Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Scholars

Bald heads forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love's despair
To flatter beauty's ignorant ear.

All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk that way?

WB Yeats

Saturday, October 4, 2008

On Burnham Beach

The sand is mud and it's a struggle
to reach the sea
it departs fast here
and returns slower

Those who tread this path
will sink in mire before
they reach the cool water

and those who're in
the Channel
are swept to the west

Stranded in Bridgwater Bay
there's no causeway here
so foot by foot
they press to the shore
losing ankles, thighs
and waist in the
clawing estuary
they can move no more
and will not rise
when the water surges

Oh i'd tumble in crashing waves
turn, tide, turn,
turn again to the shore
i'd ride on your surf
drift on the current
fall from a board
somersault in these
Somerset waters
float on the swell
taste your salt

Lift me from this sand
i can't reach your water
and can't wait for it
to come to me

Let every day be spring
when the Easter tide rises high
freeing all from beach
and estuary
let the Severn's roll take me onward
past Hinkley and Watchet
to Minehead, Porlock
where the sea's magnificent
against cliff and rock
the lights of Wales
shine like stars
and Burnham's mud is no more

Tom Rudge, Devon
Copyright: By application

Last by this author

On Dover Beach

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Matthew Arnold

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The End of the World, Again

Some said the world would end with fire,
an incandescent cook-out to which all were invited.
Churchmen in waking dreams and night sweats
felt the flames licking their toes and knew
themselves marked for a toasting.
To the medieval mind, floods were another option
(myth offered a precedent), not so showy as combustion
yet they saw the hovel overtop the king’s towers and
rats in velvet breeches vainly bite for the highest place.
Apt too, that, guilt-ridden, they should choke - prince,
bishop and country clown - on their own slops.
Then, when the crystalline firmament was no longer lit
by gods’ or demons’ candles, and fear was not fixed
by the curve of the sky, a fresh fascination.
From the other side of heaven, mountains bowled
like monstrous googlies, gravity’s wrecking balls
swinging round to pulverize and eclipse.
This one would run and run, a lucky bag
for film makers and a truly poncy post-modern terror.
Not divine justice grinding out calamity’s small
change but random and indifferent, humanity
a cosmic road kill, pancaked on the galactic
highway, not noticed therefore not remembered.
But somehow such catastrophe does not satisfy
there is too much scope for panic.
We shall not see the plasma screen readout
(supplied at public expense) counting us down
to chaos, nor the victims of celebrity hurried
underground, tragic pose rehearsed and intact.
Perhaps some silent technology few understand, with
particles invisible, will work up our finale.
A misplaced number in a lab, an enthusiast’s
oversight will calculate our sum and rule it under.
When we all blink out or gurgle down a black
hole what we shall hear last will not be sermons,
threats or maledictions but the soothing
sound of official blandishments, ‘there’s
really no reason for concern,’ a nano
second before unknowable vacuity.
Simon Peter Iredale
Copyright: Simon Peter Iredale

Last poem by this author

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Brotherhood of Man

All day, since your haircut in the morning,
you have looked like a painting, even more than usual.
We are in the wind, planting the maples.
We meet an older man who seems to know
I miss my dad.
And he smiles through the limbs.
We talk easily with him
until the rain begins.
This is the brotherhood of man.

Waiting at the airport on my suitcase,
a girl traveling from Spain became my sudden friend,
though I did not learn her name.
And when the subway dimmed
a stranger lit my way.
This is the brotherhood of man.

I never can say what I mean
but you will understand,
coming through clouds on the way.
This is the brotherhood of man.

The Innocence Mission
from the album We Walked In Song,

Copyright: The Innocence Mission
Reproduced with permission

Last lyric by this artist

Friday, September 5, 2008

Suzanne - Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen performing Suzanne with the folk singer Judy Collins:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Global warming

In Avalon the abalone
floats uneasy round the Tor
the abbey's still 'mid fish and krill
while Joseph's roses bloom no more

Tom Rudge, Devon
Copyright: By application

Last poem by this author

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Koi Carp

Though, to the ancient
mind, surrounded by rare
novelty like an
enchanter’s castle, the
garden centre’s verdant
overtures fall
Here, the hunter
gatherer scratches an
atavistic itch, fashions
new Edens suited to
the size of his purse.
And so on,
until mid-sulk, my
truculent eye was thrilled by
complex, gliding
O wonder!
A thousand jewelled shapes
performed an
endless arabesque, every
way they turned
away, leading the design
into shimmering

What He willed was so.
Gratuitous beauty
heaped on the
innocent eye.
A liquid paradise
of contemplation.
were not ornamental
fish, these were the
very thoughts of God
glimpsed in
by how simply the shadow
play of the mundane
gives place to
I, in spirit, replaced
my shoes and tip-toed
reverently away.
Simon Peter Iredale
Copyright: By application

Last poem by this author

On Wenlock Edge

On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble;
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

’Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
When Uricon the city stood:
’Tis the old wind in the old anger,
But then it threshed another wood.

Then, ’twas before my time, the Roman
At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.

There, like the wind through woods in riot,
Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:
Then ’twas the Roman, now ’tis I.

The gale, it plies the saplings double,
It blows so hard, ’twill soon be gone:
To-day the Roman and his trouble
Are ashes under Uricon.

