Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Poetry Session ‒ July 12, 2013

Mathew, Sunil, KumKum, Gopa

Two readers were forced to cancel at the last minute, and yet we had eight, eager to recite. Poetry, it seems, has a firm hold on the imagination among us, considering how much relish the readers put into their selection and reading.


Poets in translation are not well- served usually, and when so outstanding a poet as Kazi Nazrul Islam is displayed in mean English the pity is even more. Yet his modernity of temper and exultant singing voice gets through.

KumKum, Gopa., Kavita

This was the first time that Yeats was chosen for reading in our group, and his wonderful meditation on old age and love left us all with something to look forward to. On the other hand, Emily Dickinson was being recited yet once more, with lovely poems representative of her strange and striking work.

Sunil, KumKum, Gopa, Kavita, Thommo

Here we are, mightily refreshed after drinking deep from the Pierian spring:

Thommo, Kavita, Priya, Gopa, KumKum, Mathew, Sunil, Joe

To read more click below …

Full Account and Record of the Poetry Session, July 12, 2013

Present: Priya, Kavita, KumKum, Thommo, Joe, Sunil, Mathew, Gopa
Absent: Bobby (?), Zakia (children’s award ceremony), Sivaram (called away by emergency meeting), Talitha (son’ wedding prep), Esther Elias (called away by emergency meeting)

Aug 9 is the date set for reading What Ho!, the collection of stories by P.G. Wodehouse (selection by Mathew & Sunil). Sept 13 is the next Poetry baithak. Thommo told us about the ceremonial release of his Tata Nano book in Bengaluru:

Thomas Chacko at the launch of 'Atop the World in a Nano'

Robert Frost

Surprisingly Robert Frost has not figured till today in any of our poetry sessions. Kavita is the first with The Road Not Taken. Frost’s life spanned the 19th and 20th  centuries, as he was born in 1874 and died in 1963, soon after President Kennedy’s inauguration which he attended and there recited a poem. He was early encouraged by Ezra Pound and Edward Thomas and it was Thomas who provided the inspiration for the poem Kavita recited. It seems in long walks when they came to a parting of ways, Thomas, the Welsh poet who died in WWI, used to express hesitation which way to go in their walks in the countryside in England. This was when Frost spent a period of time in England, thinking to find a more congenial reception there for his pastoral poems. The last 3 lines of the poem are often cited as advice at college graduation ceremonies:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

Joe said this was the aphorism of the New York Yankees catcher, and later, manager, Yogi Berra: ‘When you come to a fork in the road take it.’ A clipped pronunciation of ‘fork’ enables an obscene rendering of the meaning. Berra was a clever maker of quips and ultimately confessed, ‘I really didn’t say everything I said.’

You can read a biographical note of Frost at:

Sunil gave an example of a road in the hills where they asked an old-timer which way to go, and he always pointed them to the more pot-holed (more trafficked) way. Priya mentioned Nehru as being a Frost-enthusiast who had this poem framed in his home: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening whose last stanza reads:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.  
But I have promises to keep,  
And miles to go before I sleep,  
And miles to go before I sleep.

Frost wrote poetry that had metre and rhyme and disdained free verse, in these words: ‘Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.’

John Clare

Gopa chose two poets, John Clare of the early 19th century, and Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) who belongs to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. John Clare is distinguished as a poet of his time, but his beginnings were humble as the son of a day-labourer. He got an education in a church school and later when his father was under threat of eviction wrote a volume of poems and had it published to earn some money for the family. The publisher was the one that brought out Keats. Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery was published in 1820. It was received well, and Village Minstrel and other Poems was published the following year. His health was never very good, probably from malnutrition when he was a child. Later in life he suffered from depression, took to alcohol and had many bouts with ill-health. He undertook to re-write some of Byron’s poems (Child Harold and Don Juan). He had to be consigned to an asylum when he went off his head, claiming, ‘I'm John Clare now, I was Byron and Shakespeare formerly.’ Read more about this remarkable poet at

In the second poem read called Sonnet several readers contributed their stories of hens and roosters taking off from a reference to a moorhen in the poem. 

A dusky moorhen

Priya finds she is constantly disturbed by a hen, sorry rooster, in her home. KumKum mentioned her daughter having a rooster pet that lived over 10 years, but needed an alarm to crow in the mornings. Gopa’s daughter had a roommate who kept chicks, each with a unique name, and they’d follow her.

