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September 12, 2005

from “The Shield of Achilles”
Posted by Teresa at 12:59 AM * 44 comments

From W. H. Auden, “The Shield of Achilles” (via Mark Kleiman):

The mass and majesty of this world, all That carries weight and always weighs the same
Lay in the hands of others; they were small
And could not hope for help and no help came:
What their foes like to do was done, their shame
Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride
And died as men before their bodies died.

Comments on from "The Shield of Achilles":
#1 ::: Yatima ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 02:12 AM:

With me, right now, it's Hopkins:

NO worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
Woe, world-sorrow; on an age-old anvil wince and sing --
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked 'No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief'.
O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne'er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.

#2 ::: david sanger ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 03:31 AM:

I'm been listening to Joan Baez

(Words and Music by Joan Baez)

You're tired and you're poor,
you long to be free,
but in this Godforsaken land
you find no home, no family
on the many roads that you've wandered
since the day of your birth.
You've become one of the last,
lonely and wretched.

Your hair is matted,
your face and hands are dirty,
and the years that you've toiled
must number somewhere near thirty.
The deepening of a sadness
broke finally into madness.
You are truly one of the last,
lonely and wretched.

Your eyes are wild and frightening
at the same time they are blessed
and I wonder if God died,
turned his back or only just rested.
And you walked out on the seventh day
through the big gates and on your way
to become one of the last,
lonely and wretched.

For once you were a child.
Your cheeks were red,
you were well fed.
You laughed and played
till you got teary,
ran to your mother
when you were weary.

But somewhere you were forsaken
alone I'll not bear the blame
and somehow all was taken,
your mind, your body, your name.
Forgive us our unkindness,
our desertion and our blindness,
with you, all the last,
lonely and wretched.
Forgive us, all the last,
lonely and wretched.

© 1970, 1971 Chandos Music (ASCAP

#3 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 06:54 AM:

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.

#4 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 08:12 AM:

Robert Frost, "The Exposed Nest"

You were forever finding some new play.
So when I saw you down on hands and knees
In the meadow, busy with the new-cut hay,
Trying, I thought, to set it up on end,
I went to show you how to make it stay,
If that was your idea, against the breeze,
And, if you asked me, even help pretend
To make it root again and grow afresh.
But ’twas no make-believe with you to-day,
Nor was the grass itself your real concern,
Though I found your hand full of wilted fern,
Steel-bright June-grass, and blackening heads of clover.
’Twas a nest full of young birds on the ground
The cutter-bar had just gone champing over
(Miraculously without tasting flesh)
And left defenseless to the heat and light.
You wanted to restore them to their right
Of something interposed between their sight
And too much world at once—could means be found.
The way the nest-full every time we stirred
Stood up to us as to a mother-bird
Whose coming home has been too long deferred,
Made me ask would the mother-bird return
And care for them in such a change of scene
And might our meddling make her more afraid.
That was a thing we could not wait to learn.
We saw the risk we took in doing good,
But dared not spare to do the best we could
Though harm should come of it; so built the screen
You had begun, and gave them back their shade.
All this to prove we cared. Why is there then
No more to tell? We turned to other things.
I haven’t any memory—have you?—
Of ever coming to the place again
To see if the birds lived the first night through,
And so at last to learn to use their wings.

#5 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 09:14 AM:

I'm afraid I don't get what's going on here. Could someone explain? Or, to put it in fannish:


#6 ::: Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 09:54 AM:

Praise be to Nero's Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
And everybody's shouting
"Which Side Are You On?"
And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot
Fighting in the captain's tower
While calypso singers laugh at them
And fishermen hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea
Where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much
About Desolation Row

#7 ::: Beth Meacham ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 10:10 AM:

People are quoting appropriate poetry to each other, Ken. It's a surprising habit of American liberals.

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 10:16 AM:

Ken: Olympic freestyle poetry quotation, though original work is always a possibility. New Orleans is much on everyone's mind. Other themes crop up. Invisible egoboo points for being concise and apposite; more points for poetry that resonates interestingly with earlier comments. Or anyway, that's how I see it.

