Saturday, 20 October 2007

Ariel's love song

Right, it's taken me far too long to actually post this, but you might remember the Auden poem I brought along to the last skelf at Lorraine's? Here it is for those of you wishing to take a bit more time over it...


(Ariel to Caliban, Echo by the Prompter)

Weep no more but pity me,
Fleet persistent shadow cast
By your lameness,
caught at last,
Helplessly in love with you,
Elegance, art, fascination,
Fascinated by
Drab mortality;
Spare me a humiliation,
To your faults be true:
I can sing as you reply

Wish for nothing lest you mar
The perfection in these eyes
Whose entire devotion lies
At the mercy of your will;
Tempt not your sworn comrade, - only
As I am can I love you as you are -
or my company be lonely
For my health be ill:
I will sing if you will cry

Never hope to say farewell,
For our lethargy is such
Heaven's kindness cannot touch
Nor earth's frankly brutal drum;
This was long ago decided,
Both of us know why,
Can, alas, foretell,
When our falsehoods are divided,
What we shall become,
One evaporating sigh

- W.H. Auden

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Sappho Assignment - Fragment 31


Please feel free to tell me to cut the homework - but, as you can see, I am becoming increasingly hooked on skelf. I love having a poem to play with, ticking round in my brain through a busy week.

So here is another assignment - to interpret a fragment by Sappho. There is a direct translation of her poem from the Greek below- followed by various beautiful interpretations by other poets (my favourite is the one by John Hollander). Then, if you feel inspired, write your own.

Fragment 31

That man seems to me to be like a god, to
Sit so close to you and to hear your sweet voice
And your charming laughter - and all this, truly,
Makes my heart tremble;

For I only, briefly, need to glance at you to
Find my voice has gone and my tongue is broken,
And a flame has stolen beneath my skin, my
Eyes can no longer

See, my ears are ringing, while drops of sweat run
Down my trembling body, and I've turned paler
Than a wisp of straw and it seems to be I'm
Not far off dying.

(Translation by Robert Chandler)


Peer of the Gods

Peer of the gods is that man, who
face to face, sits listening
to your sweet speech and lovely

It is this that rouses a tumult
in my breast. At mere sight of you
my voice falters, my tongue
is broken.

Straightway, a delicate fire runs in
my limbs; my eyes
are blinded and my ears

Sweat pours out: a trembling hunts
me down. I grow paler
than dry grass and lack little
of dying.


After an Old Text

His head is in the heavens, who across the
Narrow canyon of pillow from yours harkens
With gazing hand and hearing knees through darkness,
Looking and listening

To the sweet quietude of terminating
Conversation, the gentle brief wake for the
Long-dead day, the keening of his shortened
Breath on your shoulder:

This revision of you sucks out the sound of
Words from my mouth, my tongue collapses, my legs
Flag, my ears roar, my eyes are blind with flame; my
Head is in hell then.



Maik O the Gods He Seems to Me

Maik o the gods he seems to me,
thon man that sits in front o ye,
and hears your talkan couthilie near,
sae saftlie and clear,

your luvelie lauchan. My hert stounds
rowsan i ma breist when your lauch sounds
and gif I glent at ye sittan there
I canna speak mair.

Ma tung freezes i ma mou, a nesh
lowe rins chitteran throu ma flesh;
nae sicht i ma een; wi thier nain thunner
ma lugs dunner.

Swyte reems doun me; frae heid to fuit
a trummlan grups me, sae's I sit
greener nor gress, in sic a dwalm
I kenna wha I am.

maik= peer
couthilie=cosily, comfortably
stounds=is stunned
glent=if I glance
lowe=glow, fire
dunnner=my ears resound
swyte reems=sweat pours


Wednesday, 10 October 2007

First attempt at Iain Crichton Smith

You are at the bottom of this poetry

(after Iain Crichton Smith)

You have changed the landscape of my mind.

Like nameless mountains, remote and fixed

Which glaciers carve their mark in - but not I.

Still dazzled by your heights,

clawing and clawing at your crumbling sides

With these weak hands.

You went astray, obscured by clouds

And sun so fierce I had to look away

And now my eye is lost in looking.

I do not have the know of your shape

I cannot trace your faces

I never scaled your path.

And I shall never claim you

Though I bear this flag high hopelessly,

Half-lifted by love's straining.

Memory draws meandering maps;

sketches ropes without holdings,

My fault-lines tremble with each climb.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Michael Longley - The Evening Star

Also, I was convinced I'd never heard of Michael Longley (who lead the lovely MacNeice session) - but I realised last night that he's the author of a poem that I love. Here it is:

The Evening Star

(In memory of Catherine Mercer, 1994-6)

The day we buried your two years and two months
So many crocuses and snowdrops came out for you
I tried to isolate from those galaxies one flower:
A snowdrop appeared in the sky at dayligone,

The evening star, the star in Sappho's epigram
Which brings back everything that shiny daybreak
Scatters, which brings the sheep and brings the goat
And brings the wean back home to her mammy.

Michael Longley

Monday, 8 October 2007

Entirely - Louis MacNeice

Here's the Louis MacNeice poem that Claire and I enjoyed so much at the SPL Michael Longley session - enjoy Marjorie (it even rhymes)! x x


If we could get the hang of it entirely
It would take too long;
All we know is the splash of words in passing
And falling twigs of song.
And when we eavesdrop on the great
Presences it is rarely
That by a stroke of luck we can appropriate
Even a phrase entirely.

If we could find happiness entirely
In somebody else's arms
We should not fear the spears of spring nor the city's
Yammering fire alarms
But, as it is, the spears each year go through
Our flesh and almost hourly
Bell or siren banishes the blue
Eyes of love entirely.

And if the world were black and white entirely
And all the charts were plain
Instead of a mad weir of tigerish waters,
A prism of delight and pain,
We might be surer where we wished to go
Or again we might be merely
Bored but in brute reality there is no
Road that is right entirely.

Louis MacNeice

Monday, 1 October 2007

There Was a Young Bard of Japan...


There was a young bard of Japan,
Whose limericks never would scan:
When told it was so,
He said: 'Yes, I know,
But I always try and get as many words into the last line as I possibly can'.