Difficult to arrange a tour since the room must be sanitized by a cleaning crew after every visit.
I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed
by Emily Dickinson – 1830-1886
I taste a liquor never brewed –
From Tankards scooped in Pearl –
Not all the Frankfort Berries
Yield such an Alcohol!
Inebriate of air – am I –
And Debauchee of Dew –
Reeling – thro’ endless summer days –
From inns of molten Blue –
When “Landlords” turn the drunken Bee
Out of the Foxglove’s door –
When Butterflies – renounce their “drams” –
I shall but drink the more!
Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats –
And Saints – to windows run –
To see the little Tippler
Leaning against the – Sun!
Capitalization and punctuation and verses differ widely with Dickinson’s published poems, depending on whether the original was copied faithfully or edited by someone else for print.
That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection
by Gerad Manly Hopkins (1844–1889)
https://hopkinspoetry.com (external link)
Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows | flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
Built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs | they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, | wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle ín long | lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous | ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest’s creases; | in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed | dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks | treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, | nature’s bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest | to her, her clearest-selvèd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, | his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig | nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, | death blots black out; nor mark
Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time | beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart’s-clarion! Away grief’s gasping, | joyless days, dejection.
Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; | world’s wildfire, leave but ash:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.
Photo of Hopkins
Well done reading, probably by Patrick Kavanagh.
Variations on a Theme
On The Death of An Acquaintance
by Oscar Williams (1899–1964)
I read that Williams was a poet and influential anthologist. His name haunted me at first be because I could not place him yet his name was familiar. No, not Oscar Wilde!
Turns out he was a supporter and something of an influence on Dylan Thomas but the other poet hardly acknowledged Williams. There are various accounts of their tumultuous relationship on the web.
I could not find a copy of this on the net so I have typed it out.
The first stanza to me reads poorly and does not hint at what is to come. The line I especially like is, “Now I see you were capable of decision and despair.”
Williams also manages to use the very difficult word ‘O’. I’ve never had the chance to use it. Well done.
On The Death of An Acquaintance
Friend, when I think of your delicate feminine face,
And every little hopes common as hearing or seeing,
How singlehanded you moved the massive stone of space
To find a cranny for the flower from the soil of your being,
And how long you manage to keep open in the universe
Under all-tme strain that lighted crack in the reckoning
I am haunted by your grimace O steadily getting worse
Awaiting the vast glad look that reduces everything
For long I thought you another human being in doubt,
One of the millions as ordinary as daylight is everywhere –
One of those usual people that one meets all about –
Now I see you were capable of decision and despair
Forgive me if my heart cringes with those who die,
Forgive me, friend, when even in thought I cannot be brave
Who think of your clear face agonized under tons of sky
Hourly growing more haggard from the weight of the grave.
Fascinating word play and an interesting choice of subject.
An equinox occurs in spring and fall.
Day and night are roughly equal on these two days.
Just some of the sentences and phrases I will have to look up:
the azuring periphrase
the belled heaven claps the ground
strangered from every grave glissade
Light at Equinox
by Léonie Adams (1899 – 1998)
A realm is here of masquing light
When struck rent wood and cornland by
The belled heaven claps the ground.
Husk, seed, pale straw, pale ear the year reposes,
And a thinned frieze of earth rims round
The whey-gleamed wet-ash-dimming sky,
And whole trodden floor of light,
Where that slant limb winds with its shadowing closes.
Distant as lustrally the sun,
Within that pearl of nimble play
Where traverse with rehearsing tread
Orients of prime to their all-reaping west,
Strangered from every grave glissade
Of blue enduskings or of milky day,
And wan, his silver nimbus on,
Muses his burning sojourn unprofessed.
Past barks mouse-sleek, wattled as serpent skin,
Rare acorn fall, rare squirrel flash.
Beyond, and in a silenced scene,
The wren, gamin wanderer of immense day
Can with luxuriant bendings preen,
Or in his pebble-scoopings plash,
To alarmless Eden flown,
And suddenly, for nothing, flies away.
