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“Time Does Not Bring Relief; You All Have Lied” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

If life wasn’t built on lies there might not be much of a world at all. That includes Edna, too. For the public’s acceptance of her poetry, she describes missing a man. When, in fact, it was undoubtedly a woman.

“Life must go on; I forget just why.” Millay.

By Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950)

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,—so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.

Poetry Uncategorized

Musings by William Barnes

I’m watching Star Trek: Picard on the Paramount+ Channel or whatever the marketing boys call it. The theme for this season revolves around how we as a race are always imprisoned in the past. F. Scott Fitzgerald most famously caught this idea with his last sentence to The Great Gatsby:

“And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

But poets have been going round with this for centuries. William Barnes made his contribution in the 1800’s with lines like this, “The night comes on to star the sky.” Yikes! Scary impressive.


by William Barnes (1801 – 1886)

Before the falling summer sun
The boughs are shining all as gold,
And down below them waters run,
As there in former years they roll’d;
The poolside wall is glowing hot,
The pool is in a dazzling glare,
And makes it seem as, ah! ’tis not,
A summer when my life was fair.

The evening, gliding slowly by,
Seems one of those that long have fled;
The night comes on to star the sky
As then it darken’d round my head.
A girl is standing by yon door,
As one in happy times was there,
And this day seems, but is no more,
A day when all my life was fair.

We hear from yonder feast the hum
Of voices, as in summers past;
And hear the beatings of the drum
Again come throbbing on the blast.
There neighs a horse in yonder plot,
As once there neigh’d our petted mare,
And summer seems, but ah! is not
The summer when our life was fair.

Reading by Prabir Guha



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You Foolish Men by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

The brilliant and courageous Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (internal link) pioneers ground Elizabeth Barett Browning (internal link) would later cover in her own way. says that ‘Thais’ was an “Athenian courtesan: mistress of Alexander the Great and Ptolemy I”. The Brittanica explains that ‘Lucretia’ was, according to tradition, “[T]he beautiful and virtuous wife of the nobleman Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus.”

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz took great risks with her writing which was against the puritanical and patriarchal times governed by The Church, of which she was a nun. Good show!

You Foolish Men
by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz – 1648-1695

You foolish men who lay
the guilt on women,
not seeing you’re the cause
of the very thing you blame;

If you invite their disdain
with measureless desire
why wish they well behave
if you incite to ill.

You fight their stubbornness,
then, weightily,
you say it was their lightness
when it was your guile.

In all your crazy shows
you act just like a child
who plays the bogeyman
of which he’s then afraid.

With foolish arrogance
you hope to find a Thais
in her you court, but a Lucretia
when you’ve possessed her.

What kind of mind is odder
than his who mists
a mirror and then complains
that it’s not clear.

Their favour and disdain
you hold in equal state,
if they mistreat, you complain,
you mock if they treat you well.

No woman wins esteem of you:
the most modest is ungrateful
if she refuses to admit you;
yet if she does, she’s loose.

You always are so foolish
your censure is unfair;
one you blame for cruelty
the other for being easy.

What must be her temper
who offends when she’s
ungrateful and wearies
when compliant?

But with the anger and the grief
that your pleasure tells
good luck to her who doesn’t love you
and you go on and complain.

Your lover’s moans give wings
to women’s liberty:
and having made them bad,
you want to find them good.

Who has embraced
the greater blame in passion?
She who, solicited, falls,
or he who, fallen, pleads?

Who is more to blame,
though either should do wrong?
She who sins for pay
or he who pays to sin?

Why be outraged at the guilt
that is of your own doing?
Have them as you make them
or make them what you will.

Leave off your wooing
and then, with greater cause,
you can blame the passion
of her who comes to court?

Patent is your arrogance
that fights with many weapons
since in promise and insistence
you join world, flesh and devil.

Very well done reading by ErinIsNice.

Poetry Uncategorized

An Appeal to Cats in the Business of Love by Thomas Flatman

Flatman was a lawyer, poet, and painter. He excelled at creating miniature paintings, or simply miniatures, which is a thing. Grimilkain in this poem means an old female cat.

The poet admires a cat’s nature to love and leave. Society endorses better behavior.

Knowing that, however, reminds me of what Chris Rock said about O.J. Simpson seeing his wife, Nichole Simpson, cavorting with boyfriend Ronald Goldman.

“O.J. shouldn’t have done it. He was completely wrong. But I understand!”

