Ode To A Nightingale

                             — John Keats

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thy happiness,—-
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O for a draught of vintage, that hath been
Cooled a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provencal song, and sun-burnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new love pine at them beyond tomorrow.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Clustered around by all her starry fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast-fading violets covered up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Darkling I listen; and for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Called him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—-
To thy high requiem become a sod

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—-do I wake or sleep?

Faithless Sally Brown

Faithless Sally Brown

Young Ben he was a nice young man,
A carpenter by trade;
And he fell in love with Sally Brown,
That was a lady’s maid.

But as they fetch’d a walk one day,
They met a press-gang crew;
And Sally she did faint away,
Whilst Ben he was brought to.

The Boatswain swore with wicked words,
Enough to shock a saint,
That though she did seem in a fit,
‘Twas nothing but a feint.

“Come, girl,” said he, “hold up your head,
He’ll be as good as me;
For when your swain is in our boat,
A boatswain he will be.”

So when they’d made their game of her,
And taken off her elf,
She roused, and found she only was
A coming to herself.

“And is he gone, and is he gone?”
She cried, and wept outright:
“Then I will to the water side,
And see him out of sight.”

A waterman came up to her,–
“Now, young woman,” said he,
“If you weep on so, you will make
Eye-water in the sea.”

“Alas! they’ve taken my beau Ben
To sail with old Benbow;”
And her woe began to run afresh,
As if she’d said Gee woe!

Says he, “They’ve only taken him
To the Tender ship, you see”;
“The Tender-ship,” cried Sally Brown
“What a hard-ship that must be!”

“O! would I were a mermaid now,
For then I’d follow him;
But Oh!–I’m not a fish-woman,
And so I cannot swim.

“Alas! I was not born beneath
The virgin and the scales,
So I must curse my cruel stars,
And walk about in Wales.”

Now Ben had sail’d to many a place
That’s underneath the world;
But in two years the ship came home,
And all her sails were furl’d.

But when he call’d on Sally Brown,
To see how she went on,
He found she’d got another Ben,
Whose Christian-name was John.

“O Sally Brown, O Sally Brown,
How could you serve me so?
I’ve met with many a breeze before,
But never such a blow”:

Then reading on his ‘bacco box
He heaved a bitter sigh,
And then began to eye his pipe,
And then to pipe his eye.

And then he tried to sing “All’s Well,”
But could not though he tried;
His head was turn’d, and so he chew’d
His pigtail till he died.

His death, which happen’d in his berth,
At forty-odd befell:
They went and told the sexton, and
The sexton toll’d the bell.

Thomas Hood

Faithless Nelli Gray

Faithless Nelly Gray

         —-     A Pathetic Ballad

Ben Battle was a soldier bold,
And used to war’s alarms;
But a cannon-ball took off his legs,
So he laid down his arms.

Now as they bore him off the field,
Said he, ‘Let others shoot;
For here I leave my second leg,
And the Forty-second Foot.’

The army-surgeons made him limbs:
Said he, ‘They’re only pegs;
But there’s as wooden members quite,
As represent my legs.’

Now Ben he loved a pretty maid, —
Her name was Nelly Gray;
So he went to pay her his devours,
When he devoured his pay.

But when he called on Nelly Gray,
She made him quite a scoff;
And when she saw his wooden legs,
Began to take them off.

‘O Nelly Gray! O Nelly Gray!’
Is this your love so warm?
The love that loves a scarlet coat
Should be a little more uniform.

Said she, ‘ I loved a soldier once,
For he was blithe and brave;
But I will never have a man
With both legs in the grave

‘Before you had those timber toes
Your love I did allow;
But then, you know, you stand upon
Another footing now.’

‘O Nelly Gray! O Nelly Gray!
For all your jeering speeches,
At duty’s call I left my legs
In Badajos’s breaches.’

‘Why, then,’ said she, ‘you’ve lost the feet
Of legs in war’s alarms,
And now you cannot wear your shoes
Upon your feats of arms!’

‘O false and fickle Nelly Gray!
I know why you refuse:
Though I’ve no feet, some other man
Is standing in my shoes.

‘I wish I ne’er had seen your face;
But, now, a long farewell!
For you will be my death’ — alas!
You will not be my Nell!’

Now when he went from Nelly Gray
His heart so heavy got,
And life was such a burden grown,
It made him take a knot.

So round his melancholy neck
A rope he did intwine,
And, for his second time in life,
Enlisted in the Line.

One end he tied around a beam,
And then removed his pegs;
And, as his legs were off — of course
He soon was off his legs.

And there he hung till he was dead
As any nail in town;
For, though distress had cut him up,
It could not cut him down.

A dozen men sat on his corpse,
To find out why he died, —
And they buried Ben in four cross-roads
With a stake in his inside.

Thomas Hood

On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific — and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise —
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

– John Keats

The Thought Fox – An Examination

The Thought Fox has always been for me the poem, the poem which defines what a poem is while still purporting to be a poem of the type poem. It is aprocess and a product simultaneously and hits you with an unexpected force, “the hot stink of the fox”, as you marvel at its unraveling.

It is what I call recursive poetry, a poem within a poem. Perhaps self-referential is the right word. And also it perhaps adheres to the classic definition of poetry given by G.K.Chesterton, “all metaphor is poetry”, like.no.other.

Save for the two lines:

And this blank page where my fingers move.

……………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………..

The page is printed.

there is really no indication of what is being described. Essentially a perfect merging of the literal and the metaphor, and only two lines to give up the game! A superior effort, on these lines, I have not yet seen. Perhaps there exists one, and the reader might bring it to my notice, so we can enjoy together the Muse in all her disguised glory.

Is such an effort even possible? Is it possible to write a poem, entirely metaphorical, yet in-spite of being pure metaphor, accurately maps to a literal reference point, discernible to the reader from the language, the subject being described and the tone and other indirect tools at the disposal of the poet, with which he never hesitates the tease the mind of the reader, suggesting without entirely revealing the meaning and even the purport?

The art of poetry is as much about a teasing and how far a poet can evoke thoughts in the minds of the reader than abrupt revealing of the truth. Hence poetry can properly defined as an art that invokes, inspires and evokes ideas in the recipient’s mind rather than being just a metaphor, metaphor is just the right tool to achieve the desired ends – evocation of ideas in the minds of the discerner. Thus, a certain degree of preparation is necessary to admire and appreciate poetry and this is an endeavour that never ends, for you can be sure that just when you have apprehended the context, connotation and content of the poem, another more sensitive and aesthete mind – and perhaps closer to the poets heart -would not come up with yet another idea, angle or notion, that probably never was even intended by the poet.

Hence this adventure in analysis by me would always be incomplete, and never do I presume to have “understood” a poem, for even should one live up to four score and ten years, there is bound to be an experience that one has not experienced and that lacunae would certainly deprive the individual of the full experience of the poem.

I would always like to know the ethos of her/his country, the milleu that she/he lived in, her/his tastes and hates and her/his dreams and nightmares, before I embark on a reading of any poet’s work and I wouldn’t be temerarious to suggest that I have done justice to her/his work until I had known her/him in full. Yet the desire to delve deep into another persons aesthetic product runs deep in my veins and I hope to mine gold as I focus my Davy’s Lamp on the “widening, opening cave” of clear thought.

With this elaborate defence, I venture furtively and scared, into the dangerous terrain of literary analysis.

to be continued……..

The Thought Fox

By Ted Hughes

I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

 

Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night

by Dylan Thomas
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” from The Poems of Dylan Thomas. Copyright 1939, 1946 by New Directions Publishing Corporation. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1957)