picture of faith, so strong, so true

Then I heard a voice so clear and pure. Speaking softly with love filled tone t'is an angel of "GOD" I was sure When you shall paint, you're not alone

Tell them my son, that brothers they be with faith and trust in a heaven above paint each picture for all to see they will find peace in human love

This is the picture that you will create and I shall guide your brush and paint the message you give is one of Love with the hope and trust from a power above

Continue my son and paint not in fear we will guide you, and always be near Each canvas will show a face from the past It's soul will be free to journey at last.


I had never picked up a paint brush in my life ,except to paint walls.

Now I have tried it, and faces are appearing if your turn the picture upside down.

Katie Jaques
Charlotte, thanks for the (putative) Robert Penn Warren. I've never been much interested in poetry; don't have the patience for it, I guess. But I do like that one. How whang and clang the sun!

Does anyone know a poem like this or close to it, I've been trying to find the words for many years but couldn't. Denzil from Sri Lanka

Charlotte J. Snitzer

Your poem came out as if it was prose.

If you put the tag less-than sign, then "br" then more-than sign at the end of each line, it will come out like this:

How do I paint a picture to men
to rally their souls to rise again
lost and lonely, forgotten souls
no aims, no future, no hopes, no goals.

These are HTML tags which you can learn more about in the special HTML folder.

Try it. This way it looks more like the poem you want it to be.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
Katie Jacques:

Thanks for the thanks and for the new word. Had to look it up twice--no three times.

Putative: 1. Commonly acccepted or supposed. 2. assumed to exist or have existed. But I still don't know if Robert Penn Warren was the author.


Denzil from Sri Lanka !! Welcome, welcome!! I don't know that poem off hand but I bet some of our well read poetry lovers here do, so we'll hold our breaths and hope!

So glad you're with us, don't you just hate it when you have something just out of memory's reach and can't come up with it? I do!

Hopefully somebody will know it and post it here. Do you remember any more about it, any lines that might give a clue?

So glad you're with us,


Ann Alden

Welcome to this discussion. It's so good to be back and hear from you! Its been a long wait and we never gave up seeing you in here when the Books folder was repaired!!

I read a small poem in one of those "women's" magazines back in the Fifties. Probably Ladies Home Journal or Good Housekeeping. They were big with me back then, when my children were babes.

It enchanted me, and I cut it out. Still have it, after all the years. Often recite it to myself when the mood strikes me. Would like to see if any of you take it to your heart the way I did.

"Concerning Love"

by Josephine Preston Peabody

"I wish she would not ask me if 
    I love the kitten more than her. 
 Of course I love her.   But I love 
    the kitten too:  and it has fur." 

Ah Gypsy sprite of Mein so fair The Heavens took such special care To grant thy charms a pwoer devine To make thy glance a heady wine

What grand design the Gods embrace In humankind this gift to place And oh such exstacy is this The warm caress, the sensuel kiss

This mystic bond, the power of love Transcends the finite measure of This brief eclat we call a life So full of pain and toil and strife

So raise the cup to love's grand scheme Aand therefrom drink remembering Thou shall exult and thou shall weep Only a fool love's tryst won't keep Cliff Nielsen

Cliffordj3, Welcome,welcome!! We are delighted to see you here, we are trying to get our Poetry section moving agian and are glad to see it stirring again. Your poem is a puzzler!! It seems I recognize it, yet I don't think I do, it's very good, who wrote it?? (You'll probably say you did yet I really think I've seen it before)!

Thanks for putting it here.

Mary Page, I used to cut things out too and save them, from the same magzines, thank you also for putting that one here, it really sticks in the mind, doesn't it? Ambivilence and humor, and very succinct! hahahaha

It's strange how snatches of poetry come back to us at the strangest moments. I find myself or did find myself lately going over and over "Because I could not stop for death, He kindly stopped for me," by Emily Dickenson. That was another succinct writer whom you were never sure, or I wasn't, whether or not she was pulling your leg a bit.

Why is it, would you suppose, that in times of stress or high emotion, we might remember a snatch of verse and use that to convey how we feel?


Cliffordj3 Welcome to our world, I enjoyed your poem please keep them coming.