An Appeal to Cats in the Business of Love

by Thomas Flatman (1637-1688)

Ye cats at midnight spit love at each other,
Who best feel the pangs of a passionate lover,
I appeal to your scratches and your tattered fur,
If the business of Love be no more than to purr.
Old Lady Grimalkin with her gooseberry eyes,
Knew something when a kitten, for why she is wise;
You find by experience, the love-fit’s soon o’er,
Puss! Puss! lasts not long, but turns to Cat-whore!
Men ride many miles,
Cats tread many tiles,
Both hazard their necks in the fray;
Only cats, when they fall
From a house or a wall,
Keep their feet, mount their tails, and away!


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The Poetry of Sara Teasdale as Read by Ghizela Rowe

I’ve mentioned Sara Teasdale’s simply worded poetry but before (internal link) but not at length. Like A.E. Housman (internal link), no Greek, Latin, or Great Literature is required to understand their poetry.

Much tragedy in her life, own ended by too many sleeping pills. Rest easy and thanks, Sara, we continue unwrapping your writing gifts every day.

The Poetry of Sara Teasdale


Read by Ghizela Rowe, today’s finest female poetry narrator.



“Spend all you have for loveliness.”

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Advice to a Girl

“Nothing worth possessing can be quite possessed.”

No one worth possessing
Can be quite possessed;
Lay that on your heart,
My young angry dear;
This truth, this hard and precious stone,
Lay it on your hot cheek,
Let it hide your tear.
Hold it like a crystal
When you are alone
And gaze in the depths of the icy stone.
Long, look long and you will be blessed:
No one worth possessing
Can be quite possessed.


“Unless I learn to look at Grief . . .”

Unless I learn to ask no help
From any other soul but mine,
To seek no strength in waving reeds
Nor shade beneath a straggling pine;
Unless I learn to look at Grief
Unshrinking from her tear-blind eyes,
And take from Pleasure fearlessly
Whatever gifts will make me wise
Unless I learn these things on earth,
Why was I ever given birth?

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“How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear!” by Edward Lear

Edward Lear wrote nonsense poetry before Lewis Carrol (internal link) was born.

Carrol, and perhaps the entirety of the literate English people, tremendously enjoyed Lear’s writing and drawings in newspapers and otherwise.

By otherwise I mean he was a professional artist from age 15. He drew birds and produced artwork for the British Museum. He gave art lessons to Queen Victoria.

Lear excelled at the limerick.

It might seem odd that the same readers invested in Keats (internal link) and Shelley (internal link) would deign to read the comic book prose of Lear but that’s not the case. Above all, the British admire wit. Wit and quick thinking, even if a person insults them.

I was very fortunate long ago to take a three week garden tour of England, Scotland, and Wales. Customer service at all restaurants, when they were open, was appalling. No diner in America would succeed with the contempt for the customer I found at every table.

On the last day of my trip I ordered a simple lunch and once again the waiter vanished. After nearly half an hour the waiter reappeared and I greeted him heartily.

“Oh, thank God you are here. I was about to call the police.”

The waiter, very concerned, “Why is that, Sir?”

“To report you missing!”

“Oh, very good sir!”

“How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear!”
Edward Lear 1812-1881

“How pleasant to know Mr.Lear!”
Who has written such volumes of stuff!
Some think him ill-tempered and queer,
But a few think him pleasant enough.

His mind is concrete and fastidious,
His nose is remarkably big;
His visage is more or less hideous,
His beard it resembles a wig.

He has ears, and two eyes, and ten fingers,
Leastways if you reckon two thumbs;
Long ago he was one of the singers,
But now he is one of the dumbs.

He sits in a beautiful parlour,
With hundreds of books on the wall;
He drinks a great deal of Marsala,
But never gets tipsy at all.

He has many friends, lay men and clerical,
Old Foss is the name of his cat;
His body is perfectly spherical,
He weareth a runcible hat.

When he walks in a waterproof white,
The children run after him so!
Calling out, “He’s gone out in his night-
Gown, that crazy old Englishman, oh!”

He weeps by the side of the ocean,
He weeps on the top of the hill;
He purchases pancakes and lotion,
And chocolate shrimps from the mill.

He reads, but he cannot speak, Spanish,
He cannot abide ginger beer:
Ere the days of his pilgrimage vanish,
How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!

Above, Lear illustrating himself and his cat. Below, a fine parrot drawing by Lear.

