Nationality – Mary Gilmore – Analysis

Nationality

I have grown passed hate and bitterness,
I see the world as one;
But though I can no longer hate,
My son is still my son.

All men at God’s round table sit,
And all men must be fed;
But this loaf in my hand,
This loaf is my son’s bread.

Mary Gilmore (1865 -1962)

This is a simple two stanza one sentence poem with the second and final line of each stanza rhyming. However, it does contain some deep philosophical thought.

S1 … The first line indicates that this poem may have been written late in her life. To see the world as one and not take sides. Forget the goodies and the baddies we are all both. She saw the world as one; to be inclusive of all peoples, to accept everyone. But this means to accept the ‘sinner’ but not the ‘sin’. Mary Gilmore hated sin and worked for social justice and was involved in many community issues as well as the emancipation of women. To hate the sin and not the sinner takes effort.

And the world is becoming one as borders are diminishing in significance. There is more mobility between nations due to refugee migration and increased international travel. Electronic communication is another strong factor negating border significance. How best to deal with any loss of national identity is another matter. Some nations are perhaps feeling quite threatened by such loss and are reluctant to adjust to change.

The last line of this stanza gives emphasis to family, her son. We cannot treat everybody we meet the same. We will always bias our actions in favour of family and friends. These sinners will get preferential treatment in our lives but, of course, hating their sins.

Equally there is a bias towards our own nationality.

S2 … If all humanity sit at God’s table to be fed, and if we have bread whether from God or ourselves then we have a natural tendency for giving and sharing with our family. In this poem specifically the mother son relationship. MG had one son.

This poem puts nationality into perspective, often nationality is too dominant in the progression of self-interest.

Mary Gilmore on Wikipedia.

Animal Accident – A personal encounter

Following on from my last Post here is a personal poem in relation to a Kangaroo … not a pleasant experience …

Animal Accident

Empty night road
stars with the moon off centre.
Talking of people met, then
bigger than a Qantas tail plane
highlighted by car light
it was before the windscreen.

Inevitable as judgement day
Tony shouting ‘kangaroo’
the brake screech
rubber hot into the road
and thud!

Shocked stillness.

Dark paddocks alongside
the parked car steaming
and we on centre stage
enter the evening chill.

Inspect the damaged bonnet,
radiator intact and car driveable.

The roo lying in right hand lane
motionless except for a watery eye
alive to our movement.

Dragging the broken body
clearing the road for traffic
streaking her wet internals.

Our car disappears.
The countryside reclaims the night.

The grass verge cradles a dying animal.

There will be no flowers.

© Richard Scutter

This poem was writen several years ago. Thanks to my friend Tony for help in dealing with the situation.

Qantas – Australian airline

Accidents involving kangaroos are common in rural areas of Australia. An organisation called WIRES (Wildlife Injury Rescue Emergency Service) exists to help injured animals.

I saw the beauty go – Mary Gilmore – Analysis

I saw the beauty go

I saw the beauty go,
The beauty that, in a stream,
Flowed through the breadth of the land
Like the fenceless foot of a dream.

There went the kangaroos, that, in hosts,
For their bedding-down grouped at even,
Only the sound of the nibbling lips
Making the sunset steven.

Then as they stilled, and the moon
With her white cloths mantled the trees,
From the shadows beneath the mopoke called,
And the curlew made her pleas.

I saw the beauty go,
The beauty that could not be tamed;
But before it went it looked at me
With the eyes of the maimed.

Dame Mary Gilmore (1865 – 1962)

There are four stanzas each a sentence with the second and fourth line rhyming.

We tend to think of environmental concern as something new. In this poem Mary Gilmore clearly demonstrates her concern for the changing face of nature at a time when Australia was very much being tamed. It appears to me to be her concern for the killing of kangaroos.

S1 … Beauty disappearing ‘like the fenceless foot of a dream’– the land was being fenced for rural development and the kangaroo a pest.

S2 … steven = enhancing
The beautiful picture of kangaroos at sunset totally at peace with nature.

S3 … mopoke = spotted brown owl, curlew = wading bird with a hooked beak
As they stilled the curlew made her pleas … a warning of imminent danger … MG does not declare what might be about to happen leaving it to the reader to fill in the tradegy.

S4 … If ever you experience the accidental road death of a kangaroo, or for whatever reason, that maimed look from their brown eyes is heart wrenching … ‘with the eyes of the maimed’. Something very beautiful is dead.

It would have been unusual in her time to be supportive of the lives of kangaroos.

Mary Gilmore had strong political views and was a voice beyond her time.

Mary Gilmore on Wikipedia … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Gilmore

Places, Loved Ones – Philip Larkin – Analysis

Places, Loved Ones

No, I have never found
The place where I could say
This is my proper ground,
Here I shall stay;
Nor met that special one
Who has an instant claim
On everything I own
Down to my name;

To find such seems to prove
You want no choice in where
To build, or whom to love;
You ask them to bear
You off irrevocably,
So that it’s not your fault
Should the town turn dreary,
The girl a dolt.

Yet, having missed them, you’re
Bound, none the less, to act
As if what you settled for
Mashed you, in fact;
And wiser to keep away
From thinking you still might trace
Uncalled-for to this day
Your person, your place.

