Sunday, 28 February 2010

Longfellow, "The Ladder of St. Augustine"

This is a poem by the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), better known for his "Psalm of Life" and whose birthday was yesterday. I've taken the liberty of changing the last line of the penultimate verse because the original failed to rhyme.

I think every important concept or idea has a powerful image attached to it which encapsulates it. In astronomy for example, the idea that the galaxies of the universe are moving away from each other, yet there is no point within the universe from which they are moving (rather it is the fabric of space-time itself that is expanding and that it even expanded faster than the speed of light in the initial moments after the Big Bang), a mind-boggling concept, but made perfectly clear if we have the image in our mind of galaxies as like points on a balloon, moving apart as the balloon itself is blown up.

In the case of the spiritual journey, and the journey of life, the path is a powerful image that helps us understand how there can be many paths, but the destination is the same, or how we might reach a crossroad and need to make a choice, or how the shortest way may be the most difficult. But another very powerful image for this journey is that of the ladder, of letting go of past attachments, the rungs that we must trample down, climbing up step by step from our subjective view of the world that might involve unskilful desires and lack a deeper wisdom, and looking down from a higher more objective viewpoint. At least, that's my understanding.

I wonder if you have any powerful images that you have found useful which you would like to share?

Saint Augustine! well hast thou said,
That of our vices we can frame
A ladder, if we will but tread
Beneath our feet each deed of shame!

All common things, each day's events,
That with the hour begin and end,
Our pleasures and our discontents,
Are rounds by which we may ascend.

The low desire, the base design,
That makes another's virtues less;
The revel of the ruddy wine,
And all occasions of excess;

The longing for ignoble things;
The strife for triumph more than truth;
The hardening of the heart, that brings
Irreverence for the dreams of youth;

All thoughts of ill; all evil deeds,
That have their root in thoughts of ill;
Whatever hinders or impedes
The action of the nobler will; —

All these must first be trampled down
Beneath our feet, if we would gain
In the bright fields of fair renown
The right of eminent domain.

We have not wings, we cannot soar;
But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The cloudy summits of our time.

The mighty pyramids of stone
That wedge-like cleave the desert airs,
When nearer seen, and better known,
Are but gigantic flights of stairs.

The distant mountains, that uprear
Their solid bastions to the skies,
Are crossed by pathways, that appear
As we to higher levels rise.

The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.

Standing on what too long we bore
With shoulders bent and downcast eyes,
We may discern — unseen before —
A higher path to our surprise,

Nor doom the irrevocable Past
As wholly wasted, wholly vain,
If, rising on its wrecks, at last
To something nobler we attain.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The Seduction of the Wild Man

This is the third and probably final blog devoted to my rhyming (and pretty literal) version of the first few verses of the oldest written text known to man, the epic poem The Gilgamesh. See my first blog, The Prelude to the Gilgamesh, for background information and whetting the appetite for what we can look forward to in the story. In my second blog, The Creation of the Wild Man, the two main characters are introduced, the king Gilgamesh and the wild man Enkidu. This third part is "The Seduction of the Wild Man". There are interesting parallels with the Fall of man in the Adam and Eve story, except the Fall is also an Awakening. It also sets up the story for how the wild man will leave the wilderness, meet Gilgamesh and how standing together they will accomplish many great deeds.

TABLET I (cont.)


A trapper saw him there quenching his thirst,
A second and third time just like the first,
He stood still in fear and his face went white,
Heart pounding, shaking and drained at the sight.

He asked his father, “Over the mountain,
Has come one who is the mightiest of men.
He jostles with deer at the watering place
And stands, feet planted opposite its face.

I was scared, so did not approach this thug,
But he fills in the pits that I have dug,
Tears out my traps and sets animals free.
I catch nothing now. Please can you help me.”

The father replied, “I know a man, my son,
Called Gilgamesh, who is the greatest one.
Go to Uruk and tell him of your plight.
He will help you against this man of might.

Ask him for Shamhat, a temple priestess,
To take with you into the wilderness,
A woman of love who with practice long
Will overcome him as if she were strong.