“Study of a Red and Yellow Macaw (Macrocercus aracanga)”; from The Natural History of Edward Lear |© President and Fellows of Harvard College, Harvard University

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Hymn to Intellectual Beauty by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Hymn to Intellectual Beauty

by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Shelley (internal link) once again contemplates beauty and the mercurial and inconstant nature of same. Time flies. Beauty, too, too often, as that beautiful blonde woman who just appeared and then disappeared around the corner. But beauty itself is timeless. Styles go out of fashion. But fashion is always in style. First, Keats.

Keats is more well known on beauty, having penned that glorious line, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever” (internal link), and perhaps even better, “Some shape of beauty moves away the pall. (ibid) He also equated it to truth (internal link) which is what Shelley and Keats were driving at when they used all that flowery language to describe flowers – The Truth. Stay with me.

Contemplating beauty and truth is as relevant today as it was with the Romantic Poets as it was with the ancient Greeks. Something about beauty is rooted at our genetic level. Beauty instinctively draws us and nothing will ever change that.

A flowering mountain meadow has always been considered beautiful and always will be. It’s the same with the Venus de Milo or Michelangelo’s David. As those three things would have appealed to our forebears. Just as we admire the Lascaux caves paintings in France from 17,000 years ago.

Picasso loved to draw animals and especially bulls. Picasso excelled at rendering proportions correctly, but, other than that, little separates these images save 17,000 years.

I’d like to write more on truth and beauty, how we instinctively favor “an admirable arrangement of elements,” but, for now, back to this poem by Shelley, whose wife was Mary Shelley who edited and promoted his work. (Oh, and she wrote Frankenstein!)

In titling it a hymn, Shelley gives away his intentions at the start. This is a praise poem to something Divine, later identified as the Spirit of Beauty.

This poem has several well turned rhymes and phrases but I read it as a rumination or a pondering instead of a declaration of Final Thoughts. He doesn’t use the word God but he does use the word Thee. And, as mentioned, Spirit of Beauty. Perhaps this is akin to the Holy Spirit in the Trinity, apart but still part of God.

The first sentence needs explaining. Awful means awesome in a good sense. Also, Shelley uses the phrase intellectual beauty as synonymous with the word Power which he capitalizes. Nims says this is a “reality beyond what the senses can normally perceive.”

Vincent Price reads too theatrically but in his usual fine, distinctive voice. I like his slow pace, letting us look at each word going by.

The awful shadow of some unseen Power
Floats though unseen among us; visiting
This various world with as inconstant wing
As summer winds that creep from flower to flower;
Like moonbeams that behind some piny mountain shower,
It visits with inconstant glance
Each human heart and countenance;
Like hues and harmonies of evening,
Like clouds in starlight widely spread,
Like memory of music fled,
Like aught that for its grace may be
Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery.

Spirit of Beauty, that dost consecrate
With thine own hues all thou dost shine upon
Of human thought or form, where art thou gone?
Why dost thou pass away and leave our state,
This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?
Ask why the sunlight not for ever
Weaves rainbows o’er yon mountain-river,
Why aught should fail and fade that once is shown,
Why fear and dream and death and birth
Cast on the daylight of this earth
Such gloom, why man has such a scope
For love and hate, despondency and hope?

No voice from some sublimer world hath ever
To sage or poet these responses given:
Therefore the names of Demon, Ghost, and Heaven,
Remain the records of their vain endeavour:
Frail spells whose utter’d charm might not avail to sever,
From all we hear and all we see,
Doubt, chance and mutability.
Thy light alone like mist o’er mountains driven,
Or music by the night-wind sent
Through strings of some still instrument,
Or moonlight on a midnight stream,
Gives grace and truth to life’s unquiet dream.

Love, Hope, and Self-esteem, like clouds depart
And come, for some uncertain moments lent.
Man were immortal and omnipotent,
Didst thou, unknown and awful as thou art,
Keep with thy glorious train firm state within his heart.
Thou messenger of sympathies,
That wax and wane in lovers’ eyes;
Thou, that to human thought art nourishment,
Like darkness to a dying flame!
Depart not as thy shadow came,
Depart not—lest the grave should be,
Like life and fear, a dark reality.

While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped
Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin,
And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing
Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.
I call’d on poisonous names with which our youth is fed;
I was not heard; I saw them not;
When musing deeply on the lot
Of life, at that sweet time when winds are wooing
All vital things that wake to bring
News of birds and blossoming,
Sudden, thy shadow fell on me;
I shriek’d, and clasp’d my hands in ecstasy!

