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A Year of Poetry – Day 307

A Well there is in the west country,
    And a clearer one never was seen;
There is not a wife in the west country
    But has heard of the Well of St. Keyne.
An oak and an elm-tree stand beside,
    And behind doth an ash-tree grow,
And a willow from the bank above
    Droops to the water below.
A traveller came to the Well of St. Keyne;
    Joyfully he drew nigh,
For from the cock-crow he had been travelling,
    And there was not a cloud in the sky.
He drank of the water so cool and clear,
    For thirsty and hot was he,
And he sat down upon the bank
    Under the willow-tree.
There came a man from the house hard by
    At the Well to fill his pail;
On the Well-side he rested it,
    And he bade the Stranger hail.
“Now art thou a bachelor, Stranger?” quoth he,
    “For an if thou hast a wife,
The happiest draught thou hast drank this day
    That ever thou didst in thy life.
“Or has thy good woman, if one thou hast,
    Ever here in Cornwall been?
For an if she have, I’ll venture my life
    She has drank of the Well of St. Keyne.”
“I have left a good woman who never was here.”
    The Stranger he made reply,
“But that my draught should be the better for that,
    I pray you answer me why?”
“St. Keyne,” quoth the Cornish-man, “many a time
    Drank of this crystal Well,
And before the Angel summon’d her,
    She laid on the water a spell.
“If the Husband of this gifted Well
    Shall drink before his Wife,
A happy man thenceforth is he,
    For he shall be Master for life.
“But if the Wife should drink of it first,—
    God help the Husband then!”
The Stranger stoopt to the Well of St. Keyne,
    And drank of the water again.
“You drank of the Well I warrant betimes?”
    He to the Cornish-man said:
But the Cornish-man smiled as the Stranger spake,
    And sheepishly shook his head.
“I hasten’d as soon as the wedding was done,
    And left my Wife in the porch;
But i’ faith she had been wiser than me,
    For she took a bottle to Church.”
— Robert Southey, The Well of St. Keyne

A Year of Poetry – Day 306

To love these books, and harmless tea,
Has always been my foible,
Yet will I ne’er forgetful be
To read my Psalms and Bible.

Travels I like, and history too,
Or entertaining fiction;
Novels and plays I’d have a few,
If sense and proper diction.

I love a natural harmless song,
But I cannot sing like Handel;
Deprived of such resource, the tongue
Is sure employed — in scandal.

— Christian Milne, To A Lady Who Said It Was Sinful To Read Novels

A Year of Poetry – Day 305

Just a rainy day or two
In a windy tower,
That was all I had of you—
Saving half an hour.

Marred by greeting passing groups
In a cinder walk,
Near some naked blackberry hoops
Dim with purple chalk.
I remember three or four
Things you said in spite,
And an ugly coat you wore,
Plaided black and white.

Just a rainy day or two
And a bitter word.
Why do I remember you
As a singing bird?

Edna St. Vincent Millay – Souvenir

A Year of Poetry – Day 304

That we’ve broken their statues,
that we’ve driven them out of their temples,
doesn’t mean at all that the gods are dead.
O land of Ionia, they’re still in love with you,
their souls still keep your memory.
When an August dawn wakes over you,
your atmosphere is potent with their life,
and sometimes a young ethereal figure
indistinct, in rapid flight,
wings across your hills.

— Gaius Valerius Catullus, Ionic

A Year of Poetry – Day 303

Avising the bright beams of these fair eyes
Where he is that mine oft moisteth and washeth,
The wearied mind straight from the heart departeth
For to rest in his worldly paradise
And find the sweet bitter under this guise.
What webs he hath wrought well he perceiveth
Whereby with himself on love he plaineth
That spurreth with fire and bridleth with ice.
Thus is it in such extremity brought,
In frozen thought, now and now it standeth in flame.
Twixt misery and wealth, twixt earnest and game,
But few glad, and many diverse thought
With sore repentance of his hardiness.
Of such a root cometh fruit fruitless.
— Sir  Thomas Wyatt, Avising the Bright Beams

