Diary of the Plague Year: Day 94 17 June 2020: Quotidian Poetry: W. B. Yeats (1865 – 1939)


That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees,
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.


POETRY 1900 TO 1975

Editor George MacBeth

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 93 16 June 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892)

FROM: I Sing the Body Electric
I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the
       charge of the soul.
Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies
       conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who
       defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
I Sing the Body Electric

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 92 15 June 2020: Quotidian Poetry: William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)

FROM King Richard II
Act II Scene i
Gaunt. This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This earth of majesty this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-Paradise;
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war;
This happy breed of men, this little world;
This precious stone set in a silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands;
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Feared by their breed, and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As in the sepulchre, in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world’s ransom, blessed Mary’s Son;
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through this world,
Is now leased out – I die pronouncing it –
Like to a tenement or pelting farm;
England, bound in with the triumphant sea,
Whose rocky shore beats back the previous siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound with shame,
With ink blots, and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
William Shakespeare
366 poems, old and new, worth
learning by heart
Edited by Nicholas Albery

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 90 13 June 2020: Transplanting

Rain. At last. Woken in the night.

Decided to transplant the cornus kousa, which has been looking more and more unhappy in the gale force winds lately, and replaced it with a cheap and cheerful dwarf cherry from the pound shop.

The cornus went into the orchard by the hedge and already is looking much happier. Time will tell. The cornus is billed as able to sustain wind but I don’t think these categories allow for the West Cork variety.

And managed to snap my spade in the process.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 89 12 June 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 – 1926), Duino Elegies

The Fourth Elegy

O trees of life, when does your winter come?
We are not attuned, not at one, we lack the instinct
of migrant birds. Late, we get left standing –
abruptly we launch ourselves into the wind
only to go plummeting down into water
that does not care for us. At once, we feel ourselves
both wither and flower. Somewhere else, lions
roam unaware of any weakness in their majesty.

But for us, as we focus on one thing, already
we feel the pull of another. Conflict is always
our companion. Even those in love, are they not
always confronting each other’s limits
though promised space, good hunting, a home?
    It’s as if – in a quick sketch – all the effort
has gone to prepare a background that allows us
to see precisely and yet still we cannot grasp
the real contour of our feelings and know
only the pressures that shape us from outside.
    Who has not sat before his own heart’s curtain
anxiously. It rises! The stage set for a scene
of parting that is simple enough to understand
with the garden, so familiar, wavering a little.
Enter a dancer – oh, no, not him! – enough!
No matter how gracefully he moves, nothing
disguises the fact he is a bourgeois who gains
access to his apartment through the kitchen.
    I cannot bear these half-filled human masks.
Better have a puppet. At least it’s full.
I can put up with a puppet’s stuffed limbs, wire,
the appearance of a face. Here. I’m waiting.
Even if the lights black out, or if one shouts
‘That’s your lot!’ and even if emptiness drifts
like a grisly draught towards me off the stage,
even if none of my tight-lipped ancestors
will sit beside me – no, not one of the women,
even the boy with his squinting brown eye.
I’ll stay anyway. I can always watch this.

Am I not right? Father – you knew it well,
how life tasted bitter after you had taken a sip
of me, first turbid dose of what had to be done.
As I grew, you kept on drinking, became
troubled at the after-taste of so strange a future
and searched out answers in my clouded gaze.
You, who so often since you died, have grown
more anxious for my well-being – so I feel,
in the depths of hope – giving up the serenity
of the dead, that serene realm they each take
possession of, given for this scrap of my life.
And am I right? All you others – am I not? –
you who loved me from the small beginnings
of my love for you, which I always turned
aside from because the space within your face
I fell in love with grew more like outer space,
where you seemed no more to exist for me.
Am I not right to feel that I must remain
sitting before this puppet show – indeed, to stare
at it so intently, in the end, that in answer
to my gaze an angel comes, a player, to shake
life into these stuffed dolls! Angel and puppet –
then, at last, a real drama worth my watching!
Then all that we divide simply by being here
can come together. Our fluid seasons can take
their place in the far greater cycle of change.
Then the angel plays on above us and beyond.
If no one else, should not the dying perceive
the unreality, how full of pretence
is everything we do here, how nothing
is really itself. Oh, the hours of childhood,
when what stood behind its figures was more
than the past and what spread before us was not
the future. Of course, we knew we were growing.
Even then, we felt impatient at times
to be fully grown – half for the sake of those
who had nothing to show but that they had grown.
Yet – left to ourselves – we found happiness
in what did not change and we lived then
in the interval between the world and our toys,
in a place that from the beginning had been
prepared for this pure event.