I vow’d that I would dedicate my powers
To thee and thine: have I not kept the vow?
With beating heart and streaming eyes, even now
I call the phantoms of a thousand hours
Each from his voiceless grave: they have in vision’d bowers
Of studious zeal or love’s delight
Outwatch’d with me the envious night:
They know that never joy illum’d my brow
Unlink’d with hope that thou wouldst free
This world from its dark slavery,
That thou, O awful Loveliness,
Wouldst give whate’er these words cannot express.

The day becomes more solemn and serene
When noon is past; there is a harmony
In autumn, and a lustre in its sky,
Which through the summer is not heard or seen,
As if it could not be, as if it had not been!
Thus let thy power, which like the truth
Of nature on my passive youth
Descended, to my onward life supply
Its calm, to one who worships thee,
And every form containing thee,
Whom, Spirit fair, thy spells did bind
To fear himself, and love all human kind.


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Paudeen by William Butler Yeats

Paudeen was a not so kind word for a shopkeeper, someone below Yeats’ station in life.

A class system in Yeats’ time sharply divided people of the British Empire, with the high too often and too quickly exasperated with the low. That system lingers on today but in an implicit rather than an explicit way.

Yeats (internal link) in Paudeen reasons to understand why people like the poorly educated shopkeeper exist in God’s Universe. The arrogance to even think about why certain people merit life is outrageous. It reminds me of the cartoonish Judge Smails in the movie Caddyshack.

Smails was a caricature of a White Anglo Saxon Protestant or WASP. Upon hearing that his young golf caddy failed to get into college, the good Judge remarked, “Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too.”

Yet, from Yeats condescension a nice poem results.

Yeats wrote a book 0f autobiographical reminisces called “The Stirring of the Bones. ” In it, John Fredrick Nims says that Yeats describes a dream from which he woke to hear a voice saying, “The love of God is infinite for every human soul because every human soul is unique, no other can satisfy the same need in God.”

I wish I could wake up with a quote like that.


by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Indignant at the fumbling wits, the obscure spite
Of our old paudeen in his shop, I stumbled blind
Among the stones and thorn-trees, under morning light;
Until a curlew cried and in the luminous wind
A curlew answered; and suddenly thereupon I thought
That on the lonely height where all are in God’s eye,
There cannot be, confusion of our sound forgot,
A single soul that lacks a sweet crystalline cry.

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The Journey of the Magi by T.S. Eliot

Yes, I should have posted this before Christmas but Eliot’s poetry (internal link) transcends time.

Eliot’s poem borrows, updates, and is inspired by the writings of Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) and W.B. Yeats (internal link).

Here, an old ruler recounts his vision quest pilmagrage to a distant place both physically and spiritually.

He returns to his dominion changed, bothered, and unsure.

Eliot himself journeyed from a dry religiosity in his youth to the outskirts of Catholic mysticism in his later years.

Hunter Thompson made this André Breton quote popular, “All my life, my heart has searched for something I cannot name.”

The Journey Of The Magi

by T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Beautifully read by Hugh Laurie

Poetry Uncategorized

Cynara by Ernest Christopher Dowson (Updated post)

Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae

I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

by Ernest Dowson (1867 – 1900)

Richard Burton’s voice in this reading continues to haunt me. It’s been about nine months since I first wrote on Cynara (internal link). I need to read more Dowson.

Carol Rumens writes in the Guardian  (external link) that this poem’s title is “[F]rom Horace’s Odes, Book 4, 1, translat[ing] as “I am not as I was in the reign of good Cinara.”

Dowson’s short life was marked by tuberculosis and family suicide.

Burton reads rapidly, as if to say the protagonist needs to apologize or explain quickly. Or maybe that is Burton rushing to apologize for his own sybaritic lifestyle. “I have been faithful to you, Liz, in my fashion.” Or, “I have been faithful to my sobriety, in my fashion.”

Is this also an apology to life itself? Regret over getting such a great gift and then doing little with it? An apology to self and others: to promises broken, to faith doubted and lost, friends neglected, time wasted, to books unread. Life squandered.

“Yes, I wanted to do more but there was always something I wanted to watch on TV. I did respect the gift of life. . . in my fashion.”

Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae

Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine
There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed
Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine;
And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

All night upon mine heart I felt her warm heart beat,
Night-long within mine arms in love and sleep she lay;
Surely the kisses of her bought red mouth were sweet;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
When I awoke and found the dawn was grey:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind,
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, all the time, because the dance was long:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

I cried for madder music and for stronger wine,
But when the feast is finished and the lamps expire,
Then falls thy shadow, Cynara! the night is thine;
And I am desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, hungry for the lips of my desire:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

NB: The audio takes 10 or 15 seconds to begin. Patience, Grasshopper!