Having been tenant long to a rich Lord,
Not thriving, I resolved to be bold,
And make a suit unto him, to afford,
A new small-rented lease, and cancel th’ old.
In Heaven at his manor I him sought,
They told me there, that he was lately gone
About some land, which he had dearly bought
Long since on earth, to take possession.
I straight return’d, and knowing his great birth,
Sought him accordingly in great resorts;
In cities, theatres, gardens, parks, and courts:
At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth
Of thieves and murderers: there I him espied,
Who straight, “Your suit is granted”, said, & died.
George Herbert was appointed Archbishop the same year that the King James Bible was published (1611).
“My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.”
-William Wordsworth, 1802.
He spake in Greek, which Britons speak
Seldom, and circumspectly;
But Mr Judd, that man of mud,
Translated it correctly.
And when they heard that happy word,
Policeman leapt and ambled:
The busmen pranced, the maidens danced,
The men in bowlers gambolled.
-James Elroy Flecker.
I recently discovered this delightful little poem (above) in the foreword to a translation of an ancient Greek Comedy. Not only do I find it so nicely structured, but its content is so true. Like Shakespeare, the ancients wrote for the man in the street. And when translated well, everybody gets to appreciate it. I think that’s something to prance about.
Filed under Classics, Poetry
“If you’re not reading, you should be writing. If you’re not writing, you should be thinking about writing.” This was the advice given to aspiring writers by South African poet and author, Uys Krige. Apparently he said that when people saw him lying on the beach (something he did a lot of) they would be thinking: ‘There’s old Uys loafing again!’ Whereas he would be thinking: ‘There’s old Uys working again!’
Thank you to Marlise Joubert for kind permission to use her photo of Uys ‘working’ on Onrus beach.
Filed under Art, Poetry, Writing
Every Sunday after church we have lunch on our ‘stoep’ (South Africanese for ‘verandah’) with Clivey, my father-in-law. Lunch is almost always the same: baked beans with cheddar on top of baked potatoes, washed down with cheap beer and generously peppered with cheesy jokes.
Conversation always gravitates towards contemplation of the more profound things in life like, ‘Are roast potatoes worth the effort?’ or ‘How much involvement do the editors actually have in the final outcome of Survivor?’ or ‘What makes cliches, cliched?’
But every week you can be darned sure that Old Clivey, being a thoughtful fella (he’s a poet, after all), will come out with a real cracker of profundity. I hope, every now and again, to post these classic one-liners. Here’s this past Sunday’s: “Being a human being is a hell of a tricky business.”
There you have it. I told you he’s a thoughtful fella.
“There’s never an end to dust
and dusting,” my aunt would say
as her rag, like a thunderhead,
scudded across the yellow oak
of her little house. There she lived
seventy years with a ball
of compulsion closed in her fist,
and an elbow that creaked and popped
like a branch in a storm. Now dust
is her hands and dust her heart.
There’s never an end to it.
from Sure Signs, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980
Biker by Ted Kooser
Pulling away from a stoplight
with a tire’s sharp bark,
he lifts his scuffed boot and kicks at the air,
and the old dog of inertia gets up with a growl
and shrinks out of the way.
Taken from The Atlantic Monthly July/August 2001