Philip Larkin 1922 – 1985

This poem, written in 1954, consists of three stanzas each a sentence broken in two parts by a semicolon. The second part a reflective extension to the first. Each stanza has rhyming scheme ‘ababcdcd’.

A typical Larkin ignoble poetic reportage on institutional life and the establishment, in this case the poem centres on the construct of marriage and how it restricts individuals by tying them down to one person. Larkin regarded himself as a poet of dullness and deprivation. And there is certainly a dull veil covering his thoughts on marriage in this poem.

In his day it was difficult to divorce it being an irrevocable affair. So it may happen that a dolt (stupid person) is your lot and the place where you live turns dreary. He suggests perhaps that marriage may cause such tendencies due to lack of freedom.

PL was never quite content with place or partner, and he wanted to keep relationships open. He was engaged at one time but he never married. He had several relationships. He lived in Hull for thirty years while Librarian at Hull University. He regarded Hull as a fringe city and he too was on the fringe of the poetic establishment of his time. When the Poet Laureate, John Betjeman, died in 1984 he was offered that position but declined. It has been said that he was the defacto Poet Laureate.

The poem ends stating that while not being satisfied with the status quo it is best to make the most of it anyway. Making the most of being mashed, marriage mashes the individual – and the potato is no longer a potato. On the positive side he could have been stronger in his wording and used ‘Smash’! And the last part of the concluding sentence gives advise – it is wise not to think of looking for something better.

So make the most of your day whatever the circumstances.

Philip Larkin on Wikipedia

And here is a link to a positive ending from Philip Larkin in his poem Arundel Tomb.

Humour and Ogden Nash

Ogden Nash and Humour

Humour is an important ingredient in any text. In the main it offers lightness and the ability to create a smile in the reader. This is not always the case of course – ‘black humour’ can invoke negative emotions as well as humour – especially if humour is at the expense of something or somebody. In such cases it can be quite damaging and if acceptable perhaps only acceptable at a cost and always at the discernment of the reader. Ogden Nash is always of an acceptable nature.

From Wikipedia … Nash’s poetry was often a playful twist of an old saying or poem. For one example, he expressed this playfulness in what is perhaps his most famous rhyme, a twist on Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees” (1913).

Song of the Open Road

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree
Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I’ll never see a tree at all.

Selecting more of his work …

The Turtle lives’ twixt plated decks
Which practically conceal its sex.
I think it clever of the turtle
In such a fix to be so fertile.

There was an old man of Calcutta,
Who coated his tonsils with butta,
Thus converting his snore
From a thunderous roar
To a soft, oleaginous mutta.

The Middle

When I remember bygone days
I think how evening follows morn;
So many I loved were not yet dead,
So many I love were not yet born
.
Ogden Nash (1902 – 1971)

from Wikipedia …

Frederic Ogden Nash … was an American poet well known for his light verse. At the time of his death in 1971, The New York Times said his “droll verse with its unconventional rhymes made him the country’s best-known producer of humorous poetry”.

On Ogden Nash

Ogden Nash is a humour-US poet I admire
His rhymes are often quite exemplar
For, if a word he cannot take
A new one he soon doth make
Yes, Ogden Nash is a poet quite unique-lar!

Richard Scutter

In Memory of Basil, Marquess of Dufferin and Ava – John Betjeman

In Memory of Basil, Marquess of Dufferin and Ava

On such a morning as this
with the birds ricocheting their music
Out of the whelming elms
to a copper beech’s embrace
And a sifting sound of leaves
from multitudinous branches
Running across the park
to a chequer of light on the lake,
On such a morning as this
with ‘The Times’ for June the eleventh
Left with coffee and toast
you opened the breakfast-room window
And, sprawled on the southward terrace,
said: “That means war in September.”

Friend of my youth, you are dead!
and the long peel pours from the steeple
Over this sunlit quad
in our University city
And soaks in Headington stone.
Motionless stand the pinnacles.
Under a flying sky
as though they too listened and waited
Like me for your dear return
with a Bullingdon nose of an evening
In a Sports-Bugatti from Thame
that belonged to a man in Magdelen.
Friend of my youth you are dead!
and the quads are empty without you.

Then there were people about.
Each hour, like and Oxford archway,
Opened on long green lawns
and distant unvisited buildings
And you my friend were explorer
and so you remained to me always
Humorous, reckless, loyal –
my kind heavy-lidded companion.
Stop, oh many bells, stop
pouring on roses, and creeper
Your unremembering peal
this hollow, unhallowed V. E. Day, –
I am deaf to your notes and dead
by a soldier’s body in Burma.

John Betjeman (1906 – 1984)

From 1945 Poems ‘New Bats, And old Belfries’

Marquess – a nobleman ranking between a duke and an earl.
Headington stone is a limestone from the Headington Quarry area of Oxford
V.E. Day – 8 May 1945 – Victory in Europe
The Bullingdon Club – the notorious all-male Oxford University dining club.
Sports-Bugatti – a rather nice sports-car

Basil Sheridan Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 4th Marquess of Dufferin and Ava died on 25 March 1945 at age 35 at Burma, killed in action. He was educated at Eton College, Windsor, Berkshire, England and at Balliol College, Oxford University. He was an intimate contemporary friend of John Betjeman. He was exceptionally talented and led an extrodinary life.