When he is drinking water, lead her there.
Have her undress, legs spread, her beauty bare.
He will leave the animals and draw near
And to them he will no longer be dear.”


He followed his father’s advice and went.
Within Uruk’s walls, he proclaimed his vent.
“O Gilgamesh, from over the mountain,
Has come one who is the mightiest of men.

He jostles with deer at the watering place
And stands, feet planted opposite its face.
I was scared, so did not approach this thug,
But he fills in the pits that I have dug,

Tears out my traps and sets animals free.
I catch nothing now. Please can you help me.”
Gilgamesh said, “Take Shamhat, the priestess.
She will overcome him with her caress.

“When he is drinking water, lead her there.
Have her undress, legs spread, her beauty bare.
He will leave the animals and draw near
And to them he will no longer be dear.”

So the trapper set off with no delay
Along with Shamhat and on the third day
Trapper and priestess arrived at the spot
Where they would wait to accomplish their plot.

For two days they watched the water sprinkling
And the wild beasts that came and were drinking
Then he, Enkidu, came down from the fells
He who ate grasses alongside gazelles5.

“Look!” said the trapper, “he is over there!
Cast off your robes and show your beauty bare
When he sees you, nature will take its course.
Do not be restrained. Absorb his life force.

Spread yourself so he may lie upon you.
Show this savage what a woman can do.
The beasts he grew up with, he will then spurn
As his lust for you will begin to burn.”

Shamhat slipped her robe from her bosom fair
And cast it off to show her beauty bare.
He approached her and nature took its course.
She was not restrained but grasped his life force.

Spreading her legs, she used the arts she knew,
Dazzling him with what a woman can do.
The beasts he grew up with were no concern
As he groaned and his lust began to burn.

Six days and seven nights he stayed aroused
Making love until his passions were doused,
But when he left her on the seventh day
The gazelles saw him and bounded away.

The wild beasts no longer stayed by his side
And his knees felt stiff as if they were tied.
His strength gone, he could not run as before
And yet he felt changed, as if he knew more.


He turned back to Shamhat and sat back down,
Gazing at her face with a puzzled frown.
His ears alert, he understood her tongue,
As in sweet melody to him she sung.

“You are handsome, Enkidu, a god-child,
Why do you wander with beasts in the wild?
Come home with me. To Uruk let us ride,
To the shrine where Anu and Ishtar reside.

Land of Gilgamesh, wise to perfection
But who tramples like a bull over men.”
With these words she found she won his favour
As he yearned for a friendship to savour.

“Come Shamhat, to the sacred let us ride,
To the shrine where Anu and Ishtar reside.
Land of Gilgamesh, wise to perfection
But who tramples like a bull over men.

I will change the order of things, priestess.
The mightiest is he born in wilderness.”
“Come then,” she said, “so he may see your face,
To Gilgamesh, I will show you the place.”

Tablet I continues with a speech by the priestess Shamhat which, like the Prelude, is believed to have been added in the Akkadian translation in the 7th century BC and doesn’t correspond to anything in the original Sumerian from a thousand years earlier.

This seems strange to us today when we have strict notions of authorship and ownership and copyright which forbids such tampering of original texts. But it was not so in ancient times. There are of course disadvantages with such tampering. The loss of original form and context can result in a loss of understanding, like a game of Chinese whispers and the final result could lose the essence of the original. And yet, this form of cooperative story-telling over hundreds of years can also lead to an improved, more refined, if lengthier, finished product. It was how the epic came to be, as combinations of many other stories. Some say that the real hero of the original form of the story was actually Enkidu, hence the introduction of Gilgamesh into the action requires the frequent reminder that Gilgamesh is greater still.

All the folk tales from all parts of the world were passed orally from generation to generation in this way, changing over time until first the culture of memorization and then their recording in written form crystallized them into what we know today. Many of these folk tales have only been recorded in the past hundred years. Many more have been lost. What makes the Gilgamesh so unusual is that it was already in writing so very long ago.

This addition to the epic is considered a good one. It sets the scenery, adding colour and a sense of space. And no doubt it is also of historical interest. It follows on with an early example of dream interpretation as she tells how Gilgamesh has foreseen his future meeting and friendship with Enkidu. And finally it completes Tablet I! I never imagined doing so much.