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 10:24 AM:

Is that usually a liberal thing, Beth? I'm fairly sure that some of the poetry junkies here wouldn't describe themselves that way. I've just been figuring that outbreaks of poetry are an emergent property of Making Light.

#10 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 10:30 AM:

well original work, wrote this about 4-6 years back, in media res:

.....the bomburst sets off a car-alarm
even in Baghdad one worries of thieves

the whistling missile like a horny teenage boy.

The young anonymous genius scrambles
in the ruination of his environment
left to fall back on pure genetic will
up the makeshift hillside
half a tumbled apartment complex
this visionary of manga transcendence
to the invisible statue of forgotten poetry
run & clamber you clever monkey
& hear the dumb pronouncement
“You must change yourself”
punctuated by the sniper-fire.

Oh no, Abu! Aladdin is dead -
destroyed the child thief at his station
a smart bullet as found his brain
and bled the information from the lobes.
Will no academy award soundtrack resurrect him,
will no pastel & curvaceous daughter of Rã
kneel without cue or payoff?

What vizard can we lay the blame at
What cold policy has chilled the heart
Spilt blood, & totalled the statistic?

................. and later

...well-schooled we have learned
to read the soul of Humanity
like pornography.
Do you see anyone
who is charitable here?
Our psychology asks
of what they are guilty.
Does one raise voice
in defence of the unjustly accused?
Beware that man, he commits
the sin he does defend.
The Officials who were appointed
To stamp out evil,
legitimize its official pursuit.
Those officials appointed
to diminish falsehood
publish reports with spurious
statistics, unattributed quotations,
flim-flammery & bogus evidence
& no one knows what to believe
when any belief is anyway a delusion
spurred by your social class
and indoctrination.
Who can blame our leaders
if they mislead us,
Who can blame our heroes
if they have no virtues,
Virtue is a lie
told by saints & philosophers.
The man who saves life today
will tomorrow extort praise.

I ask you: Am I somehow
to feel myself a lesser man
for never having done one
kind deed, or given
a thought to any suffering person?
Those who give alms
deduct from their taxes.

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 10:33 AM:

Bryan, I like the last stanza best. It'd work well all by itself.

#12 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 10:36 AM:

well it's basically from an epic poem, 300+ pages :)

#13 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 10:44 AM:

The bit of "The Shield of Achilles" that really resonates with me is the verse:

That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third
Were axioms to him, who'd never heard
Of any world where promises were kept
Or one could weep because another wept.

That connects in my head with a Pink Floyd song "The Gunner's Dream":

You can relax on both side of the tracks
And maniacs
Don't blow holes in bandsmen by remote control,
And everyone has recourse to the law
And no-one kills the children anymore.

As Jerry Pournelle once said, there are remarkably few things hailing to the glories of peace. That's where I started from.

#14 ::: Aled Morgan ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 10:55 AM:

Myrddin, 2003.

When I ran wild in the wood,
In the dark season,
The trees stood bare
The streams ran hard
Life was deep buried
And they said that I was mad.
Words struck through me like lightning.

Listen, my king, my piglet, my apple-tree,
What is the purpose of this war?
Why are we flinging ourselves into foreign quagmire
Head-down heedless, like a knight at a ford,
Spending lives, treasure, and reputation
When all we do makes matters worse
And nobody has asked for our intercession?

Listen here, old oak trees,
A few brown leaves rattling
Against the gales of autumn,
You have seen battles, hidden kings,
You remember the last war,
Young men falling like leaves.
You don't need my prophecies.

Yes, I led the king to the stone,
What did you want, anarchy?
We elected him by acclamation.
Yes, I had him taught to fight,
Did you want your king to be a weakling?
Yes, I have a measure of foresight,
But they're dying for nothing and nobody will listen!

I am a crow. I am Cassandra.
Anyone with eyes can see that this is wrong.
I will run cawing through the winter wood,
Rend my soft skin, scratch in the loam,
Rub ashes on my ancient head,
Hold urgent orgies of refutation
In ardent denial of responsibility.

#15 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 10:55 AM:

yes, that "Were axioms to him" really moved the whole.