The poem itself has a child-like quality of nature admiration. It’s good enough that it might be worth going off your head to write such poetry. And John Clare may have been well-rid of his wife in the asylum. The doctor at the asylum cared for him and brought out the best.

Thomas Hardy

Hardy’s poem The Man He Killed could be called an anti-war poem. Hardy saw the horrors of WWI in his lifetime, and like many poets felt war was a total abdication of humanity. The very same foe you met in the field could have been your drinking buddy in peacetime:
Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You'd treat, if met where any bar is,

Mathew said that they had this poem to study in school. Nipper kin means ‘A small vessel used as a measure for alcoholic liquor, containing a half-pint or less.’ And ‘list stands for ‘enlist.’

W.B. Yeats

KumKum said she really wanted Joe to recite from W. B. Yeats because she remembers him reciting before they were married, and was so taken that she wanted to marry him! Joe remarked incredulous: was she really bought that cheap? KumKum holds it against Joe for not reciting Yeats at KRG, because he does it so well. Thommo said Joe anyway recites well, never mind Yeats. They are the only couple Thommo knows who have read poetry to each other during courtship!

Yeats is considered one of the greats of poetry in English at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in the year 1923. His poems have a charming lyrical quality with hidden depths. He wrote about love, nature, and above all, his country, Ireland. Yeats was a Nationalist. Like many other Irish intellectuals of his time, he got involved with the Irish Independence Movement. Much of his writing conveys a strong Irish fervor. Besides poems, he wrote plays, lyrics, short stories, and even novels.

Yeats experimented with many ideas during his lifetime: Nationalism, The Occult, Theosophy, Theatre, Mysticism, and “exploration into complex and esoteric subjects,” such as, a person's internal and external selves. These interests are reflected in his poems.

Here is one of KumKum’s favorite poems by WB Yeats, When You Are Old. They say the inspiration for this came from his relationship with Maud Gonne, who rejected his marriage proposals, and said: “You make beautiful poetry out of what you call your unhappiness and you are happy in that. Marriage would be such a dull affair. Poets should never marry." They remained in close touch throughout their lives. Yeats was so obsessed he wanted to marry her, and when she refused many times and married another man, he went so far as to propose to her daughter when she reached her majority.

This hugely popular poem of Yeats may really have been written for his wife Georgina, called George, who gave him three children.

Yeats is well-known in India as the person who championed Tagore after reading his Gitanjali and proposed his name for the Nobel prize. The discussion turned to Yeats’ interest in the Occult, planchette, ouija boards and such things, which Tagore also tried with no success. Hindus believe in rebirth, not the ascent of a spirit to a happy place after death. So ghosts don’t occur as a Hindu fascination. Priya mentioned some book called Memories of Ernakulam that has a section on the popularity of planchette in the 1960s. It was by a Mr Rao whose son was lost at sea and he came to learn by such occult mechanisms that his son was not drowned. Sure enough the son showed up.

Sunil has news of a ‘Chathan Seva’ or Satan worship in some parts of Kerala, not far from Kochi. He also mentioned a baithak (session) where K.L. Saigal’s spirit was recalled to the audience.

Yeats' grave in the church yard at Drumcliffe under the shadows of Ben Bulben. He had grown up in County Sligo, but actually died at the Hôtel Idéal Séjour in Menton, France, on 28 January 1939

KumKum also read a couple of Yeats’ unpublished poems which were discovered recently among papers transferred to the National Library of Ireland by Michael Butler Yeats, the poet’s son.

Kazi Nazrul Islam

Kazi Nazrul Islam who spent most of his life in India and is considered one of the great 20th century poets in the Bengali language. Ultimately he took up residence in Bangladesh and died there, as their national poet. There’s a road in Kolkata named after him. He has written about 4,000 songs also, called Nazrul geethi collectively. They are very popular in Bengal on both sides of the artificial border. At the age of 43 KNI started declining in health.

In the poem Woman he has covered the entire range of prejudices against women, and states that in many respects women are superior to men, and in others, women complement the male. The lesson, in short, is
is that age,
when man was the master
to enslave woman in his wish's cage.

But the past status quo still prevails in many regions of the world, and in India too. Sohaila Abdulali laments in a recent article
We have spent generations constructing elaborate systems of patriarchy, caste and social and sexual inequality that allow abuse to flourish.

