Diary of the Plague Year: Day 79 2 June 2020: Quotidian Poetry: George Mackay Brown (1921 – 1966)

DREAM OF WINTER
 
These were the sounds that dinned upon his ear –
The spider’s fatal purring, and the grey
Trumpeting of old mammoths locked in ice.
No human sound there was: only the evil
Shriek of the violin sang of human woe
And conquest and defeat, and the round drums
  Sobbed as they beat.
 
He saw the victim nailed against the night
With ritual stars. The skull, a ruin of dreams,
Leaned in the wind, merry with curl and thorn.
The long robes circled. A penitential wail
For the blue lobster and the yellow cornstalk
And the hooded victim, broken to let men live,
  Flashed from their throats.
 
Then all the faces turned from the Winter Man.
From the loch’s April lip a swan slid out
In a cold rhyme. The year stretched like a child
And rubbed its eyes on light. Spring on the hill
With lamb and tractor, lovers and burning heather.
Byres stood open. The wind’s blue fingers laid
  A migrant on the rock.
 
FROM:

The Faber Book of 20th Century Verse

Edited by John Heath-Stubbs & David Wright

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 75 29 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: T.S. Eliot (1888 – 1965)

                           MARINA
 
                      Quis hic locus quae
                   Regio, quae mundi plaga?
 
  What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands
What water lapping the bow
And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the
    fog
What images return
O my daughter.
  Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning
Death
Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird,
    meaning
Death
Those who sit in the sty of contentment, meaning
Death
Those who suffer the ecstacy of the animals, meaning
Death
  Are become unsubstantial, reduced by a wind,
A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog
By this grace dissolved in place
  What is this face, less clear and clearer
The pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger –
Given or lent? more distant than stars and nearer than the
      Eye
    Whisper and small laughter between leaves and hurrying
        Feet
Under sleep, where all the waters meet.
  Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat.
I made this, I have forgotten
And remember.
The rigging weak and the canvas rotten
Between one June and another September.
Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.
The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking.
This form, this face, this life
Living to live for a world of time beyond me; let me
Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken,
The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships.
   What seas what shores what granite islands towards my
       timbers
And woodthrush calling through the fog
My daughter.

FROM:

Collected Poems
1909-1962
T.S. Eliot

Faber Paperbacks

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 74 28 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Beowulf and Grendel (8th Century England)

From: BEOWULF AND GRENDEL
 
Attend!
We have heard of the thriving of the throne of
    Denmark,
how the folk-kings flourished in former days,
how those royal athelings earned that glory.
 
Was it not Scyld Shefing that shook the halls,
Took mead-benches, taught encroaching
foes to fear him – who, found in childhood,
lacked clothing? Yet he lived and prospered,
grew in strength and stature under the heavens
until the clans settled in the sea-coasts neighbouring
over the whale-road all must obey him
and give tribute. He was a good king!
 
FROM:
 
Beowulf and Grendel
A Verse Translation by Michael Alexander
 
Penguin 60s

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 72 26 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Sean O’Brien (1952 – )

This poem seems particularly pertinent today. Brilliant and I love the rhyme structure.

VALEDICTORY
 
Those living and those yet to be
Are all her immortality:
The subjects of the world she made
Still speak her language, still afraid
          To change it.
She saw her people as they were:
Don’t-Cares who can’t be made to care:
These sentimental hypocrites
Let her, their true-blue Clausewitz
          Arrange it.
 
Let poverty without parole
Replace the right to draw the dole.
Let coppers pulling triple time
Turn opposition into crime
          At Orgreave.
Let the General Belgrano,
Sunk to save our sheep, our guano,
Mark the freezing south Atlantic
As the empire’s last romantic
           War grave.
 
Let children learn no history
These days, but only how to be
As economically astute
As all the dealers snorting toot
           For dinner,
Desperate to anticipate
Like destiny the nation state’s
Ineluctable decline
To client status: I me mine,
           The winner.
 
Branch libraries and playing fields
Deliver rather slower yields
Than asset-stripping mountebanks
Can rake in flogging dope and tanks;
           Great Britain!
Strange: no one nowadays admits
To voting in the gang of shits
Who staffed her army of the night:
Our history, it seems, is quite
            Rewritten.
 
When it comes to telling lies
The change is hard to recognize.
What can’t be hidden can be burned.
She must be gratified: we’ve learned
            Her lesson.
Now when some sanctimonious ape
Says, No, there never was a tape,
A bribe, a private meeting with
Et cetera, where are you, Smith
             And Wesson?
 
FROM: 

THE DROWNED BOOK
Sean O'Brien

Picador Classic

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 67 21 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)

WORDS

Axes
After whose stroke the wood rings,
And the echoes!
Echoes traveling
Off from the center like horses.

The sap
Wells like tears, like the
Water striving
To re-establish its mirror
Over the rock

That drops and turns,
A white skull,
Eaten by weedy greens.
Years later I
Encounter them on the road----

Words dry and riderless,
The indefatigable hoof-taps.
While
From the bottom of the pool, fixed stars
Govern a life.

FROM:

Ariel
SYLVIA PLATH

Faber and Faber

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 65 19 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: THE FLORA: John Lydgate (?1370 – ?1451)

TRANSIENT AS A ROSE
 
Lat no man booste of conning nor vertu,
Of tresour, richesse, nor of sapience,
Of worldly support, for all cometh of Jesu:
Counsail, comfort, discresioun and prudence,
Provisioun, forsight and providence,
Like as the Lord of grace list dispoose;
Som man hath wisdom, som man hath elloquence –
All stant on chaunge, like a midsomer roose.
 
Wholsom in smelling be the soote floures,
Full delitable, outward, to the sight;
The thorn is sharp, curyd with fresh coloures;                                            (covered)
All is nat gold that outward sheweth bright;
A stokfish boon in dirkeness yeveth a light;
Twen fair and foul, as God list dispoose,
A difference atwix day and night –
All stant on chaunge, like a midsomer roose.
 
It was the Roose of the bloody feeld,
Roose of Jericho that grew in Beedlem                                              (Bethlehem)
The five rooses portrayed on the sheeld,
Splayed in the baneer at Jerusalem:
The sonne was clips, and dirk in every rem,                                        (eclipse, realm)
When Christ Jesu five welles list uncloose
Toward Paradis, called the rede strem –
Of whos five woundes prent in your heart a roose.

FROM: 
THE FLORA

An Anthology of Poetry and Prose
Compiled by Fiona MacMath