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The Villain -- W H Davies

(Poem #740) The Villain
 While joy gave clouds the light of stars,
 That beamed wher'er they looked;
 And calves and lambs had tottering knees,
 Excited, while they sucked;
 While every bird enjoyed his song,
 Without one thought of harm or wrong--
 I turned my head and saw the wind,
 Not far from where I stood,
 Dragging the corn by her golden hair,
 Into a dark and lonely wood.
-- W H Davies
I started reading this poem, and was quickly put off by the rather weak and
cliched opening - indeed, I only finished reading it because it was short. I
was all the more delighted, therefore, by the beautiful and startlingly
original image in the ending - not just for its own sake, but because I
suddenly realised that the weakness of the opening lines was a deliberate
parody of the style, an easy target that was subverted and skewered by the

Of course, I should have been familiar enough with Davies' work to know
right away that the tone of the first few lines was highly uncharacteristic,
but every poet has the occasional bad poem - which is probably true of
Davies too; still, it's nice to know this wasn't it <g>.


  William Henry Davies,
  b. July 3, 1871, Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales
  d. Sept. 26, 1940, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, Eng.

  English poet whose lyrics have a force and simplicity uncharacteristic of
  the poetry of most of his Georgian contemporaries.

  After serving as apprentice to a picture framer, Davies tramped through
  the United States, crossed the Atlantic many times on cattle boats, lost a
  foot while trying to jump a train headed for the Klondike region in
  Canada, became a peddler and street singer in England, and, after several
  years of this wandering life, published his first volume, The Soul's
  Destroyer, and Other Poems (1905). He was then living in London. The
  Autobiography of a Super-Tramp (1907)--the best known of his prose
  works--appeared with a preface by George Bernard Shaw, followed by Nature
  Poems and Others (1908). His poetry includes Forty New Poems (1918), Poems
  1930-31 (1932), and The Loneliest Mountain (1939). The first of the
  collected editions appeared in 1916. Although his work achieved wide
  popularity, Davies lived the life of a recluse. His Collected Poems
  appeared in 1942.

        -- EB


Song of Creation -- Anonymous

Guest poem submitted by Sameer Siruguri
(Poem #739) Song of Creation
 Then there was neither Aught nor Nought, no air nor sky beyond.
 What covered all? Where rested all? In watery gulf profound?
 Nor death was then, nor deathlessness, nor change of night and day.
 That One breathed calmly, self-sustained; nought else beyond it lay.

 Gloom hid in gloom existed first - one sea, eluding view.
 That One, a void in chaos wrapt, by inward fervour grew.
 Within it first arose desire, the primal germ of mind,
 Which nothing with existence links, as sages searching find.

 The kindling ray that shot across the dark and drear abyss-
 Was it beneath? or high aloft? What bard can answer this?
 There fecundating powers were found, and mighty forces strove-
 A self-supporting mass beneath, and energy above.

 Who knows, who ever told, from whence this vast creation rose?
 No gods had then been born - who then can e'er the truth disclose?
 Whence sprang this world, and whether framed by hand divine or no-
 Its lord in heaven alone can tell, if even he can show.
-- Anonymous
Translated by John Muir, in 'Original Sankrit Texts', volume 5.


The Creation Hymn is better known through Prof Friedrich Max Mueller's
translation of it ([broken link]
but I chose this version because I thought Muir had done a commendable job
of metrification.

The hymn itself is a favourite of mine, ever since I first heard the Hindi
translation sung as the opening tune to Shyam Benegal's televised version of
Jawahar Lal Nehru's Discovery of India. The climactic note of perplexity,
voiced after all the esoteric speculations made on no less a subject than
the origin of the Universe itself, has always fascinated me. To me, it
conjures up the image of a sage looking defiantly into the skies, thumbing
his nose up at the powers above and challenging them, with all their
omniscience and omnipotence, to unravel this, the most mystifying secret of

Too, the hymn, and subsequent commentary, evoke the academic intensity and
diversity of theological debates in Vedic and classical Hindu traditions.
This presents a marked contrast to the ritualism and orthodoxy that suffuse
the religion today.

Muir's work contains a compact chronology of the dissections of this verse,
in various Upanishads and Puranas. An interesting point made in one is that
the author is not expressing the Creator's ignorance in the final line.
Instead, he postulates that since all Being is part of the Creator, the
Creator cannot "know" of any existence external to his own, simply because
there is none. Muir, writing in 1880, with the hindsight of centuries of
Humanism, preferred to believe that the "simple author" of the hymn could
hardly have entertained such "transcendental notions."


The Invitation -- Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Guest poem submitted independently by Reed C. Bowmanand Vidur:
(Poem #738) The Invitation
 It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
 I want to know what you ache for,
 and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

 It doesn't interest me how old you are.
 I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love,
 for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

 It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
 I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow,
 if you have been opened by life's betrayals or
 have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

 I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own,
 without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

 I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own,
 if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you
 to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be
 careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.

 It doesn't interest me if the story you're telling me is true.
 I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself;
 if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.

 I want to know if you can be faithless
 and therefore be trustworthy.

 I want to know if you can see beauty
 even when it's not pretty, every day,
 and if you can source your own life from its presence.

 I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine,
 and still stand on the edge of a lake
 and shout to the silver of the full moon, "Yes"!

 It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
 I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and
 despair, weary and bruised to the bone,
 and do what needs to be done for the children.

 It doesn't interest me who you are, how you came to be here.
 I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

 It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
 I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

 I want to know if you can be alone with yourself,
 and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
-- Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Sets a high standard, perhaps, but a more palatable one than most singles
ads... I don't know anything more about this poem or its author, but I think
it hardly needs comment.


I don't have much to offer in the form of a comment on the poem. I wonder if
it's just me -- but the poem almost immediately brings to mind one of my
other favourites, "If" by Ruryard Kipling. Just as with "If", each time I
read this, it says something new to me. I read it recently at an event to
generate awareness about the drought in Rajasthan, and it took on a whole
new meaning then, lending itself beautifully to the occasion.

Even though "If" is timeless, I think that the "Invitaion" has a more
contemporary feel to it, which perhaps makes it less didactic and more
pertinent. The unpretentious verse and bluntness in style is wonderful. I
think the poem struck a chord because living and working in Silicon Valley,
I'm surrounded by people that lead surprisingly insular lives. Much of what
she says in the poem I've reflected on in the past. It's a poem I would have
written, if I could write :)


More about the poet and the poem:
[broken link]

Similar poems on the Minstrels:
Poem #204, "The Vision of a Giant who Migrated from Baja to Tiburon Island"
Poem #344, "The Navajo Night Way Ceremony"
Poem #184, "Chief Seattle's Reply"

Writing -- William Allingham

(Poem #737) Writing
 A man who keeps a diary, pays
 Due toll to many tedious days;
 But life becomes eventful--then
 His busy hand forgets the pen.
 Most books, indeed, are records less
 Of fulness than of emptiness.
-- William Allingham
Not a poem that needs a whole lot said about it - I liked the idea, and I
liked the way Allingham expressed it in verse. There's also a wonderful
irony underlying most works that write, disparagingly, of writing itself -
'Writing' doesn't quite qualify, since it is a poem about diarists, rather
than about poets, but there is nonetheless an echo of that irony in the way
the last two lines are phrased, and more than an echo of self-mockery when
we learn that Allingham himself was a well-known diarist. Illustrative is
another of his quotes: "Writing is learning to say nothing, more cleverly
every day."


  Allingham, William

  poet, civil servant
  1824, Ballyshannon (Ireland) - 18 Nov 1889, London

  Son of a banker. He was a civil servant, but actively sought literary
  acquaintances. On June 27th, 1847 he met Leigh Hunt for the first time and
  he came to write wrote for Leigh Hunt's London Journal. Hunt introduced
  him to Thomas Carlyle and he was also part of the Rossetti circle. Between
  1850 and 1857 he wrote a dozen volumes of poetry. In 1864 he visited the
  Shelleys in Bournemouth.



Here's an excerpt from 'William Allingham: A Diary'
  [broken link]

[broken link] contains a review of the
diary and some more biographical material

Compare Nicanor Parra on the subject of writing: poem #190


The World was Young, the Mountains Green -- J R R Tolkien

(Poem #736) The World was Young, the Mountains Green
 The world was young, the mountains green,
 No stain yet on the Moon was seen,
 No words were laid on stream or stone,
 When Durin woke and walked alone.
 He named the nameless hills and dells;
 He drank from yet untasted wells;
 He stooped and looked in Mirrormere,
 And saw a crown of stars appear,
 As gems upon a silver thread,
 Above the shadow of his head.

 The world was fair, the mountains tall,
 In Elder Days before the fall
 Of mighty kings in Nargothrond
 And Gondolin, who now beyond
 The Western Seas have passed away:
 The world was fair in Durin's Day.

 A king he was on carven throne
 In many-pillared halls of stone
 With golden roof and silver floor,
 And runes of power upon the door.
 The light of sun and star and moon
 In shining lamps of crystal hewn
 Undimmed by cloud or shade of night
 There shone for ever fair and bright.