KumKum remarked that KNI didn’t think of Hindus and Muslims as different species, but as one in their humanity. Critics, Sunil said, called him egoistic. Gopa mentioned he had been awarded the Padma Bhushan by India in 1960 and there are organisations of learning and culture in India and Bangladesh named for him. You can read an extensive account of his life and works on Wikipedia:

Gopa said many consider his songs and poems as better even than those of Rabindranth. Be it said that KNI would not claim so; he was so grievously saddened on Tagore’s death that he composed two poems broadcast on All India Radio. Thommo noted that in Moghul times there were a lot of Farsi terms in use in Bengali, and KNI was one of those noted for the use of Farsi vocabulary in Bengali. KumKum thought it was natural since Mughal rule extended as far as Bengal. In Tripura on the east of Bangladesh, however, there is no such language mixing, said Thommo.

In a stanza of the poem we find these lines:
Man the great;
Is he so, really?
who cuts open his mother's throat
at the command of his Muni father, bending his knee?

Parasurama, surrounded by settlers, commanding Varuna to part the seas and reveal Kerala

This is a reference to Parasuraman who figures in the Puranas. He cut his mother’s throat with a sickle, and for his crime the sickle got stuck in his hand. However, he has a special importance in Kerala, which according to mythology was formed out of the sea by Parasuraman throwing his axe into the waters; this was pointed out by Mathew. Thommo mentioned a journalist by the name of C.P. Thomas who has done research that indicates such myths were prevalent in Sumerian literature, specifically in the Gilgamesh.

Joe thinks the translation provided is a poor one. For instance, the Bengali of the first two stanzas may be better rendered as tercets, thus:
No difference I see
Between man and woman
Therefore, I sing of equality.

Of all that’s wondrous surely
One half to male, the other female
Should be assigned impartially.

and so on …

His original intent was to recite from Aurobindo, but Mathew is leaving that for another time. Instead, two poems from D.H. Lawrence were presented. Although DHL is mainly noted as a novelist, most famous for Sons and Lovers, he started off as a poet. He died of consumption, at the relatively young age of 44 in 1930. It was in keeping with a growing tradition among poets (Keats being the most famous example); almost a fad, said Mathew smiling. A contagious fad, added Joe to general laughter.

The first poem, A Sane Revolution, offers a polemical mocking view of traditional left politics in Britain. DHL advocates a jolly revolution for the fun of it:
Don't do it for the working classes.
Do it so that we can all of us be little aristocracies on our own
and kick our heels like jolly escaped asses.

This evoked much laughter among the readers. The next poem has two sparring lovers confronting the eternal question, ‘Don’t you love me?’ DHL makes the answer an exercise in narcissism by the woman:
So I handed her the mirror.
And she would have broken it over my head,
but she caught sight of her own reflection
and that held her spellbound for two seconds
while I fled.

Once again the neat resolution of the conversation had the audience chortling.

A.E. Housman

Housman (1859-1936) speaks quietly to the heart. His choice of Saxon words, now fallen into partial disuse, makes his poems stand out. You recite them and know that only a few poets wrote in this mood of melancholy combined with delight in the earth’s pastoral pleasures. You can mistake him for Hardy, sometimes, who was moulded in a similar manner by the English countryside, and knew the names of every rustic farm implement and could describe their handling poetically.

Housman was by profession an academic, the Kennedy Professor of Latin at Cambridge University, a profound scholar of ancient tongues, whose work on certain Latin authors of antiquity was deeply researched and original. He was well-respected in his field and was one of the great classicists of the 20th century. Besides his studies he wrote poetry in Latin too. He was therefore a scholar and an artist. Yet if his name survives, and Joe believes he will be recited a hundred years hence, it is for the 63 poems in this slim volume called A Shropshire Lad, and 40 more from his second collection, Last Poems. He did not have a huge range; his concerns were down-to-earth: friends, the beauty of natural things, the shortness of life, the deceit of nationalism, the death of young men.

His letters have been preserved and about 2,200 of them were published in a volume by Archie Burnett, a dedicated Housman scholar. It’s here at

A sample is this one, written when ASL had been accepted for publication in London in 1896. In the letter of acceptance was a query as to when a second book of verse might be expected, and Housman replied: “As it has taken me twenty years to write this volume, maybe after twenty years more I’ll send you another.” And he did keep his word, for Last Poems was published in 1922.