Shamhat’s Speech

You will see Uruk with its seven walls,
And the people in fine embroidered shawls
Of many splendid colours, fringed with lace,
Each day a celebration in this place.

You will hear music played on lyre and drum,
The singing and laughter of all who come,
And the priestesses who ooze in excess
Beauty, energy and sexual prowess.

They stand by the temple dressed in bright red
And on the couch of night the sheets are spread,
In Ishtar’s name, their service of pleasure
Offered to all men to share her treasure.

Enkidu, you do not know how to live.
Look at Gilgamesh, this advice I give.
He has known extremes of both joy and pain
That would make any other man insane.

Handsome, young, fresh and born of a goddess,
Oozing energy and sexual prowess,
He is stronger than you, his power so deep
That neither day nor night does he need sleep.

Enkidu, you must change your wrong thinking
Or your macho pride will be your sinking.
It is Gilgamesh whom Shamash adores,
The sun god who metes out justice and laws.

Anu, Enlil and Ea grew his mind,
With sky, earth and water he is aligned.
Even before you came down from the fells
He had dreamt of you in a dream he tells.

He asked his mother, “Mother, I’ve had a dream.
The stars came out and a rock it would seem
Came down from the sky and fell next to me
But I could not lift or turn it to see.

And all the people were crowding around
From all of Uruk to see what I’d found,
From all of the land, men journeyed to see
And were kissing its feet like a baby.

I embraced it and laid it at your feet
But against myself you made it compete.”
The mother of Gilgamesh, wise Ninsun
Interpreted thus the dream for her son,

“There will come to you a mighty comrade,
A friend you can trust to come to your aid.
The rock represents the mightiest of men.
You embraced him. It is a good omen.”

A second time, he came to his mother
Asking her to interpret another.
“Mother, in my dream there lay at my gate
An axe so huge I could not lift its weight.

And all the people were crowding around
From all of Uruk to see what I’d found,
From all of the land, men journeyed to see
And were kissing its feet like a baby.

I embraced it and laid it at your feet
But against myself you made it compete.”
The mother of Gilgamesh, wise Ninsun
Interpreted thus the dream for her son,

“There will come to you a mighty comrade,
A friend you can trust to come to your aid.
The axe represents the mightiest of men.
You embraced him. It is a good omen.”

Gilgamesh said, “Mother, so may it be,
By Anu’s will, a friend will come to me.
You have interpreted my dreams of him.
The coin of fate spins balanced on its rim.” ”

Thus Shamhat finished her beautiful speech
And Enkidu learnt what she had to teach.
So it was that he set out on his trip
And there blossomed a wonderful friendship. 

Saturday, 20 February 2010

The Creation of the Wild Man

This is a continuation from my last post The Prelude to the Gilgamesh where the background is explained. In European mythology, and no doubt in other cultures too, there is the mythical concept of the wild man in folklore. The wild man lives outside the construct of civilization and so is perceived as a threat and feared. The only wild man story I'm really familiar with is that of the Gaulish village of Asterix and Obelix. (They are the only ones who can hold out against the might of the Roman empire because their druid makes a magic potion which gives them supernatural strength.) But it seems the original "wild man" is in the Gilgamesh, right at the beginning of the story. Here is a verse translation which I've done, first introducing Gilgamesh and then how the wild man Enkidu came to be created. The original of the Prologue and the whole of Tablet I in very literal translation may be found here. The translation by Stephen Mitchell which I linked in the last thread is only available online for the Prologue.


Majestic ruler, supreme among kings,
In power, strength, stature and all great things,
Born in Uruk, of the goring wild bull,
He is the hero, of bold spirit full.

He walks out in front, the leader of men,
He walks at the rear, trusted companion,
A fortress and protector of his realm,
And a storming flood, razing from the helm.

Born of Lugalbanda, he is his son,
And of the august cow, goddess Ninsun,
He is two-thirds divine and one-third human,
He is awesome and strong to perfection.