 There hammer on the anvil smote,
 There chisel clove, and graver wrote;
 There forged was blade, and bound was hilt;
 The delver mined, the mason built.
 There beryl, pearl, and opal pale,
 And metal wrought like fishes' mail,
 Buckler and corslet, axe and sword,
 And shining spears were laid in hoard.

 Unwearied then were Durin's folk;
 Beneath the mountains music woke:
 The harpers harped, the minstrels sang,
 And at the gates the trumpets rang.

 The world is grey, the mountains old,
 The forge's fire is ashen-cold;
 No harp is wrung, no hammer falls:
 The darkness dwells in Durin's halls;
 The shadow lies upon his tomb
 In Moria, in Khazad-dum.
 But still the sunken stars appear
 In dark and windless Mirrormere;
 There lies his crown in water deep,
 Till Durin wakes again from sleep.
-- J R R Tolkien
These days, the writing of heroic fantasy has become a mass-production
industry [1]; scarcely a week goes by without an author inventing a brave
new world and subsequently being acclaimed as "the true inheritor of
Tolkien's mantle", or some such. Unfortunately, fantastic settings alone do
not an epic make, and 90% of new fantasy writing is crap [2] - the same
generic swords and sorcery, thud and blunder, repeated ad nauseam.

Tolkien is different. His imaginary homelands are not just names on the (by
now obligatory) frontispiece map, they're countries, with rich histories and
vibrant cultures; his invented tongues are not meaningless agglomerations of
random syllables, they're carefully designed showcases of the linguist's
art, with comprehensive lexica and detailed etymologies; his many invented
beings are not cardboard cutout monsters, they're creatures who live and
breathe and walk the pages of his books as convincingly as do his human
heroes and heroines. The suspension of disbelief in Tolkien is total [3].

And then there's his verse. Tolkien's verse has genuine poetic merit, and
it's not in the least bit self-conscious; when his characters break into
song (which, mind you, occurs fairly often in his books), it always seems
the perfectly natural thing to do. Today's poem is an excellent example: in
"The Fellowship of the Ring" (the first volume of "The Lord of the Rings"),
the eponymous fellowship are forced to detour through the dark and deserted
Dwarven mines of Moria [4]. One of the party asks why the Dwarves chose to
live in such darksome holes; in reply, Gimli, the lone representative of
that race in the Fellowship, half sings, half chants a poem describing the
glory of the Dwarven kingdom in the Elder Days... at the end of the recital,
the reader is left with the realization that the story of Moria _couldn't_
have been told any other way: mere prose is simply too dry to communicate
the wonder and the beauty that was Khazad-dum.

As always with Tolkien, the form reinforces the content to marvellous
effect: the language is intentionally archaic, the alliteration pronounced
(but never obtrusive), the sense of nostalgia and loss almost palpable.
Notice how Gimli never explicitly states just what it was that caused
Moria's abandonment: his reticence seems to imply that the events being
recounted occurred at a great remove from the here and now; this in turn
enhances the mystery, the vague undercurrent of dread that runs through the
poem (and especially through the last stanza). This lack of particularity
might be annoying in what is ostensibly a historical tale, but this is
definitely one of those cases where less is more: a straightforward
cataloguing of facts could never hope to capture the audience's attention
the way Gimli's hypnotically beautiful couplets do.

And beautiful they certainly are: Tolkien's feel for the English language,
for the music of words and the perfection of images, is flawless. It's a
pity that his poetic output was (by and large) limited to within the
confines of his invented universe (wide though they were); he could easily
have been this century's successor to Kipling and Tennyson, so perfect is
his verse, so effortless his prosody...


[1] List member Vikram Doctor sent me a lovely rant on the subject a long
time ago: "the distressing flood of assembly-line fantasy that people have
been pouring out, horrifyingly huge volumes (worse, all in _cycles_) packed
with bargain basement dragons and demons and ichor besplattering the
works... incidentally, the very wonderful Ursula le Guin notes in her essays
on fantasy (The Language Of The Night, well worth reading if you haven't
already) that the use of 'ichor' is a pretty infallible indication of bad

[2] Though see Sturgeon's Law: "Ninety percent of everything is crap".
Derived from a quote by science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon, who once
said, "Sure, 90% of science fiction is crud. That's because 90% of
_everything_ is crud.". Oddly, when Sturgeon's Law is cited, the final word
is almost invariably changed to 'crap'.
        -- The Jargon File v4.2.3, [broken link]

[3] In fairness to contemporary writers of fantasy, it must be said that
Tolkien mapped out his territory so comprehensively that only truly
exceptional talents (of the order of le Guin, Pratchett and Lieber, for
instance) could hope to explore the genre and find something new to say
about it. Being second in any field is a thankless task.

[4] Hmm, it looks like this alliteration thing is catching <grin>.


Poems by Tolkien to have featured on the Minstrels:

Poem #4, "The Road Goes Ever On"
Poem #46, "Lament for Boromir"
Poem #93, "Eärendil was a mariner"
Poem #142, "He chanted a song of wizardry"
Poem #220, "Lament for Eorl the Young"
Poem #257, "Three Rings for the Elven Kings"
Poem #318, "Tall ships and tall kings"
Poem #370, "Troll sat alone on his seat of stone"
Poem #440, "Bregalad's Lament"
Poem #643, "The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon"


My thanks to Vikram Doctor for the quote reproduced above, and to Amit
Chakrabarti, for the points he raised in a recent email about Tolkien's
magic - several of which I've shamelessly filched for today's commentary

Decalogue -- Ambrose Bierce

Many thanks to Ritabrata Roy for suggesting today's poem.

DECALOGUE, n. A series of commandments, ten in number -- just enough to
permit an intelligent selection for observance, but not enough to embarrass
the choice. Following is the revised edition of the Decalogue, calculated
for this meridian:
(Poem #735) Decalogue
 Thou shalt no God but me adore:
 'Twere too expensive to have more.

 No images nor idols make
 For Roger Ingersoll to break.

 Take not God's name in vain: select
 A time when it will have effect.

 Work not on Sabbath days at all,
 But go to see the teams play ball.

 Honor thy parents. That creates
 For life insurance lower rates.

 Kill not, abet not those who kill;
 Thou shalt not pay thy butcher's bill.

 Kiss not thy neighbor's wife, unless
 Thine own thy neighbor doth caress.

 Don't steal; thou'lt never thus compete
 Successfully in business. Cheat.

 Bear not false witness--that is low--
 But "hear 'tis rumored so and so."

 Covet thou naught that thou hast got
 By hook or crook, or somehow, got.
-- Ambrose Bierce

Taken from "The Devil's Dictionary", published 1906.
Attributed by Bierce to "G. J." (Father Gassalasca Jape, S. J.), the writer
of several other pieces of verse to feature in the Dictionary.
In the 1911 edition of the lexicon, Bierce included a revised version of
this poem, which I've appended below.
I don't know who Roger Ingersoll is. Anyone?


One of the nicest things about Ambrose Bierce's cynical classic "The Devil's
Dictionary" is the way he illuminates his entries with throwaway pieces of
verse, many of which are well worth reading in their own right. Today's set
of five pithy couplets is an excellent example: neither the definition nor
the poem are out-and-out brilliant by themselves, but put them together and
the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts.


We've visited Ambrose Bierce before:
Poem #320, "Rimer"
Poem #400, "Elegy"
Poem #148, "With a Book"
The first two of these are also taken from the Devil's Dictionary.
The third has a biography of Bierce attached.

As Ritabrata points out, "Decalogue" is more than a little reminiscent of
Arthur Hugh Clough's "The Latest Decalogue", Poem #159 on the Minstrels,
written in 1862. Here's what Bierce himself has to say on the matter:

PLAGIARISM, n. - A literary coincidence compounded of a discreditable
priority and an honorable subsequence.
PLAGIARIZE, v. - To take the thought or style of another writer whom one has
never, never read.
        -- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

The complete text of the Devil's Dictionary can be found at
[broken link]


Here's Bierce's preface to the first edition of the Dictionary:

The Devil's Dictionary was begun in a weekly paper in 1881, and was
continued in a desultory way at long intervals until 1906. In that year a
large part of it was published in covers with the title The Cynic's Word
Book, a name which the author had not the power to reject or happiness to
approve. To quote the publishers of the present work:

"This more reverent title had previously been forced upon him by the
religious scruples of the last newspaper in which a part of the work had
appeared, with the natural consequence that when it came out in covers the
country already had been flooded by its imitators with a score of 'cynic'
books - The Cynic's This, The Cynic's That, and The Cynic's t'Other. Most of
these books were merely stupid, though some of them added the distinction of
silliness. Among them, they brought the word 'cynic' into disfavor so deep
that any book bearing it was discredited in advance of publication."

Meantime, too, some of the enterprising humorists of the country had helped
themselves to such parts of the work as served their needs, and many of its
definitions, anecdotes, phrases and so forth, had become more or less
current in popular speech. This explanation is made, not with any pride of
priority in trifles, but in simple denial of possible charges of plagiarism,
which is no trifle. In merely resuming his own the author hopes to be held
guiltless by those to whom the work is addressed - enlightened souls who
prefer dry wines to sweet, sense to sentiment, wit to humor and clean
English to slang.