Here’s another sample, written with his dry wit to 600-year old St Andrews University when they offered him an honorary doctorate:

To Andrew Bennett
15 March 1922
I must begin by expressing my high sense of the honour which the Senatus Academicus of the University of St Andrews have designed to confer upon me, and my gratitude to them for their proposal; and I must then beg them to forgive me if I ask leave to decline it, as I have declined similar honours which other Universities have with similar kindness been prepared to bestow. The reasons which render me unwilling to receive such distinctions would be tedious to enumerate, and some of them might not be easy to express; but they are in my judgment sufficiently decisive. There is no need to assure you that they do not include any lack of veneration for your ancient and famous University, any failure to understand the dignity conferred by its degrees, or any indifference to the goodwill and generosity of the Senatus Academicus in my regard; and I trust I am showing more respect for St Andrews in writing thus, than if I put forward the excuse of inability to be present at the appointed date.
I am dear Sir,
Yours faithfully,
A.E. Housman

A god bio of his may be found at
The text of his two major volumes is here:
Text of Poems 1-63, all the poems of A Shropshire Lad

Poem 2 from the ASL collection is alluring for its joy in the blossoms of the cherry tree, a gorgeous sight in nature in the springtime. This poem always figures in the Washington Post newspaper in April. The cherry trees which came as a gift of friendship to the people of the United States from the people of Japan, spring up in a transcendent glory in the 3rd week of April. In Japan, the flowering cherry tree, or Sakura, is a symbol of the evanescence of human life. The trees planted near the Potomac River around a lake .

No. 21 titled Bredon Hill paints a scene of quiet from the past

No 40 is a well-remembered poem, and it is aching with melancholy
The phrase ‘the land of lost content’ is very often quoted to succinctly describe the mental world of an imagined Shropshire where Housman set his pastoral poems.

No. 54 is another which carries that regret for a vanished past, told in verse that skips with a blitheness that is one of Housman’s special achievements.

What has always attracted Joe to Housman is that he uses words that are securely anchored in a past, and the very archaism of these old Saxon words, suits his pastoral context.

The next one is No. 62  from ASL which is notable for a phrase he uses (guess which).

Here’s a quote of Housman about understanding poetry:
Even when poetry has a meaning, as it usually has, it may be inadvisable to draw it out ... and perfect understanding will sometimes almost extinguish pleasure.

Many of his poems were about lads going to war, and Housman wrote to Moses Jackson, his Cambridge friend whom he pursued with an unrequited homosexual love, about how ASL became popular:
... the average annual sale is over 3000 copies. That is largely due to the war, because so many soldiers, including at least one V.C., carried it in their pockets, and thus others got to know of it and bought it when they came home. But it does not seem to stop bullets as the Bible does when carried in the pocket, so I have been disappointed of that advertisement, probably through the jealousy of the Holy Ghost.

Here’s No. 36 from More Poems, illustrating his sorrow over young men going to die in WW1.

No. 44 from ASL is really about the affliction caused by homosexual love, so it is assumed.

Emily Dickinson in one of two known daguerreotypes taken at Mount Holyoke, December 1846 or early 1847

Emily Dickinson who has been taken up before was Priya’s choice. A biography of ED from which Priya read is here:

ED who never managed to publish more than a few poems of the 1,800 or so she wrote, is now regarded as a major American poet. She was solitary, and kept to her home in Amherst for the greater part of her life. Her education was a short stint at Mount Holyoke, now an elite college for women, then called a ‘Female Seminary.’ Perhaps the very name imparted a deathly pallor to her life, which was full of death around her, of relatives, of parents, of acquaintances. She was almost a recluse in later life, and her poems sprung from her unique interior vision and unusual family circumstances. You will not see much of Wordsworth in her (his poems were a gift from a friend called Newton, and she may have been liberated by reading Emerson’s poems too.

Thommo wondered about the opening line of the first poem,
         Just lost, when I was saved

how a modern Pentecostal Christian would take it! One thinks of the line from John Newton's famous hymn, Amazing Grace:
        I once was lost, and now am found

Her poems strike you as a voice from another world. Here is an accurate observation about her poems from her wiki entry:
They were untitled, only numbered in an approximate chronological sequence, strewn with dashes and irregularly capitalized, and often extremely elliptical in their language.