Who shows a child for what he really is?
Who sets him in the stars and thrusts a rule
to measure the distance of separation in his hand?
Who creates death for a child from grey bread
which only hardens – or who leaves it
in his round mouth like the core of a sweet apple?
Murderers are easy to understand. But this –
to be so possessed by death, the whole of death,
even before life has really begun – to take in
the fact, but gently, so as not to refuse in anger –
this . . . it’s unspeakable!


Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Martyn Crucefix
Introduction by Karen Leeder


Diary of the Plague Year: Day 88 11 June 2020: Quotidian Poetry: William Barnes (1801 – 1886)


Since I noo mwore do zee your fe{‘a}ce,
    Up ste{‘a}rs or down below,
I’ll zit me in the lwonesome ple{‘a}ce,
    Where flat-bough’d beech do grow;
Below the beeches’ bough, my love,
   Where you did never come,
An’ I don’t look to meet ye now,
     As I do look at hwome.

Since you noo mwore be at my zide,
  In walks in zummer het,
I’ll goo alwone where mist do ride,
  Drough trees a-drippèn wet;
Below the ra{‘i}n-wet bough, my love,
  Where you did never come,
An’ I don’t grieve to miss ye now,
  As I do grieve at hwome.

Since now bezide my dinner-bwoard
  Your va{‘i}ce do never sound,
I’ll eat the bit I can avword,
  A-vield upon the ground;
Below the darksome bough, my love,
  Where you did never dine,
An’ I don’t grieve to miss ye now,
  As I at hwome do pine.

Since I do miss your va{‘i}ce an’ fe{‘a}ce
  In pra{‘y}er at eventide,
I’ll pray wi’ woone sad va{‘i}ce vor gre{‘a}ce
  To goo where you do bide;
Above the tree an’ bough, my love,
  Where you be gone avore,
An’ be a-w{‘a}itèn vor me now,
  To come vor evermwore.


The Oxford Library of English Poetry
Volume II
Darley to Heaney

Chosen & edited by John Wain

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 87 10 June 2020: New Garden Plants

Rain at last.

New plants in the garden:

Astilbe Chinensis “Glitter and Glamour”
Astilbe “Happy Spirit”
Astrantia “Hadspen Blood” Masterwort
Geranium “Daily Blue”
Veronicastrum virginicum “Red Arrows”
Aruncus “Misty Lace”

Worm Wood Artemisa “Powis Castle”
Catananche Caerulea Cupid’s Dart “Amor Blue”
Sisyrinchium californicum
Heuchera “Black Beauty” Coral Flower
Salvia nemerosa “Sensation Pink”
Salvia Concolor

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 87 10 June 2020: Quotidian Poetry: John Wilmot (1647 – 1680)

Tell me no more of constancy,
   The frivolous pretense
Of cold age, narrow jealousy,
  Disease, and want of sense.
Let duller fools, on whom kind chance
  Some easy heart has thrown,
Despairing higher to advance,
  Be kind to one alone.
Old men and weak, whose idle flame
  Their own defects discovers,
Since changing can but spread their shame,
  Ought to be constant lovers.
But we, whose hearts do justly swell
  With not vainglorious pride,
Who know how we in love excel,
  Long to be often tried.
Then bring my bath, and strew my bed,
  As each kind night returns,
I’ll change a mistress till I’m dead –
  And fate change me to worms.
The Oxford Library of English Poetry
Volume II
Sackville to Keats
Chosen & edited by John Wain

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 86 9 June 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Edmund Spenser (1552/3 – 1599)

A length, they all to mery London came,
To mery London, my most kyndly Nurse,
That to me gaue this Lifes first natiue sourse:
Though from another place I take my name,
A house of auncient fame.
There when they came, whereas those bricky towres,
The which on Temmes brode aged backe doe ryde,
Where now the studious Lawyers haue their bowers,
Where whylome wont the Templer Knights to byde,
Till they decayd through pride:
Next whereunto there standes a stately place,
Where oft I gained giftes and goodly grace
Of that great Lord, which therein wont to dwell,
Whose want too well now feeles my freendles case:
But Ah here fits not well
Old woes but ioyes to tell
Against the Brydale daye, which is not long:
    Sweete Themmes runne softly, till I end my Song.
The Oxford Library of English Poetry
Volume I
Spenser to Dryden
Chosen & edited by John Wain