Thursday, May 29, 2014

Collected Poems - Friends

Today's post is an unusual one, readers!  On social media, I posited a challenge to my friends; sit down and write a poem.  It can be about anything.  It doesn't have to rhyme, it doesn't have to be good, even, just sit down, and write a poem, spending no more than thirty minutes.  I want to see what sort of poetry people are capable of producing when they sit down and try.  My hypothesis is that the average person will be surprised at what comes out!

I am pleased to say that I've been bowled over by the response and support.  Here follow the short poems of my friends, one from myself included.  I hope you'll enjoy them!  They all provide something valuable, be it food for thought, a crisp image, or humor.

[What power this mountain holds] - Chris Hart

What power this mountain holds
To make me feel so naked and alone!
How many times has this mountain old
Made small the one who views
With staccato gasps, its wooded steeps?

For a moment in time, my own
World, so neatly constructed, folds,
And I feel as if I have now known
The company of every other person who
Has been made suddenly small.

My own contribution is a brief meditation on the power nature has over our emotions, and how at some primal level, it can inspire in us a sublime feeling of solitude and insignificance.  Whenever I look at a mountain, I feel a small sense of that loneliness, which I imagine must be a shared sensation.

[Yesterday I wanted to stream] - Christopher Raub

Yesterday I wanted to stream
It was supposed to be all day
It would have been if I had my way
Today it was a little extreme
Playing video games all day is my dream
And I started off thinking work was play
As I went I felt I wanted to get away
I got so tired I burst at the seam.

My friend Chris Raub's contribution is a humorous account of the travails of streaming games online!  What sounds like fun is apparently quite difficult work sometimes, and it doesn't always work out like one plans.  Playing videogames all day is totally my dream on some days, too.

[Something that is may not be] - Allen Copas

Something that is may not be
But something may be that you can not see
If something may be that you can not see
Then maybe just maybe that something may not be

So something may come and something may leave
Still, there will always be something in the world today
That something is different from day to day
If it's consistent for all I can not say
But that something is something if someone believes

What is, may be, or may not be?  Is it the same today, tomorrow?  Who can say?  Allen poses interesting questions on the nature of what is, and how "if it's consistent for all" he can not say.  Everyone has different experiences, and not all that is, is to everyone.

[What is it that haunts the spirit's day?] - Stephen Barlow

What is it that haunts the spirit's day?
The night's calling and the sway.
How do we create that grey being?
The Lord's blessing and his grieving.
What kind of blood runs through our veins?
What is this death that feels so strange?
Sin as black as the darkened veil
That covers my eyes and haunts me still.
The spirit yearns, the body's grave.
The passing thought, the sinner's rave.
Of blood that runs through boiling coal.
Ice so chilled it freezes stone.
From heaven or hell, this haunting tells...
What is it that the spirit's flight compels?
A mystery thought, but never spoken.
Of lost moments and smiles broken.
The heart, the secret, life in truth
Love and hate without refute
In one doth dwell the same solid root.
All is one, but is one all?
This haunting. This question. This fall.

A series of chilling images and questions, Stephen asks us to consider "what haunts the spirit's day."  Full of horror images, evocative and fearful, the poem ultimately concludes that love and hate share the same root within us.  We know that all is one, but does that one exist in all?  That is the haunting that haunts the spirit's day.  My favorite images here are "blood that runs through boiling coal" and "ice so chilled it freezes sonte."  Great images!

[The lens of failure shows aberration] - Eric Peavey

The lens of failure shows aberration,
Its shattered components in disarray.
It shows the viewer much obfuscation,
Of a life that was once okay.

But  looking at the lens it's easy to see,
Not everything is as it's meant to be,
So look through the lens and take the view
Through the shards of life may come something new.

A poignant reflection (get it?) of how failure, despite throwing a life into disarray and confusion, can show us a new way forward, Eric's poem really tugs at the heart strings.  It captures that sense of looking into a mirror, and seeing a distorted sense of reality.  We have so much trouble seeing clearly when we perceive failure, but through those shards, that cracked mirror, we can discover the new, and move forward.  It's a hopeful turn, and uplifting.

[Find a map and slam your index finger anywhere] - Anonymous

Find a map and slam your index finger anywhere.
That place is shitty.
You'll live there and it'll be what you experience anywhere
People.  It will be shit.
But then you'll leave.
And then, then you'll remember.
Some-ONE listening and the souls you brushed with by
destiny's breath
Then you'll be thankful.
Because they're ribosomes with a FINITE amount of energy
That was your moment.
That was a moment imprinted in time for two people.
You'd be a fucker to not look back, think of my face
and smile.
But right now it's all shit.

A vitriolic yet tender assessment of what life is like in the moment versus in retrospect, the author of this poem, who has requested their name withheld, hits on a number of interesting points.  Everywhere is the same so long as your mind is the same.  It's shit.  People are shit.  That's very easy to think in the moment.  When you leave, though?  Then the good memories flood in.  We are never appreciative of what we have when we have it.  But as the author points out, "you'd be a fucker" to not look back with a smile.

Flight - Rebecca Foerg-Spittel

With head straight, chin lifted,
she raises her shoulders and stretches them back,
like a bird flexing wings before flight,
and in that second, you see her, the bird,

rising up, slowly,
wings stretching back, thin legs kicking,
till she soars, limbs outstretched above the pine trees,
above the lake, above the second forest
mirrored in the water.

You see her hair floating, curling around her chin,
the muscled notches in her shoulders,
you see her setting forth into this new life,
jaw set,
a strong, sweet hum in the back of her throat.