Religion, death and life are major subjects. Priya said there is a complexity of thought in the poems. The question of whether her poems on death are signs of a morbid anxiety was raised, but not answered. The term ‘pilgrim soul’ in the poem of Yeats read earlier by KumKum reminded Priya of ED. Joe thought of ED’s perch removed from life, as a fine observation post, to describe life, as well as the death of which she was too often made aware involuntarily. Her pronouncements have that quality of ‘emotion recollected in tranquillity’ which Wordsworth spoke of, therefore. Look at the opening lines of The Chariot:
Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;

How gripped you are at once!

Emily Dickinson First Edition cover 1890

Her correspondence was destroyed for the most part, according to her wishes, by her sister, but fortunately ED did not leave any deathly instructions about her poems. Her habit was to bind the hand-copied poems by sewing them into little booklets of 20 or so poems each. They were found neatly wrapped in muslin in a chest after her death. See:

Was she a person who experienced unrequited love? In this review of a book about her, the question of what ED and Thomas Wentworth Higginson saw in each other is explored:

Joe thinks the experience of disappointment in love is often a spur to creativity in the artistic temperament. Take Yeats, take Keats, take Housman, and multiply the examples from different fields. As Camus said:
You cannot create experience. You must undergo it.

Priya raised the question of whether ED is a religious poet, pointing to the last poem she read, The Bustle in a House:
The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth,

Joe doesn’t think so; for she does not propose or long for a heavenly view of earthly matters, as the concluding stanza of the same poem indicates:
The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
Until eternity.

It is the high degree of condensation in the best poems of ED that make one admire her gift. The words are sharp. Look at her poem on robins:
If I shouldn't be alive
When the Robins come,
Give the one in Red Cravat,
A Memorial crumb.

‘Red Cravat’, is at once a synecdoche (part standing for whole) and a brilliant metaphor. And consider why she introduces a negative, ‘not alive’, rather than the mortal counterpart. In such fine choices she demonstrates her innate poetic instinct.

Emily Dickinson's tombstone in an Amherst churchyard

KumKum raised the issue of ED's complete obliviousness of the great convulsion of the American Civil War that was going on in the early 1860s. She seemed to have been writing for herself, not about the social and political events of that time. Somewhere else a touch of racial prejudice toward people of African  descent is evidenced, said someone, but a precise reference is missing.

Lucille Clifton

Thommo chose an American poet, Lucille Clifton. You can read about her at

In the first poem she is celebrating the black American heritage by finding blackness in multiple natural things, from a black hawk to the hidden diamond in a seam of coal. In the second one, it’s the wide hips she possesses that are a cause for pride: hips that
 … go where they want to go
… do what they want to do
… put a spell on a man

Enticing as Lucille Clifton seems to make her hips, Joe likes this one better, by a sister black poet, Tonia Maria Matthews:

Time for a callipygous poet to write about Indian women's splendorous derrières!

The Poems

Kavita Robert Frost (1874-1963)
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Gopa Clare, John (1793 - 1864)
I Am
I am! yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death's oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
And e'en the dearest--that I loved the best--
Are strange--nay, rather stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil'd or wept;
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below--above the vaulted sky.

I love to see the summer beaming forth
And white wool sack clouds sailing to the north
I love to see the wild flowers come again
And mare blobs stain with gold the meadow drain
And water lillies whiten on the floods
Where reed clumps rustle like a wind shook wood
Where from her hiding place the Moor Hen pushes
And seeks her flag nest floating in bull rushes
I like the willow leaning half way o'er
The clear deep lake to stand upon its shore
I love the hay grass when the flower head swings
To summer winds and insects happy wings
That sport about the meadow the bright day
And see bright beetles in the clear lake play

The Man He Killed by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have set us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!
But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.
I shot him dead because--
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That's clear enough; although
He thought he'd 'list, perhaps,
Off-hand like--just as I--
Was out of work--had sold his traps--
No other reason why.
Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You'd treat, if met where any bar is,
Or help to half a crown.

