Three elements of Hebrew Poetry – Poetry Creation

Looking at Old Testament poetry. It doesn’t use rhyme and meter but uses other poetic devices. There are three main types of ancient Hebrew poetry. These are discussed below –

Synonymous Poetry – two lines that say nearly the same thing but want to stress what is being said. For example this is common in the Psalms as in

Psalm 19:1
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Antithetical poetry is the opposite – it uses successive lines to say two different things, each relative to the same theme. You’ll not only find this in Psalms, but all over the Book of Proverbs, such as –

Proverbs 17:22 –
A cheerful heart is good like medicine
But a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Synthetic Poetry uses successive lines to build to a point, systematically showing or convincing the reader. Here is an example from Psalm 139 verses 1-6 …

O Lord, you have searched me and know me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.

You can use these techniques in your own personal poetry creation. And of course you can include rhyme and meter too.

Reference – more details can be found on this site … https://mysonginthenight.com/songwriting/how-to-write-a-personal-psalm/

Suzanne – Leonard Cohen – Lyrics – Analysis

Suzanne

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she’s half crazy
But that’s why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you’ve always been her lover
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said “All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them”
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you’ll trust him
For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind.

Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters
And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbour
And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she’s touched your perfect body with her mind.

Leonard Cohen (1933 – 2016)

This song was written by Leonard Cohen and recorded by quite a few artists including Judy Collins. He relinquished all rights when he inadvertently signed a contract without reading the detail, so he never made any money from his creation. He said that this was fitting in that he did not want to make money out of this personal love text.

This is all to do with poetry and lyrics and the way they intertwine. The music adds the dimension to the words. I have broken the lyrics up into three sections to consider the words. It is up to the reader of any lyrics to consider the poetic merit.

Well it is all to do with Cohen’s relationship with Suzanne Verdal while he lived in Montreal. He used to walk by Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, where sailors were blessed before heading out to sea.

In general, the poem is all about personal idealization of both his friend Suzanne or any woman and later a reference to Jesus. The Suzanne personal interaction involves tea and oranges and we have the feeling that she is quite unusual and bohemian and a much-male-loved character in the city.

Section 1 … well the key point is the meeting of wavelengths … the strength of love that joins in such a communion is clearly metaphorically  evident in the words –  she lets the river answer / That you’ve always been her lover. And the joy of that unison gives trust and blind adherence. In his mind she is perfect. The emphasis is on mind.

Section 2 … I find this a remarkably interesting side step for we have an idealization of Jesus with reference to sailors. This is appropriate considering the Montreal context. And Jesus was of course broken up in many ways including the sin-problem of humanity and the cross. But Jesus is often regarded as a savior and a repair of imperfection so he may see Cohen as perfect – for he’s touched your perfect body with his mind. And this union may be like the idealization of Suzanne and he may likewise give blind adherence.

Section 3 Suzanne takes Cohen on a journey of places not so nice perhaps, but he still wants to travel with her – And she shows you where to look / Among the garbage and the flowers. Children, the future, are looking for love and Suzanne says that that future is in the mirror – while Suzanne holds the mirror facing Cohen – in other words it is up to Cohen. And she like Jesus – has touched his perfect body with her mind.

What a nice thought to have a perfect body!

Here is a link to Leonard Cohen singing this on You Tube

‘Ulladulla Fun Run’ – Fun Run History – Prostate Cancer

Ulladulla Fun Run
Easter Sunday 2006 – Blessing of the Fleet

bright autumn sun warms
harbour parking spaces
trestle-table procured
runners like cars collecting
at early morning traffic lights
stretch out the minutes
idle a conversation
change down for action

red shirted Ulladulla rats
bodies honed by discipline
sinewy and tough more weathered
than the decorated fishing boats
pit against fresh young limbs
eagerly chattering but not so seasoned
their smooth clean cut lines
unknown measure to the task

green light – and away
fast movers quick to tackle
the filter at the gate
while the cautious well heeled
slow to make the grade
watch the front line disappear
in headland track and bush
make the turn before the marshal

challenged by a female back
‘If you can read this you are losing’
sends the body to overdrive
the corner rounded to a sighting
of stolid rat in steady stride
sufficient time to out-manoeuvre
show no mercy, hold the pace
down the pavement to the park

then everyone glad to be home
bodies dripping and talking fast
over-run or not, the run now over
fun remains for those with fuel
a red red-rat shakes hands
polite enquiry as to age
seniority justifying position
to next rat assembly invited

and the fleet bobbing in the background
unduly clean in their church best
bottoms slapping wet
still waiting for their blessing