You see her.
And she is something.  She is something to see.

Then her shoulders settle low.
She folds her hands.
She's a girl.

But there, behind her ears, tips of brilliant, blue wings.

Rebecca's poem is full of taut images, feelings of straining muscle, energy bounding to be free, a girl desperate to fly.  In many ways, this poem is a flight of fancy.  Imagined flight over beautiful lakes and forests is like new birth to this girl.  My favorite image is "she soars, limbs outstretched above the pine trees, above the lake, above the second forest mirrored in the water."  It's a clear and precise image, much like I imagine that lake water to be.  Absolutely lovely poem.  Despite the pain of being unable to fly, I feel the poem is overall hopeful and triumphant, as evidenced by those "tips of brilliant, blue wings."

[The days never end] - Kelsey MacKellar

The days never end
Only the light changes
Time brings no comfort
Only malice through my bones

Everyone tries
It makes every moment worse
I feel it ripping out of my chest
A demon of pure spite

I tear the flesh from my face
Digging fingernails into my scalp to separate tissue from
Screams of terror only egg me on
Ripping cartilage to discard in the dirt
A personal lobotomy with a finger ice pick
The brain feels nothing when touched yet is the cause of all

A painful account of how emotions can build and multiply into furious, destructive anger, Kelsey's poem also touches on an interesting paradox.  Touching the brain itself, that root of all feelings, and it cannot feel.  Sometimes the best efforts people make to help can only cause more pain.  "Everyone tries" is an excellent line, and a good reminder that sometimes, you cannot help.  Wonderful poem with powerful imagery.

Poetry Is - Greg Hudson

Words do so little
Until they do so much
More than before you put them
The whole is greater than the
Sum of the parts.

Like Her, the one you always
Crushed on in high school
And perhaps even after you and she
Were gone and forgotten by the desks and chalk
For even though your memory of her fades
And the crisp edges of the picture
In your mind
Begin to melt and blend together to form a painting
Renoir would be proud to claim
You remember that all the things that made her
Who she was
That her cheeks would flush with crimson
When she'd argue with you
Or ever swear (yes, even sailors would blush)
Yes all those things added together
Cannot equal the imperfect perfection
The mathematical impossibility
That is the human soul.

That's poetry.

From Greg, we have a life affirming account of how in both poetry and people, the whole is inexplicably greater than the sum of its parts.  Words are just that, words, but until they're strung together, they lack power, they are not cohesive.  The same is true of people and their traits, and even though we idealize those in our minds, blending them together somewhat, we still remember those parts, and that magical whole, idealized here as a love object.

So how is Korea? - Michelle

The Sisyphean days roll one on top of another
In an agonizing wheel of monotony
Axel stuck in the mud
The turning in vain

The eyes crawl under my clothes and under my skin
Full of judgment, lust, and hate
I pull my shawl around me
Hiding in vain

I speak and demonstrate ideas thoroughly pondered
Ignored, interrupted, dismissed
Pointless ambition
Korea in vain.

Michelle has not been having a good time in Korea.  She has, however, confronted many ugly discrimination with bravery and strength, and I think this poem is a good reflection of that effort.  It sounds exhausting (Sisyphean indeed) and I hope that she can find some respite or escape soon.

In The Absence of Veracity - Jd Crouch

I don't do poetry.
Everything about it seems so self
We are starved
artists silenced by our own
brazen tongue and brash thought.
A dam - Alas
We falter.
Floodwaters churn inside
Heart and lungs,
Searching for escape.  It goes
Up - At last
It explodes
into space.  It is heard.
Who resists truth?
I don't
do poetry.

Jd's poem is loaded with clever enjambments and line breaks, creating lots of readings for each line.  For example, "Everything about it seems so self satisfying" could be read to mean that poetry is self serving, or that it can satisfy the self, given that "Satisfying" is given its own line.  The last three lines as well, could be "Who resists truth?  I don't do poetry" as a statement of how the author doesn't do poetry.  Or, it could be a command, "Do poetry.  I don't resist truth (because I do poetry)."  Great food for thought!

So there we are friends, the first ever poetry experiment I've conducted!  Poems written by a wide range of people in a short period of time.  This sort of off the cuff poetry is really valuable I think, because it shows us the breadth and depth of ideas at play at any moment in all of us.  Poetry isn't the domain of the snobby intelligentsia, it's accessible to all, and I hope you've all been just a little bit surprised by what you're capable of.  Thanks so much to everyone who participated!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Phenomenal Woman - Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my wait,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout of jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
'Cause I'm a women
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

What else could I possibly post today now that Maya Angelou has left us?  She was indeed a phenomenal woman, and this poem is like a radical anthem of self-confidence and self-love.  She doesn't bow her head, she doesn't have to fight for attention.  She is herself so wholly, and it's in every bit of her, and she lists in almost every stanza.  All of those things, those are her, and she's not changing them for you or for anybody.  Self-confidence is sexier than anything, and in this poem, you can feel it, her magnetic charm, that irresistible allure.  It's in the way that she write, the way that she rhymes, every cool beat and rhythm.  Phenomenal woman, may she rest easy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

To The Poets - Howard Nemerov

Song sparrow's limited creativity,
Three eighth-notes and a trill all summer long,
The falling second of the chickadee--
It's a pretty humble business, singing song.

Extremely short, I find this poem to be a sort of tongue in cheek commentary about the state of poetry and poets in particular.  Given the title, "To The Poets" I imagine that Nemerov is comparing most poets to a song sparrow, who has "limited creativity."  The sparrow sings three eighth-notes and trills all summer long.  Sure, it may be pretty at first, but it wears thin, and loses novelty.  This is a jab at poets of small talent, who are one trick ponies, to mix animal metaphors here.

