Poetry

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The Tables Turned
BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you’ll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun above the mountain’s head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! ’tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There’s more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless—
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.

Next Tuesday is election day and we will see whether witches, demons, and ghosts arise from the land in a Romney victory, or whether there is still enough sense left in the country to keep Obama in office. Polls and pundits seem to say it’s a dead heat. Well, who knows? But the witches, demons, and ghosts are itching to rise up and are licking their chops in anticipation. Will the country stamp them down?

I’ve not been helping. I’ve ignored Cathy Newell’s requests to make calls for the Oxford County Democrats. I did put up a few Lee Goldsberry signs (six actually) mainly along East Main street. But I’ve made no calls for him either.

Why is my heart not in it this time? Not sure of the exact reasons but perhaps my personal needs are overriding. Four years ago Cynthia was still here and I did make calls at the time and was gung-ho for Obama. This time, while realizing Obama has many flaws, Romney and the right wing GOP scare me immensely and I dread the fact they may win. Still, I just can’t rise to the occasion.

I’m enjoying my new friendship with Phyllis, my explorations of many and varied philosophical issues, my watching of the great old movies of Bergman and others, my singing and involvement at the Norway UU church, my hobby of improving and maintaining the Norway UU church website I created, my friendships with Richard and Tony, my good fortune of having Kate next door,…… Have I left out anything? Probably, but I can’t think what at the moment.

Oh, I’ve been recycling Sara Teasdale’s little poem, “Let It Be Forgotten”, over and over in my mind. John Kelly sent it to me. It’s in memory of Cynthia. She would have liked the poem, maybe she did.

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Last Sunday I caught Bill Moyers on PBS and he had two interesting interviewees as usual. The first, Neal Gabler, talked on the influence of Pop Culture on politics, and the second, Christian Wiman, talked about his life, love, incurable cancer, and he read a couple of his poems.

The theme of the Wiman interview was his love, faith, and incurable cancer. His two poems, “Five Houses Down” and “Sitting Down to Breakfast Alone”, were written during the infrequent times when he was free from worry and self doubt. Moyers quizzed him in depth about his religious faith and it’s clearly unconventional, although he is a christian.

Moyers showed an interview he had previously conducted with Clive James in which James showed great anger with God. Wiman’s response was that this was merely a human projection of God and that we have to get beyond this humanized notion. He invoked Simone Weil a couple times. At least Wiman is not your conventional christian if he likes Simone Weil who was a christian mystic. But he loses me at this point. However, I’ll hasten to add if there is a God, it would have to be incomprehensible in the sense that Wiman seems to believe, and perhaps even Weil.

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I’m still surfing through poets.org. This morning I stumbled upon this irresistible poem. How great it is! The poem, that is. Not the king who maybe some day would be Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

Ozymandias
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Ah, Shelley! Was it true he was want to run naked through drawing rooms? But the poor guy perished at not quite the mere age of thirty in his schooner the Don Juan while attempting to sail to Italy. (Thank you for the factoid, poets.org)

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A poem by Yeats

Just now I’ve been skimming through the poems about aging on poetry.org. This one by Yeats which once I had memorized spoke to me.


When You are Old
by W. B. Yeats

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

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

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

Yes, I dream of the soft look your eyes had once, and see too their shadows deep. Did you know the end was near? You so liked “The End” by Mark Strand. Yes, I loved the pilgrim soul in you, but feared the sorrows of your changing face. And now my Love has fled and is hidden somewhere amid a crowd of stars. Can I find you there?

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While browsing through the website of the Academy of American Poets, I noticed an excerpt from James Joyce’s great story, The Dead. Gabriel Conroy is reflecting on his wife’s former lover, Michael Furey. This excerpt constitutes the last three paragraphs of the entire story:

The air of the room chilled his shoulders. He stretched himself cautiously along under the sheets and lay down beside his wife. One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover’s eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live.

Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.


Yes, the solid world seemed to dissolve as he became conscious of the flickering existence of the vast hosts of the dead. So ironic perhaps to even hear the snow falling faintly upon all the living and the dead. Was this an epiphany for Gabriel, a deep awareness that the living and the dead are connected as one? But I doubt I’m capturing the essence.

The story was made into a wonderful movie by John Huston as his last great project before his death a few months later. The movie is very true to the story, and when I think of the story, images from this movie always come to mind.

Roger Ebert has a wonderful review of this movie here. This review is well worth reading and gives great insight into the story, which if you haven’t read I highly recommend.

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Mark Strand was one of Cynthia’s favorite poets. I just looked him up now and right away discovered his prose poem, Futility in Key West. This reminded me of The Idea of Order at Key West by Wallace Stevens, a poem I’ve memorized. Mark may have even had Stevens’ poem in mind. Here’s Mark’s paragraph:

I was stretched out on the couch, about to doze off, when I imagined a small figure asleep on a couch identical to mine. “Wake up, little man, wake up,” I cried. “The one you’re waiting for is rising from the sea, wrapped in spume, and soon will come ashore. Beneath her feet the melancholy garden will turn bright green and the breezes will be light as babies’ breath. Wake up, before this creature of the deep is gone and everything goes blank as sleep.” How hard I try to wake the little man, how hard he sleeps. And the one who rose from the sea, her moment gone, how hard she has become—how hard those burning eyes, that burning hair.

Kind of spooky but beautiful, except the ending with the burning eyes and hair is strange. I wonder if Cynthia ever saw this? What does the poem mean? Lots of room for the imagination here.

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Here’s a poem that just popped up from the New York Review of Books while I was scrolling down through Facebook. It was translated into English by Stephen Mitchell.

EVENING

The sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,
one journeying to heaven, one that falls;

and leave you, not at home in either one,
not quite so still and dark as the darkened houses,
not calling to eternity with the passion
of what becomes a star each night, and rises;

and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel)
your life, with its immensity and fear,
so that, now bounded, now immeasurable,
it is alternately stone in you and star.

The Nines of Open Mic
January 28, 2011
by Mardy Seavey

We’re all dressed to the nines tonight.
Its nine years of the Open Mic!
We’re up on cloud nine tonight.
Its nine years of the Open Mic!
We want the whole nine yards tonight.
Its nine years of the Open Mic!
The nine worthies are here tonight,
One for each year of the Open Mic.
So we gotta swing to the nines tonight,
‘Cause its nine years of
Heather Pierson’s great Open Mic!

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Here’s a humorous poem my wife Cynthia wrote back in March 2004. It’s purpose was to stimulate people to gather together their plants for the upcoming spring plant sale at the Norway UU church in Norway, Maine.

Plant Sale / Church Garden
(A Reminder)

Garden lover, garden lover,
Lend to me your ear!
Soon your long lost, joyful plants
Will flaunt beloved cheer.
Even as you inhale each bloom,
Pray appraise just what is there!

For May the 29th’s the date
When our surplus shoots,
Potted, labeled, and arrayed
(care taken for the roots)
Will once again with pride be placed,
For eager shopping groups.

Dig and separate your extras
Daisy, iris, herb;
Hostas, pansies, lilies. asters –
All you may disturb;
Such hardy, lush perennials.
And it’s for the church!

Now ponder this as ‘mongst your jewels
You putter and pot up:
How now a greeting U.U. plot
Before the steps wend up?
Color, texture; summer, winter.
Hello! We’re here! What’s up!

Thus may church reach out to Main Street,
With love and beauty say:
“We welcome all, we value all.
Come in, from out the fray”.
Oh gardeners list’, consider well,
Your plants may pave the way!

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