A conspicuous, and it is hoped not unpleasant, feature of the book is its
abundant illustrative quotations from eminent poets, chief of whom is that
learned and ingenious cleric, Father Gassalasca Jape, S.J., whose lines bear
his initials. To Father Jape's kindly encouragement and assistance the
author of the prose text is greatly indebted.

        -- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

[More Moreover]

Here's the revised version of the poem I mentioned above:

 "Decalogue - 1911"

 Have but one God: thy knees were sore
 If bent in prayer to three or four.

 Adore no images save those
 The coinage of thy country shows.

 Take not the Name in vain. Direct
 Thy swearing unto some effect.

 Thy hand from Sunday work be held--
 Work not at all unless compelled.

 Honor thy parents, and perchance
 Their wills thy fortunes may advance.

 Kill not--death liberates thy foe
 From persecution's constant woe.

 Kiss not thy neighbor's wife. Of course
 There's no objection to divorce.

 To steal were folly, for 'tis plain
 In cheating there is greater pain.

 Bear not false witness. Shake your head
 And say that you have "heard it said."

 Who stays to covet ne'er will catch
 An opportunity to snatch.

        -- Ambrose Bierce

Ritabrata comments, and I agree with him, that while both Decalogues are
wonderful pieces of satire, the former seems less forced.


PS. (Administrivia) I'm back online after a brief trip during which I was
net-disabled. My thanks go to Martin and all the guest Minstrels who've
submitted poems in the last week or two, for covering for me in my absence.

In the Waiting Room -- Elizabeth Bishop

Guest poem sent in by Teresa D. Gunnell
(Poem #734) In the Waiting Room
 In Worcester, Massachusetts,
 I went with Aunt Consuelo
 to keep her dentist's appointment
 and sat and waited for her
 in the dentist's waiting room.
 It was winter.  It got dark
 early. The waiting room
 was full of grown-up people,
 arctics and overcoats,
 lamps and magazines.
 My aunt was inside
 what seemed like a long time
 and while I waited and read
 the National Geographic
 (I could read) and carefully
 studied the photographs:
 the inside of a volcano,
 black, and full of ashes;
 then it was spilling over
 in rivulets of fire.
 Osa and Martin Johnson
 dressed in riding breeches,
 laced boots, and pith helmets.
 A dead man slung on a pole
  "Long Pig," the caption said.
 Babies with pointed heads
 wound round and round with string;
 black, naked women with necks
 wound round and round with wire
 like the necks of light bulbs.
 Their breasts were horrifying.
 I read it right straight through.
 I was too shy to stop.
 And then I looked at the cover:
 the yellow margins, the date.
 Suddenly, from inside,
 came an oh! of pain
 --Aunt Consuelo's voice--
 not very loud or long.
 I wasn't at all surprised;
 even then I knew she was
 a foolish, timid woman.
 I might have been embarrassed,
 but wasn't.  What took me
 completely by surprise
 was that it was me:
 my voice, in my mouth.
 Without thinking at all
 I was my foolish aunt,
 I--we--were falling, falling,
 our eyes glued to the cover
 of the National Geographic,
 February, 1918.

 I said to myself: three days
 and you'll be seven years old.
 I was saying it to stop
 the sensation of falling off
 the round, turning world.
 into cold, blue-black space.
 But I felt: you are an I,
 you are an Elizabeth,
 you are one of them.
 Why should you be one, too?
 I scarcely dared to look
 to see what it was I was.
 I gave a sidelong glance
 --I couldn't look any higher--
 at shadowy gray knees,
 trousers and skirts and boots
 and different pairs of hands
 lying under the lamps.
 I knew that nothing stranger
 had ever happened, that nothing
 stranger could ever happen.

 Why should I be my aunt,
 or me, or anyone?
 What similarities
 boots, hands, the family voice
 I felt in my throat, or even
 the National Geographic
 and those awful hanging breasts
 held us all together
 or made us all just one?
 How I didn't know any
 word for it how "unlikely". . .
 How had I come to be here,
 like them, and overhear
 a cry of pain that could have
 got loud and worse but hadn't?

 The waiting room was bright
 and too hot.  It was sliding
 beneath a big black wave,
 another, and another.

 Then I was back in it.
 The War was on.  Outside,
 in Worcester, Massachusetts,
 were night and slush and cold,
 and it was still the fifth
 of February, 1918.
-- Elizabeth Bishop
  From The Complete Poems 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop, published by
  Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen

I love Elizabeth Bishop... to me this poem reminds me very much of being a
child.  You remember detail so clearly, yet the subtlety of what goes on
around you is often lost.  Sometimes things seem so incredible, or
overwhelming... or so simple and easy.  I just can't comment much about
Bishop - she's too profound all by herself.



We've run one Bishop poem: poem #639

Here's a biography:
  [broken link]

Story-Time -- Edgar Guest

(Poem #733) Story-Time
 "Tell us a story," comes the cry
 From little lips when nights are cold,
 And in the grate the flames leap high.
 "Tell us a tale of pirates bold,
 Or fairies hiding in the glen,
 Or of a ship that's wrecked at sea."
 I fill my pipe, and there and then
 Gather the children round my knee.

 I give them all a role to play--
 No longer are they youngsters small,
 And I, their daddy, turning gray;
 We are adventurers, one and all.
 We journey forth as Robin Hood
 In search of treasure, or to do
 Some deed of daring, or of good,
 Our hearts are ever brave and true.

 We take a solemn oath to be
 Defenders of the starry flag;
 We brave the winter's stormy sea,
 Or climb the rugged mountain crag,
 To battle to the death with those
 Who would defame our native land;
 We pitch our camp among the snows
 Or in the tropics burning sand.

 We rescue maidens, young and fair,
 Held captive long in prison towers;
 We slay the villain in his lair,
 For we're possessed of magic powers.
 And though we desperately fight,
 When by our foes we are beset,
 We always triumph for the right;
 We have not lost a battle yet.

 It matters not how far we stray,
 Nor where our battle lines may be,
 We never get so far away
 That we must spend a night at sea.
 It matters not how high we climb,
 How many foes our pathway block,
 We always conquer just in time
 To go to bed at 9 o'clock.
-- Edgar Guest
A charming poem - the magic of childhood, with its ready access to rich,
imaginary worlds, is described somewhat indulgently; the 'from the outside'
tone is beautifully done. I also loved the ending - totally unexpected, yet
not at all out of place.

And despite the slightly detached viewpoint, the poem is written with
genuine sympathy - I was reminded in places of Ransome's classic 'Swallows
and Amazons' (highly recommended, incidentally), with its similar "yes, we
know it's all make-believe, but hey - we're having fun" spirit.


Biography of Guest: poem #496


At the Theatre: To the Lady Behind Me -- A P Herbert

Guest poem sent in by Jeff Berndt
(Poem #732) At the Theatre: To the Lady Behind Me
 Dear Madam, you have seen this play;
 I never saw it till today.
 You know the details of the plot,
 But, let me tell you, I do not.
 The author seeks to keep from me
 The murderer's identity,
 And you are not a friend of his
 If you keep shouting who it is.
 The actors in their funny way
 Have several funny things to say,
 But they do not amuse me more
 If you have said them just before;
 The merit of the drama lies,
 I understand, in some surprise;
 But the surprise must now be small
 Since you have just foretold it all.
 The lady you have brought with you
 Is, I infer, a half-wit too,
 But I can understand the piece
 Without assistance from your niece.
 In short, foul woman, it would suit
 Me just as well if you were mute;
 In fact, to make my meaning plain,
 I trust you will not speak again.
 And---may I add one human touch?---
 Don't breathe upon my neck so much.
-- A P Herbert
Once upon a time you sent the Deep Sorriness Atonement Song ("They're all
sorry, very sorry, but I'm sorrier by far") and commented that poetry _can_
be useful.  I first read this poem in ninth grade.  We didn't study it.  I
was bored and was paging ahead in our literature book.  I had it
half-memorized once upon a time, mostly because it's funny.  Then, years
later, I became involved in community theater. This poem should be printed
on the inside cover of every program handed out to every person who ever
goes to a live theater production.  My only complaint is that it doesn't
mention pagers and cell phones, which did not exist in A P Herbert's time.

Info on A.P.Herbert:

From Simpson's Contemporary Quotations:
  A P Herbert, Member of British Parliament
  QUOTATION: I am sure that the party system is right
  and necessary. there must be some scum.
  Wrote a series for Punch! Magazine called 'Misleading
  Cases'  Here's a link:
  Also wrote a book called 'The Water Gypsies'

Here's his entry in
  Herbert, A. P. (Sir Alan Patrick Herbert), 1890-1971,
  English author and member of Parliament. He was a
  regular contributor to the comic magazine Punch from
  1910 until his death. Herbert served in Parliament
  from 1935 until 1950 as a representative for Oxford
  Univ. and was largely responsible for the bill (1937)
  liberalizing English divorce law. His numerous books
  include The House by the River (1921), The Water
  Gipsies (1930), and The Singing Swan (1968). He was
  knighted in 1945.