I think Nemerov wants to take poets down a notch, to remove some of their self-aggrandizement.  Poetry, like the singing of birds, should be a more humble business, is what I take away from this.  Fundamentally, poets are "singing song."  The brevity of this poem underscores its wit, I think.  Two and three note birds, poets who are short of ideas but sing all summer long anyways, it all seems to fit together nicely.  I got a nice smile out of the poem, and hope that you do as well.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Pike - Amy Lowell

In the brown water,
Thick and silver-sheened in the sunshine,
Liquid and cool in the shade of the reeds,
A pike dozed.
Lost among the shadows of stems
He lay unnoticed.
Suddenly he flicked his tail,
And a green-and-copper brightness
Ran under the water.

Out from the reeds
Came the olive-green light,
And orange flashed up
Through the sun-thickened water.
So the fish passed across the pool,
Green and copper,
A darkness and a gleam,
And the blurred reflections of the willows on the opposite bank
Received it.

This is not the first time I've posted a poem entitled "The Pike."  Theodore Roethke also wrote a rather famous poem by the same name, which I posted nearly three years ago.  Both poems describe very similar scenes: a pike dozing in the sun, and then, the sudden dramatic action of its strike.  The two poems capture this sudden explosion of action in different ways, with Roethke's being primarily focused on the fish itself, and its appearance, whereas Lowell focuses on the scene, particularly the colors and lights, around the fish.

Images of light, color, and movement abound.  The "brown water" is "thick and silver-sheened in the sunshine."  The pike however, we are only told is dozing in the sun.  However, with a flick of his tail, the pike catches the sun, and his "green-and-copper brightness" runs "under the water."  Light and color are the dominant means by which we perceive movement in this poem.  In the second stanza, the pike does not come out of the reeds, but instead, "out of the reeds came the olive-green light."  With the pike's strike, we're told nothing of the pike itself, but rather that "orange flashed up through the sun-thickened water."  When the pike moves across the pool, it's "green and copper, a darkness and a gleam" that moves.  Instead of the observer in Roethke's poem, who leans "almost into the water" the only thing here to receive the motions and colors, are the "blurred reflections of the willows on the opposite bank."

What we see here is the difference between a scene observed (Roethke's poem) and a scene imagined.  Lowell's scene is devoid of the agency of watching, which is why it is free to indulge so wonderfully in abstract images of light and color.  There is no imaginative self, no narratorial presence in Lowell's poem.  I find that to be its great strength.  It doesn't tell us what some observer saw, but presents a scene as if it is, not as it was to some other's eye.  The language is so crisp and clear that there is little for me to explicate.  Enjoy the details, and imagine the scene in your mind's eye.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hymn - Cædmon

nu scylun hergan     hefaenricaes uard
metuadæs maecti     end his modgidanc
uerc uuldurfadur     swe he uundra gihwaes
eci dryctin     or astelidæ
he aerist scop     aleda barnurn
heben til hrofe     haleg scepen,
tha middungeard  moncynnæs uard
eci dryctin     æfter tiadæ
firum foldu     frea allmectig

In Latin translation (Bede's translation):
Nunc laudare debemus auctorem regni caelestis,
potentiam creatoris, et consilium ilius
facta Patris gloriae: quomodo ille,
cum sit aeternus Deus, omnium miraculorum auctor exstitit;
qui primo filiis hominum
caelum pro culmine tecti
dehinc terram custos humani generis

Modern English translation:
Now [we] must honor the guardian of heaven,
the might of the architect, and his purpose,
the work of the father of glory
as he, the eternal lord, established the beginning of wonders;
he first created for the children of men
heaven as a roof, the holy creator
Then the guardian of mankind,
the eternal lord, afterwards appointed the middle earth,
the lands for men, the Lord almighty.

Cædmon is the earliest poet in the English language whose work survives, with this hymn likely composed between 638 and 650.  His Hymn is the only thing we have of his compositions.  He was not a writer, but like all poets in his time, a scop, a singer of poetry within the Old English tradition.  Bede, whose Historia eccelsiastica is our source of information about Cædmon, tells us that Cædmon was a layman in the employ of a monastery, in charge of the care of the animals.  As the story goes, during feasting, Cædmon left early because he didn't know any songs (songs were a common feature of feasting in that time).  In his sleep, he had a dream vision, in which he was approached by someone who asked him to sing.  He eventually sang, surprising himself with a poem in the praise of God.  The next day, he remembered everything, and consulted a local abbess, who appraised his gift as a gift from God, and commissioned poetry from him as a test.  After his successes, the abbess would have scholars teach him sacred history and doctrine, which Cædmon would turn into verse.  Bede tells us that he composed many texts on various Christian topics, though only the Hymn today survives.

The hymn was not recorded until the early 8th century, and it exists in a number of Old English dialects, as well as in Bede's Latin.  I've included both.  My knowledge of Old English is small, but there are a number of clear cognates with Modern English.  For example, the word "uard" is "ward", and paired with "hefearnicaes", means "Heaven's ward" or "Heaven's guardian."  The line "he aerist scop" means, "He is a poet."  In reference to God, it's clear that this means that he authored creation, he sings the world into being.  I wish I was more experienced in Old English, but it's an area in which I sadly lack expertise.  Still, I find it fascinating to read and learn about, and even more so to imagine the world in which this poetry flowed, like so much mead in the halls where it was sang.