KumKum W.B. Yeats (1865-1939)
When You Are Old
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

The Magpie
Over the heath has the magpie flown
 Over the hazel cover,
Ah why will a magpie live alone
 He waits for the lady and lover.
“What may be the sadness that ends your smile?”
She said, “my peace is o’er, love”
“I am going afar for so brief a while”
 She said, “We must no more, love.”
They stood for the swish of the mower’s blade
As they went round the meadow,
And under him as he sang and swayed
Moved his meridian shadow.
“The ruddy young reaper he sings be glad
In the sphere of the earth is no flaw, love.”
She said, “He is singing all lives grown sad
 He knows no other law, love.”
The grass and the sedge and the little reed wren
A sociable world were talking
And the water was saying enough for ten
As they by the stream went walking.
“The grass and the sedge and the little reed wren
Are saying it low and high, love,
There’s a feast in the forest and mirth in the fen.”
She said, “Ah how they sigh, love.”
He flew by the meadow and flew by the brake
   She saw him over the flag fly
Down by the marsh, with his tail a-shake
   Alone with himself the magpie.
“What may be the sadness that

ends your smile?”
   She said, “My peace is o’er, love.”
Ah who with folly from love beguiled
   She said, “We must no more, love.”
(Early to Middle 1880s)

I Will Not In Grey Hours
I will not in grey hours revoke
The gift I gave in hours of lights
Before the breath of slander broke
The thread my folly had drawn tight,
The little thread weak hope had made
To bind two lonely hearts in one
But loves of light must fade and fade
Till all the dooms of men are spun.
The gift I gave once more I give
 For you may come to winter time
But you white flower of beauty live
In a poor foolish book of rhyme.
(March 10, 1894)

What Then?
His chosen comrades thought at school
He must grow a famous man;
He thought the same and lived by rule,
All his twenties crammed with toil;
'What then?' sang Plato's ghost. 'What then?'
Everything he wrote was read,
After certain years he won
Sufficient money for his need,
Friends that have been friends indeed;
'What then?' sang Plato's ghost. ' What then?'
All his happier dreams came true --
A small old house, wife, daughter, son,
Grounds where plum and cabbage grew,
poets and Wits about him drew;
'What then.?' sang Plato's ghost. 'What then?
The work is done,' grown old he thought,
'According to myboyish plan;
Let the fools rage, I swerved in naught,
Something to perfection brought';
But louder sang that ghost, 'What then?'