#16 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 11:06 AM:

Jean Racine, "A la louange de la charité".

Que me sert que ma foi transporte les montagnes ?
Que Dans les arides campagnes
Les torrents naissent sous mes pas;
Ou que ranimant la poussière
Elle rende aux morts la lumière,
Si l'amour ne l'anime pas ?

Catherine Pozzi, "Nyx" (Re-reading it yesterday, my mind couldn't help but twist it in a way that fits the events, and gives that poem I never really liked a whole new light).

O vous mes nuits, ô noires attendues
O pays fiers, ô secrets obstinés
O long regards, ô foudroyante nues
O vol permis outre les cieux fermé.

O grand désir, ô surprise épendue
O beau parcours de l'esprit enchanté
O pire mal, Ô grace descendue
O porte ouverte ou nul n'avait passé.

Je ne sais pourquoi je meurs et noie
Avant d'entrer à l'éternel séjour.
Je ne sais pas de qui je suis la proie.
Je ne sais pas de qui je suis l'amour.

#17 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 11:49 AM:


When God slipped into Mary (between the breathe in and the breathe out, inhale, exhale, inh—whoops! hi, God!), was she then God? Did she think God thoughts, say God words? When she married Joseph, and they said the wedding words, and drank the wedding wine, did he marry God, too? Months later, in the night, with baby God snorfle sleeping two hours out of three, and Mary new mother comatose snoring on his shoulder, did he feel God still, stretched out all down his chest hip thigh, stealing the covers and tangling her fingers in his belly hair? When she kissed him, when they breathed together, did he feel God slip into him?


God flows, like water down a hillside, like wine into a cup, like blood from a wound. Streambeds curve around and around, making a cradle for the water. Wine pours from the cup into the drinker, and blood carries it to every cell and sweats it out in the early morning. God flows.


From baby God to toddler God, to young God, to grown God, with God in Mary and God in Joseph watching. This is how God walks. This is how God planes a table top. This is how God dresses a lamb. This is how God says good-bye to God, with a kiss and a smile, walking away down the hill.


Love ye one another.

Are you the Messiah?

If I were the Messiah, would you love one another?

If you are the Messiah, yes.

No ifs.


When God inhales, one two three four, clouds poufle and pile one on another, seedpods fillip and jig, smoke curls up and up and up. When God holds, two two three four, dry scrolled leaves float from twig to turf, one by one, alone. When God exhales, three two three four, sails bell fwoom! tumbling new sailors on deck, rain spatters dust into mud, cats slit their eyes and flatten their ears. When God rests, four two three four, nothing happens.


Love ye one another.

We do not know how.


#18 ::: Beth Meacham ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 12:14 PM:

Is that usually a liberal thing, Beth?

I've never seen such a thing erupt in any right-wing venue. It happens often on the leftist sites I frequent. Perhaps I'm generalizing from too small a sample, though.

#19 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 01:31 PM:

The Fall Of Rome

W. H. Auden

The piers are pummelled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.

Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.

Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.

Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extol the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.

Caesar’s double-bed is warm
As an unimportatnt clerk
On a pink official form.

Unendowed with wealth or pity
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-infected city.

Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.

#20 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 01:37 PM:

Mine's a bit simpler:

For want of a nail
the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe
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
the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want
of a horseshoe nail.

#21 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 01:41 PM:

That's lovely, pericat. I read it three times in a row because every time I finished it I wanted to go back to the beginning. Good job.

#22 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 01:45 PM:

There's a community over on LiveJournal called poetry_wars that have made an on-going game? exercise? of this:

Their information page gives their ground rules; it's open to any LiveJournal member who wants to join.

#23 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 02:14 PM:

Matthew Arnold, from "Dover Beach"

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

#24 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 02:16 PM:

Bravo, Aled Morgan!

#25 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 03:04 PM:

It is a fake url...but it will take you to my error page. :) Still need to link to the whole poem and put another nifty graphic up there though.

#26 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 03:06 PM:

Aled and pericat - stunning, both poems.