Formally, as a hymn, it was likely composed shortly after the conversion of Northumbria to Christianity.  The form of the hymn here was traditionally used to glorify kings, but Cædmon used it to glorify God instead of a monarch.  It is not known if there were earlier Christian poets in the English language which may have influenced the Hymn, but it seems likely that this was an entirely new and original development.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Nineteen-Fourteen: The Soldier - Rupert Brooke

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Written in 1915, Rupert Brooke's famous series of war sonnets, "Nineteen-Fourteen" was an immediate sensation, feeding the sense of war eagerness felt in Britain at the outset of the Great War.  To a generation that felt it lacked direction and meaning, the war was a welcome chance to embody those qualities that traditionally defined the soldier: bravery, courage, honor, the chance to lay down one's life for one's country.  The sense of void, horror, and destruction that followed from the course of that awful war had not yet set in.  These poems are marked by a happy ambition, an eagerness to be a "corner of a foreign field that is forever England."  How hard to think that in 1917, just two years later, Wilfred Owen would write, "My friend, you would not tell with such high zest to children ardent for some desperate glory, the old Lie, dulce et decorum est pro patria mori."

Brooke's death in 1915 during the war (not from war wound, but disease, one of war's biggest killers) galvanized his reputation as a poet of war-time, heroic solider-poet, who now lies in a little corner of England on a Greek isle.  The poem itself, while somewhat slight, captures a heroic image that the world could once believe in more or less whole-heartedly.  The Great War, and later World War II, have done much to near completely erase the western world's eagerness to die in foreign wars.

If anything, the poem's optimism and firm belief in immortality for the war dead make me sad.  More than any other war in history, World War 1 changed the attitude towards war as a place where glory and honor were found.  The artistic reaction to the war was unlike anything before or since.  Dadaism, a cultural sense of shock and loss, the feeling that art and happiness could not exist in a world where we have become such merciless brutes and killers, these replaced the simple, idyllic scene Brooke painted.  Within a few short years from this poem's publication and success, the world was so horrified by chemical death that it is very hard to imagine "laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness, in hearts at peace, under an English heaven."

Today, I feel like this poem is an artifact of innocence, of a mindset I can never fully understand.  While I have much respect for the soldiers who do risk their lives on my behalf, I cannot truly understand the happy resignation to die for one's country, I cannot imagine saying, think "That there's some corner of a foreign field that is for ever" me.  That world is lost, choked in mustard gas and later pulverized by atomic radiation.  The poem itself is not particularly substantial, but it's light rhymes and bittersweetly sunny disposition, along with the story of its remarkable author, make it worth knowing and sharing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Neutral Tones - Thomas Hardy

We stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod;
     - They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.

Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles of years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro
     On which lost the more by our love.

The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
     Like an ominous bird-a-wing...

Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God curst sun, and a tree,
     And a pond edged with grayish leaves.

So often poetry seems pre-occupied with falling in love.  Not so in this Thomas Hardy poem, which agonizingly tells of a pair falling out of love.  They do not fall out of love and into hate, but into something far worse: neutrality, indifference.  The title, "Neutral Tones" is indicative of this.

The scene is painted vividly: a pond on a winter day, white sun, some leaves on the dead grass, "fallen from an ash" (tree), gray.  The narrator's love eyes him with a bored expression, as if he were a "tedious riddle of years ago."  To her, he is nothing more than some unsolvable mystery, grown boring over time.  They exchange words that only serve to diminish what little remains of their love ("and some words played between us to and fro on which lost the more by our love").

To me, the saddest description of the poem is that of the narrator's smile: "The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing alive enough to have strength to die."  Such weak affection that the only thing left it can do it die.  Bitterness replaces a weak smile in a flash, "like an ominous bird-a-wing."  Love is dying before our eyes, next to a winter pond strewn with gray, dead leaves.  It's an agonizing scene, made worse by the lack of strong emotion.  No outpouring of love, no desperate bargaining, no hateful passionate yelling, just a shriveling smile and gray, dead leaves.

The narrator, in the last stanza, has learned "that love deceives" and all he can think about is "Your face, and the God curst sun, and a tree, and a pond edged with grayish leaves."  At the start of the poem, the lovers were together, and some small love still existed.  It diminished with every passing word, a smile with no strength left faded, and we are then brought into the present, where Love is dead, replaced only in the mind of the narrator by a pond edged with grayish leaves.  It's an awful scene, vivid and painful, somehow hurting all the more for the lack of any hate, any sort of pathos.  A love killed by indifference, by "neutral tones" is almost too painful to bear.

[Time does not bring relief; you all have lied] - Edna St. Vincent Millay

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.

An anguished account of how time might not heal all wounds, Edna St. Vincent Millay lists every way in which her heart continues to break for the absence of her lover.  Every single place where he has been, anything they've experienced together, it all reminds her of her lost lover.  Even in new places, where there is no memory of him, she is struck by the way in which there is no memory of him, and so, she stands "stricken, so remembering him."  I have little to say, because I feel like the poem speaks for itself clearly.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Autumn - T. E. Hulme

A touch of cold in the Autumn night-
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.

Hulme's poetry, along with Ezra Pound's, are the real genesis of the Imagist movement in poetry.  This poem, along with the rest of Hulme's works, are characterized by clear and precise images, with little ink wasted on sweeping moralization.  I think the great strength of Imagist poetry is its power of suggestion in relation to its economy.  In seven lines, Hulme paints a singular image, one that exists for the briefest moment.  The senses are immediately engaged from the first line.

