Monday, 11 November 2019

Poetry Revisited: November’s Cadence by James Earl of Southesk

November’s Cadence

(from The Burial of Isis and Other Pems: 1884)

The bees about the Linden-tree,
When blithely summer blooms were springing,
Would hum a heartsome melody,
The simple baby-soul of singing:
And thus my spirit sang to me
When youth its wanton way was winging;
          ‘Be glad, be sad —thou hast the choice—
          But mingle music with thy voice.’

The linnets on the Linden-tree,
Among the leaves in autumn dying,
Are making gentle melody,
A mild, mysterious, mournful sighing:
And thus my spirit sings to me
While years are flying, flying, flying;
          ‘Be sad, be sad —thou hast no choice—
          But mourn with music in thy voice.’

James Earl of Southesk (1827-1905)
Scottish nobleman, explorer and poet

Monday, 4 November 2019

Poetry Revisited: In the Rushing Wind by Carmen Sylva

In the Rushing Wind

(from Sweet Hours: 1904)

THE wind hath whirled the leaves from off the tree.
The leaves were yellow, they had lived their time,
And lie a golden heap or fly away,
As if the butterflies had left their wings
Behind, when love's short summertime had gone,
And killed them. Lightly doth the leaves' great shower
Whirl on and skim the ground, where ancient leaves
Lie rotten, trampled on, so featureless,
That you can hardly tell what formed that mould,
That never-ending burial-place of leaves.
And then the wind will shake and bend the tree,
And twist its branches off, burst it asunder,
Uproot the giant and bring low his head,
Upheave the granite block round which the roots
Had taken hold for countless centuries.
On goes the wind! The corn is green and soft—
Earth's wavy fur. It does but ripple lightly
In childish laughter at the harmless fun
That was a death-blow. But the sea awakes
And frowns and foams and rises into anger
So wild with wrath, and yet so powerless,
As if a thousand chains had chained it down,
To howl, to suffer, to rebel against
The heartless merriment of stronger powers.
On goes the wind, to shake the rock, to blow
Into a flame, the wild incendiary,
And never doth he look behind, to see,
To feel, to understand the horror he
Hath worked. The breath—the robe of Destiny—
Sweeps on, sweeps past, and never lists that hell
And heaven have awaked, in shrieking anguish,
But blows the clouds away, laughs at the sun,
And falls into unconscious, dreamless sleep.

Carmen Sylva (1843-1916), real name Pauline Elisabeth Ottilie Luise of Wied
Queen Consort of Romania and Romanian writer

Monday, 28 October 2019

Poetry Revisited: The Trees at Night by William Kerr

The Trees at Night

(from Georgian Poetry 1920-22: 1922)

Under vague silver moonlight
The trees are lovely and ghostly,
In the pale blue of the night
There are few stars to see.

The leaves are green still, but brown-blent:
They stir not, only known
By a poignant delicate scent
To the lonely moon blown.

The lonely lovely trees sigh
For summer spent and gone:
A few homing leaves drift by,
Poor souls bewildered and wan.

William Kerr (fl. 1922-1927)
English Georgian poet

Monday, 21 October 2019

Poetry Revisited: The Autumn Wind by Caroline Sheridan Norton

The Autumn Wind

(from The Dream and Other Poems: 1840)

I.
Hush, moaning autumn wind! be still, be still!
Thy grieving voice forbiddeth hearts to rest;
We hear thee sweeping down the lonely hill,
And mournful thoughts crowd o'er the human breast.
Why wilt thou haunt us, with thy voice unkind,
Sadd'ning the earth? Hush, moaning autumn wind!

II.
Toss not the branching trees so wildly high,
Filling the forest with thy dreary sound:
Without thy aid the hues of summer die,
And the sear leaves fall scatter'd to the ground.
Thou dost but hasten, needlessly unkind,
The winter's task, thou moaning autumn wind!

Caroline Sheridan Norton (1808-1877)
English social reformer and author

Friday, 18 October 2019

Bookish Déjà-Vu: The Man Who Searched for Love by Pitigrilli

Click on the index card to enlarge it!

Some people take life more seriously than others. The idealists among them will be determined to work hard to make the world a better place because they aren’t willing to simply put up with its being the way it is, especially when they feel that they have the skill, the power and the drive to change things. Put to the test of reality, however, such idealism will almost inevitably wear out before long unless it’s firmly based on a strong character, unwavering belief or/and the support of family and friends. In the Italian classic The Man Who Searched for Love by Pitigrilli, another one of my bookish déjà-vu, a judge in his mid-thirties readily resigns from his post in Paris of the 1920s because he is annoyed with having to administer law instead of justice. Having fallen in love with a circus artist, he joins her troupe as a clown…
Read my review »

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Back Reviews Reel: October 2016

Leafing back three years in my blogging calendar, there are two classical and two contemporary novels on my review list of October. I started with a less widely read work by the English recipient of the 1932 Nobel Prize in Literature, namely The Dark Flower by John Galsworthy, showing a sculptor of animals passionately in love three times in three decades. Then I moved on to the red-light district of modern-day Antwerp in Belgium with four Nigerian prostitutes stuck On Black Sisters’ Street by Chika Unigwe with no way out. In Montauk by Max Frisch I went back to the 1970s to join an ageing Swiss writer on a week-end trip to Long Island in the USA with his young lover. And finally, I travelled Victorian England and Italy with a mother who sacrifices herself for her daughter, the child prodigy and one of the The Devourers by Annie Vivanti.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Poetry Revisited: Sitting by the Fire by Henry Kendall

Sitting by the Fire

(from Poems and Songs: 1862)

Ah! the solace in the sitting,
          Sitting by the fire,
When the wind without is calling
And the fourfold clouds are falling,
With the rain-racks intermitting,
          Over slope and spire.
Ah! the solace in the sitting,
          Sitting by the fire.

Then, and then, a man may ponder,
          Sitting by the fire,
Over fair far days, and faces
Shining in sweet-coloured places
Ere the thunder broke asunder
          Life and dear Desire.
Thus, and thus, a man may ponder,
          Sitting by the fire.

Waifs of song pursue, perplex me,
          Sitting by the fire:
Just a note, and lo, the change then!
Like a child, I turn and range then,
Till a shadow starts to vex me –
          Passion's wasted pyre.
So do songs pursue, perplex me,
          Sitting by the fire.

Night by night – the old, old story –
          Sitting by the fire,
Night by night, the dead leaves grieve me:
Ah! the touch when youth shall leave me,
Like my fathers, shrunken, hoary,
          With the years that tire.
Night by night – that old, old story,
          Sitting by the fire.

Sing for slumber, sister Clara,
          Sitting by the fire.
I could hide my head and sleep now,
Far from those who laugh and weep now,
Like a trammelled, faint wayfarer,
          'Neath yon mountain-spire.
Sing for slumber, sister Clara,
          Sitting by the fire.

Henry Kendall (1839-1882)
Australian author and bush poet