If, in the first stanza, the poem relates to an image of life on 11 June 1939 then Basil would have been 29 years old and John Betjeman a little older. Clearly they were staying together perhaps near Oxford. The opening of a breakfast window to a beautiful June summer morning reminds me of the opening words of Mrs Dalloway. These words portray a lazy carefree picture of upper-class life. The last line is important in making the contrast link to the pending war which is about to complete destroy this somewhat idealistic picture of England.

JB’s Oxford life is the backdrop of his memory to times with his friend. And he awaits the return of his friend as a he once did when waiting for him to turn up at the Bullingdon Club in a dashing sport car. The bells are ringing out from the steeple and we find out in the last stanza that it is V. E. Day a day of celebration but it is a hollow unhallowed day because JB lost his close friend in the war in March. And the cry goes out to Stop, oh many bells, stop.

JB did not make friends easily but he did he lavish affection upon old friends. In this personal elegy we see him share his deep feelings in the words of this poem.

John Betjeman was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1972 until his death.

JB on Wikipedia

Lady Lazarus – Sylvia Plath – Analysis

Lay Lazarus

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it——

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?——

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot——
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Dying
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
It’s the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
Amused shout:

‘A miracle!’
That knocks me out.
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart——
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash—
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there——

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Beware
Beware.

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963)

The title Lady Lazarus rolls off the tongue with alliteration and assonance. She uses interior rhyme. Colloquial expression gives emphasis to the passion of her delivery –
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
She mentions her age of 30 years … I am only thirty … she turned 30 on the 27th October 1962 … so this dates the poem … her most productive time as a poet.

There are 28 three line stanzas involving reference to –
SP’s previous suicide attempts – with personal details … like her scars
The Holocaust … she identifies her ‘death and resurrection’ in terms of those that died in the gas chambers. In her final attempt she dies with her head in an oven.
Religion – Lazarus – resurrection – She details what her ‘resurrection’ signifies.
Her life … she sees herself as an artist …
Dying
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

It is a very strong stand-up ‘I’ poem declared in strong passionate terms. And rallying against those guilty of inhumanity. A confrontation with Herr God, Herr Doktor, Herr Lucifer.

SP was only nine years old when her father died and this caused an anger against death in taking him away, he had a German heritage … she became aware of the holocaust and the terrors of death in the camps when a child being born in 1932 … again angry with such death … caused by man … and at the time of writing this poem, in October 1962, Ted Hughes had left her and perhaps an ’emotional death’ and distrust created similar anger against man. This poem is often seen as a statement for female emancipation.

SP identifies with those who died in the Holocaust … she herself as of lampshade skin … and the picture of body decay presents distastful morbid imagery to the reader as …
Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me
(note the internal structure to the middle line)

SP sees herself as an expert at attempted suicide and returning … and she considers her skill as a theatrical performance … before the peanut-crunchers … performing a miracle for all to see. She did get much recognition in regard to her suicide attempts and there is always a certain context shadow when reading some of her poetry.

But she will survive like Lazarus … the great miracle … and when she is ‘unwrapped’ it will be the big strip tease … regarding her revival as exciting entertainment … to see what’s underneath … to see her new born again body (peel off my napkin)

Her second attempt nearly took her life … she was discovered just ‘as the worms were setting in’
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

And there she is in the Holocaust as just ash … the Holocaust being defined by …
A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

And there is nothing there … but there is a charge for the rebirth … a restitution for the unjust dead? … and she will rise out of this …out of the ashes … representing all those that died … she will arise and give rebirth … new life … a little far-fetched but perhaps she imagined herself as some sort of warped female Christ
Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Beware
Beware.

And SP states that this is for you … for humanity … with a hatred for man
I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby
(opus – creative piece of work … pure gold)

In summary … this is clearly a personal poem of anger … defining herself in strong Ok terms … about death (and unjust death) … about her challenge of defying death … and beating death and those that have caused terrible death … laughing back at them … returning to life with fire and energy as a female … and devouring terrible MAN … clearly seen by the last stanza …
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

Sylvia Plath on Wikipedia

RIP – SP

Responding to Shakespeare – Emotional Extremes

Words often give extremes in emotional feeling … poetry and the arts are reknown for such expression … here is a well-known example from Shakespeare and Macbeth

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle.
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
signifying nothing

Macbeth (5.iv.18-27)

Responding to these words at the other end of the spectrum ….

Today, and today, and today
in marvellous paradise
absorbing second by second
the full cup of divine love
where all our tomorrows have a new sun
aglow in glorious light, forever shining.
It is the tale of a wise-man,
alive in the knowledge of the forever now
full of beauty and joy,
signifying everything.

The release of such words is often thought of as an aid in dealing with emotional disturbance.

And words can become close friends in dealing with difficult situations. The outstanding example of this is ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’.

Have a great day whatever great – great being defined as appropriate to your situation!