And all are sole in the estranging day;
Forms of all things their candour wear,
Like the undefending dead,
And forth from out that mortal stricture gaze,
Of unperspective radiance shed
Through everywhere horizoned air,
Tasking precising love to say,
For its dense words, the azuring periphrase.
To her own brink light glides, intent
An unsphering sense to bind
By narrowing measures in.
Sidelong as then up branching March she bade
Stiff buds into the glancing skein,
And the green reel unwind;
Now toward another pole she’s leant,
And netherwards for partner draws her shade.
I’ll be off soon to Tempe, Arizona for perhaps a month of ECT treatments. My last hope. I wish you peace.
Keats again. This diseased young poet died of tuberculosis at 25. He wrote La Belle Dame sans Merci (internal link) and Ode on a Grecian Urn among hundreds of other pieces.
This poem was published after his death. He was naturally afraid of death with his condition which was incurable and of course mightily feared. As a medical student he full well knew he was doomed.
He wrote lighter poems such as Where ye be going, you Devon maid? which showed Keats had some fun before he died. I’ve included that poem at the bottom of this page after When I Have Fears.
Keats represents an unapproachable gap between those gentleman and women schooled in the classics and those of us today who were taught in academically impoverished public schools.
They knew Latin and Greek and most certainly French. References to “an amarous Zephyr” or “Porphyro” or “silken Samarkand” weren’t meant to show off a poet’s education but were the common currency among the upper classes for whom most of these poets wrote.
That gulf continues to this day. Read any of Aldous Huxley’s essays like those in Beyond the Mexique Bay and be embarrassed in finding how little you know. You intuitively sense that he is making great and profound points yet every paragraph means looking up things that a contemporary of his would already know.
I knew a Cambridge educated newspaper editor named Michael Duffet. He was warm and humorous and never condescending. Still, I knew he was disappointed with how few classics I had read. “Tom, you haven’t read that? You absolutely must!”
For my part I could not understand how he had managed to read all of those works in just a few years at university. But schooling in Latin and Greek and the classics begun years before in lower grades.
Michael’s desk was covered in books in Japanese and Arabic because he often translated one into another. And into German. Probably others. He had lived for five years with the Bedouins after Cambridge and then worked his way through India and then onto Japan.
The gap in our education was oceans’ wide and I am sad to this day over not completely benefitting from his scholarship. And so it is, too, for all of us with so many of the great English poets.
When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be
by John Keats (1795-1821)
When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charact’ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love!—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think,
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink
Read by Frank James
Where Be Ye Going, You Devon Maid?
by John Keats by John Keats (1795-1821)
Where be ye going, you Devon maid?
And what have ye there i’ the basket?
Ye tight little fairy, just fresh from the dairy,
Will ye give me some cream if I ask it?
I love your meads, and I love your flowers,
And I love your junkets mainly,
But ‘hind the door, I love kissing more,
O look not so disdainly!
I love your hills, and I love your dales,
And I love your flocks a-bleating;
But O, on the heather to lie together,
With both our hearts a-beating!
I’ll put your basket all safe in a nook,
Your shawl I’ll hang up on this willow,
And we will sigh in the daisy’s eye,
And kiss on a grass-green pillow.
No one has ever written better about depression, futility, and ending it all than A.E. Housman. (internal link)
All of us question the Meaning of Life at times and wonder whether it is worth going on.
Housman’s heartbroken or doomed characters argue bitterly and resentfully and eloquently that it is not.
This rarely heard point of view is strongly discouraged and censured. You must go on. Life gets better.
Housman’s popularity rests with giving poetic and powerful voice to the darker thoughts that all of us have but cannot express in words.
From A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman (1859–1936)
I Hoed and Trenched and Weeded
I hoed and trenched and weeded,
And took the flowers to fair:
I brought them home unheeded;
The hue was not the wear.
So up and down I sow them
For lads like me to find,
When I shall lie below them,
A dead man out of mind.
Some seed the birds devour,
And some the season mars,
But here and there will flower
The solitary stars.
And fields will yearly bear them
As light-leaved spring comes on,
And luckless lads will wear them
When I am dead and gone.
Love doesn’t do much good. And it isn’t worth much. Still, tonight, I’m not selling.
Love is Not All (Sonnet XXX)
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.