24 June 2017

From Odes (Book II, number 3)

Maintain an unmoved poise in adversity;
Likewise in luck one free of extravagant
Joy. Bear in mind my admonition,
Dellius. Whether you pass a lifetime
Prostrate with gloom, or whether you celebrate
Feast-days with choice old brands of Falernian
Stretched out in some green, unfrequented
Meadow, remember that your death is certain.

- James Michie

23 June 2017


Good books in bad times (for all loyalty ends)
Can turn their backs on you, like close friends
Who don’t know half the truth, and from the shelf
Cut dead the miserable anorexic self
That’s lost its appetite for words, that finds
Print inflicts snow-dazzle, and the mind’s
Capsized by logic, and one paragraph
Of the funniest man on earth can’t raise a laugh.
To stop loving, or being loved, is to stop
Reading, is to stop. Woodland becomes backdrop
And weather mere performance. Then books stare
Like stuffed predators with a blameless air
Of enmity.
        Men, women, you dog-eared lovers
With wine-stained pages and much drabber covers
Than when you were brightly bought, before you secede
From the old union, reread, reread.

- James Michie

21 June 2017


The hour-glass whispers to the lion's roar,
The clock-towers tell the gardens day and night
How many errors Time has patience for,
How wrong they are in being always right.

Yet Time, however loud its chimes or deep,
However fast its falling torrent flows,
Has never put one lion off his leap
Nor shaken the assurance of a rose.

For they, it seems, care only for success:
While we choose words according to their sound
And judge a problem by its awkwardness;

And Time with us was always popular.
When have we not preferred some going round
To going straight to where we are?

- W. H. Auden

18 June 2017


Sometimes, when walls and occupation seem
A prison merely, a dark barrier
Between me everywhere
And life, or the larger province of the mind,
As dreams confined,
As the trouble of a dream,
I seek to make again a life long gone,
To be
My mind's approach and consolation,
To give it form's lucidity,
Resilient form, as porcelain pieces thrown
In buried China by a wrist unknown,
Or mirrored brigs upon Fowey sea.

Then to my memory comes nothing great
Of purpose, or debate,
Or perfect end,
Pomp, nor love's rapture, nor heroic hours to spend --
But most, and strangely, for long and so much have I seen,
Comes back an afternoon
Of a June
Sunday at Elsfield, that is up on a green
Hill, and there,
Through a little farm parlour door,
A floor
Of red tiles and blue,
And the air
Sweet with the hot June sun cascading through
The vine-leaves under the glass, and a scarlet fume
Of geranium flower, and soft and yellow bloom
Of musk, and stains of scarlet and yellow glass.

Such are the things remain
Quietly, and for ever, in the brain,
And the things that they choose for history-making pass.

- John Drinkwater

17 June 2017


These days are best when one goes nowhere, 
The house a reservoir of quiet change, 
The creak of furniture, the window panes 
Brushed by the half-rhymes of activities 
That do not quite declare what thing it was 
Gave rise to them outside. The colours, even, 
Accord with the tenor of the day - yes, ‘grey’ 
You will hear reported of the weather, 
But what a grey, in which the tinges hover, 
About to catch, although they still hold back 
The blaze that's in them should the sun appear, 
And yet it does not. Then the window pane 
With a tremor of glass acknowledges 
The distant boom of a departing plane. 

- Charles Tomlinson

15 June 2017

  Slow days passing, accumulating, -
How distant they are,
     The things of the past!

- Buson

(translated by R. H. Blyth),

14 June 2017


All in the town were still asleep,
When the sun came up with a shout and a leap.
In the lonely streets unseen by man,
A little dog danced. And the day began.

All his life he'd been good, as far as he could,
And the poor little beast had done all that he should.
But this morning he swore, by Odin and Thor
And the Canine Valhalla - he'd stand it no more!

So his prayer he got granted - to do just what he wanted,
Prevented by none, for the space of one day.
"Jam incipiebo, sedere facebo,"
In dog-Latin he quoth, "Euge! sophos! hurray!"

He fought with the he-dogs, and winked at the she-dogs,
A thing that had never been heard of before.
"For the stigma of gluttony, I care not a button!" he
Cried, and ate all he could swallow - and more.

He took sinewy lumps from the shins of old frumps,
And mangled the errand-boys - when he could get 'em.
He shammed furious rabies, and bit all the babies,
And followed the cats up the trees, and then ate 'em!"

They thought 'twas the devil was holding a revel,
And sent for the parson to drive him away;
For the town never knew such a hullabaloo
As that little dog raised - till the end of that day.

When the blood-red sun had gone burning down,
And the lights were lit in the little town,
Outside, in the gloom of the twilight grey,
The little dog died when he'd had his day. 

- Rupert Brooke