A.E. Housman

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Journey out of the West

Watch man with his buffet bag
Drunk-stumble down the swaying train.
Hedges a green blur
And beyond them hills
Sunlit yellow and blue under cloudshadow
As we hurtle towards Birmingham.
A yellow field of rape,
A dark wood
A tree in splendid isolation
A crow alighting on a telegraph wire.
Now the sun has suddenly left:
Still on the horizon high-stacked cloud
Catches the last of light
Behind a field of grazing sheep
Smoke from a fire rises;
Sky whizzes blue-white in
Trackside puddles;
Trees deepen towards dark.
I am facing away:
What I see has already gone.
I'm backing away from the day,
Aware only of the past.
I’m blind to the future:
Where we're going
Is a twilight guess.
Christopher Warren
Copyright: By application

Last by this author

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts

An imagined womb-
like darkness.
Light neither of the sun
rising nor setting but
diffused, crepuscular.
Over such must the pregnant
Spirit have brooded.
The burnished icons
address me with their stern,
gentle eyes, delving
into my unquiet privacy;
my shadow freedom to be separate.
Something is happening: beyond
the screen that marks
the limit of what can be known
a delicate descant of chimes
as incense fills little heaven.
I cannot grasp what
these things mean.
For the first time, I am
content not to know.
A phrase flares up
From the praying heart,
Master, it is good to be here.’
It is good, to be,
Simon Peter Iredale
Copyright: By application

Last by this author

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Zakynthos Skyline

Sometimes horizons burn with searing arcs,
Welded by sun and fused by blinding heat;
And sometimes earth's cool and heaven's dark:
They stand aloof, their lines distinct, discrete.

But not this sky and not this gorgeous sea!
This join is woven seamlessly, so soft
We can't discern where sky and water meet:
The garment's of a piece – one warp, one weft!

So Christ His union with the Father made –
No man can mark the seam, the joins are pure,
Are perfect, melted like Zakynthos blues.

And we behold His glory, all displayed
Across that skyline; God's own signature:
Symbol of worship, unity, Good News!

Christopher Warren
Zakynthos, August 2005

Copyright: By Application

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mount Soracte

Horace Odes 1:9
See the mountain standing white and deep with snow.
Struggling, trees barely hold the water's weight,
rivers can't flow through dams of sharp ice.

Scatter the frost and pile logs in the glow
of the fireplace - better still, Thaliarchus, my friend
bring out a jar of four-year-old Sabine wine.

Leave the rest to the gods, who will first, so slow
calm the winds that brawl on this bubbling plain
stilling the old ash and cypress alike.

Cease to ponder tomorrow's pain or hope,
take today's good fortune as gain.
Young as you are, don't spurn sweet love and dance.

Old age's gloom is distant; sweet whispers echo
from darkened field and square, a girl's giggle gives
up her hiding place, bangles slip from arms...

Translation by Tom Rudge. Copyright: By application

Original text by this great Latin lyric poet:

Vides ut alta stet nive candidum
Soracte, nec iam sustineant onus
siluae laborantes, geluque
flumina constiterint acuto.

Dissolve frigus ligna super foco
large reponens, atque benignius
deprome quadrimum Sabina,
o Thaliarche, merum diota.

Permitte divis cetera; qui simul
strauere ventos aequore fervido
deproeliantis, nec cupressi
nec veteres agitantur orni.

Quid sit futurum cras fuge quaerere, et
quem fors dierum cumque dabit lucro
adpone, nec dulcis amores
sperne puer neque tu choreas,

donec virenti canities abest
morosa. nunc et campus et areae
lenesque sub noctem susurri
composita repetantur hora;

nunc et latentis proditor intimo
gratus puellae risus ab angulo
pignusque dereptum lacertis
aut digito male pertinaci.

This site has a good selection of historical translations of this poem.

Translation copyright: By application

Monday, June 9, 2008



plundered the hoards
of half-remembered tongues,
piling paradox
on teetering
until reason tottered.

Such did not
comprehend you who
encompassed one greater
than the all.

These ecstatic singers sleep
in golden cities now
powder for the winds,
content they had
aspired to gaze level-
eyed into the
face of God:
their failure is their glory.

To what shall we
liken you, or
with what words shall we,
in our teeming generations,
compare you?
We whose lips have lost
their innocence?

Fish out of God’s river
with no memory of the shoal,
we gasp in alien air.
Alien also to each other.
Well-spring of compassion,
be also
Our Mother.

Simon Peter Iredale
Copyright: By application

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

She Walks in Beauty

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent.

Lord Byron

The Wind

i raged through the land
sweeping before me
and the words you whispered

in anger i baked the soil,
blasting the grass
into cracks
making pony tracks
from streams
frying, ducks fled to reeds
and wilted weeds
and the words you stated
turned to steam

i stormed on the land
throwing thunder
at dogs and cats
and children
geese rose in flocks
at the sound
echoing through city and town
and the words you uttered

the sky became bright grey
the grass alive
and the trees managed a mere
Mexican wave
and from your cave
your words, small and still,
danced on the breeze
to my ears

Tom Rudge

Copyright: by application

Heaven Haven

I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

This poem was made into songs in the 1970s by the prog folk band Caedmon and more recently by The Innocence Mission on their album Befriended

I never knew you from the sun

What a time it was,
I was befriended and was a friend
for the longest while. You were here,
and I never knew you from the sun

Snow is on the ground
but this is not my landscape now,
where I find myself without you.
I never knew you from the sun.

Oh I had a friend. I had a friend I loved.
Now I walk for miles
into dark forests of piano songs. I'm lost.

Deep into my sleeves, deep in my sleeves,
pockets down where I always reach,
you are there.
Oh I never knew you from the sun,
never, never knew you from the sun.

The Innocence Mission
from the album Befriended,

Copyright: The Innocence Mission
Reproduced with permission