IF – Rudyard Kipling – Comments

IF

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936) – Text taken from the Net … it could have errors.

This poem consists of four eight line rhyming iambic pentameter stanzas. The whole poem is instruction on the way to live life – a father talking to a son. Instruction is based on the word IF … the Ifs that may happen in life and the advice response is elaborated.

This poem came in #1 in the search for the most favourite poem by the UK Bookworm programme in 1995. So the advice offered must have had some resonance with the UK public. And maybe his father had lived through some harrowing experiences such as risking all his money on one turn of pitch-and-toss.

And if the son succeeds in making that appropriate response then the son becomes ‘a Man’, it being so important for the son to succeed and become ‘a Man‘. The son having more importance than a daughter which is still prevalent in so many societies and situations! The poem must be viewed against the historical context.

The poem can have a universal dimension of instruction with a few amendments such as …
S1 … line 3 … If you can trust yourself when everybody doubts you,
S4 … line 4 … If all peoples count with you, but none too much;
And in the last line … And – what is more – you’ll be some hero!

However, this loses something for it is Father-Son talking and poems must adhere to the concrete of the text of the poet, so the latent universal is there for the reader to accept independent of Father-Son and those looking for some kind of gender equality should do so in this light and not colour appreciation this way.

If you can read a poem for full appreciation
without letting personal preference shade your understanding.

There are, of course, many cases where text is changed for gender equality but poetry is not the case!

Full details of the poem IF on Wikipedia
A link to Rudyard Kipling on Wikipedia

Angels – Mary Oliver – Comments

Angels

You might see an angel anytime
and anywhere. Of course you have
to open your eyes to a kind of
second level, but it’s not really
hard. The whole business of
what’s reality and what isn’t has
never been solved and probably
never will be. So I don’t care to
be too definite about anything.
I have a lot of edges called Perhaps
and almost nothing you can call
Certainty. For myself, but not
for other people. That’s a place
you just can’t get into, not
entirely anyway, other people’s heads.

I’ll just leave you with this.
I don’t care how many angels can
dance on the head of a pin. It’s
enough to know that for some people
they exist, and that they dance.

Mary Oliver (1935 – 2019)

This is all to do with how we and others see the world. We know what we see and how we feel. How we articulate this in a way that others can understand is another matter. And equally the converse is true.

And how much do we understand another person? But to help there is that intersecting commonality between peoples based on common life experience and the fact that we are all of the human variety.

In this poem by Mary Oliver there is a plea to be accepting of what others say however ridiculous it might seem. And she suggests living in the ‘perhaps’ for it is true that we can never really get into the head of another. So if someone says they have seen an ‘angel’ or anything else truly out of the ordinary then who are we to deny the sighting and in due course perhaps we might see the same.

Of course ‘angels’ come in many forms and there is one sitting in the chair across the room at the moment. I don’t know about the dancing element!

Perhaps the first stanza is sufficient combined with the first line of the second, if I might suggest my perhaps on first reading this poem.

Mary Oliver died in January last year … a Wikipedia link 

The Darkling Thrush – Thomas Hardy – Analysis

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

Thomas Hardy (1840 – 1928)

Darkling – meaning ‘in the dark’ has a certain musicality when spoken like the call of a bird.
Coppice – dense area of small trees
Spectre-grey – ghostly grey
Dregs – waste particles at the bottom of a liquid, last remaining particles
Lyre – plucked string instrument associated with ancient Greece

S1 … of course it is northern hemisphere winter… and it is a pretty dark dismal affaire … the ‘dregs’ of winter coupled with the weakening eye of pallid sunless days. Dregs conjures up many images of the winter landscape but the end of December is hardly the end of winter although the solstice has passed. Tree branches are tangled and broken against the winter sky like the strings of a broken musical instrument.

S2 … The landscape becomes likened to a dead body (corpse) with coffin not quite closed … and the pulse of germ and birth not heard … nice choice of germ for seed for it has negative connotations … the death life spirit matches the mood of the poet … a somewhat depressive mood. (fervourless = lacking in any energy)

S3 … But then the sound of a thrush is heard against the bleak winter gloom … a full-hearted evensong … with joy (illimited = unlimited) … from a bird aged, gaunt, frail and small … an evensong coming from the most unlikely of birds … not the greatest specimen – mirroring something of beauty coming from the bleak winter (be-ruffled = fluffing out)

S4 … There is nothing to be cheerful about … so little cause for carolling … it is near Christmas … but that is not the perspective from the bird’s point of view … perhaps the bird and nature know better … hope springs eternal.