Richard Scutter

Dear My Word In Your Ear Reader,

This poem was written several years ago and of course the current virus climate has negated community Fun Run and the like activities. Being caught up at home with more hours inside provided the opportunity to reflect on earlier days. Quite a few years ago I went in the Ulladulla Fun Run. The local Ulladulla Rats running group were out in force, all appropriately uniformed in red. Also, It was the day of the annual Blessing of The Fleet.

Given my personal history fighting prostate cancer I thought it appropriate to post this poem as exercise certainly helps in dealing with this male nasty.

I have entered ‘The Long Run’ event organised by the Australian Prostate Foundation to promote awareness where I am recording my jog/walk exercise over September.

For more information here is a link to my Page on ‘The Long Run Site’ where I will be entering exercise detail over the month.

Stay fit and healthy whatever!

All the best, Richard

 

False Prophet – Bob Dylan – Analysis

False Prophet

Another day without end – another ship going out
Another day of anger – bitterness and doubt
I know how it happened – I saw it begin
I opened my heart to the world and the world came in

Hello Mary Lou – Hello Miss Pearl
My fleet footed guides from the underworld
No stars in the sky shine brighter than you
You girls mean business and I do too

I’m the enemy of treason – the enemy of strife
I’m the enemy of the unlived meaningless life
I ain’t no false prophet – I just know what I know
I go where only the lonely can go

I’m first among equals – second to none
I’m last of the best – you can bury the rest
Bury ‘’em naked with their silver and gold
Put ’em six feet under and pray for their souls

What are you lookin’ at – there’s nothing to see
Just a cool breeze encircling me
Let’s walk in the garden – so far and so wide
We can sit in the shade by the fountain side

I’ve searched the world over for the Holy Grail
I sing songs of love – I sing songs of betrayal
Don’t care what I drink – don’t care what I eat
I climbed a mountain of swords on my bare feet

You don’t know me darlin’ – you never would guess
I’m nothing like my ghostly appearance would suggest
I ain’t no false prophet – I just said what I said
I’m here to bring vengeance on somebody’s head

Put out your hand – there’s nothin’ to hold
Open your mouth – I’ll stuff it with gold
Oh you poor Devil – look up if you will
The City of God is there on the hill

Hello stranger – Hello and goodbye
You rule the land but so do I
You lusty old mule – you got poisoned brain
I’m gonna marry you to ball and chain

You know darlin’ the kind of life that I live
When your smile meets my smile – something’s got to give
I ain’t no false prophet – I’m nobody’s bride
Can’t remember when I was born and I forgot when I died

Bob Dylan (1941 –

This is a recent poem/song written by Bob Dylan from his album ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’. It was released this year … see this link

Each of the ten four-line stanzas comprise rhyming couplets.

Looking at each stanza, my immediate response …

S1 – If we open ourselves to the world without reservation pain can be the travelling companion. And this of course can course emotional turmoil. How big a backpack is another matter.

S2 – ‘Hello Mary Lou’ was the name of a song first recorded by Ricky Nelson. And Miss Pearl is another song … girls that influence the heart … girls that mean business and this is reciprocated.

S3 – Great to seek good. Great to know yourself and know where you’re going in life. Great not to be false to yourself. Great expectations!

S4 – To be inclusive and equal but not seeking gold … gold and silver are false things to hold.

S5 – There’s nothing special, special about Dylan … come to myside in the garden … then you will see, you will see and will feel … all that is special – special and real together

S6 – I’ve (Dylan) done a lot of searching … love and betray … I’ve struggled up mountains so hard not to fail … climbed a mountain of swords on my bare feet … it doesn’t matter any more about food and drink … I’m beyond that old searching game

S7 – Don’t go on appearances I’m not what you see … you don’t know me … I’ll get my own back on life … but who is to blame … vengeance on somebody’s head

S8 – I can’t give you anything … don’t look to me …you will be led astray … the swallow of gold … gold will choke you, it’s not a food … look up to the hill to God behold

S9 – Hello and good by … false prophet – true prophet, both rule the land … but to prison I send the false holding of hand

S10 … You know me and I know you … in confrontation something must give … I’m no false prophet … when was love born and when did it die!