It was he who opened mountain passes,
He who dug wells by the mountain grasses,
He who crossed the ocean and the vast seas,
To the rising sun, searching for life’s keys.

By his strength, he reached Utanapishtim,
The restorer of life at the world’s rim,
Who survived the Flood and revived mankind
To its sacred place of which it was blind.

Who then can compare to great Gilgamesh?
Who was named thus from his birth in the creche?
The goddess of creation designed his form,
Handsome and radiant beyond every norm.


About the city, he struts, head held high,
No-one dares to oppose him, they just stand by
As the son is taken, the daughter too,
Is he a wise shepherd for this to do?

The gods tell Lord Anu of the people’s cry,
“No-one dares to oppose him, they just stand by
As the son is taken, the daughter too,
Is he a wise shepherd for this to do?”

Anu hears them and calls out to Aruru,
“Goddess, since he was created by you,
Make a double who against him can stand,
So their balance may bring peace to the land.”

So Aruru created the double
As Anu asked to resolve this trouble.
She washed her hands, pinched some clay and threw,
And out of the wild arose Enkidu.

Born of Silence, blessed with Ninurta’s strength,
He was shaggy with hair along his length
And had long flowing locks like a woman
And lived among animals far from men.

As fast as the billowing wind he ran,
Roaming all over dressed like Sumuqan,
Eating grasses with the gazelles and foals
And jostling with deer at the watering holes.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Prelude to the Gilgamesh

The Gilgamesh is an epic poem and the oldest written text in any language, dating back to before 2000BC. It was originally in Sumerian, but most of it is lost and what we have is the translation into Babylonian (Akkadian) from a thousand years later, which itself remained undiscovered in the sands of modern-day Iraq from 700BC until 1849 when it was found by the British archeologist Austen Henry Layard. The cuneiform script was decoded and translated into English as early as the 1880s. There are apparently interesting parallels with the ancient Greek story of Odysseus and also with elements of the Bible, such as the story of Noah's Ark, though it predates both by over a thousand years.
I've yet to read more than the general gist of the story myself. I'm told that the best translation is by Stephen Mitchell, and you can see his version of the Prologue here. But despite that, I offer you my version of the Prologue and in verse(!), and perhaps it will whet your appetite to read more.

Prelude to the Gilgamesh
I tell of he who had seen everything,
Who in life experienced every feeling
From highest ecstasy to dark despair,
Of all things alike, granted knowledge rare.

By himself, the Secret untold he found,
And that which was Hidden deep underground
Its mysteries buried under the mud
From the primeval world before the Flood.

On an epic quest he tired himself out,
But then he found peace and spread it about,
Carving in stone stela,
of all his toils,
And restoring the walls and temples and soils.

Behold this glorious city of Uruk
The holy sanctuary, Eanna,
How it gleams like fire opal in the sun,
Inspect closer -- it is equal to none.

Hold the threshold stone that dates back so far,
Approach the temple, sacred to Ishtar,
Climb the city walls, examine around
The foundations, the plans, the brickwork sound.

Seven Sages of yore laid it all out,
One league of city and all about
One league of palm gardens and one of land,
And half a league for Ishtar’s temple grand.

Seek out and discover the copper box
Whose secret fastening of bronze unlocks.
Open the lid and inside you will see
Our tale inscribed in lapis

Take out the tablets and read of the king,
This legend that into the land I bring,
Of Gilgamesh who suffered everything.
And how he overcame his suffering.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Rebecca Elson

A selection of poems by the late Canadian astronomer and poet Rebecca Elson from "A Responsibility to Awe" (2001).

Dark Matter

Above a pond,
An unseen filament
Of spider's floss

Suspends a slowly
Spinning leaf.

Inventing Zero

First it was lines in the sand,

The tangents, intersections,
Things that never met,
And you with your big stick,
Calling it geometry.

Then numbers, counting
One and two, until
A wind blew up
And everything was gone,
Blank to the horizon.

Less than two for me
But cunning you,
You found a whole new
Starting point:

Let it have properties,
And power
To make things infinite
Or nothing,
Or simply hold a space.