The theme is the somewhat dark reflection on the closing century for it was written at the end of December 1900. It is certainly an appropriate poem for the end of this decade when it is easy to get hooked by dark happenings. And especially the havoc caused across the world by weather extremes.

However, there is hope … and in the bleakest of times there is always some element of contrast to give joy … some little ray of sunshine, or tiny spark … hopefully something to take you out of depression … to catch your attention away from your troubles … something to look forward to in the New Year, to give hope … in Australia we are taking more than a tiny spark into the New Year!

Happy New Year!

Thomas Hardy on Wikipedia

a related poem on the not-going-away environment concern

… relentless, unprecedented bushfires in Australia this summer, New Year fireworks have been cancelled in Canberra … and it is a very smoky capital today.

Days – Philip Larkin – Comments

Days

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are happy to be 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)

Equally we can say the same for years, centuries, minutes, seconds …

A timeless question that needs no thought.

How to live inside time to the full that is the question? … while you have time … every day is a blank page awaiting your imprint colored by your mind … seize the day without needless thought … go for it

Philip Larkin on Wikipedia

An Apology – F. J. Bergmann – Comments

An Apology

Forgive me
for backing over
and smashing
your red wheelbarrow.

It was raining
and the rear wiper
does not work on
my new plum-colored SUV.

I am also sorry
about the white
chickens.

F. J. Bergmann

F.J. Bergmann writes poetry and science fiction, often simultaneously. A lack of academic literary qualifications does not preclude friendship with those so encumbered. And as can be seen by this amazing poem she has a distinct humorous connection with the poetry of Wallace Stevens.

The two poems in question are ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ and ‘This is Just to Say’. These are detailed below for reference.

Well, it is about time that red wheelbarrow had a little mishap. It has been subject to so much poetic extension along with those white chickens. Readers continue to conjure up their own imaginative thoughts on both so it is getting a little tiresome. red= ?, compared to white = ? , wheelbarrow = man made compared to nature, Dead compared to living … and what about the wheelbarrow being glazed – what does that suggest? And why is the wheelbarrow affected by the rain and the chickens ignored? Why the word glazed? …

I know it is very difficult backing in the rain and I can understand the collision … a man made object new but not coming up to scratch – if you excuse the pun.

The plums are another thing Wallace Stevens is not sorry at all! They were obviously very enjoyable. They belonged to his partner or friend and he just wanted to state how nice they were – hoping I guess that more might be coming.

I am sure that new plum-colored SUV (sports-utility-vehicle) is great fun to drive (forgetting the little accident). I’m so glad FJB didn’t explain that she actually didn’t quite own it herself and had taken it for a spin for fun! Is ‘An Apology’ really necessary as she heads off down the street?

A link to info on F. J. Bergmann

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickens.

This Is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Wallace Stevens (1883 – 1963)

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) was an American poet during both the modernist and the imagist movements. Imagist poetry focuses on the objective representation of objects.

Wallace Stevens on Wikipedia

Bright Star – John Keats – Analysis

Bright Star

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priest like task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

John Keats (1795 – 1821)

Eremite – a hermit one who lives alonen
Ablution – ritual washing

A sonnet with rhyming scheme ‘abac dede  fghg ii’ and the usual break in thought after eight lines.

This is probably close to his final poetic work and this sonnet is clearly in relation to his beloved Fanny Brawne. He cannot meet the requirements for marriage for he is not of that financial status necessary and in any case he is quite ill and about to travel to Italy for health reasons where he will die at the age of 25.

He wishes to be like the Bright Star in that the star will always be there looking down steadfast and permanent whereas his view of the world in the company of the much loved Fanny Brawne is going to be very brief.

The bright star only sees the priest-like waters in their continual ritual cleansing of the world and the snow tops of mountains. He doesn’t want to be remote and a hermit and devoid of personal association with the world. The soft-fallen mask of snow gives a poetic link seen later in the poem in relation to the breast of the sleeping Fanny.

The Bright Star will ‘see’ the full gamut of Fanny’s life. He would love to experience a life-long presence of Fanny emphasised in the close personal relationship of being their while she is sleeping and watching her breath. The fall and swell and not swell and fall gives a positive ending to each breath. And because he cannot do this and his life is short the only choice is to swoon to death.

From … Wikipedia …
It is unclear when Keats first drafted “Bright Star”; his biographers suggest different dates. Andrew Motion suggests it was begun in October 1819. Robert Gittings states that Keats began the poem in April 1818 – before he met his beloved Fanny Brawne – and he later revised it for her. Colvin believed it to have been in the last week of February 1819, immediately after their informal engagement.

