Thursday, August 31, 2023

"Tichborne's Lament" by Chidiock Tichborne

Tichborne’s Lament

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain.
The day is gone, and yet I saw no sun;
And now I live, and now my life is done.

The spring is past, and yet it hath not sprung.
The fruit is dead, and yet the leaves are green.
My youth is gone, and yet I am but young.
I saw the world, and yet I was not seen.
My thread is cut, and yet it was not spun;
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death, and found it in my womb.
I looked for life, and saw it was a shade.
I trod the earth, and knew it was my tomb;
And now I die, and now I am but made.
The glass is full, and now the glass is run;
And now I live, and now my life is done.

Source of the text - Sixteenth Century Poetry: An Annotated Anthology, edited by Gordon Braden.  Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005, page 407.

TJB: Come at the Queen, you best not miss. The poet, at the gallows, spits this little wonder, made of declarative paradoxes, caesurae, & easy rhymes.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

"The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants" by Emily Dickinson

(1) [Poem as written by the poet on the inside of an envelope]

(2) [Poem as it appears in the Franklin reading edition]

The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants -
At Evening, it is not
At Morning, in a Truffled Hut
It stop opon a Spot

As if it tarried always
And yet it's whole Career
Is shorter than a Snake's Delay -
And fleeter than a Tare -

'Tis Vegetation's Juggler -
The Germ of Alibi -
Doth like a Bubble antedate
And like a Bubble, hie -

I feel as if the Grass was pleased
To have it intermit -
This surreptitious Scion
Of Summer's circumspect.

Had Nature any supple Face
Or could she one contemn -
Had Nature an Apostate -
That Mushroom - it is Him!

Sources of the text - (1) The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems, edited by Marta L. Werner and Jen Bervin.  New York: New Directions, 2013.  (2) The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition, edited by Ralph W. Franklin. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998, p. 631.

TJB: Shroom ode. The poet, this time a lighthearted mycologist-bard, gives us her 13 ways of looking at a fungus, using psychotropic syntax.

"The Doubt of Future Foes" by Queen Elizabeth I

The Doubt of Future Foes, Circa 1571

[Headed] Verses made by the queen's majesty

The doubt of future foes 
Exiles my present joy
And wit me warns to shun such snares 
As threatens mine annoy.

For falsehood now doth flow
And subjects’ faith doth ebb,
Which should not be if reason ruled 
Or wisdom weaved the web.

But clouds of joys untried 
Do cloak aspiring minds
Which turns to rage of late repent 
By changèd course of winds.

The top of hope supposed 
The root of rue shall be
And fruitless all their grafted guile, 
As shortly ye shall see.

Their dazzled eyes with pride, 
Which great ambition blinds,
Shall be unsealed by worthy wights 
Whose foresight falsehood finds.

The daughter of debate 
That discord aye doth sow
Shall reap no gain where former rule 
Still peace hath taught to know.

No foreign banished wight 
Shall anchor in this port:
Our realm brooks no seditious sects
Let them elsewhere resort.

My rusty sword through rest 
Shall first his edge employ
To pull their tops who seek such change 
Or gape for future joy.
                    Vivat Regina

Source of the text - Elizabeth I: Collected Works, Edited by Leah S. Marcus, Janel Mueller, and Mary Beth Rose.  Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000, pages 133-134.

TJB: Royal rap. In lilting ballad verse, the queen says ‘protect ya neck’ to Mary Stuart & threatens to get medieval on her ass if Mary pops off.

Monday, August 28, 2023

"Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
        For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim:
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
    Landscape plotted and piecedfold, fallow, and 
        And áll trádes, 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.

Source of the text - Gerard Manley Hopkins, Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, now first published, Edited with notes by Robert Bridges, Poet Laureate.  London: Humphrey Milford, 1918, page 30.

TJB: Beauty mark. In this, the ultimate naming-poem, trochees, spondees, & alliteration are among the dappled things for which we are to praise “him.”

"The Twa Corbies," anonymous ballad


1  As I was walking all alane,
    I heard twa corbies making a mane;
    The tane unto the t’other say,
    ‘Where sall we gang and dine to-day?’

2  ‘In behint yon auld fail dyke,
    I wot there lies a new-slain knight;
    And naebody kens that he lies there,
    But his hawk, his hound, and his lady fair.

3  ‘His hound is to the hunting gane,
    His hawk, to fetch the wild-fowl hame,
    His lady’s ta’en another mate,
    So we may mak our dinner sweet.

4  ‘Ye’ll sit on his white hause-bane,
    And I’ll pike out his bonny blue een;
    Wi ae lock o his gowden hair
    We’ll theek our nest when it grows bare.

5  ‘Mony a one for him makes mane,
    But nane sall ken where he is gane;
    Oer his white banes, when they are bare,
    The wind sall blaw for evermair.’

Source of the text - The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, edited by Francis James Child, Volume I, Part I. Boston: Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1882, page 253.

TJB: A man & a woman & a blackbird are one. This call-response ballad is lovely, dark & deep but how does the t’other corbie know all this, anyway?

Friday, August 25, 2023

"Saint Francis and the Sow" by Galway Kinnell


The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing 
        beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Source of the text - Galway Kinnell, Mortal Acts, Mortal Words.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1980, page 9.