"A touch of cold in the Autumn night-" is the first thought of the poem, and it s not even a complete sentence.  We're given an image, a sensation, and it is followed then by action, movement, walking.  The moon, ruddy "like a red-faced farmer" is leaning over the hedge.  A nod to acknowledge it, no need to "speak."  Speaking here would mean, I think, attributing some sort of moral quality of larger significance to the moon in the scene.  Instead, Hulme nods, acknowledges its beauty, and continues on.

He gives the stars a bit more character, calling them "wistful."  Their faces are white and shining, like those of children.  Is this a good thing, a bad thing?  Does it make Hulme think of peace, of youthful vivacity, of sadness?  Who can say?  Rather, he presents us with the image, and lets us feel as we may about it.  What's certain is that the image is evocative and beautiful.  For a poem to bring to mind such clear and vivid images in such a few lines is a real triumph of the power of suggestion, and it makes a break from the oftentimes overblown sentimentality and rhapsodic human personification and reverence of Nature present in Romantic poetry.  I really appreciate the clarity of suggestion at work in Imagist poetry, and Hulme is one of its great architects, sadly lost to us in his youth, in the war in 1917.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Colonoscopy - John Updike

Talk about intimacy! I'd almost rather not.
The day before, a tussle with nausea
(DRINK ME: a liter of sickly-sweet liquid)
and diarrhea, so as to present oneself
pristine as a bride to the groom with his tools,
his probe and tiny TV camera
and honeyed words. He has a tan,
just back from a deserved vacation
from his accustomed nether regions.

Begowned, recumbent on one's side,
one views through uprolled eyes the screen whereon
one's big intestine snakes sedately by,
its segments marked by tidy annular
construction-seams as in a prefab tunnel
slapped up by the mayor's son-in-law.
A sudden wash of sparkling liquid shines
in the inserted light, and hairpin turns
loom far ahead and soon are vaulted past
impalpably; we float, we fall, we veer
in these soft, pliant passages spelunked
by everything one eats.
                                   Then all goes dark,
as God intended it whenever He
sealed shut in Adam's abdomen
life's slimy, twisting, smelly miracle.
The bridegroom's voice, below the edge of sight
like buried treasure, announces,
"Perfect. Not a polyp.  See you in
five years." Five years? The funhouse may have folded.

Many people often assume that poetry is about delicate subjects: love, nature, beauty, philosophy, refined topics approached in a professional manner.  Well now, let's do away with that assumption, yes?  John Updike gives us a highly "intimate" view up his ass, for lack of better word, with great humor and unfortunately juicy details.  Besides helping dispel the popular myth that poetry can only broach certain topics, the poem is slightly morbid and delightfully funny.  Though I am too young to relate to the experience of having a colonoscopy, I can appreciate the absurdities and silly indignities of medical procedures.

The opening exclamation, "Talk about intimacy!" sets the tone of the poem.  Updike is prepared to go into details that maybe you'd rather not hear (his diarrhea, the way the intestines glisten and snake, that "smelly miracle"), and even though he'd "almost rather not" he's going to anyways!  From the liquid purge to the doctor (freshly tanned from a vacation away from people's buttholes), no detail is spared.

Updike goes on to describe a bottom clenching scene: in a gown, on one's side, with little dignity, watching the TV to watch "one's big intestine snake sedately by."  I particularly like the line, "we float, we fall, we veer in these soft, pliant passages spelunked by everything one eats."  Updike is become observer to his own insides, that hallway trod by all the food he's ever eaten.  It's a bizarre thought, and quite gross, but charming and funny nonetheless.

The ending, where Updike thinks that the abdomen maybe should have always stayed private, "as God intended it whenever He sealed shut in Adam's abdomen life's slimy, twisting, smelly miracle," contains a note of rueful humor, a brief reflection on mortality.  With his bridegroom doctor mentioning how pristine his colon's interior is, he says "See you in five years."  Updike wonders if he'll have that long.  "The funhouse may have folded" he says, meaning, "If I live that long!"  Somewhat fittingly, this poem was published in 2006.  Updike himself passed away in 2009, presumably still with a spotless colon.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Pied Booty - Dabney Stuart

Glory be to God for sexy things-
For cries of coupled lovers as they bind and bow;
For moles that on her hip'll make his dolphin swim,
Fresh and fired up; nutty balls; G-strings;
Lovescapes pulsing and flesh-shoaled - furrow and plow;
And all shapes, their leer and freckle and whim.

All people dumpy, bald, regressive, strange;
Whoever is fickle, faithful (who knows how?)
With slick, abrasive; sweet, sour, disheveled, trim;
Who father-forth and mother-forth all change-
Praise Him.

A sexy and funny parody of the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem "Pied Beauty" (which I recently posted), Dabney Stuart's "Pied Booty" successfully maintains much of the structure and vocal pleasure of the source material while adding humor and eroticism.  Most surprising to me, the poem manages to skirt between irreverence and the religious piety of the original.

While the poem's overall tone is comedic and largely in jest, I think there's a real reverence here for mothers and fathers, and the sexy side of Creation.  The last two lines,  "Who father-forth and mother-forth all change- Praise Him" is a real statement of praise and respect for the challenging work of mothering and fathering, and that nobility in bringing change (in the form of children) into the world.  The capital H "Him" in the last line does bring to mind a Creator God, the one of "Pied Beauty" who deserves praise for the beauty of his Creation.  In this context, however, it's not for dappled things that we rejoice, but for sexy things.  Who doesn't like sexy things, right?