Carnal Knowledge

Having picked the final datum
From the universe
And fixed it in its column,
Named the causes of infinity,
Performed the calculus
Of the imaginary i, it seems

The body aches
To come too,
To the light,
Transmit the grace of gravity,
Express in its own algebra
The symmetries of awe and fear,
The shudder up the spine,
The knowing passing like a cool wind
That leaves the nape hairs leaping.

Frattura Vecchia

Breaking bread beside the spring,
Yourself mute
And the village going to the mountain
Stone by stone,

A snake moves towards the water,
Mythical, precise, remote,
And you are taken by a sudden temporality,
Like water from a dry hill --

Each bit of landscape
A piece from somewhere else

Till, lying on your back
There is no mountain,
Only sky,
Only a cloud

In Opposition

One moon between us,

Two seasons,

What else?
A few stars,
No wind.

In these moments
When we both walk,
How odd,
How we stand
The soles of our feet

Only the planet's breadth.


We are there, on the hillside

Evening coming down.

And you begin to lean
Against some longing
Till it shifts,
The whole stone weight of it
Begins to roll,
To thunder.

And I cannot move,
I cannot make my body
Step aside.
I cannot.

And after, when the night grows still again,
I settle on my back
Saying only, "How sweet,
That fresh crushed meadow scent."

Not saying how my heart leapt
Like the small frogs
In the tall grass
In its darkening, rushing path.

Chess Game in a Garden

Under the breath of roses
We lie
In a summer of white words
Knotted like clouds,
I on my back
Watch a bee crawl up
Into the bonnet of a blossom,
Back my queen into a corner,
Feel the power you command
Hold me in the cup of your hand.

The flowers lean in on us,
Touch us.
I turn
On my stomach,
Watch the grass blades twitch,
Watch your knight leap up
Tap down
Felted base on a bare board
Champing for space.

We move at angles
Guarding our strategies,
Our pawns,
Our pain,
Our claim
To a blue streak of wisdom
On a windy day.

Flying a Kite

It seems to me the kite
Has all the fun,
The view,
The weightlessness
The wind,
Ecstatic shudders,
Tail streaming out,
The urging higher,
The exhilarating dives,
And me down here,
Left holding the string.

The Ballad of Just and While

Although I am about to drop,
I'll just do this before I stop.

I'll dust the stairs, put out the bin,
I'll bring the still wet washing in.

A woman's work is never done:
I'll finish something I've begun.

But one thing's not enough for me.
With 'while' I could be doing three.

And 'just's' a wedge to squeeze in more.
(Excuse me, I'll just sweep the floor.)

It's just the same at work as home.
I calculate, I write, I phone ...

But things cannot go on this way.
I think I've done enough today.

Let while be something outside me:
The turning earth, the waving sea.

Let just be me upon some beach,
Just sorting pebbles within reach.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Darker Side of Love

A selection of five poems by Carol Ann Duffy, who is the current (and first ever female) Poet Laureate since May 2009, and eight poems by Dorothy Parker, an amusing American poet and writer of the last century.

Carol Ann Duffy


Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife. 


I’d done it before
(and doubtless I’ll do it again,
sooner or later)
woke up with a head on the pillow beside me – whose? –
what did it matter?

Good-looking, of course, dark hair, rather matted;
the reddish beard several shades lighter;
with very deep lines around the eyes,
from pain, I’d guess, maybe laughter;
and a beautiful crimson mouth that obviously knew
how to flatter…
which I kissed…
Colder than pewter.
Strange. What was his name? Peter?

Simon? Andrew? John? I knew I’d feel better
for tea, dry toast, no butter,
so rang for the maid.
And, indeed, her innocent clatter
of cups and plates,
her clearing of clutter,
her regional patter,
were just what I needed –
hungover and wrecked as I was from a night on the batter.

Never again!
I needed to clean up my act,
get fitter,
cut out the booze and the fags and the sex.
Yes. And as for the latter,
it was time to turf out the blighter,
the beater or biter,
who’d come like a lamb to the slaughter
to Salome’s bed.

In the mirror, I saw my eyes glitter.
I flung back the sticky red sheets,
and there, like I said – and ain’t life a bitch –
was his head on a platter. 