#27 ::: Elaine ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 03:18 PM:

Don McLean - American Pie

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news,
But she just smiled and turned away.
I went down to the sacred store
Where I'd heard the music years before.
But the man there said the music wouldn't play.
And in the streets the children screamed,
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed.
But not a word was spoken.
The church bells all were broken.

And the three men I admire most--"

The father, son, and the holy ghost--"
They caught the last train for the coast,
The day the music died.
They were singing . . .

#28 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 03:32 PM:

Learned Chivar dy Cabon:

Grant us, in our direst need, the smallest gifts:
the nail of the horseshoe, the pin of the axle, the feather at the pivot point, the pebble at the mountain's peak, the kiss in despair, the one right word.

In darkness, understanding...

#29 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 04:02 PM:

'Myrddin 2003'

some answering Arthuriana, from quite a number of years ago:


A chord of angry cursing
thru the restaurant, the rose
decked tables, linen cloth
& windows
are expanding outward
as if some monstrous fiery bird
opened its wrathful wings
above us
letting the wind of passage
gather us tightly in, gather us

Nitrate Flower, Cordite Raven
Powder Rhyme; men labor
for your apotheosis
in strange lab-coated priesthoods
masked & faceless behind the mask
they are pruning a vast & burning Orchid
in the Garden of Violation

Technocrats, from a Star-Chamber
facing seaward
unleash their messenger pigeon
carrying to the world
the world's own bloody heart

Do you think the World needs
a decryption key to read
its own encryption?

Do you think the note made
by adult hand slapping child's
to simple for the World's taste?

What do you think
this music signifies?
These dolorous trumpets
clangor of drums & guitars
in synthesesia
Confused, you come to me to prophecy
unknowing that every vision
is also condemnation
you should do better to strangle my voice
cripple these hands
& bury my tongue beneath
mountains of indifference.
That would be your clean defence.

Needing some random fragment to interpret
I unravel a thread from my sleave
& weave it into augury
unthreading prescience from printed sleave
as Phoenix & Dragon interweave
in the hard Leather Field.

Looking through the small & dusty page
I see sunlight is passing
in swirled mid-summer hordes
to the young men, proud & ruthless
the old as well, stick-figures
become the supreme art
drawn neatly to the center
for the critic's timely salute.
Along margins Black Towers
are falling & rising arbitrarily,
musical notes are mangled,
pyrotechnic flowers spout from the marker;
strange rivers & ribbons float all over
and plowshares question their purpose?
swords express their excitement!
caps conform to set limits
in infinite undeviate rows............

Fear in the eyes
the slouching walk
downcast to their daily
lives people stumble;
dispirited attacks in dissident papers
over flat bread & tea

There is nothing to be done today
& the same tomorrow

Among a certain set of friends who deplore
the fashionable
to deplore
We explore intellectual alternatives
of frightening events
from sloth & denial
truth assumes a pliant shape
in arguments between Caffeine Geeks
who hold the sundial's shadow as their own
thin & empty shadows

Mordant, I chuckle
lighting the rough-hewn pipe
to puff Opiate vapour
in clouds among
memorized opinions

The mists unwreath
the crystal ball blossoms
I see my voice move forth
tendriled thru a golden trumpet
against the frost plashed window
of clear vision

A Judgement I bring the Men of Valour
& the Judgement is Arthur risen
A Judgement I bring the Men of War
& the Judgement is the Prince of Peace
A Judgement I bring the Men of Power
& the Judgement is Arthur Triumphant.

in shabby hovels of the broken cities
Vico's theories are borne out
& history is rounded
to the circumference of an eye.

#30 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 04:51 PM:

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.

(given that an entire city has been
washed away by the sea,
this seems doubly appropriate)

#31 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 04:53 PM:

(Bush sending to "know" for
whom the evacuation bell tolled
being the second on-the-mark reference).

#32 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 04:56 PM:

Jeffrey Smith and Clifton Royston: why, thank you very much!

#33 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 05:09 PM:

And of course:

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho! the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
Thou dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember'd not.
Heigh-ho! sing heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho! the holly!
This life is most jolly.