The images in this poem manage to capture Gerard Manley Hopkins distinctive couple-hyphen descriptions while conveying humorously sexy images.  A few entertaining examples include: "coupled lovers" "for mles on her hip that'll make his dolphin swim" (a delightfully absurd euphemism), "nutty balls" "dumpy, bald, regressive, strange."  I also particularly enjoy the amazement at fidelity Stuart includes, with the line, "Whoever is fickle, faithful (who knows how?)"  Who knows, indeed?  Stuart manages to be irreverent without being disrespectful, sexual without being crass, and funny without trampling the spirit of the source material.  This is the essence of parodic poetry in my mind, and I'm delighted to have read this poem.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Jabberwocky - Lewis Carroll

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome for he sought-
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tugley wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day!  Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

We all need a little nonsense in our lives!  As Alice remarks upon reading this inThrough the Looking Glass:  'It seems very pretty,' she said when she had finished it, 'but it's rather hard to understand!' (You see she didn't like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn't make it out at all.) 'Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don't exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that's clear, at any rate.'

The very correct point made there is that while the language is deliberate nonsense (and very fun to say!), there's still a story being told, and the giddy, childish energy of the poem fills the mind with wild and exciting images.  No two people will see the same scene when they read this poem, and that's a good thing.  I think trying to understand it too much would ruin the effect, and dull what is otherwise a delightful read.

While there are meanings that can be assigned (some provided by Carroll himself) they are of little consequence.  It does not matter that the Jubjub bird is described as a "desperate bird that lives in perpetual passion" in The Hunting of the Snark.  That's largely irrelevant.  What matters is that you must beware the Jubjub bird!  I hope this bit of nonsense brightens your day.  Don't let's be silly.  Taking ourselves too seriously is one of the worst things we can do.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

To a Young Lady, Netting - Thomas Love Peacock

While those bewitching hands combine,
With matchless grace, the silken line,
They also weave, with gentle art,
Those stronger nets that bind the heart.

But soon all earthly things decay:
That net in time must wear away:
E'en Beauty's silken meshes gay
No lasting hold can take:

But Beauty, Virtue, Sense, combin'd,
(And all these charms in thee are join'd)
Can throw that net upon the mind,
No human art can e'er unbind,
No human pow'r can break.

Observing a woman weaving nets by hand, Peacock first marvels at the artfulness of the work, relates it to how love can act as a net on the heart, and how none but a perfect love, in which all virtues are combined, can be everlasting.  The central message is that just Beauty alone (or by extension, just Virtue, or just Sense) can create anything resembling permanence.

The woman to whom the poem is addressed is spoken of only obliquely.  We have no account of what she looks like, no sense of her station, or thoughts.  The only things we are told is that her hands are "bewitching" in how they work the net, and that in her, Beauty, Virtue, and Sense are all combined.  Rather than this being an actual love poem, it seems fairly clear that it is a meditation on those qualities that are required for a perfect, or lasting love, and the "Young Lady" of the title is simply a vessel to embody these qualities.

A perfect "net" is one that cannot be unbound or broken by any human power.  This is the net in which perfect love snares the heart, as Peacock makes clear with the line "those stronger nets that bind the heart."  What I wonder is if this is meant to idealize a fleshly love, one between two people, why not assign more physical descriptors apart from bewitching hands to this young lady netting?  And if it is meant to be a stand in for a more perfect, Divine love, why not include more devotional imagery?  I suppose I am left feeling somewhat unsatisfied with the poem's conclusion.  It seems too easy, somehow too simple.  I do enjoy the language of the poem even if it is direct and un-imaginative.  It's pleasant enough to read, but I feel as a whole, it lacks art, and its message is worn and faded.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Ecchoing Green - William Blake

The sun does arise,
And make happy the skies.
The merry bells ring
To welcome the Spring.
The sky-lark and thrush,
The birds of the bus,
Sing louder around,
To the bells' cheerful sound.
While our sports shall be seen
On the Ecchoing Green.

Old John, with white hair
Does laugh away care,
Sitting under the oak,
Among the old folk.
They laugh at our play,
And soon they all say.
'Such, such were the joys.
When we all girls & boys,
In our youth-time were seen,
On the Ecchoing Green.'

Till the little ones weary
No more can be merry
The sun does descend,
And our sports have an end:
Round the laps of their mothers,
Many sisters and brothers,
Like birds in their nest,
Are ready for rest;
And sport no more seen,
On the darkening Green.

A vivid and beautiful imagining of three generations at play on an Ecchoing Green on the cusp of spring and summer, Blake's poem captures what is so enticing about the season.  The sounds of birds, the laughter and hoots of children at play, the quieter, knowing laughter of the elders, enjoying the sight of youths in full bloom (as they once were themselves)!

There's not much meat to the poem if I'm honest, but you don't always want hearty meat.  To continue the food metaphor, this poem is like iced tea on a summer's day; it is refreshing and satisfying without making one's stomach (mind?) all full and bloated.  It's a lovely depiction of a scene easily imagined, and it's ability to put a fond, wistful smile on my face as I look out the window at the breezes stirring the flowers and trees, is its real strength.  Sometimes it's enough for a thing to be only beautiful.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Lanyard - Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly-
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-clothes on my forehead,
and then led me out into the air light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift - not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-toned lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

In a touching and funny way, Collins identifies one thing I'm sure all children thought at some point, that we can "repay" our mothers in some sense for all that they do for us.  Of course, that's impossible, but that is, as Collins correctly notes, a "worn truth."  It seems blindingly obvious that we can never repay our mothers.  The comic relief in which Collins throws this is wonderful.  All the selfless, loving acts of motherhood answered with, "yes, I know, here's a lanyard."  It's often said that parenting is a thankless job, and the naivete of children when it comes to gratitude probably does not help.