Here is the official audio on You Tube 

Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016 and all his lyrics have been thought provoking. He is remembered by most for his early days of coming to fame with songs such as ‘It Ain’t me Babe’ here is a YouTube link … and his involvement in the Counterculture of the sixties.

My Darling Turns to Poetry at Night – Anthony Lawrence – Analysis

My Darling Turns to Poetry at Night

My darling turns to poetry at night.
What began as flirtation, an aside
Between abstract expression and first light

Now finds form as a silent, startled flight
Of commas on her face — a breath, a word …
My darling turns to poetry at night.

When rain inspires the night birds to create
Rhyme and formal verse, stanzas can be made
Between abstract expression and first light.

Her heartbeat is a metaphor, a late
Bloom of red flowers that refuse to fade.
My darling turns to poetry at night.

I watch her turn. I do not sleep. I wait
For symbols, for a sign that fear has died
Between abstract expression and first light.

Her dreams have night vision, and in her sight
Our bodies leave ghost prints on the bed.
My darling turns to poetry at night
Between abstract expression and first light.

Anthony Lawrence (1957 –

This is a nineteen-line villanelle; five three-line stanzas and ending with a four-line.

The first and third lines of the first stanza appear repeatedly throughout the villanelle structure. They form the rhyming couplet in the last stanza. These are the most important lines and once defined eight lines have been created. Much thought must be given in creating these lines.

My darling turns to poetry at night
Between abstract expression and first light.

Looking at the above lines and what they say to me. The poet’s sleeping partner is pure poetry as he/she changes in facial expression. It is clever to use the double meaning of turns.

The other lines cleverly elaborate on this theme with poetry in mind. For example –

Her heartbeat is a metaphor, a late
Bloom of red flowers that refuse to fade.

We now know that a ‘she’ is involved and not a ‘he’. There is an underlying sense of beauty. And I do like the way commas appear as separation in the silent breathing of words by the sleeping person.

The facial expression of a person varies throughout the journey of the night. What you can read from viewing the continual changes is another matter. This poem is all about facial expression translation to poetic thoughts. I think there is an incredible beauty in the sleeping face of someone in peace with the world whether adult of child. In this poem it appears that fear must be eliminated before this can occur. And it is very thoughtful for partner to wait for this to be seen visually. Perhaps using this time to compose poetic words.

I watch her turn. I do not sleep. I wait
For symbols, for a sign that fear has died

The end rhyming words must flow through the villanelle too, so it is not an easy structure to adhere to. In this case – night, flight, sight, light

And for those not familiar with the villanelle this is a link to that well-know Dylan Thomas poem as another example, together with more detail on the villanelle.

Anthony Lawrence is a contemporary Australian poet and novelist.

 

 

Donal Og – Lady Augusta Gregory – Comments

Donal Og (young Donal)

It is late last night the dog was speaking of you;
the snipe was speaking of you in her deep marsh.
It is you are the lonely bird through the woods;
and that you may be without a mate until you find me.

You promised me, and you said a lie to me,
that you would be before me where the sheep are flocked;
I gave a whistle and three hundred cries to you,
and I found nothing there but a bleating lamb.

You promised me a thing that was hard for you,
a ship of gold under a silver mast;
twelve towns with a market in all of them,
and a fine white court by the side of the sea.

You promised me a thing that is not possible,
that you would give me gloves of the skin of a fish;
that you would give me shoes of the skin of a bird;
and a suit of the dearest silk in Ireland.

When I go by myself to the Well of Loneliness,
I sit down and I go through my trouble;
when I see the world and do not see my boy,
he that has an amber shade in his hair.

It was on that Sunday I gave my love to you;
the Sunday that is last before Easter Sunday
and myself on my knees reading the Passion;
and my two eyes giving love to you for ever.