[Martin adds]

We've had, over the years, a number of letters from readers, expressing
their delight at rediscovering poems whose half-remembered fragments had
been haunting them. Well, the cosmic balance has been restored somewhat -
today's poem is one I read once, some ten years ago, and have been trying to
relocate ever since (helped not at all by the fact that I only remembered
the opening four lines). Many thanks to Jeff, with whose comments I agree


The aforementioned 'Deep Sorriness Atonement Song' can be found at poem #602


A Ballad of John Nicholson -- Sir Henry Newbolt

Guest poem sent in by Suresh Ramasubramanian
(Poem #731) A Ballad of John Nicholson
 It fell in the year of Mutiny,
     At darkest of the night,

 John Nicholson by Jalndhar came,
     On his way to Delhi fight.

 And as he by Jalndhar came,
     He thought what he must do,

 And he sent to the Rajah fair greeting,
     To try if he were true.

 "God grant your Highness length of days,
     And friends when need shall be;

 And I pray you send your Captains hither,
     That they may speak with me."

 On the morrow through Jalndhar town
     The Captains rode in state;

 They came to the house of John Nicholson,
     And stood before the gate.

 The chief of them was Mehtab Singh,
     He was both proud and sly;

 His turban gleamed with rubies red,
     He held his chin full high.

 He marked his fellows how they put
     Their shoes from off their feet;

 "Now wherefore make ye such ado
     These fallen lords to greet?

 "They have ruled us for a hundred years,
     In truth I know not how,

 But though they be fain of mastery
     They dare not claim it now."

 Right haughtily before them all
     The durbar hall he trod,

 With rubies red his turban gleamed,
     His feet with pride were shod.

 They had not been an hour together,
     A scanty hour or so,

 When Mehtab Singh rose in his place
     And turned about to go.

 Then swiftly came John Nicholson
     Between the door and him,

 With anger smouldering in his eyes,
     That made the rubies dim.

 "You are over-hasty, Mehtab Singh," --
     Oh, but his voice was low!

 He held his wrath with a curb of iron
     That furrowed cheek and brow.

 "You are over-hasty, Mehtab Singh,
     When that the rest are gone,

 I have a word that may not wait
     To speak with you alone."

 The Captains passed in silence forth
     And stood the door behind;

 To go before the game was played
     Be sure they had no mind.

 But there within John Nicholson
     Turned him on Mehtab Singh,

 "So long as the soul is in my body
     You shall not do this thing.

 "Have ye served us for a hundred years
     And yet ye know not why?

 We brook no doubt of our mastery,
     We rule until we die.

 "Were I the one last Englishman
     Drawing the breath of life,

 And you the master-rebel of all
     That stir this land to strife --

 "Were I," he said, "but a Corporal,
     And you a Rajput King,

 So long as the soul was in my body
     You should not do this thing.

 "Take off, take off, those shoes of pride,
     Carry them whence they came;

 Your Captains saw your insolence,
     And they shall see your shame."

 When Mehtab Singh came to the door
     His shoes they burned his hand,

 For there in long and silent lines
     He saw the Captains stand.

 When Mehtab Singh rode from the gate
     His chin was on his breast:

 The captains said, "When the strong command
     Obedience is best."
-- Sir Henry Newbolt
This is from Newbolt's "Admirals All, and other verses".  Nicholson was a
British brigadier who was killed storming Delhi during the Sepoy Mutiny
(aka The first war of Indian Independence) in 1857.  Nicholson's statue
stood at the Kashmiri Gate in Delhi till the 1960s, when it was removed to
Dungannon in Scotland - where it stands outside his old school.

Nicholson was idolized by the Indian troops (mostly Sikhs) he commanded
(and according to Kipling, there was a cult of "Nikulseyn-ites" who in
fact worshipped him as a kind of demi-god).  There's a bit of doggerel in
his 'Kim', which begins `Nikal-seyn is dead, ....' (sung by the old
soldier Kim and the Lama meet on the Grand Trunk Road).

George MacDonald Fraser, in his "Flashman" books, describes Nicholson as
something of a Bible thumping puritan with more than his usual share of
religious zeal (of course, in far more irreverent words).  This seems to
be borne out by these quotes from Hibberts' "The Great Mutiny" (dont have
a copy of Kaye and Malleson around right now, that'd have produced a lot

  Let us propose a Bill for the flaying alive impalement, or burning of
  the murderers of the women and children at Delhi. ... I would inflict
  the most excriutiating tortures I could think of on them with a
  perfectly easy conscience.
        -- Brigadier John Nicholson, in a letter to Herbert Edwardes,
        Commissioner at Peshawar.

  Few courts martial were held by Nicholson; his dictim 'the punishment
  for mutiny is death' obviated any necessity for trial ... Nicholson
  issued an order that no native should pass a white man riding, without
  dismounting and salaaming.
        -- Ensign R. G. Wilberforce, 52nd Light Infantry, on Brigadier John

I'm both attracted and repelled by this poem.  Attracted because of the
sheer bravery of this man, who, alone, apparently overawed a huge crowd of
people thirsting for his blood.

Repelled because, of course, I'm an Indian and see a few more sides than
what Kipling or Newbolt saw, but with the dispassionate - and jaundiced -
eye of someone who's over a hundred and fifty years removed from the
situation, and has nothing to rely on except rather skewed versions from
both sides (who were equally guilty of the cruelest atrocities.

It's the same reaction I get when reading several of Kipling's books with
their simplistic assumption of white supremacy (which unconsciously show a
great love for India).  Kipling (and others of his generation) often
compared the Pathans (for example) to the scottish highlanders, who were
equally savage and feud-happy.

Nicholson (and several others of his generation) were, however, a great
improvement over their peers and successors, who came to India to rake in
profits, not caring for the Indians they were supposed to rule.

Nicholson's extreme cruelty towards the mutineers (during which he still
retained the respect of his Sikh soldiers) is explained in part by his
rigid puritanism, in which hellfire and eternal torture was the just
dessert of a sinner.

Suresh Ramasubramanian + +

Mending Wall -- Robert Frost

Guest poem sent in by Suchitra Kumar
(Poem #730) Mending Wall
 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 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:
 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 offence.
 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 behind his father's saying,
 And he likes having thought of it so well
 He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."
-- Robert Frost
        (From the"North of Boston" collection)


The Robert Frost Farm is in Derry, NH about an hour from Boston. It was here
that Frost used to repair an old wall with his neighbor Napoleon Guay, who
liked to say, "Good fences make good neighbors."


Am sending in this poem after being astonished that there are only four
poems of Robert Frost on minstrels!

Robert Frost is a favourite of mine for the air of mystery and
(almost) melancholy that surrounds his poetry. I read "Mending Wall" when I
was at school and did not understand most of it. But I liked the line
"Something there is that does not love a wall" - it sounded so strange and

Now I like the poem for its "mischievous" manner - its as if Frost is making
fun of both his neighbour and the reader. His neighbour is shown to be a
conservative (ignorant?) farmer who does things in a certain way *because
they have always been done that way*. The lines "If I could put a notion in
his head", and the reference to "elves" show the playful thoughts of Frost.
At the same time he seems to be saying that the same wall that keeps them
apart also brings them together. Though he mocks his neighbour ("he moves
in darkness"), I also think Frost has a deep affection for him. Similarly
all of Frost's poems show a love for us readers, as if he likes to indulge
us our tendency to discover what a poem *really means*.

Critiques of "Mending Wall" abound on the Internet. Some suggest that the
poem represents man's quest to connect with nature, and mankind itself - the
walls that separate people,etc. But I think all Frost's poems are best
enjoyed without interpretation. I like the simple language and the way it
can be read on a surface level with hints of deeper, perhaps darker meanings
hiding around the corner. It seems so much more fun that way.

{Favourite, chuckle-worthy lines]

"To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls"

"My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him."


There's are lengthy critiques of "Mending Wall" at


- Suchitra

Accident in Art -- Richard Hovey

(Poem #729) Accident in Art
 What painter has not with a careless smutch
 Accomplished his despair?--one touch revealing
 All he had put of life, thought, vigor, feeling,
 Into the canvas that without that touch
 Showed of his love and labor just so much
 Raw pigment, scarce a scrap of soul concealing!
 What poet has not found his spirit kneeling
 A-sudden at the sound of such or such
 Strange verses staring from his manuscript,
 Written he knows not how, but which will sound
 Like trumpets down the years? So Accident
 Itself unmasks the likeness of Intent,
 And ever in blind Chance's darkest crypt
 The shrine-lamp of God's purposing is found.
-- Richard Hovey
Today's poem explores a fairly common meme - the idea that there is some
small but precise element, some key stroke that renders a work of art Great,
some phrase around which an entire poem crystallizes. (I remember coming up
with the idea myself, when I was a kid, and wondering if there was that one
perfect, magical place on a canvas where placing a single dot would create a
masterpiece). It is not really true, of course - most great works of art are
made great by the synthesis of their various elements, not the predominance
of a keystone - but it is definitely a seductive concept.