Sunil Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976)
Woman ('Nari')
(Translation: Mohammad Omar Farooq)
I sing the song
of equality;
In my view gender difference
is essentially a triviality.
Everything that is great in the world,
all the works, beneficial and good,
half must be credited to woman,
and to man half only we should.
All the vice or bad in the world,
and the pain or flowing tear,
for half, man should be blamed,
the other half only woman should bear.
Who belittles you as woman,
connecting you to Hell's flame?
Tell him that for the first ever sin
not woman, but man must carry the blame.
Or, it may be that sin or Satan
is in reality neither man or woman;
Satan is gender-neutral, so
it flows equally in woman or man.
All the flowers blossomed in the world,
and all the fruits grown,
isn't in beauty, nectar and fragrance of those
woman's contribution?
Have you seen Taj Mahal's marble?
It's spirit, have you seen?
At the heart of it Momtaj, woman;
outside is Shahjahan, the King and lover so keen.
The fortune of knowledge, or of music,
or, the fortune of all harvest,
woman's grace has made it so worthwhile,
flowing from every home and nest.
In the hardship of day and its scorching heat,
you can see reflection of man;
in the soothing breeze
and in peace of night, who shines but woman?
During the day she is source of strength.
She glows in affection at night;
when man needs comfort and love,
her grace and sweetness flow to make his life bright.
With man behind the plough,
the crop field became bountiful, indeed;
the greenery was only more beautiful,
as woman sowed the seed.
Man carries the plough, woman carries the water;
from soil and water mixed together,
the crop grows in abundance,
ears of paddy - like blooming heather.
Of course, the metals -
gold and silver: ordinary otherwise;
those become fancy jewelry
with woman's touch that underlies.
In longing for woman, or in her communion,
man found where the poets' hearts belong,
as his words became poetry
and sounds turned into song.
Man's present - the passion; woman's is affection -
with the communion that hungry loves entail,
comes the children - all magnificent
from man the great that even angels hail.
All the great victory of the world
and all the grand voyages,
gained grandeur and nobility from sacrifice of
mothers, sisters, and wives, throughout the ages.
How much blood man has offered
is recorded in annals of history;
how many women became widow -
No record of that - Is it a mystery?
How many mothers poured their hearts,
and how many sisters did serve?
the memorials of heroes - great or small
do not show that - do you not observe?
Victory hasn't kissed man's sword,
because of the valor of man alone;
the inspiration and pride woman brought
to men, that should also be known.
While king rules the kingdom
and queen rules the king,
the misery and sadness go away,
joy and happiness her grace does bring.
heartless, like a stone;
to make human out of him,
woman gave half of her heart as loan.
All the great celebrities, immortal -
whose fame knows no bound;
we celebrate in their memory
regularly, every year around.
They came to this world,
as at moment's passion they were fathered;
but Raam found shelter in jungle,
while all the care and nurture Sita gathered.
Wasn't it the woman who taught baby-"men"
love mercy and compassion?
Didn't she touch their eyes with kohl
as a shadow of her sad affection?
Man paid that debt off
in a very strange way;
holding on lap she who kissed him,
behind curtain and wall, she was put away.
Man the great;
Is he so, really?
who cuts open his mother's throat
at the command of his Muni father, bending his knee?
In the world's bed, half the deity: woman
just turned the side;
so far woman has taken enough,
now man will be confined.
is that age,
when man was the master
to enslave woman in his wish's cage.
This age is of empathy, of being human,
of equality is this new time;
no one would be the other's prisoner -
don't you hear that chime?
If man imprisons woman,
then the turn will come sure;
in the same prison he built,
he will rot and die without a cure.
Take this lesson -
a wisdom always right and true,
if you make suffer someone,
suffering will catch up with you.
you the creature of this earth!
the more you oppress others,
your humanness? gradually, there will be dearth.
In the dungeon of treasure
with jewelry of silver and gold,
who confined you, O woman,
who is that animal with heart so cold?
No more agitation or bewilderment
to express yourself any more;
now you are timid, vulnerable, and
speak only from behind the wall or door.
You can't look eye to eye, and still wear
bracelet and anklets - the prisoner's symbol;
tear off the veil of yours,
unchain yourself, it has taken enough toll.
The veil that made you timid,
let that go away;
all those ornaments and symbols of servitude,
throw away, throw away.
To this world precious you really are!
Don't roam in jungle or
to sing to trees you wander afar.
When did the Regent of Death come
flying on the wing of night's shade,
snatched you to captivity
in its dungeon where nobody can raid.
In that bondage of old time,
you are still living dead;
from that time world's light is stolen
and our vision is obscure in dread.
Come like a lightening, O mother,
breaking away from that pit;
your broken grass bracelets
will keep your path lit.
The animal, that is man's hunger -
at the fling of your leg,
will drop dead at your feet, and
together, with smashed undertaker, will earnestly beg.
Your ambrosia all of us enjoyed,
now different is the need,
the hand that offered ambrosia before
to the monsters must now offer hemlock, indeed.
Not very far
is that cherished day,
when with homage to man,
to woman also homage, the world will pay.

Who are you, my friend,
searching for God in heaven
and the underworld?
Who are you-searching
through the wilderness
and mountain peaks?
It's a pity-O Rishis and Dervishes,
you go on searching for Him
from country to country
while holding the Jewel of the Heart
in your own heart!
The whole creation looks at you
while your own eyes are shut.
You search for the creator
instead of searching for your self.
O self-inflicted Blind-open your eyes,
look at yourself in the mirror.
You'll see-His shadow falls on your body.
Don't shudder, Hero,
don't be intimidated
by the scholars of the scriptures-
they're not God's 'private secretaries'
We all are His manifestation,
He is present in us all.
Seeing myself, I see the unseen Creator..
The merchants at the seaport trade in gems.
But never ask them where the gems are mined.
They are merely traders of gems,
but they think that they know where the mine is too!
They have never taken a dive
into the fathomless depth of the gem-bearing ocean.
Instead of messing with the scriptures,
my friend, dive right into
the ocean of Truth!
[Translated by Sajed Kamal]

Mathew D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
A Sane Revolution
If you make a revolution, make it for fun,
don't make it in ghastly seriousness,
don't do it in deadly earnest,
do it for fun.
Don't do it because you hate people,
do it just to spit in their eye.
Don't do it for the money,
do it and be damned to the money.
Don't do it for equality,
do it because we've got too much equality
and it would be fun to upset the apple-cart
and see which way the apples would go a-rolling.
Don't do it for the working classes.
Do it so that we can all of us be little aristocracies on our own
and kick our heels like jolly escaped asses.
Don't do it, anyhow, for international Labour.
Labour is the one thing a man has had too much of.
Let's abolish labour, let's have done with labouring!
Work can be fun, and men can enjoy it; then it's not labour.
Let's have it so! Let's make a revolution for fun!
Don't you care for my love? she said bitterly.
I handed her the mirror, and said:
Please address these questions to the proper person!
Please make all requests to head-quarters!
In all matters of emotional importance
please approach the supreme authority direct! -
So I handed her the mirror.
And she would have broken it over my head,
but she caught sight of her own reflection
and that held her spellbound for two seconds
while I fled.