A Year of Poetry – Day 302

When I was one-and-twenty
       I heard a wise man say,
“Give crowns and pounds and guineas
       But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
       But keep your fancy free.”
But I was one-and-twenty,
       No use to talk to me.
When I was one-and-twenty
       I heard him say again,
“The heart out of the bosom
       Was never given in vain;
’Tis paid with sighs a plenty
       And sold for endless rue.”
And I am two-and-twenty,
       And oh, ’tis true, ’tis true.
— A. E. Housman, When I Was One-And-Twenty

A Year of Poetry – Day 301

Joy, thou goddess, fair, immortal,
Offspring of Elysium,
Mad with rapture, to the portal
Of thy holy fame we come!
Fashion’s laws, indeed, may sever,
But thy magic joins again;
All mankind are brethren ever
‘Neath thy mild and gentle reign.

CHORUS.
Welcome, all ye myriad creatures!
Brethren, take the kiss of love!
Yes, the starry realms above
Hide a Father’s smiling features!

He, that noble prize possessing–
He that boasts a friend that’s true,
He whom woman’s love is blessing,
Let him join the chorus too!
Aye, and he who but one spirit
On this earth can call his own!
He who no such bliss can merit,
Let him mourn his fate alone!

CHORUS.
All who Nature’s tribes are swelling
Homage pay to sympathy;
For she guides us up on high,
Where the unknown has his dwelling.

From the breasts of kindly Nature
All of joy imbibe the dew;
Good and bad alike, each creature
Would her roseate path pursue.
‘Tis through her the wine-cup maddens,
Love and friends to man she gives!
Bliss the meanest reptile gladdens,–
Near God’s throne the cherub lives!

CHORUS.
Bow before him, all creation!
Mortals, own the God of love!
Seek him high the stars above,–
Yonder is his habitation!

Joy, in Nature’s wide dominion,
Mightiest cause of all is found;
And ’tis joy that moves the pinion,
When the wheel of time goes round;
From the bud she lures the flower–
Suns from out their orbs of light;
Distant spheres obey her power,
Far beyond all mortal sight.

CHORUS.
As through heaven’s expanse so glorious
In their orbits suns roll on,
Brethren, thus your proud race run,
Glad as warriors all-victorious!

Joy from truth’s own glass of fire
Sweetly on the searcher smiles;
Lest on virtue’s steeps he tire,
Joy the tedious path beguiles.
High on faith’s bright hill before us,
See her banner proudly wave!
Joy, too, swells the angels’ chorus,–
Bursts the bondage of the grave!

CHORUS.
Mortals, meekly wait for heaven
Suffer on in patient love!
In the starry realms above,
Bright rewards by God are given.

To the Gods we ne’er can render
Praise for every good they grant;
Let us, with devotion tender,
Minister to grief and want.
Quenched be hate and wrath forever,
Pardoned be our mortal foe–
May our tears upbraid him never,
No repentance bring him low!

CHORUS.
Sense of wrongs forget to treasure–
Brethren, live in perfect love!
In the starry realms above,
God will mete as we may measure.

Joy within the goblet flushes,
For the golden nectar, wine,
Every fierce emotion hushes,–
Fills the breast with fire divine.
Brethren, thus in rapture meeting,
Send ye round the brimming cup,–
Yonder kindly spirit greeting,
While the foam to heaven mounts up!

CHORUS.
He whom seraphs worship ever;
Whom the stars praise as they roll,
Yes to him now drain the bowl
Mortal eye can see him never!

Courage, ne’er by sorrow broken!
Aid where tears of virtue flow;
Faith to keep each promise spoken!
Truth alike to friend and foe!
‘Neath kings’ frowns a manly spirit!–
Brethren, noble is the prize–
Honor due to every merit!
Death to all the brood of lies!

CHORUS.
Draw the sacred circle closer!
By this bright wine plight your troth
To be faithful to your oath!
Swear it by the Star-Disposer!