There's also an echo of the idea we saw in 'The Lost Chord' - that such a
transcendent note is only ever struck by accident. Hovey takes the idea one
step further, though, making explicit that what looks like happenstance is
really all part of "God's purposing", and that the appearance of perfection,
one 'knows not how', unmasks the 'likeness of Intent'. (Note that 'likeness'
here refers to the actual image of intent, not a resemblance to it).

Formwise the poem is a Petrarchan sonnet (abba abba cdeecd), divided into an
octet and a sestet according to the standard pattern. The poem makes
unstartling but effective use of the sonnet form, the lines flowing neatly
and the progression of ideas laid out with no signs of strain or of having
been forced into the structure.


  Hovey, Richard
  b. May 4, 1864, Normal, Ill., U.S.
  d. Feb. 24, 1900, New York City
  U.S. poet, translator, and dramatist.

  After graduating from Dartmouth in 1885, Hovey studied art and theology
  and in 1887 met Bliss Carman, the poet, with whom he later collaborated.
  Hovey lectured on aesthetics at the Farmington School of Philosophy and,
  for the last two years of his life, at Columbia University, where he held
  a post as professor of English at Barnard College. A self-conscious
  individual, he tried, in clothing and mannerisms, to be an American Oscar
  Wilde. His works consistently reflect his faith in an optimistic and vital
  United States. His books include Launcelot and Guenevere: A Poem in Dramas
  (1891); with Bliss Carman, Songs from Vagabondia (1894), More Songs from
  Vagabondia (1890), and Last Songs from Vagabondia (1901, posthumous); and
  such other works as Seaward (1893), an elegy on the poet Thomas William
  Parsons; Along the Trail (1898); and Taliesin, a Masque (1900). Also
  published posthumously was To the End of the Trail (1908). He translated
  eight of Maeterlinck's plays into English

        -- EB


Some more poems by Hovey:
  [broken link]

Procter's 'A Lost Chord': poem #520

A nice site on sonnets:


from The Dog Beneath The Skin -- W H Auden

Guest poem sent in by Vikram Doctor
(Poem #728) from The Dog Beneath The Skin
 Now through night's caressing grip
 Earth and all her oceans slip,
 Capes of China slide away
 From her fingers into day
 And the Americas incline
 Coasts towards her shadow line.
 Now the ragged vagrants creep
 Into crooked holes to sleep:
 Just and unjust, worst and best,
 Change their places as they rest:
 Awkward lovers lie in fields
 Where disdainful beauty yields:
 While the splendid and the proud
 Naked stand before the crowd
 And the losing gambler gains
 And the beggar entertains:
 May sleep's healing power extend
 Through these hours to our friend.
 Unpursued by hostile force,
 Traction engine, bull or horse
 Or revolting succubus;
 Calmly till the morning break
 Let him lie, then gently wake.
-- W H Auden
Another Auden poem, another lullaby. This shows Auden's ability with the
simplest of poems - just a matchless word picture of our 'swiftly tilting
planet' (have we had Aiken's Senlin poem?), infused with that unique feeling
of tenderness and protectiveness that anyone who has watched someone one
loves sleeping will know.


Milk for the Cat -- Harold Monro

Guest poem sent in by Anustup Datta
(Poem #727) Milk for the Cat
 When the tea is brought at five o'clock,
 And all the neat curtains are drawn with care,
 The little black cat with bright green eyes
 Is suddenly purring there.

 At first she pretends, having nothing to do,
 She has come in merely to blink by the grate,
 But, though tea may be late or the milk may be sour,
 She is never late.

 And presently her agate eyes
 Take a soft large milky haze,
 And her independent casual glance
 Becomes a stiff, hard gaze.

 Then she stamps her claws or lifts her ears,
 Or twists her tail and begins to stir,
 Till suddenly all her lithe body becomes
 One breathing, trembling purr.

 The children eat and wriggle and laugh;
 The two old ladies stroke their silk:
 But the cat is grown small and thin with desire,
 Transformed to a creeping lust for milk.

 The white saucer like some full moon descends
 At last from the clouds of the table above;
 She sighs and dreams and thrills and glows,
 Transfigured with love.

 She nestles over the shining rim,
 Buries her chin in the creamy sea;
 Her tail hangs loose; each drowsy paw
 Is doubled under each bending knee.

 A long, dim ecstasy holds her life;
 Her world is an infinite shapeless white,
 Till her tongue has curled the last holy drop,
 Then she sinks back into the night,

 Draws and dips her body to heap
 Her sleepy nerves in the great arm-chair,
 Lies defeated and buried deep
 Three or four hours unconscious there.
-- Harold Monro
A very well-known poem, and probably the most popular piece of work Monro
has produced. The beauty lies in the detail and the empathetic observation.
Not a great deal to say about form here, but this is one of those poems that
you suddenly find yourself smiling about. And if you're a feline-fancier,
you're probably purring by now. It has got that indescribable feeling of
what the Teutons call gemutlichkeit, of which 'cosiness' is a hopelessly
inadequate translation.

The Columbia Encyclopaedia has this to say about Monro -

Harold Monro

  1879?1932, English poet, b. Belgium. In 1911 he founded the Poetry Review
  and the following year established the Poetry Bookshop, which became a
  refuge and intellectual center for poets. His Poetry and Drama (1913), a
  successor to the Poetry Review, was discontinued during World War I, but
  Monro reestablished it as Chapbook (1919?25). Both periodicals had great
  influence on the poetical work of the time. His own work, first published
  in 1906, includes Children of Love (1914) and Elm Angel (1930).

  Works : His Collected Poems (introd. by T. S. Eliot, 1933); J. Grant,
  Harold Monro and the Poetry Bookshop (1967).

Harold Monro was associated with the Georgian Poetry school of antebellum
England, of which the Brittanica says -

Georgian poetry

  A variety of lyrical poetry produced in the early 20th century by an
  assortment of British poets, including Lascelles Abercrombie, Hilaire
  Belloc, Edmund Charles Blunden, Rupert Brooke, William Henry Davies, Ralph
  Hodgson, John Drinkwater, James Elroy Flecker, Wilfred Wilson Gibson,
  Robert Graves, Walter de la Mare, Harold Monro (editor of The Poetry
  Review), Siegfried Sassoon, Sir J.C. Squire, and Edward Thomas. Brooke and
  Sir Edward Marsh, wishing to make new poetry accessible to a wider public,
  with Monro, Drinkwater, and Gibson, planned a series of anthologies. To
  this series they applied the name "Georgian" to suggest the opening of a
  new poetic age with the accession in 1910 of George V.

  Five volumes of Georgian Poetry, edited by Marsh, were published between
  1912 and 1922. The real gifts of Brooke, Davies, de la Mare, Blunden, and
  Hodgson should not be overlooked, but, taken as a whole, much of the
  Georgians' work was lifeless. It took inspiration from the countryside and
  nature, and in the hands of less gifted poets, the resulting poetry was
  diluted and middlebrow conventional verse of late Romantic character.
  "Georgian" came to be a pejorative term, used in a sense not intended by
  its progenitors: rooted in its period and looking backward rather than



We've run one previous poem by Monro: poem #594

Above the Dock -- T E Hulme

(Poem #726) Above the Dock
 Above the quiet dock in midnight,
 Tangled in the tall mast's corded height,
 Hangs the moon. What seemed so far away
 Is but a child's balloon, forgotten after play.
-- T E Hulme
T. E. Hulme's place in the history of literature seems assured, not so much
for his own poetic output, but for his catalyzing influence upon Ezra Pound
and the Imagists. As an aesthete and essayist, Hulme was a pioneer, one of
the flag-bearers of modernism; many of the most radical innovators of the
early years of this century owe their inspiration to Hulme's critical

Which is not to say that his own poems are unworthy of consideration or
attention; they aren't. ("Above the Dock", for example, is an excellent
showcase for the principles of Imagism put into action - direct,
descriptive, and wonderfully nuanced in its minimalism). It's just that
there are far too few of them for Hulme ever to be considered a major poet;
his tragically early death (he was killed in action in the First World War)
ensures that prose will be his primary legacy.



Today's poem concludes this week's theme - the Moon. Other moon poems:

Poem #260, "Moonrise", Gerard Manley Hopkins
Poem #424, "The Moonsheep", Christian Morgenstern
Poem #643, "The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon", J. R. R. Tolkien
Poem #723, "Full Moon and Little Frieda", Ted Hughes
Poem #724, "Hymn to Diana", Ben Jonson
Poem #725, "Silver", Walter de la Mare

[Biography and assessment]

        b. Sept. 16, 1883, Endon, Staffordshire, Eng.
        killed in action Sept. 28, 1917, France

in full THOMAS ERNEST HULME, English aesthetician, literary critic, and
poet, one of the founders of the Imagist movement and a major 20th-century
literary influence.

Hulme was educated at Newcastle-under-Lyme grammar school and went to St.
John's College, Cambridge, but was expelled for rowdyism in 1904. Thereafter
he lived mainly in London, translating the works of Henri Bergson and Albert
Sorel and, with Ezra Pound, F.S. Flint, and Hilda Doolittle (H.D.),
instigating the Imagist movement. Five of his poems were published in New
Age (January 1912) and reprinted at the end of Pound's Ripostes. Before his
death while fighting in World War I, Hulme defended militarism against the
pacifism of Bertrand Russell.