Joe A.E. Housman (1859-1936)
No. 2 (A Shropshire Lad)
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
No. 18 (ASL)
Oh, when I was in love with you
Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well did I behave.
And now the fancy passes by
And nothing will remain,
And miles around they'll say that I
Am quite myself again.

No. 21 (ASL) Bredon Hill
In summertime on Bredon
The bells they sound so clear;
Round both the shires they ring them
In steeples far and near,
A happy noise to hear.
Here of a Sunday morning
My love and I would lie,
And see the coloured counties,
And hear the larks so high
About us in the sky.

No 40 (ASL)
Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

No. 54 (ASL)
With rue my heart is laden
For golden friends I had,
For many a rose-lipt maiden
And many a lightfoot lad.
By brooks too broad for leaping
The lightfoot boys are laid;
The rose-lipt girls are sleeping
In fields where roses fade.

No. 62 excerpt (ASL)
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.
Ale, man, ale's the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world's not.
And faith, 'tis pleasant till 'tis past:
The mischief is that 'twill not last.
Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I've lain,
Happy till I woke again.
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.

No. 36 from More Poems
Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.
Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

No. 44 (ASL)
Shot? so quick, so clean an ending?
Oh that was right, lad, that was brave:
Yours was not an ill for mending,
'Twas best to take it to the grave.
Oh you had forethought, you could reason,
And saw your road and where it led,
And early wise and brave in season
Put the pistol to your head.
Oh soon, and better so than later
After long disgrace and scorn,
You shot dead the household traitor,
The soul that should not have been born.
Right you guessed the rising morrow
And scorned to tread the mire you must:
Dust's your wages, son of sorrow,
But men may come to worse than dust.
Souls undone, undoing others, --
Long time since the tale began.
You would not live to wrong your brothers:
Oh lad, you died as fits a man.
Now to your grave shall friend and stranger
With ruth and some with envy come:
Undishonoured, clear of danger,
Clean of guilt, pass hence and home.
Turn safe to rest, no dreams, no waking;
And here, man, here's the wreath I've made:
'Tis not a gift that's worth the taking,
But wear it and it will not fade.

Priya Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
Just lost, when I was saved! No. 160
Just lost, when I was saved!
Just felt the world go by!
Just girt me for the onset with Eternity,
When breath blew back,
And on the other side
I heard recede the disappointed tide!
Therefore, as One returned, I feel
Odd secrets of the line to tell!
Some Sailor, skirting foreign shores—
Some pale Reporter, from the awful doors
Before the Seal!
Next time, to stay!
Next time, the things to see
By Ear unheard,
Unscrutinized by Eye—
Next time, to tarry,
While the Ages steal—
Slow tramp the Centuries,
And the Cycles wheel!

This is my letter to the world,
This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,-
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!

If I shouldn't be alive No. 182
If I shouldn't be alive
When the Robins come,
Give the one in Red Cravat,
A Memorial crumb.
If I couldn't thank you,
Being fast asleep,
You will know I'm trying
Why my Granite lip!

I heard a fly buzz when I died;
I heard a fly buzz when I died;
      The stillness round my form
Was like the stillness in the air
      Between the heaves of storm.

The eyes beside had wrung them dry,
      And breaths were gathering sure
For that last onset, when the king
      Be witnessed in his power.

I willed my keepsakes, signed away
      What portion of me I
Could make assignable,-and then
      There interposed a fly,

With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz,
      Between the light and me;
And then the windows failed, and then
      I could not see to see.

The bustle in a house
The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth,--
The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
Until eternity.

Thommo Lucille Clifton (1936-2010)
the earth is a living thing
is a black shambling bear
ruffling its wild back and tossing
mountains into the sea
is a black hawk circling
the burying ground circling the bones
picked clean and discarded
is a fish black blind in the belly of water
is a diamond blind in the black belly of coal
is a black and living thing
is a favorite child
of the universe
feel her rolling her hand
in its kinky hair
feel her brushing it clean

Homage to My Hips
these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

Post a Comment