While I am not a parent, I still think that most mothers (or fathers) would accept that lanyard with thankfulness and joy.  I hope you think about selfless love, reader, and enjoy the humor of the poem.  We can never repay our mothers, but that's not important.  Love is boundless, and knows no time frame.  It makes the world go round, and even when our loved ones are gone, is still as present as that lanyard buried somewhere in a drawer in the house.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Grandeur of Ghosts - Siegfried Sassoon

When I have heard small talk about great men
I climb to bed; light my two candles; then
Consider what was said; and put aside
What Such-a-one remarked and Someone-else replied.

They have spoken lightly of my deathless friends,
(Lamps for my gloom, hands guiding where I stumble,)
Quoting, for shallow conversational ends,
What Shelley shrilled, what Blake once wildly muttered ....

How can they use such names and be not humble?
I have sat silent; angry at what they uttered.
The dead bequeathed them life; the dead have said
What these can only memorize and mumble.

Sassoon broods in anger in this poem about the gossip treatment he hears his literary idols receiving on a regular basis.  He cannot comprehend how some people can be so callous and disrespectful when speaking of "great men."  To Sassoon, a poet, these men, Blake, Shelley, have "bequeathed life" to future generations with their words.

To Sassoon, these poets are his rock.  They are "lamps for my gloom, hands guiding where I stumble."  His spiritual artistic guides, he is furious to see them reduced to gossip topics, being quoted "for shallow conversational ends."  Sassoon actually places himself alongside them in decrying the small-minded men who can "only memorize and mumble."  Sassoon himself is writing poetry rather than quoting it, following in the footsteps of his idols, rather than speaking lightly of their reputations.  Is this arrogant?  I'd say no, considering the great lengths Sassoon goes to in establishing literary giants as life-giving poetic figures.  While he considers himself above the gossips of the worlds, he feels that he can only draw on the greats for support, rather than fully being one himself.

It is an understandable impulse, Sassoon's anger at hearing his idols sullied by gossip about what they may have said outside of their work, but I think it's important to embrace all aspects of the artist, to acknowledge the wholeness of their being.  For example, I greatly admire James Joyce.  Apart from writing Ulysses, he also wrote shockingly filthy letters to his wife, but unless someone uses those to try to discredit his massive artistic achievement, I do not get offended.  I think I would feel the same as Sassoon if someone tried to discredit Wagner's music because of his abhorrent views on Judaism, or someone derided Percy Grainger's music because of his bedroom habits.  We all hate when small-minded people disparage our idols for the wrong reasons.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pied Beauty - Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things -
For skies of couple-color as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced - fold, fallow, and plough;
All all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Jesuit, is best known for his devotional poems.  Oftentimes considered one of the greatest Victorian poets, his poems are full of creative word combinations that seem to capture the imaginative essence of things.  Here, he uses those interesting hyphenated descriptions to celebrate the variety of Creation and its great beauty.

The sounds of these images are crisp and ring nicely in the mouth.  "fresh-firecoal," "finches' wings," these sounds have a pleasant crunch to them.  They create beautiful sounds that very aptly and succinctly describe the interesting oppositions of colors and patterns in nature.  The whole poem is in praise of "dappled things," things which are marked with spots or patches.  The title, "Pied Beauty" means things having two or more colors.  It's a celebration of the harmony and variety of nature, and the fundamental mystery of creation.

During the second stanza, the narrator wonders at how "He," the Creator God, "fathers-forth" all manners of things, "whose beauty is past change."  It is impossible for the narrator to say just how this beauty came to be, or why indeed it is beautiful, as evidenced by the line, "(who knows how?)" spoken as a parenthetical aside to the reader.  The images in the poem piece themselves into the mind effortlessly, and personally, make me think of a mackerel sky, dimpled clouds dotting a New England landscape with streaks of cloudy spots.  I hope you find some comforting familiar beautiful brinded image yourself.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Chaucer - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

An old man in a lodge within a park;
The chamber walls depicted all around
With portraitures of huntsman, hawk, and hound,
And the hurt deer.  He listeneth to the lark,
Whose song comes with the sunshine through the dark
Of painted glass in leaden lattice bound;
He listeneth and he laugheth at the sound,
Then writeth in a book like any clerk.
He is the poet of the dawn, who wrote
The Canterbury Tales, and his old age
Made beautiful with song; and as I read
I hear the crowing cock, I hear the note
Of lark and linnet, and from every page
Rise odors of ploughed field or flowery mead.

I wanted to dislike this poem for its silly affectations of faux-Middle English, with its "laugheth" and "writeth" but I can't bring myself to do it.  Longfellow is so earnest in his affection for Chaucer that his imagined scene of a man in his chamber, gaily decorated with hunting scenes, that I cannot help but be somewhat charmed myself.  This is in no doubt partly because of my shared affection for Chaucer, though I think even without that personal connection, the picture Longfellow paints is enticing, like the scent of a wildflower.

What I really like most about this poem is the way Longfellow captures the effect that great poetry can have on the reader.  Longfellow does not just imagine the sounds of the lark and linnet, or the smell of flowery mead, he hears it, he smells it.  That's what great poetry does for us, it transports us to places in our minds so real and relevant to our daily lives that we become fully enraptured.