My mother has said to me not to be talking with you today,
or tomorrow, or on the Sunday;
it was a bad time she took for telling me that;
it was shutting the door after the house was robbed.

My heart is as black as the blackness of the sloe,
or as the black coal that is on the smith’s forge;
or as the sole of a shoe left in white halls;
it was you put that darkness over my life.

You have taken the east from me, you have taken the west from me;
you have taken what is before me and what is behind me;
you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me;
and my fear is great that you have taken God from me!

Anonymous (8th century Irish ballad)
Translated by Lady Augusta Gregory

From WikipediaIsabella Augusta, Lady Gregory was an Irish dramatist, folklorist and theatre manager. With William Butler Yeats and Edward Martyn, she co-founded the Irish Literary Theatre and the Abbey Theatre, and wrote numerous short works for both companies.

From the Guardian
The translation from the Gaelic leaves much of the original’s grammatical structure in place, giving her English remarkable energy

Well, in the 8th century a woman needed a man for financial support and a living apart from love getting in the way.

And it is the same old story of a lover promising the world and the beloved half believing through misty eyes. The promises detailed in terms of agricultural life – that you would be before me where the sheep are flocked. And she giving three hundred cries and none were heard. She knew his promises were meaningless – you promised me a thing that is not possible. But did that matter? Lovers are generally  prone to be forgiving of the faults in others.

And religion joins forces with her passion it being Passion Sunday the day she gave herself to him and to him forever – my two eyes giving love to you for ever.

She is in deep depression at the loss of love; the loss of him – it was you put that darkness over my life.

The counsel of her mother was too late – it was a bad time she took for telling me that; / it was shutting the door after the house was robbed.

That last line brings in religion again – and my fear is great that you have taken God from me! Perhaps she believes that if she does commit suicide God would be taken from her. And perhaps she is feeling suicidal. Commit is not the word to use today in that association.

This lament is the story of love, grief and despair which flows endless through the centuries.

Days – Philip Larkin – Analysis

Days

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

Philip Larkin (1922 – 1985)

I read this poem some time ago. However, recently I took out a book from the library by Robert Dessaix ‘What Days Are For – A memoir’ and that renewed my interest is this poem.

Robert Dessaix had a heart attack and was rescued off the streets in Sydney. He spent a long time in hospital recovering from what was a near death experience. This poem featured very much in his thinking during his eventual recovery. Some text from his book –

I don’t find this poem disheartening at all. On the contrary, it gives me heart. I don’t know a lot about Philip Larkin, not being much of a one for poetry, having found so little of it transporting, but I do know that he rarely gives anyone heart. He skewers, pricks, amuses, lances, stuns. He was too aware that, while most things might never happen, death certainly would to give anyone heart. And all we can do, from Larkin’s perspective, I gather, is ruefully endure.

And this morning I can do more than that: I can simply enjoy myself. For the time being I need not contemplate anything except the euphoric upswing of convalescence.

A rather cynical response on Larkin and keyed into the stereotype but I must say that contrary to this image of Larkin I think he very much enjoyed life.

There are two questions asked of the reader. Instead of contemplating the meaning of life meaning is brought down to daily existence. Days being the stepping stones in the day to day journey of our existence and as Mr Larkin so well states they just can’t be ignored. Another one will appear tomorrow – hopefully! The question is answered quite emphatically they are to give happiness – they are to be happy in. Life is to be enjoyed; life is rather nice and gives pleasure – not all the time of course. And how happiness manifests itself is another matter.

And it was a certain joy that came to Dessaix that on a day of recovery and despite the woes of his aging body be felt so much better. This is clearly shown in his text below –

I feel undeniably much, much better. Yes, little by little “the million-petalled flower / of being here” another phrase of Larkin’s – may indeed be losing its vibrant hues and shrivelling up, but it can be contemplated with pleasure for what it is today.

A nice thought that as we deteriorate we can be happy in our deterioration. Finding happiness may not be easy but it may be around somewhere.

The second question – where can we live but days – is perhaps one that should not be contemplated too much unless we want to go mad. We cannot go out of this reality into something beyond imagination. Some may attempt this through religious fervour or because of mental breakdown so a doctor and priest are well chosen.

