My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began,
So is it now I am a man
So be it when I grow old
Or let me die!
The chid is father of the man
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850)
When you see the word ‘behold’ you know it is vintage literature. But what a strong word; far greater than see or observe. You are instructed to hold in your mind and contemplate. You must be still and hold for awhile in deepest consideration. And perhaps this is very appropriate in today’s constant 24 by 7 business rush.
This is a clear statement that Wordworth’s religion was nature. And that if he could not appreciate nature then life is just not worth living.
I came across the line – the chid is father of the man when at school not knowing the context and not understanding the meaning. I could not see the child growing to become a man. And I definitely could not see a child as father to the man. It does enforce the natural progression of humanity and the importance of children.
Some Crazy God
did he cry when he was born?
did he know he was different?
did he get one big shock?
if not in the cradle in the stable
but it would sure come later!
I guess not from Mars
with a green spike on his head
but what galactic storm brought an invisible seed?
and how did it appear for Mary?
did she think she was dreaming?
why did he choose the Earth?
and why didn’t he send a daughter?
or for that matter a naughty angel?
we are told he only had one son,
some crazy God!
I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago, He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him, Just "on spec", addressed as follows, "Clancy, of The Overflow".
And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected, (And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar) Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it: "Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are."
In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy Gone a-droving "down the Cooper" where the Western drovers go; As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing, For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.
And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars, And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended, And at night the wond'rous glory of the everlasting stars.
I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall, And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all
And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street, And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting, Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.
And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste, With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy, For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.
And I somehow rather fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy, Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go, While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal — But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of "The Overflow".
Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson (1864 - 1941)
Lachlan – a river in New South Wales Overflow – the name of a sheep and cattle station in central New South Wales droving – to move sheep or cattle long distances by walking them Cooper – refers to the Cooper Basin a geological region in south-western Queensland and north-eastern South Australia. stringing – the spreading out of animals in single-file as they walked. Bush – Australians refer to any part of the country outside the major cities and towns as ‘the bush’. And there are truly vast areas of bush in Australia.
Banjo Paterson is monumental in early Australian bush poetry. This was his first poem to be published in the Bulletin Magazine in 1889 and was an immediate success. Many bush ballads abound depicting early Australian settlement and the hardship of establishing life in the severe environment. This poem does romanticize the life of the drover; a person on horseback moving cattle.
And today life in the City is compared with life in the Country by those wishing to move away from City life in such popular TV Programs as ‘Escape to the Country’.
Apparently, the poem was based on a chance experience when he sent a letter to a man named ‘Clancy‘ at a sheep station (ranch) named ‘Overflow’. The short simple reply ‘Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are’ inspired Paterson to create ‘Clancy of the Overflow’. This poem has become well known throughout Australian and is often included in school literature.
Here is some historical detail from the Internet where there is plenty of material …
Andrew Barton Paterson was born on the 17th February 1864 on the property called Narambla, New South Wales. His Father, Andrew a Scottish farmer from Lanarkshire. Young Andrew spent his formative years living at a station called “Buckenbah’ in the western districts of New South Wales. The land was unfenced; Dingo infested and was leased by his Father and Uncle from the Crown for a few pennies an acre.
His career as a journalist is well documented. His despatches from the Boer War and later the Boxer Rebellion in China were to provide invaluable details of the hardships of the men he travelled with. He travelled to London at the invitation of Rudyard Kipling and returned to Sydney in 1902. Later that year he travelled to Tenterfield NSW where he was to meet Alice Walker whom he was later to marry.
His home base was Binalong a rural community near Yass, NSW. And from the Banjo Paterson Statue in a Park of the same name in Yass you will see that ‘Banjo’ was the name of a favourite horse which he used as a pseudonym for his writing. And he is very well known for another famous poem ‘The Man from Snowy River’ .
The problem with humour in short poems is that poetic structure is often ignored, but not so in the following poem which has nice rhyme and flowing rhythm. And, of course, many short poems are dependent on the last line for a twist to generate a smile. And often, like a joke, once you have heard it you seldom want to read it again as all impact dissipates. Well, you might want to share with a few friends until it recedes from the mind. And many say ‘I can’t remember jokes’ and many jokes are not worth remembering.
But I do like the repartee developed in the last two lines of this poem, so here it is …
The temperature was soaring, the sun was beating down, Matt walked by the river the other side of town. He had a look around and there was no-one there but him, So he ripped off all his clothes and jumped in for a swim.
The water cooled his sweaty hide, he swam and splashed all about, He felt a whole lot better and he started to get out. He headed for his clothes and was reaching for his jocks, When two young girls came walking from behind a pile of rocks.
Matty quickly grabbed his hat and covered up his front The girls just stood and giggled, so Matt became quite blunt. ‘If you two girls were ladies, you’d turn around’ said Matt. 'And if you, sir, were a gentleman, ‘you’d bow and raise your hat!’
Murray Hartlin (
Taken from ‘An Australian Heritage of Verse’ by Jim Haynes. Murray Hartlin is an Australian bush poet, author and entertainer. He likes a good yarn! Here is a link to his website.
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.
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.
Here is a simple poem from Emily Dickinson to illustrate the effective use of contrast in poetry creation.
A door just opened on a street –
I, lost, was passing by –
and instant’s width of warmth disclosed,
and wealth, and company.
The door as sudden shut, and I,
I, lost, was passing by, –
Lost doubly, but by contrast most,
To be lost walking the streets … on a cold winters night say, is something easily identified by many. I remember being in this position in London many years ago. But I never experienced the sudden surprise instant open-close of a door to reveal heavenly warmth, friendly company, and wealth. We can image the home to be rather nice in a well to-do-area of the city. Width is so well chosen providing alliteration.
The contrast in feelings is quite striking especially if we assume a party of great warmth and fun to be taking place, all be-it in our imagination. And we identify with the lost soul in the cold struggling on to find their whereabouts – their misery enlightened. I like the double use of that last word comparing the street with the inside of the briefly revealed brightness of the home.
Contrast is a rhetorical device through which writers identify differences between two subjects, places, persons, things, or ideas. Simply, it is a type of opposition between two objects, highlighted to emphasize their differences. Contrast comes from the Latin word, contra stare, meaning to stand against.