Somewhat strangely, this poem does somewhat transport me to that place, but not by its own power.  It's through Chaucer that it does so.  I'm reminded of the delightful atmosphere of The Canterbury Tales reading this poem, and my imagination begins to run away from me.  Longfellow's poem itself is largely unremarkable, and like I said earlier, I really wanted to give it a bit of a spitroast for its painful posturing.  Still, I can't help but smile at the thoughts and images it brings to mind.  Besides, the rhymes are pleasing to the tongue and ear, and lines glisten with well worked words, nice assonance and alliteration abounding (see what I did there?).  It's hard to dislike a poem so earnest in its admiration of a great poet and the magical effect that good poetry can have.

[Young in Fall I said: the birds] & [We are what the seas] - Lorine Niedecker

Young in Fall I said: the birds
are at their highest thoughts
of leaving

Middle life said nothing -
to a livelihood

Old age - a high gabbling gathering
before goodbye
of all we know

We are what the seas
have made us

longingly immense

the very veery
on the fence

Both of these poems are carefully constructed, with clear, dense images.  The first poem is concerned with mortality and is divided into three stages, youth, middle, and old age.  These periods are paired with heights, with youth's highs coming down and becoming grounded before a high goodbye, a religious image of ascension before saying a "goodbye of all we know."  It's a clear poem with images that work on several levels.

The second poem deals more with our sense of what we are, and how we became that way.  The idea that we are sculpted by the seas is somewhat confusing to me, but the third line clears it up for me rather well.  We are all indeed immense, and longing is a basic part of the human condition.  We have infinite capacity to go one way or the other (evoked here by the line "very veery on the fence") and our possibilities stretch to infinity, much as the seas appear to from the shore.

Both of these poems, being so short, do not lend themselves to heavy, long-winded scrutiny.  So you, reader, I hope you enjoy these poems, and let the images mull around in your head.  They're dense and satisfying.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Sonnet 16 - Richard Barnfield

Long have I long'd to see my love againe,
Still have I wisht, but never could obtaine it;
Rather than all the world (if I might gaine it)
Would I desire my love's sweet precious gaine.
Yet in my soule I see him everie day,
See him, and see his still sterne countenaunce,
But (ah) what is of long continuance,
Where majestie and beautie beares the sway?
Sometimes, when I imagine that I see him,
(As love is full of foolish fantasies)
Weening to kisse his lips, as my love's fees,
I feele but aire: nothing but aire to bee him.
Thus with Ixion, kisse I clouds in vaine:
Thus with Ixion, feele I endles paine.

A tortured account of separated lovers, Barnfield's Sonnet 16 is most notable for the clarity of its images and its homoeroticism, which was controversial in his day (1574-1627).  The premise of the poem is that two lovers are separated, not by chance, but by the action of the narrator.  We can safely infer that he has lost his love's favor, because more than gaining all the world, the narrator "desire[s] my love's sweet precious gaine."  He has lost the favor and love of his beloved, and is in hell because of it.  He imagines his "sterne countenaunce" (stern countenance) and longs for him.  He has "foolish fantasies" in which he sees his love, and makes as if to kiss his lips, and when he awakes from these flights of fancy, he feels "but aire."

Further contributing to the idea that the narrator is fundamentally responsible for this schism of love is the comparison of himself with Ixion.  Ixion, in Greek mythology, was king of the Lapiths, and a son of Ares.  He is infamous for murdering his father-in-law, and the act defiled his soul, driving him mad.  He is the first to kill his kin in Greek myth, a sort of Cain figure.  Zeus however, pitied him, and invited him to Olympus.  There, Ixion lusted after Hera.  Zeus created a cloud in the shape of Hera, with which Ixion coupled ("Thus with Ixion, kisse I clouds in vaine").  Afterwards, Ixion was expelled, struck with a thunderbolt, and strapped by Hermes to a burning wheel for all eternity ("Thus with Ixion, feele I endles paine").

Barnfield attributes his lover's desertion of him to his own failings and faults, perhaps infidelity or violence, given the comparison to Ixion.  The homoeroticism of the poem is obvious, and seems to cross squarely into a territory of erotic love and lust.  Homoeroticism, or more accurately, homosocial love was common between men in the Renaissance period, but this seems to imply an actual physical relationship, rather than just extolling another man's beauty and virtue, and was common in the homosocial love writings of the day.  Today, it is not scandalous, but a touching account of a lover's pain and self-loathing.

Speech: "This day is called the feast of Crispian" - William Shakespeare

(from Henry V, spoken by King Henry)

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Unquestionably one of the most impassioned and inspiring military speeches of all time, the famous Saint Crispin's Day speech from Henry V is simple, concise, and incredibly stirring.  Faced with impossible odds before the Battle of Agincourt, Henry the king addresses his men.  They are tired, outnumbered five to one, and facing strong, fresh French soldiers.  And yet, for all this, Henry (at least in Shakespeare's account) lowers himself to the level of the common solider, addressing them as brothers, and exalting them over any other Englishmen not at that fight.  I particularly love the image of all men who did not participate in that battle holding their "manhoods cheap" while in the presence of any who fought in that impossible fight.  The language of the poem is simple and clear, appropriate for an address to soldiers.  It promises immortality and glory, and does not hope for victory, but assures the forces that they have already won.  When saying that they will be remembered "from this day to the ending of the world" he is right.

The line, "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers" has become one of the most famous in the English canon, and for good reason.  It is beautiful to speak, listen to, and to feel.  That a king may through battle become as a brother to another is humbling and reminds us of our fundamental equality before Death, God, and Nature.

I did not read this for you myself today because I can only hope to embarrass myself in the face of better readings from real actors.  So I present to Kenneth Branagh, and his supremely rousing rendition of this famous speech.  Enjoy.