TJB: No pig in a poke. In one long Aristotelian sentence grown from within, we hear an epic simile of St Francis reteaching the sow about her beauty.

"New Rule" by Anne Carson


A New Year’s white morning of hard new ice.
High on the frozen branches I saw a squirrel jump and skid.
Is this scary? he seemed to say and glanced

down at me, clutching his branch as it bobbed
in stiff recoil—or is it just that everything sounds wrong today?
The branches

He wiped his small cold lips with one hand.
Do you fear the same things as

I fear? I countered, looking up.
His empire of branches slid against the air.
The night of hooks?

The man blade left open on the stair?
Not enough spin on it, said my true love
when he left in our fifth year.

The squirrel bounced down a branch
and caught a peg of tears.
The way to hold on is


Source of the text - Anne Carson, Men in the Off Hours.  New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 2000, page 12.

TJB: In this post-ice-storm colloquy of poet & squirrel, sprung with active verbs—skid, bob, clink—the poet sees, too late, how to hold on in flux.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

"For Malcolm, A Year After" by Etheridge Knight


Compose for Red a proper verse;
Adhere to foot and strict iamb;
Control the burst of angry words
Or they might boil and break the dam.
Or they might boil and overflow
And drench me, drown me, drive me mad.
So swear no oath, so shed no tear,
And sing no song blue Baptist sad.
Evoke no image, stir no flame,
And spin no yarn across the air.
Make empty anglo tea lace words—
Make them dead white and dry bone bare.

Compose a verse for Malcolm man,
And make it rime and make it prim.
The verse will die — as all men do —
but not the memory of him!
Death might come singing sweet like C,
Or knocking like the old folk say,
The moon and stars may pass away,
But not the anger of that day.

Source of the text - Etheridge Knight, Born of a Woman: New and Selected Poems.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1980, page 67.

TJB: Formal verse as anger management.  In simple, elegant octosyllabic couplets, the poet admonishes himself to make the elegy proper, empty, prim.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

From "Bisclavret" by Marie de France, lines 1-14

From "Bisclavret" by Marie de France, lines 1-14

[Original text in Anglo-Norman]

Quant des lais faire m'entremet,
Ne voil ublier Bisclavret;
Bisclavret ad nun en bretan;
Garwaf l'apelent li Norman.

Jadis le poeit hum oïr
E sovent suleit avenir,
Hume plusur garval devindrent
E es boscages meisun tindrent.
Garwalf, ceo cest beste salvage;
Tant cum il est in cele rage,
Hummes devure, grant mal feit,
Es granz forez converse e vait.
Cest afere les ore ester;
Del islavret vus voil cunter.

[English translation by Dorothy Gilbert]

In crafting lays, I won't forget
—I mustn’t—that of Bisclavret;
Bisclavret: so named in Breton;
But Garwaf in the Norman tongue.

One used to hear, in times gone by
—it often happened, actually—
men became werewolves, many men,
and in the forest made their den.
A werewolf is a savage beast;
in his blood-rage, he makes a feast
of men, devours them, does great harms,
and in vast forests lives and roams.
Well, for now, let us leave all that;
I want to speak of Bisclavret.

Source of the text - Marie de France, Poetry (A Norton critical edition), translated and edited by Dorothy Gilbert.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2015, pages 48-49.

TJB: Chatty, personable, singsong-y, the poet raises the subject of toxic masculinity—sorry, werewolves—and calls attention to changing subjects.

"Station" by Ishion Hutchinson


The train station is a cemetery.
Drunk with spirits, a man enters. I fan gnats
from my eyes to see into his face. “Father!”
I shout and stumble. He does not budge.
After thirteen years, neither snow nor train,
only a few letters, and twice, from a cell,
his hoarfrost accent crossed the Atlantic.
His mask slips a moment as in childhood,
pure departure, a gesture of smoke.

Along freighted crowds the city punished,
picking faces in the thick nest of morning’s
hard light that struck raw and stupid,
searching, and in the dribble of night commuters,
I have never found him, wandering the almond
trees’ shadows, since a virus disheartened
the palms’ blossoms and mother gave me the sheaves
in her purse so he would remember her
and then shaved her head to a nut.

I talk fast of her in one of my Cerberus
voices, but he laughs, shaking the scales
of froth on his coat. The station’s cold
cracks a hysterical congregation;
his eyes flash little obelisks that chase the spirits
out, and, without them, wavering, I see
nothing like me. Stranger, father, cackling
rat, who am I transfixed at the bottom
of the station? Pure echo in the train’s
beam arriving on its cold nerve of iron.

Source of the text – Ishion Hutchinson, House of Lords and Commons: Poems.  New York, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017, p. 3-4.

TJB: In the station ie Hades, the poet sees the apparition of a father’s face in the crowd—that moment when you are nothing, & everything, like him.

Untitled Lyric Fragment by Sappho

Untitled Lyric Fragment by Sappho

[Text of the poem fragment in the original Greek]

[Translation by Anne Carson]


stars around the beautiful moon
hide back their luminous form
whenever all full she shines
             on the earth


Source of the text in Greek and in translation – Anne Carson, If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002, pages 68-69.

TJB: Without a love of her own, the poet imagines her beloved as the full (pregnant?) moon, as a sort of bride, with stars as mere bridesmaids.




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