#34 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 09:12 PM:

This is technically a song, but it's been going through my head...

By the time we're done with dancing,
Elsewhere, darling, you'll be glancing,
And the night's a river-torrent tearing us apart.
Merely melody entwined us,
Easily the ties that bind us
Break in fibrillations of the heart.
Don't cry out or cling in terror;
Darling, that's a fatal error:
Clinging to somebody you thought you knew was yours.
Dispossession by attrition is a permanent condition
That the wretched modern world endures.
You drift away; you're carried by a stream.
Refugee, a wanderer you roam;
You lose your way, so it will come to seem:
No place in particular is home.
You glance away, your house has disappeared,
The sweater you've been knitting has unpurled.
You live adrift, and everything you feared
Comes to you in this undoing world.
Copper-plated, nailed together, buffeted by ocean weather,
Stands the Queen of Exiles, and our mother she may be.
Hollow-breasted, broken-hearted, watching for her dear departed,
For her children cast upon the sea.
At her back the great idyllic land of Justice
For exilic peoples ponders making justice private property.
Darling, never dream another woman might
Have been your mother:
Someday you may be a refugee.
A refugee, who's running from the wars,
Hiding from the fire-bombs they've hurled;
Eternally, a person out-of-doors,
Desperate in this undoing world.
Mother, for your derelicted
Children from your womb evicted,
Grant us shelter, harbor, solace, safety;
Let us in!
Let us tell you where we traveled,
How our hopes, our lives unraveled,
How unwelcome everywhere we've been.

An Undoing World, by Tony Kushner (learned from the Klezmatics)

#35 ::: Naomi Chana ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 09:29 PM:

The Manicheans did no idols make
Without themselves, nor worship gods of wood,
Yet idols did in their Ideas take,
And figured Christ as on the cross he stood.
Thus did they when they earnestly did pray
Till clearer Faith this idol took away.

We seem more inwardly to know the Son
And see our own salvation in his blood
When this is said, we think the work is done
And with the Father hold our portion good,
As if true life within these words were laid
For him that in life never words obeyed.

If this be safe, it is a pleasant way,
The Cross of Christ is very easily borne;
But six days' labour makes the sabbath day,
The flesh is dead before grace can be born,
The heart must first bear witness with the book,
The earth must burn, ere we for Christ can look.

[Fulke Greville, from Caelica. I am not myself Christian, but I could wish for more Christianity and less idolatry in all this.]

#36 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2005, 09:45 PM:

From "The Wind in the Willows":

Lest the awe should dwell,
And turn your frolic to fret;
You shall look on my power at the helping hour -
But then you shall forget!

Lest limbs be reddened and rent.
I spring the trap that is set.
As I loose the snare you may glimpse me there-
For surely you shall forget!

Helper and healer, I cheer
Small waifs in the woodland wet.
Strays I find in it, wounds I bind in it:
Bidding them all forget!

I first read this poem, or a part of it, in "Five Smooth Stones."

What really got me about this was the idea of a benevolent wood-god who rescues animals from traps and trouble - and then gives them the gift of forgetfulness so they don't feel small in the face of his power.

#37 ::: Graham Sleight ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 06:44 AM:

I know I'm late here, and I could quote the whole thing, but here's a bit from Auden's "Out on the lawn I lie in bed":

Soon, soon, through dykes of our content
The crumpling flood will force a rent
And, taller than a tree,
Hold sudden death before our eyes
Whose river dreams long hid the size
And vigours of the sea.

But when the waters make retreat
And through the black mud first the wheat
In shy green stalks appears,
When stranded monsters gasping lie,
And sounds of riveting terrify
Their whorled unsubtle ears,

May these delights we dread to lose,
This privacy, need no excuse
But to that strength belong,
As through a child"s rash happy cries
The drowned parental voices rise
In unlamenting song.

After discharges of alarm
All unpredicted let them calm
The pulse of nervous nations,
Forgive the murderer in his glass,
Tough in their patience to surpass
The tigress her swift motion.