Where I lived - winter and hard earth.
I sat in my cold stone room
choosing tough words, granite, flint,

to break the ice. My broken heart -
I tried that, but it skimmed,
flat, over the frozen lake.

She came from a long, long way,
but I saw her at last, walking,
my daughter, my girl, across the fields,

In bare feet, bringing all spring's flowers
to her mother's house. I swear
the air softened and warmed as she moved,

the blue sky smiling, none too soon,
with the small shy mouth of a new moon. 

Mrs. Darwin

7 April 1852
Went to the Zoo.
I said to Him—
Something about that Chimpanzee over there reminds me of you. 

Miles Away

I want you and you are not here. I pause
in this garden, breathing the colour thought is
before language into still air. Even your name
is a pale ghost and, though I exhale it again
and again, it will not stay with me. Tonight
I make you up, imagine you, your movements clearer
than the words I have you say you said before.

Wherever you are now, inside my head you fix me
with a look, standing here whilst cool late light
dissolves into the earth. I have got your mouth wrong,
but still it smiles. I hold you closer, miles away,
inventing love, until the calls of nightjars
interrupt and turn what was to come, was certain,
into memory. The stars are filming us for no one.

Dorothy Parker 

Unfortunate Coincidence

By the time you swear you're his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying -
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying 

Indian Summer

In youth, it was a way I had
To do my best to please,
And change, with every passing lad,
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do;
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!


Sleep, pretty lady, the night is enfolding you;
Drift, and so lightly, on crystalline streams.
Wrapped in its perfumes, the darkness is holding you;
Starlight bespangles the way of your dreams.
Chorus the nightingales, wistfully amorous;
Blessedly quiet, the blare of the day.
All the sweet hours may your visions be glamorous-
Sleep, pretty lady, as long as you may.

Sleep, pretty lady, the night shall be still for you;
Silvered and silent, it watches you rest.
Each little breeze, in its eagerness, will for you
Murmur the melodies ancient and blest.
So in the midnight does happiness capture us;
Morning is dim with another day's tears.
Give yourself sweetly to images rapturous-
Sleep, pretty lady, a couple of years.

Sleep, pretty lady, the world awaits day with you;
Girlish and golden, the slender young moon.
Grant the fond darkness its mystical way with you;
Morning returns to us ever too soon.
Roses unfold, in their loveliness, all for you;
Blossom the lilies for hope of your glance.
When you're awake, all the men go and fall for you-
Sleep, pretty lady, and give me a chance.

Salome's Dancing Lesson
She that begs a little boon
(Heel and toe! Heel and toe!)
Little gets- and nothing, soon.
(No, no, no! No, no, no!)
She that calls for costly things
Priceless finds her offerings-
What's impossible to kings?
(Heel and toe! Heel and toe!)

Kings are shaped as other men.
(Step and turn! Step and turn!)
Ask what none may ask again.
(Will you learn? Will you learn?)
Lovers whine, and kisses pall,
Jewels tarnish, kingdoms fall-
Death's the rarest prize of all!
(Step and turn! Step and turn!)

Veils are woven to be dropped.
(One, two, three! One, two, three!)
Aging eyes are slowest stopped.
(Quietly! Quietly!)
She whose body's young and cool
Has no need of dancing-school-
Scratch a king and find a fool!
(One, two, three! One, two, three!) 

Superfluous Advice

Should they whisper false of you.
Never trouble to deny;
Should the words they say be true,
Weep and storm and swear they lie. 


Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live. 

Love Song

My own dear love, he is strong and bold
      And he cares not what comes after.
His words ring sweet as a chime of gold,
      And his eyes are lit with laughter.
He is jubilant as a flag unfurled—
      Oh, a girl, she’d not forget him.
My own dear love, he is all my world,—
      And I wish I’d never met him.

My love, he’s mad, and my love, he’s fleet,
      And a wild young wood-thing bore him!
The ways are fair to his roaming feet,
      And the skies are sunlit for him.
As sharply sweet to my heart he seems
      As the fragrance of acacia.
My own dear love, he is all my dreams,—
      And I wish he were in Asia.

