Thursday, 24 March 2011

Caleb's Ten Poems

Ten poems: Shakespeare sonnet 18, Browning sonnet 43,
Eating, When you are old, Riddles in the dark, The Merlion,
The new colossus, Dulce et decorum est, Digging, Smith sonnet 3

1.Sonnet 18, William Shakespeare

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 oft' 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 wanderest 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.

2. Sonnet 43, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

3. Eating Together, Li-Young Lee

In the steamer is the trout
seasoned with slivers of ginger,
two sprigs of green onion, and sesame oil.
We shall eat it with rice for lunch,
brothers, sister, my mother who will
taste the sweetest meat of the head,
holding it between her fingers
deftly, the way my father did
weeks ago. Then he lay down
to sleep like a snow-covered road
winding through pines older than him,
without any travelers, and lonely for no one.

4. When You Are Old, W B Yeats
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
5. Riddles in the Dark, JRR Tolkien

Thirty white horses on a red hill
First they champ
Then they stamp
Then they stand still.
A box without hinges, keys, or lid
Yet inside golden treasure is hid.
What has roots as nobody sees
Is taller than trees
Up Up Up it goes
And yet never grows?
Voiceless it cries
Wingless flutters
Toothless bites
Mouthless mutters.
An eye in a blue face
Said to an eye in a green face
“That eye is like to this eye”
Said the first eye
“But in a low place,
Not a high place.”
(Sun on daisies)
It cannot be seen, cannot be felt
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
It lies behind stars and under hills
And empty holes it fills.
It comes first and follows after
Ends life, Kills laughter.
The thing all things devours
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers
Gnaws iron, bites steel
Grinds hard stones to meal
Slays king, ruins town
And beats high mountain down!

6. The Merlion, Alfian Sa'at

"I wish it had paws," you said,

"It's quite grotesque the way it is,
you know, limbless; can you
imagine it writhing in the water,
like some post-Chernobyl nightmare?
I mean, how does it move? Like a
torpedo? Or does it shoulder itself
against the currents, gnashing with frustration,
its furious mane bleached
the colour of a drowned sun?

But take a second look at it,
how it is poised so terrestrially,
marooned on this rough shore,
as if unsure of its rightful
harbour. Could it be that,
having taken to this unaccustomed limpidity,
it has decided to abandon the seaweed-haunted
depths for land? Perhaps it is even ashamed

(But what a bold front!)
to have been a creature of the sea; look at how
it tries to purge itself of its aquatic ancestry,
in this ceaseless torrent of denial, draining
the body of rivers of histories, lymphatic memories.

What a riddle, this lesser brother of the Sphinx.
What sibling polarity, how its sister's lips are sealed
with self-knowledge and how its own jaws
clamp open in self-doubt, still
surprised after all these years."

"Yet...what brand new sun can dry
the iridescent slime from the scales
and what fresh rain wash the sting of salt
from those chalk-blind eyes?"

A pause.

"And why does it keep spewing that way?
I mean, you know, I mean..."

"I know exactly what you mean," I said,
Eyeing the blond highlights in your black hair
And your blue lenses the shadow of a foreign sky.
It spews continually if only to ruffle
its own reflection in the water; such reminders
will only scare a creature so eager to reinvent itself."

Another pause.

"Yes," you finally replied, in that acquired accent of yours,

"Well, yes, but I still do wish it had paws."

7. The New Colossus, Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "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!"
8. Dulce Et Decorum Est, Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

9. Digging, Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pin rest; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

10. Sonnet III: To a Nightingale, Charlotte Smith

Poor melancholy bird---that all night long
Tell'st to the Moon, thy tale of tender woe;
From what sad cause can such sweet sorrow flow,
And whence this mournful melody of song?

Thy poet's musing fancy would translate
What mean the sounds that swell thy little breast,
When still at dewy eve thou leav'st thy nest,
Thus to the listening night to sing thy fate!

Pale Sorrow's victims wert thou once among,
Tho' now releas'd in woodlands wild to rove?
Say---hast thou felt from friends some cruel wrong,
Or diedst thou---martyr of disastrous love?
Ah! songstress sad! that such my lot might be,
To sigh and sing at liberty---like thee!

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