On GWB's response, I could also suggest "Musee des Beaux Arts":

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

#38 ::: Laurel ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 06:50 AM:

From "The Masque of Plenty" by Rudyard Kipling

SCENE - The wooded heights of Simla. The Incarnation of the Government of India in the raiment of the Angel of Plenty sings, to pianoforte accompaniment:

"How sweet is the shepherd's sweet life!
From the dawn to the even he strays -
He shall follow his sheep all the day
And his tongue shall be filled with praise.
(adagio dim.) Filled with praise!"

(largendo con sp.) Now this is the position,
Go make an inquisition
Into their real condition
As swiftly as ye may.
(p)Ay, paint our swarthy billions
The richest of vermilions
Ere two well-led cotillions
Have danced themselves away.


Triumphal return to Simla of the Investigators, attired after the manner of Dionysus, leading a pet tiger-cub in wreaths of rhubarb-leaves, symbolical of India under medical treatment. They sing:

We have seen, we have written - behold it, the proof of our manifold toil!
In their hosts they assembled and told it - the tale of the Sons of the Soil.
We have said of the Sickness "Where is it?" and of Death "It is far from our ken,"
We have paid a particular visit to the affluent children of men.
We have trodden the mart and the well-curb - we have stooped to the bield and the byre;
And the King may the forces of Hell curb, for the People have all they desire!


HIRED BAND, brasses only, full chorus:

God bless the Squire
And all his rich relations
Who teach us poor people
We eat our proper rations -
We eat our proper rations,
In spite of inundations,
Malarial exhalations,
And casual starvations,
We have, we have, they say we have -
We have our proper rations!

#39 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 07:19 AM:

For Sidney Bechet

That note you hold, narrowing and rising, shakes
Like New Orleans reflected on the water,
And in all ears appropriate falsehood wakes,

Building for some a legendary Quarter
Of balconies, flower-baskets and quadrilles
Everyone making love and going shares -

Oh, play that thing! Mute glorious Storeyvilles
Others may license, grouping round their chairs
Sporting-house girls like circus tigers (priced

Far above rubies) to pretend their fads,
While scholars manques nod around unnoticed
Wrapped up in personnels like old plaids.

On me your voice falls as they say love should,
Like an enormous yes. My Crescent City
Is where your speech alone is understood,

And greeted as the natural noise of good,
Scattering long-haired grief and scored pity.

- Philip Larkin

#40 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 01:29 PM:

Flying low over the city, heading
Dictated by the photo op. They need a strong
Light on the thoughtful face. Can you see
Through your reflection in the window, Mr President?
Never mind, sir. We'll brief you later.

Others, unwatched, saw the flood
Clearer and from closer in
Sitting on their roofs, or stranded
On whatever high ground offered refuge.
Hush, baby, it'll be all right. Someone'll come.

The planet viewed the water on TV
Seeing desolation manmade or natural
The wrath of god or Gaia
According to its faith and politics.
It's all their fault, or Can we help?

They say the smoothest water
Makes the truest mirror.
Perhaps it does, if what we seek
Is an image of the watching face.
And the spirit of God moved upon the waters.

#41 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 05:04 PM:

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink ;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot : O Christ !
That ever this should be !
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night ;
The water, like a witch's oils,
Burnt green, and blue and white.

--The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

#42 ::: flaring ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2005, 07:00 PM:

Help is coming
Help is coming... one day late
One day late
After you've given up and all is gone
Help is coming... one day late

From the song One Day Late on Sam Phillips' album A Boot and a Shoe

#43 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 04:22 AM:

Two sets of lyrics, here; both by VNV Nation.

Sever the line to the guilty past, to the ones who brought us nothing
Spoke of futures brave and proud and brought only hate and war.
Lined the roads with hollow praise. Marked the land with paper statues.
Shadows fell on their futile ways and then there was nothing more.

From Solitary, and

And one day I woke to find the future had no place for me
I was unwanted in a world that with my hands I'd helped build
where once was honesty and pride I now stand broken and alone
just a shadow of what I was meant to be

From Holding On.

#44 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2005, 10:09 PM:

And when the strife is fierce, the suffering long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.

From a funeral hymn by William W. How, 1864.

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