Thank you for your kind words. I have written many poems and would like to post some of them here."A Toast to Love" was written back in my high school counselor days. It was published in the Yearbook, but I doubt any of you saw it there. It was also published in a Poetry contest...didn't win anything. Back in my university days, my professor described my tast in poetry as "Favoring abominable versification," He was probally right. The following is an example:
The Woodpecker
The woodpecker's pecking in the old oak tree
As long as he's there it's alright with me
He can peck away at the telephone pole
Or any old place he can peck a hole

But there is one spot where I draw the line
And of course that's on this house of mine
A pantry for acorns this house is not
A fact that woodpecker should be taught

A little rock-salt in the old behind
Was actually the lesson I had in mind
But the wife vetoed this feindish scheme
Burning his butt was a tad too mean

So just what is it I'm supposed to do
Let him peck away till the rains come through
Reduce this house to a pile of sticks
Till there's nothing left but a few toothpicks

I really think it's quite absurd
Ignore the house but protect the bird
Endangered species...no siree
But he just might make one out of me
Cliff Nielsen

Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap!

Ed Zivitz
In the March 27,2000 issue of The New Yorker there are some selections from Plath's journals,that were unsealed by Ted Hughes in Sept 1998 (a month before he died).

The selection is interesting to read,but personally, I find her stuff rather depressing.

What a relief to hear you say that, Ed. I have read a lot of Plath, and will readily admit she was a talented writer.

But have tended not to mention her or want to pursue reading more of her or rereading her. I just do not understand the cult of adoration she has inspired. I find her a real downer.

Well, here's an upper for you:

                Celery raw, 
                  Develops the jaw, 
                But celery, stewed, 
                  Is more quietly chewed. 

- Ogden Nash

Charlotte J. Snitzer
Hi All:

Glad to finally see some action here.

Cliff and Marypage: Thanks for those really cute poems. I'm off to find one of my favorites. "How to Eat a Poem." Will be back.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
HOW TO EAT A POEM by Eve Merriam 

Don't be polite. Bite in. Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that may run down your chin. It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.

You do not need a knife or fork or spoon or plate or napkin or tablecloth.

For there is no core or stem or rind or pit or seed or skin to throw away.

Ed Zivitz
Mary Page: I enjoyed your comments about Plath. I believe that her adoration is the result of good public relations by the feminist movement.

No question of her talent,but her miserable life,both as a child & a destructive marriage to Ted Hughes & her depression and suicide, was seized upon by some ultra-feminists and used as ammunition in the "gender wars".

Well, Ed, I am a feminist.

But not a zealot. Plath is just too, too depressing and I see no reason to drip gloom all over this planet.

There is enough of it without any of us working at increasing it.

Great poem, Charlotte! Thanks.

Charlotte J. Snitzer
ED: How could you be so unsympathetic? Sylvia Plath was a great poet as was Anne Sexton. But they both had mental problems, as do many sensitive, creative people who find they are somewhat different from other people.

Neither of these poets were used by the ultra-feminists. They were accepted as great writers by the literary establishment.


Charlotte J. Snitzer
MaryPage: Some of our greatest literature comes out of the tragedy of being human. Comedy is much harder to write. Aristophenes was a master. Dickens wrote about tragedy,as did Shakespeare. But they both relieve the pressure with some comic scenes. Some modern writers have succeeded to some extent, but even they sometimes fail. And the current sitcoms on TV are sad evidence of what is happening in our world, They cannot be dignified with the label of tragedy, because the people they depict are such fools.


Although I have been known to write the other sort. A lot. Poetry is a very cathartic medium.

I just don't need, at my age, any more downers.

When I was 13, 14, 15 & 16 years of age, I kept a very small loose leaf notebook just for poems I encountered and liked. I still have them. The following, by Thomas Bailey Aldrich, was one of my all time favorites back then, and still is. I can recite it. The funny thing is, for all of the meaning it had for me back then, and it had a lot, it means even more Now and is even more True now!


My mind lets go a thousand things, Like dates of wars and deaths of kings, And yet recalls the very hour ______ 'Twas noon by yonder village tower, And on the last blue no