Hulme posited that post-Renaissance humanism was coming to an end and
believed that its view of man as without inherent limitations and
imperfections was sentimental and based on false premises. His hatred of
romantic optimism, his view of man as limited and absurd, his theology,
which emphasized the doctrine of original sin, and his advocacy of a "hard,
dry" kind of art and poetry foreshadowed the disillusionment of many writers
of the 1920s. He advocated the "geometrical" art of Pablo Picasso and
Wyndham Lewis as the potential expression of a new, more disciplined
religious outlook.

Hulme published little in his lifetime, but his work and ideas sprang into
fame in 1924, when his friend Herbert Read assembled some of his notes and
fragmentary essays under the title Speculations. Additional compilations
were edited by Read (Notes on Language and Style, 1929) and by Sam Hynes
(Further Speculations, 1955). Many of his noted contemporaries hailed him as
a great thinker, though later opinion has tended to downplay his

        -- EB

Silver -- Walter de la Mare

Guest poem sent in by sukrit
(Poem #725) Silver
 Slowly, silently, now the moon
 Walks the night in her silver shoon;
 This way, and that, she peers, and sees
 Silver fruit upon silver trees;
 One by one the casements catch
 Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
 Couched in his kennel, like a log,
 With paws of silver sleeps the dog;
 From their shadowy cote the white breast peep
 Of doves in silver-feathered sleep;
 A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
 With silver claws and a silver eye;
 And moveless fish in the water gleam,
 By silver reeds in a silver stream.
-- Walter de la Mare
        Silver is the creation of the moon. The sunlights falls on the
moon, it reflects it back to earth and the world becomes a poem.

        Devoid of any sort of quasi-intellectualism we often try to put
on, the poem  radiates a lovely naturalness. Try this - close your eyes
and be inside the frame of this poem. Its a pleasure beyond words.

        This poem has something that needs to be felt rather than
just read or admired (for Walter's dexterity with words) i quote from
"Three Pillars of Zen", "Every koan is a unique expression of the living,
indivisible Buddha-nature, which cannot be grasped by the  bifurcating
intellect...To people who cherish the letter above the spirit, koans
appear bewildering (and may i add trite, in our case)...(koans) force
us to open ours mind's eye and see the world and everything in it
undistorted by our concepts and judgments". Maybe its stretching it,
calling this poem a koan, or maybe it isn't?


        "It's today!" said Piglet.
        "My favorite day," said Pooh.

Hymn to Diana -- Ben Jonson

This week's theme: the Moon.
(Poem #724) Hymn to Diana
 Queen and huntress, chaste and fair,
 Now the sun is laid to sleep,
 Seated in thy silver chair,
 State in wonted manner keep:
        Hesperus entreats thy light,
        Goddess excellently bright.

 Earth, let not thy envious shade
 Dare itself to interpose;
 Cynthia's shining orb was made
 Heaven to clear when day did close:
        Bless us then with wishèd sight,
        Goddess excellently bright.

 Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
 And thy crystal-shining quiver;
 Give unto the flying hart
 Space to breathe, how short soever;
        Thou that mak'st a day of night,
        Goddess excellently bright.
-- Ben Jonson

Diana: the Roman goddess of wild animals and the hunt. Corresponds to the
Greek Artemis, who in turn is associated with Selene, the goddess of the

Cynthia: a surname of Artemis or Diana. From Mount Cynthus, where she was

Hesperus: the evening star. Variously described by different authors as the
father of the Hesperides (the guardians of the golden apples) or of their
mother, Hesperis. Incidentally, the word 'vespers' (meaning 'evensong', or,
more generally, 'evening'), derives from the name.

        -- culled from various sources, pre-eminent among them being
Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, available online at


This is Ben Jonson at his lyric best; the master dramatist (second only to
Shakespeare in his own era; some claim the position as his for all time)
mixes classical grace with a surety and lightness of touch that even the
Bard rarely attained.



Other poems by Ben Jonson on the Minstrels website:
  Poem #301, "The Noble Nature"
  Poem #313, "Gypsy Songs"
  Poem #340, "To Celia"
The second of these has a biography and critical assessment attached.

For more wonderful lyrics from the Elizabethan era, see
  Poem #565, "Now Winter Nights Enlarge", Thomas Campion
  Poem #384, "Song", John Donne

[More about Diana]

  In Roman religion, goddess of wild animals and the hunt, virtually
indistinguishable from the Greek goddess Artemis. Her name is akin to the
Latin words dium ("sky") and dius ("daylight"). Like her Greek counterpart,
she was also a goddess of domestic animals. As a fertility deity she was
invoked by women to aid conception and delivery. Though perhaps originally
an indigenous woodland goddess, Diana early became identified with Artemis.
There was probably no original connection between Diana and the moon, but
she later absorbed Artemis' identification with both Selene (Luna) and
Hecate, a chthonic (infernal) deity; hence the characterization triformis
sometimes used in Latin literature.

  The most famous place of worship for the Italian goddess was the grove of
Diana Nemorensis ("Diana of the Wood") on the shores of Lake Nemi at Aricia,
near Rome. This was a shrine common to the cities of the Latin League.
Associated with Diana at Aricia were Egeria, the spirit of a nearby stream
who shared with Diana the guardianship of childbirth, and the hero Virbius
(the Italian counterpart of Hippolytus), who was said to have been the first
priest of Diana's cult at Aricia. A unique and peculiar custom dictated that
this priest be a runaway slave and that he slay his predecessor in combat.

  At Rome the most important temple of Diana was on the Aventine. This
temple housed the foundation charter of the Latin League and was said to
date back to King Servius Tullius (6th century BC). In her cult there Diana
was also considered the protector of the lower classes, especially slaves;
the Ides (13th) of August, her festival at Rome and Aricia, was a holiday
for slaves. Another important centre for the worship of Diana was at
Ephesus, where the Temple of Artemis (or Diana) was one of the Seven Wonders
of the World. In Roman art Diana usually appears as a huntress with bow and
quiver, accompanied by a hound or deer.

        -- EB


  The phrase "how short soever" in the third stanza is a rare (but
excellent) example of 'tmesis', which the OED defines as "the separation of
the elements of a compound word by the interposition of another word or

  Mike Oldfield uses an excerpt (three lines) from "Hymn to Diana" in his
1978 album "Incantations". More prominence in the said album is given to a
rather longish selection from Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha", Poem #362 on
the Minstrels website. In yet another demonstration of the fundamental
interconnectedness of all things, it was only last week that we ran another
Longfellow poem, "The Wreck of the (wait for it!) Hesperus". So now you

Full Moon and Little Frieda -- Ted Hughes

This week's theme: the Moon. We start with a guest poem submitted by Mike
(Poem #723) Full Moon and Little Frieda
 A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket --

 And you listening.
 A spider's web, tense for the dew's touch.
 A pail lifted, still and brimming -- mirror
 To tempt a first star to a tremor.

 Cows are going home in the lane there, looping the hedges with their warm
wreaths of breath --
 A dark river of blood, many boulders,
 Balancing unspilled milk.

 'Moon!' you cry suddenly, 'Moon! Moon!'

 The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work
 That points at him amazed.
-- Ted Hughes
When I was fifteen I liked poetry, but for some reason I was under the
impression that if a poet didn't stick to rhyme and metre they were just
being lazy. I liked Keats, Byron, Rossetti, Housman; romantic verse in
traditional forms. Not too unusual for a fifteen year-old. Then, in English
class, I read an anthology of modern verse that included Andrew Motion,
Seamus Heaney, and Ted Hughes. None of it stuck at the time except the
Hughes, and I loved 'Pike', 'The Thought Fox', and 'Hawk in the Rain'. Right
at the end of the anthology was 'Full Moon and Little Frieda'.

I was completely taken aback. I can still remember reading it over and over,
trying to figure out why on earth I liked it so much when it didn't do
anything I had thought a poem had to do. It's no longer my favourite Hughes
poem -- that would have to be something in the Crow series; and Larkin has
since overtaken Hughes as my favourite modern poet. But I have a deep
affection for this poem; it taught me in a few seconds more than I knew
there was to learn.

I like the way the first line spreads a canvas: "a cool small evening": and
the rest of the poem shines a light only on selected, disconnected areas of
the canvas.  It's about as far as you can get from a judgmental work; the
poet contributes six or seven almost independent images but lets the reader
assemble them at will.  And the tenses are interesting, too: the poem is an
instantaneous snapshot, lasting only a second or so: all the actions are
either past, or present but captured as a moment.  The only action is the
cry of 'Moon!'.

Mike Christie.