My love runs by like a day in June,
      And he makes no friends of sorrows.
He’ll tread his galloping rigadoon
      In the pathway of the morrows.
He’ll live his days where the sunbeams start,
      Nor could storm or wind uproot him.
My own dear love, he is all my heart,—
      And I wish somebody’d shoot him. 

From a Letter from Lesbia

... So, praise the gods, Catullus is away!
And let me tend you this advice, my dear:
Take any lover that you will, or may,
Except a poet. All of them are queer.

It's just the same- a quarrel or a kiss
Is but a tune to play upon his pipe.
He's always hymning that or wailing this;
Myself, I much prefer the business type.

That thing he wrote, the time the sparrow died-
(Oh, most unpleasant- gloomy, tedious words!)
I called it sweet, and made believe I cried;
The stupid fool! I've always hated birds...

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Siren's Call

An echo reverberates within.
Deep inside a feeling comes alive. 
Enchanted, you set out on your course 
To follow your dream and find the source.  

Through the mist you catch a glimpse of her, 
Symbol of love, your muse, saint, lover,  
And your mind is haunted by the grace 
Of her flowing form as you give chase.  

They say that love is blind, but you believe 
Just around the bend she waits for you. 
You see her beckon, then back away, 
Drawing your heart in towards its prey.  

Romancing her, your fires burn higher. 
Beneath her coyness, you smell desire. 
And danger too, but you’re not immune 
From succumbing to her siren’s tune.  

You are a hunter, you know this game, 
You know when to race and when to play, 
How to entice and how to engage, 
Being audacious while staying sage.  

But she puts your limits to the test. 
Till out of breath, ideas exhausted, 
You’re surprised to find her in your arms 
Finally won over by your charms.  

Her beauty surpasses all your dreams. 
Your joy exceeds all expectations. 
After all the searching for your prize, 
You sense a mirage before your eyes.  

She sees in you that look of wonder 
Like a child to whom the world is new. 
She wraps about you and with a kiss 
Reassures you in your state of bliss.  

She looks in your eyes and opens her mind, 
Welcoming you in, she vows her love 
And asks you to promise with all your heart 
That from this day you will never part.  

Your gazes locked and your bodies pressed 
You tell of the struggles of your quest 
And how you would not have come this far 
If she had not been your guiding star.  

You pledge that you will ever serve her 
If she gives what you are yearning for. 
She seals the pact red upon your lips 
And in her passion, her bodice rips.  

She gives her body, she gives her heart. 
It is not enough, still you want more. 
Ever so slowly she parts the veil 
Revealing her splendid glory pale.  

You urge her on as your longing grows. 
Yet as she beams, a worry takes hold. 
You are not the only hunter here. 
She closes the veil, sensing your fear.  

The moment lost, you sigh its passing. 
You ask her to give you what you need 
Pleading with her not to be a tease, 
But she declines and draws up her knees.  

With solemn brow, she still looks so cute
As she insists that she’s not to blame, 
That she’s just a woman, nothing more, 
What you seek is behind your own door.  

That which you need was always inside. 
To prove your love, you must find the key. 
On the other side she waits for you. 
Surrender to her and you will be true.  

In the courtyard of your hidden heart 
Beneath starry skies you know she waits, 
Dancing as she hears your footsteps near 
Leaping with one leap across your fear.  

Trumpets blare. She cannot be contained. 
You give your all. All is not enough. 
Stars are but a ceiling for her flight 
As you slip into the well of night.  

Into the depths, falling, lost, alone, 
Alone but for her who holds you close. 
You are nothing. The darkness shatters 
And like a cloud of raindrops scatters.  

Now all is light, you cannot see her 
But in loving arms you know you lie 
And she is present, everlasting 
And watching you take on her casting.

This is originally a poem by Erica (feyrey) that I was "tempted" to extend just a little bit. 
LOL! The result is probably at least twice as long as any poem by me. And I'm very open to suggestions, improvements, alterations, or ideas in general of what should or shouldn't have been included in this romantic epic.

The image is Ophelia (1863) by Arthur Hughes.