Safety from the tyrant’s power!
Mercy e’en to traitors base!
Hope in death’s last solemn hour!
Pardon when before His face!
Lo, the dead shall rise to heaven!
Brethren hail the blest decree;
Every sin shall be forgiven,
Hell forever cease to be!

CHORUS.
When the golden bowl is broken,
Gentle sleep within the tomb!
Brethren, may a gracious doom
By the Judge of man be spoken!

— Friedrich Schiller, Hymn to Joy

A Year of Poetry – Day 300

Oh! could I see as thou hast seen,
   The garden of the west,
When Spring in all her loveliness
   Fair nature’s face has dressed.
The rolling prairie, vast and wild!
   It hath a charm for me—
Its tall grass waving to the breeze,
   Like billows on the sea.
Say, hast thou chased the bounding deer
   When smiled the rosy morn?
Or hast thou listened to the sound
   Of the merry hunter’s horn?
Once could the noble red-man call
   That prairie wild his home;—
His cabin now in ruins laid,
   He must an exile roam,
And thou at twilight’s pensive hour,
   Perchance hast seen him weep;—
Tread lightly o’er the hallowed spot,
   For there his kindred sleep.
I envy not the opulent
   His proud and lordly dome;
Far happier is the pioneer
   Who seeks a prairie home;—
Where no discordant notes are heard,
   But all is harmony;
Where soars aloft unfettered thought,
   And the heart beats light and free.
— Frances Mary Crosby van Alstyne, On Hearing a Description of a Prairie

Book Review – Scaling the Rim

My friend, Dorothy Grant, has come out with her debut book, Scaling the Rim.  It’s an engrossing, well plotted coming-of-age story that draws you in and holds on.  Here’s the blurb:

Never underestimate the power of a competent tech…

When Annika Danilova arrived at the edge of the colony’s crater to install a weather station, she knew the mission had been sabotaged from the start. The powers that be sent the wrong people, underequipped, and antagonized their supporting sometimes-allies. The mission was already slated for unmarked graves and an excuse for war…

But they hadn’t counted on Annika allying with the support staff, or the sheer determination of their leader, Captain Restin, to accomplish the mission. Together, they will overcome killing weather above and traitors within to fight for the control of the planet itself!

Dorothy’s writing flows smoothly, and her description of a cold, forbidding landscape paint vivid pictures of snowy mountain passes almost instantly.  Her characters are well thought out, especially Annika. This young lady transforms from a pigeon-holed underling into an independent, treasured member of a society that treasures her.

Dorothy has been instrumental in my own writing, and it’s great to see her turn her considerable skills toward telling her own stories.  I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where she takes us next.

Scaling the Rim is a quick read, and perfect for a winter evening in front of the fire.  I definitely suggest it for someone who is looking to escape and relax for a few hours.

A Year of Poetry – Day 299

I

1 Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knife us …
2 Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent …
3 Low drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient …
4 Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous,
5 But nothing happens.

6 Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire.
7 Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles.
8 Northward incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles,
9 Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war.
10 What are we doing here?

11 The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow …
12 We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.
13 Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army
14 Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of gray,
15 But nothing happens.

16 Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.
17 Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow,
18 With sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause and renew,
19 We watch them wandering up and down the wind’s nonchalance,
20 But nothing happens.

II

21 Pale flakes with lingering stealth come feeling for our faces–
22 We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed,
23 Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun-dozed,
24 Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses.
25 Is it that we are dying?

26 Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires glozed
27 With crusted dark-red jewels; crickets jingle there;
28 For hours the innocent mice rejoice: the house is theirs;
29 Shutters and doors all closed: on us the doors are closed–
30 We turn back to our dying.

31 Since we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn;
32 Now ever suns smile true on child, or field, or fruit.
33 For God’s invincible spring our love is made afraid;
34 Therefore, not loath, we lie out here; therefore were born,
35 For love of God seems dying.

36 To-night, His frost will fasten on this mud and us,
37 Shrivelling many hands and puckering foreheads crisp.
38 The burying-party, picks and shovels in their shaking grasp,
39 Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice,
40 But nothing happens.

— Wilfred Owen, Exposure

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