Other Minstrels poems by Ted Hughes:
  Poem #42, "Hawk Roosting"
  Poem #98, "The Thought Fox"
  Poem #417, "Thistles"
  Poem #671, "Lineage"

The Day Lady Died -- Frank O'Hara

Guest poem sent in by Robert Finnegan
(Poem #722) The Day Lady Died
 It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
 three days after Bastille day, yes
 it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
 because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
 at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
 and I don't know the people who will feed me

 I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
 and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
 an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
 in Ghana are doing these days
 in Ghana are doing these days I go on to the bank
 and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
 doesn't even look up my balance for once in her life
 and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
 for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
 think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
 Brendan Behan's new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
 of Genet, but I don't, I stick with Verlaine
 after practically going to sleep with quandariness

 and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
 Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
 then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
 and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
 casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
 of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

 and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
 leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
 while she whispered a song along the keyboard
 to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing
-- Frank O'Hara
I thought of this poem last night while watching Ken Burns' film on jazz.
There was an especially interesting part about 52nd Street in Manhattan (it
became known as simply "the street" because of the many jazz houses on the
block between 5th and 6th Avenue). In talking about the street, there was
some interviews with people who knew Billie Holiday (who needless to say is
the Lady of this poem). Her drummer said that no matter what was going on in
the place--no matter how rocking the previous band might have been--complete
silence fell when Lady began to sing.

Also, after looking over the list of poems previously presented, I thought
Frank O'Hara should be represented. This poem is one of my favorites and is
indicative of O'Hara's style in general. The poem moves with the pace of the
city that he loved, his love affair with the New York pace is apparent in
the title of one of his few books, Mediations in an Emergency. O'Hara's mind
seems to be in constant motion in the poems and yet everything is
observed--everything is present.

Commentary from the pros can be enjoyed at

Biography - Frank O'Hara

Claudia Milstead

  O'HARA, Frank (27 Mar. 1926-25 July 1966), poet, was born Francis Russell
  O'Hara in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Russell Joseph O'Hara and
  Katherine Broderick, who both came from strict Irish-Catholic families.
  O'Hara always believed he was born 27 June 1926, but his parents
  apparently lied about his birthdate to hide the fact that he was conceived
  before their marriage. Shortly after their wedding in Grafton,
  Massachusetts, in September 1925, the couple moved to Baltimore, where
  their child was born six months later. They lived in Baltimore for
  eighteen months before being summoned back to Grafton so that Russell
  O'Hara could run the family farm for his ailing uncle.

  In June 1944, shortly after his high school graduation, O'Hara enlisted in
  the U.S. Navy. He served as a sonarman third class on the destroyer USS
  Nicholas. After receiving an honorable discharge in 1946, O'Hara went to
  Harvard on the GI Bill. He took creative writing classes from John Ciardi
  and earned a B.A. in 1950. With Ciardi's recommendation, O'Hara was given
  a graduate fellowship in comparative literature at the University of
  Michigan, where he earned an M.A. in 1951. His collection of poems, "A
  Byzantine Place," and Try! Try!, a verse play, won O'Hara the Avery
  Hopwood Major Award in poetry.

  O'Hara then moved to New York to join fellow poet John Ashbery, whom he
  had met at Harvard. Living at first on the money from the Hopwood, O'Hara
  wrote poetry and explored the city. In New York O'Hara was finally free to
  live openly as a homosexual and to indulge his interest in the arts. He
  worked briefly as an assistant to photographer Cecil Beaton, then looked
  for a more permanent job, preferably one that would allow him time to
  write. What he found was ideal. In December 1951 he was hired to work at
  the front desk of the Museum of Modern Art, selling postcards,
  publications, and tickets. He often wrote poems while he worked at the
  counter, and his friends in the art world frequently stopped by to visit.
  O'Hara began writing articles for Art News and in 1953 became an editorial
  associate. He continued to write for the publication when he returned to
  the Museum of Modern Art in 1955. The abstract expressionism movement,
  whose major artists were Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Jackson
  Pollock, was flourishing in New York, and O'Hara, along with John Ashbery
  and Kenneth Koch, became part of the avant-garde art scene. In 1952
  O'Hara's A City Winter and Other Poems was published, a collection of
  thirteen poems with two drawings by Larry Rivers. The collection was the
  first of a series of books by poets with artists' drawings published by
  the Tibor de Nagy gallery. At this time O'Hara became involved with the
  Club, an artists' forum that had been established in the 1940s. Beginning
  in March 1952, O'Hara appeared on a series of panels to discuss art and

  O'Hara's first collection of poetry to receive wide recognition was
  Meditations in an Emergency (1957). Even though early reviews were
  unenthusiastic, it became the collection for which he was primarily known
  during his lifetime. While Meditations was being prepared for publication,
  O'Hara was approached by a publisher about collaborating with artist Larry
  Rivers. The resulting project, a series of twelve lithographs titled
  Stones, was produced between 1957 and 1960. For the work, Rivers and
  O'Hara worked directly on the stones from which the lithographs were made.
  O'Hara had to write backward so the text would be readable in the finished
  lithograph. In 1960 O'Hara published the collections Second Avenue and
  Odes. Perhaps the most significant event in O'Hara's writing career
  occurred that year, when Donald Allen published The New American Poetry:
  1945-1960. Allen classified the forty-four poets by groups: New York
  School, Beat Generation, San Francisco Renaissance, and Black Mountain.
  O'Hara, identified as part of the New York School, was a dominant poet in
  the anthology, with fifteen of his poems included. Two more collections
  were published during his lifetime: Lunch Poems (1964) and Love Poems
  (Tentative Title) (1965). Several more volumes of O'Hara's poems were
  published after his death, notably The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara
  (1971), The Selected Poems of Frank O'Hara (1974), and Poems Retrieved:O'Hara sought to capture in his poetry the immediacy of life, feeling that
  poetry should be "between two persons instead of two pages." He was
  inspired and energized by New York City as other poets have been inspired
  and energized by nature. In Meditations he wrote, "I can't even enjoy a
  blade of grass unless I know there's a subway handy, or a record store or
  some other sign that people do not totally regret life." He described his
  work as "I do this I do that" poetry because his poems often read like
  entries in a diary, as in this line from "The Day Lady Died": "it is 1959
  and I go get a shoeshine."

  O'Hara died of injuries he received when he was hit by a vehicle on the
  beach at Fire Island, on Long Island, New York. O'Hara's papers are in the
  Literary Archives, University of Connecticut Library, Storrs. Brad Gooch,
  City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara (1993), is well researched
  and is the most comprehensive biography of O'Hara available. It also
  corrects inaccuracies in the newspaper reports of O'Hara's death. For a
  critical study of O'Hara's poetry, see Marjorie Perloff, Frank O'Hara:
  Poet among Painters (1977). A more concise study of O'Hara's life and work
  is Alan Feldman, Frank O'Hara (1979). Brief obituaries are in Time, 5 Aug.
  1966, p. 76, and Newsweek, 8 Aug. 1966, p. 74.

    -- From American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press,
    1999. Copyright © 1999 by the American Council of Learned Societies.

Marriage a la mode -- John Dryden

Guest poem sent in by Deepa Balakrishnan

Jan 2nd 's poem 'No Second Troy' reminded me of Dryden's 'Alexander's Feast'
and I decided to check out the minstrels site to read it when I realised
with shock that not a single poem of John Dryden's is featured there...
hence, the ardent need to set aright the situation:
(Poem #721) Marriage a la mode
 Why should a foolish marriage vow,
     Which long ago was made,
 Oblige us to each other now
     When passion is decay'd?
 We lov'd, and we lov'd, as long as we could,
     Till our love was lov'd out in us both:
 But our marriage is dead, when the pleasure is fled:
     'Twas pleasure first made it an oath.

 If I have pleasures for a friend,
     And farther love in store,
 What wrong has he whose joys did end,
     And who could give no more?
 'Tis a madness that he should be jealous of me,
     Or that I should bar him of another:
 For all we can gain is to give our selves pain,
     When neither can hinder the other.
-- John Dryden
I didn't know this poem existed till a few days ago... but when I read it,
it was quite surprising... not only for the unconventionality of thought
(usually, love poems gush on and on about the eternity of love) but what is
also refreshing is the timing, as in, when the poem was written... 16th
century, and just before the Romantics... and the poem's all practicality...
perhaps that's why the Age of Dryden and Pope is also called the 'Age of
Reason'... even modern/ contemporary poems don't seem to adopt this
pragmatic an approach.


[This *was* a rather glaring omission in our list of poets - thanks to Deepa
for rectifying it - m.]

Dryden biography:,5716,,00.html?kw=dryden%20john

The Dream of Eugene Aram -- Thomas Hood

Winding up the theme...
(Poem #720) The Dream of Eugene Aram
 'Twas in the prime of summer-time
 An evening calm and cool,
 And four-and-twenty happy boys
 Came bounding out of school:
 There were some that ran and some that leapt,
 Like troutlets in a pool.

 Away they sped with gamesome minds,
 And souls untouched by sin;
 To a level mead they came, and there
 They drave the wickets in:
 Pleasantly shone the setting sun
 Over the town of Lynn.

 Like sportive deer they coursed about,
 And shouted as they ran,--
 Turning to mirth all things of earth,
 As only boyhood can;
 But the Usher sat remote from all,
 A melancholy man!

 His hat was off, his vest apart,
 To catch heaven's blessed breeze;
 For a burning thought was in his brow,
 And his bosom ill at ease:
 So he leaned his head on his hands, and read
 The book upon his knees!