Death of course may be an answer but do we really want to summon last rites from a priest and a doctor for confirmation. In his book Dessaix spends time arguing that too much wasted time is spent considering the after-life, if there is such. And there is a clear distinction between religion and spirituality – religion getting in the way of the truth perhaps.

My comment … ‘God’ can only be touched through the cloud of unknowing – that is if you can actually ‘touch’ God of course.

The poem ends in the macabre but as Dessaix says not despairing or dour.

Enjoy “the million-petalled flower / of being here”! – I do like that. From Philip Larkin’s poem ‘The Old Fools’.

And of course make the most of this day!

When you are old – W. B. Yeats – Comments

When you are old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And, nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep.

How many loved your moments of glad grace
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountain overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

W B Yeats (1865 -1939)

My thoughts on this well-known poem …

S1 …The speaker, who may or may not be old himself, is talking to lady who is young. We will consider a male – female conversation. The speaker is saying that when you are old and sitting in your chair by the fireside read my words. At the same time remember your beautiful eyes that were known to me when you were young.

S2 … As you look back on life remember all those that loved you. But this man, the speaker, loved you (all will love you) through the journey of your life with all its ups and downs – your pilgrimage implying a spiritual journey, and moreover he loved or will love your aging face too.

S3 … And when you think of me in old age – personified as Love (note the capital) you will be sad to see how time as fled. The speaker considers himself dead  … the glowing bars has nice double meaning in terms of the lost love … but in a way he will be “hidden alive” – his face amid a crowd of stars.

I must admit that when I read this poem many years ago I thought it a little arrogant, but I do like the way face is a key element in each stanza.

Yeats is often identified in this poem with Maud Gonne, an Irish revolutionary who ended up marrying another man.

This poem was a response by Yeats to the French poet Pierre de Ronsard and his poem When You Are Truly Old.

Quand vous serez bien vieille

Quand vous serez bien vieille, au soir, à la chandelle,
Assise auprès du feu, dévidant et filant,
Direz, chantant mes vers, en vous émerveillant :
Ronsard me célébrait du temps que j’étais belle.

Lors, vous n’aurez servante oyant telle nouvelle,
Déjà sous le labeur à demi sommeillant,
Qui au bruit de mon nom ne s’aille réveillant,
Bénissant votre nom de louange immortelle.

Je serai sous la terre et fantôme sans os :
Par les ombres myrteux je prendrai mon repos :
Vous serez au foyer une vieille accroupie,

Regrettant mon amour et votre fier dédain.
Vivez, si m’en croyez, n’attendez à demain :
Cueillez dès aujourd’hui les roses de la vie.

Pierre de Ronsard (1524 – 1585), Sonnets pour Hélène, 1578

Here is a literal translation courtesy of – https://lyricstranslate.com

When you are truly old, beside the evening candle,
Sitting by the fire, winding wool and spinning,
Murmuring my verses, you’ll marvel then, in saying,
‘Long ago, Ronsard sang me, when I was beautiful.’

There’ll be no serving-girl of yours, who hears it all,
Even if, tired from toil, she’s already drowsing,
Fails to rouse at the sound of my name’s echoing,
And blesses your name, then, with praise immortal.

I’ll be under the earth, a boneless phantom,
At rest in the myrtle groves of the dark kingdom:
You’ll be an old woman hunched over the fire,

Regretting my love for you, your fierce disdain,
So live, believe me: don’t wait for another day,
Gather them now the roses of life, and desire.

Yeats has converted the sonnet form to three quatrains. And there is quite a different ending in Ronsard’s sonnet. Ronsard is very forceful thinking there is still much regret involved in the relationship using the words fierce disdain, at least from his perspective. And then there is the advice to live each day to the full. Don’t live in the past – So live, believe me: don’t wait for another day.

And my advice is of course to live each day to the full whatever the circumstances and whether you are young or old.

This is an example of taking an existing poem and using it in creating a new poem unique to your own thoughts. A little different from a paraphrase … to express the meaning of (something written or spoken) using different words, especially to achieve greater clarity.

Pierre de Ronsard on Wikipedia – https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_de_Ronsard

W. B. Yeats on Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._B._Yeats