The final version of the sonnet was copied into a volume of The Poetical Works of William Shakespeare, opposite Shakespeare’s poem, A Lover’s Complaint. The book had been given to Keats in 1819 by John Hamilton Reynolds. Joseph Severn maintained that the last draft was transcribed into the book in late September 1820 while they were aboard the ship Maria Crowther, travelling to Rome, from where the very sick Keats would never return.

Some text from Shakespeare’s A Lover’s Complaint
O, that infected moisture of his eye,
O, that false fire which in his cheek so glowed,
O, that forc’d thunder from his heart did fly,
O, that sad breath his spungy lungs bestowed,
O, all that borrowed motion seeming owed,
Would yet again betray the fore-betray’d,
And new pervert a reconciled maid!

This is a different complaint all together. A complaint by a lady who has lost her love through betrayal. But interestingly she would accept him again if he returned to woo her in similar fashion. Keats of course did woo Fanny with his poetic voice. And she was impressed with his poetry after reading a book of his work.

A reference to the 2009 movie ‘Bright Star’ 

John Keats on Wikipedia

Moon – Janette Pieloor – Analysis

Moon

My mother comes to me
with a smile and an egg in her hand;
places it in my palm, shows me how
to crack its orange shell, unfold
its rubbery overcoat, reveal
a tiny soft ball we name Moon.

In a soft voice, just for me,
my Mother explains how Moon
and I will always be
part of each other, in a shared journey
to womanhood: a rhythm
Moon controls.

Janette Pieloor
from Then and Now’

The poem is all about communication between mother and daughter. It is centred on one object ‘the moon’ which has significant personal meaning and obviously it centres on motherhood and the shared journey of life through on-going birth.

The first stanza gives instruction on how to crack an egg. I’ve forgotten how I learnt to crack an egg on the side of a cup and open up the shell to pour it into a container without breaking the yoke. I can imagine mother and daughter together in the kitchen and the spontaneous thought on the naming of the yoke as moon.

And in the second stanza Jeanette’s mother softly takes the opportunity to state that always connection not only the birth link and physical DNA connection but you get a reinforcement of the latent mother-daughter bond – ‘always be part of each other’.  It is one of those wonderful moments in life when each are fully receptive to one another and her mother shares on a very personal one to one basis – ‘just for me (her)’.

The moon is often seen as a symbol for mother and in this peom a reference to control; life and the on-going future of humanity in her hands.

I think we all can find a moment where an object, or perhaps a few words, have indelible significance from our childhood experience in communing with our parents on an intimate level.

And as would be expected the then becomes more precious with the differential from the now as we cherish memories from the past with age.

Janette gave me permission to share this poem on this Site. She is in our U3A Poetry Appreciation Group. The poem comes from her latest book recently launched in Canberra.

 

The Gods – Victor Daley – Analysis

The Gods

Last night, as one who hears a tragic jest,
I woke from dreams, half-laughing, half in tears;
Methought that I had journeyed in the spheres
And stood upon the Planet of the Blest
And found thereon a folk who prayed with zest
Exceeding, and through all their painful years
Like strong souls struggled on ‘mid hopes and fears;
“Where dwell the gods,” they said, “we shall find rest.”

The gods? What gods, I thought, are those who so
Inspire their worshippers with faith that flowers
Immortal? and who make them keep aglow
The flames forever on their altar-towers?
“Where dwell these gods of yours?” I asked–and lo!
They pointed upwards to this earth of ours!

Victor James Daley (1858 -1905)

This is a sonnet with rhyming scheme abba for the two quatrains with a clear turning point in the last six lines with rhyming scheme ababab.

How do ‘The Gods’ inspire faith immortal in their worshippers? The question asked in the last two lines is where these gods dwell and the last line gives that unexpected twist?

The ‘Gods on Earth’ inspire the worshippers – the Church or Churches implied. Well, the home of ‘The Gods’ is reversed and brought to ground in contrary to the opening lines which suggest the worshippers inhabit the heavens – the Planet of the blest.

I like a poem that makes you think in a different direction. How much is faith kept alive by fellow faith-holders on Earth rather than from above the skies? And for what purpose – I could be synical, there could be self-preservation involved. Consider the first line as one who hears a tragic jest.

Victor Daley was an Australian poet. His contemporaries were the bush ballad poets Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson.

Victor Daley on Wikipedia