 Leaf after leaf he turned it o'er
 Nor ever glanced aside,
 For the peace of his soul he read that book
 In the golden eventide:
 Much study had made him very lean,
 And pale, and leaden-eyed.

 At last he shut the pond'rous tome,
 With a fast and fervent grasp
 He strained the dusky covers close,
 And fixed the brazen hasp;
 "Oh, God! could I so close my mind,
 And clasp it with a clasp!"

 Then leaping on his feet upright,
 Some moody turns he took,--
 Now up the mead, then down the mead,
 And past a shady nook,--
 And lo! he saw a little boy
 That pored upon a book.

 "My gentle lad, what is't you read --
 Romance or fairy fable?
 Or is it some historic page,
 Of kings and crowns unstable?"
 The young boy gave an upward glance,--
 "It is 'The Death of Abel.'"

 The Usher took six hasty strides,
 As smit with sudden pain, --
 Six hasty strides beyond the place,
 Then slowly back again;
 And down he sat beside the lad,
 And talked with him of Cain;

 And, long since then, of bloody men,
 Whose deeds tradition saves;
 Of lonely folks cut off unseen,
 And hid in sudden graves;
 Of horrid stabs, in groves forlorn,
 And murders done in caves;

 And how the sprites of injured men
 Shriek upward from the sod. --
 Ay, how the ghostly hand will point
 To show the burial clod:
 And unknown facts of guilty acts
 Are seen in dreams from God!

 He told how murderers walk the earth
 Beneath the curse of Cain, --
 With crimson clouds before their eyes,
 And flames about their brain:
 For blood has left upon their souls
 Its everlasting stain!

 "And well," quoth he, "I know for truth,
 Their pangs must be extreme, --
 Woe, woe, unutterable woe, --
 Who spill life's sacred stream!
 For why, Methought last night I wrought
 A murder, in a dream!

 One that had never done me wrong --
 A feeble man and old;
 I led him to a lonely field,
 The moon shone clear and cold:
 Now here, said I, this man shall die,
 And I will have his gold!

 "Two sudden blows with a ragged stick,
 And one with a heavy stone,
 One hurried gash with a hasty knife, --
 And then the deed was done:
 There was nothing lying at my foot
 But lifeless flesh and bone!

 "Nothing but lifeless flesh and bone,
 That could not do me ill;
 And yet I feared him all the more,
 For lying there so still:
 There was a manhood in his look,
 That murder could not kill!"

 "And lo! the universal air
 Seemed lit with ghastly flame;
 Ten thousand thousand dreadful eyes
 Were looking down in blame:
 I took the dead man by his hand,
 And called upon his name!

 "O God! it made me quake to see
 Such sense within the slain!
 But when I touched the lifeless clay,
 The blood gushed out amain!
 For every clot, a burning spot
 Was scorching in my brain!

 "My head was like an ardent coal,
 My heart as solid ice;
 My wretched, wretched soul, I knew,
 Was at the Devil's price:
 A dozen times I groaned: the dead
 Had never groaned but twice!

 "And now, from forth the frowning sky,
 From the Heaven's topmost height,
 I heard a voice -- the awful voice
 Of the blood-avenging sprite --
 'Thou guilty man! take up thy dead
 And hide it from my sight!'

 "I took the dreary body up,
 And cast it in a stream, --
 A sluggish water, black as ink,
 The depth was so extreme:
 My gentle boy, remember this
 Is nothing but a dream!

 "Down went the corse with a hollow plunge,
 And vanished in the pool;
 Anon I cleansed my bloody hands,
 And washed my forehead cool,
 And sat among the urchins young,
 That evening in the school.

 "Oh, Heaven! to think of their white souls,
 And mine so black and grim!
 I could not share in childish prayer,
 Nor join in Evening Hymn:
 Like a Devil of the Pit I seemed,
 'Mid holy Cherubim!

 "And peace went with them, one and all,
 And each calm pillow spread;
 But Guilt was my grim Chamberlain
 That lighted me to bed;
 And drew my midnight curtains round
 With fingers bloody red!

 "All night I lay in agony,
 In anguish dark and deep,
 My fevered eyes I dared not close,
 But stared aghast at Sleep:
 For Sin had rendered unto her
 The keys of Hell to keep!

 "All night I lay in agony,
 From weary chime to chime,
 With one besetting horrid hint,
 That racked me all the time;
 A mighty yearning, like the first
 Fierce impulse unto crime!

 "One stern, tyrannic thought, that made
 All other thoughts its slave;
 Stronger and stronger every pulse
 Did that temptation crave, --
 Still urging me to go and see
 The Dead Man in his grave!

 "Heavily I rose up, as soon
 As light was in the sky,
 And sought the black accursèd pool
 With a wild misgiving eye:
 And I saw the Dead in the river-bed,
 For the faithless stream was dry.

 "Merrily rose the lark, and shook
 The dewdrop from its wing;
 But I never marked its morning flight,
 I never heard it sing:
 For I was stooping once again
 Under the horrid thing.

 "With breathless speed, like a soul in chase,
 I took him up and ran;
 There was no time to dig a grave
 Before the day began:
 In a lonesome wood, with heaps of leaves,
 I hid the murdered man!

 "And all that day I read in school,
 But my thought was otherwhere;
 As soon as the midday task was done,
 In secret I went there:
 And a mighty wind had swept the leaves,
 And still the corpse was bare!

 "Then down I cast me on my face,
 And first began to weep,
 For I knew my secret then was one
 That earth refused to keep:
 Or land, or sea, though he should be
 Ten thousand fathoms deep.

 "So wills the fierce avenging Sprite,
 Till blood for blood atones!
 Ay, though he's buried in a cave,
 And trodden down with stones,
 And years have rotted off his flesh, --
 The world shall see his bones!

 "Oh God! that horrid, horrid dream
 Besets me now awake!
 Again--again, with dizzy brain,
 The human life I take:
 And my red right hand grows raging hot,
 Like Cranmer's at the stake.

 "And still no peace for the restless clay,
 Will wave or mould allow;
 The horrid thing pursues my soul --
 It stands before me now!"
 The fearful Boy looked up, and saw
 Huge drops upon his brow.

 That very night while gentle sleep
 The urchin's eyelids kissed,
 Two stern-faced men set out from Lynn,
 Through the cold and heavy mist;
 And Eugene Aram walked between,
 With gyves upon his wrist.
-- Thomas Hood

  Aram, Eugene (1704-59), English philologist, b. Yorkshire.
  A self-taught linguist, Aram was the first to identify the Celtic
  languages as related to the other languages of Europe. In 1758, while at
  work on an Anglo-Celtic lexicon, he was arrested and later hanged for the
  murder 14 years earlier of his friend Daniel Clark. The story of his
  crime inspired Thomas Hood's poem The Dream of Eugene Aram, and
  Bulwer-Lytton's novel Eugene Aram.

A long poem, but a delightful one. Having the protagonist cast his
confession in the form of a dream was an inspired decision, and fits well
the slightly fevered tone of the poem, as does his catching hold of the
fearful boy in a manner reminiscent of Coleridge's 'Ancient Mariner'.

'Eugene Aram' is definitely my favourite among the poems run in this week's
theme - with its gripping story, clever framing device and effortless
execution it certainly deserves a place in any list of great narrative
poems. And it is surely not Hood's fault that the poem's atmosphere of
solemn eeriness was somewhat spoilt for me by a chance resemblance to 'The
Walrus and the Carpenter', any more than it is Dickinson's fault that people
keep trying to sing her poems to The Yellow Rose of Texas <g>.


  For the full and fascinating story of Eugene Aram, see
    [broken link]

  Biography of Hood:
    poem #251

  We've run several Hood poems on minstrels:
    Poem #251 No!
    Poem #512 Silence
    Poem #672 Death


  For some reason, Wooster could never quite remember Eugene Aram's name -
  he quotes it "and tumty tumty walked between with gyves upon his wrist"
  (someone please post the full quote).

  Here are some other poems that would have fitted into the theme (thanks to
  Thomas for helping round them up):
    Poem #12,  "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer", John Keats
    Poem #133, "Song, from Pippa Passes", Robert Browning
    Poem #146, "Trees", Joyce Kilmer
    Poem #153, "Abou Ben Adhem", James Leigh Hunt
    Poem #316, "Ode to a Nightingale", John Keats

  And, for completeness' sake, the theme summary:
    Poem #715, "The Blessed Damozel", Dante Gabriel Rossetti
    Poem #717, "The Wreck of the Hesperus", Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    Poem #718, "The Destruction of Sennacherib", George Gordon, Lord Byron
    Poem #719, "Loch Lomond", Lady John Scott
    Poem #720, "The Dream of Eugene Aram", Thomas Hood

  And some other Wodehouse-related poems
    Poem #353, "P. G. Wooster, Just as he Useter", Ogden Nash
    Poem #179, "Missed", P. G. Wodehouse
    Poem #408, "Caliban at Sunset", P. G. Wodehouse

  Also, Thomas beat me to the post with this one, but I'll repeat it anyway:
  There's a Wodehouse song collection at
    [broken link]
  "an attempt by the good folks at to collect the text of
  all the songs that P.G.,Wodehouse makes cursory references to in his