The Second Coming – W. B. Yeats – comments

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Willian Butler Yeats (1885 – 1939)

Gyre – large spiral circular motion
Spiritus Mundi – the spirit or collective soul of the universe

S1 … not a very cheerful viewing of a world in change! … in chaotic change … I guess the virus and the rising of social networking has challenged the establishment in all its inadequacies … so those of a depressive pessimistic nature might say we are all doomed!

S2 … well, here we have the reason for the doom … the second coming (written in 2019) … different from the first … the beast is arising out of the desert like a great ancient Egyptian monument coming to life … and the dark side of humanity dominates … personified in the waking of an ancient relic … its hour come round at last.

Things falling apart has attracted the public to this well known poem … see this article  – from The Guardian

Of course I don’t believe that we are all doomed and that our darker side will take control and chaos will reign supreme. Incidentally, it all started with chaos according to the Greeks … so it would be complete full circle … and back to step one

We each control our own destiny and the upheaval being experienced is a world wide sensitivity that change is needed and a better world wanted by all and for all … so hopefully this will occur … in due time …

The Australian bush fires were truly apocalyptic but they have come and gone and recovery can be seen as expressed in the image and words below … and I am sure that the world as a whole will march triumphantly in time for all to enjoy in new leaf …

TreeRecovery

Australian bush 3 months after the fires – North Durras NSW

notwithstanding the summer fury
and the devastation of environment
bearded black faces show a green future
a bird is singing unseen
recovery

W. B. Yeats on Wikipedia

Golden Island Shopping Centre – Paul Durcan – Comments

Golden Island Shopping Centre

After tortellini in The Olive Grove on the quays
I drive over to the adjacent shopping centre,
Golden Island Shopping Centre,
Around whose acres of car park
I drive in circles for quarter of an hour
Before finding a slot in a space painted yellow:
GOLDEN ISLAND EXPECTANT MOTHERS
Two hours later I stumble from Tesco
With high-altitude sickness;
Dazed, exhausted, apprehensive, breathless;
In worse condition than
Many a climber on the South Col of Everest.
Such mobs of shoppers on a Sunday afternoon,
Such powerlessness.
Loading up the boot of my car
I see through a white mist
A small bejowled, red-headed, middle-aged lady in black
Standing in front of my car
With a Jack Russell terrier in a muzzle.
She is writing down my registration number.
I inquire “What are you doing?”
She snaps: “You can see perfectly well what I am doing.”
I ask: “Why are you writing down my registration number?”
From under the visor of her black baseball cap
She barks: “You have no right
To park your car in the space reserved for
GOLDEN ISLAND EXPECTANT MOTHERS”
I rumble in an avalanche of offended dignity:
“How dare you!
I am a Golden Island Expectant Mother!
I am a fifty-eight-years old male of the species
And I have been expecting for nineteen years.
Only last week I had a scan.
Despite you and your terrier
Ireland remains my native land –
My Golden Island –
And I will park where I can.
So go soap your jowls in the jacuzzis of Malaga:
I AM A GOLDEN ISLAND EXPECTANT MOTHER!”

Paul Durcan (1944 –
from ‘The Art of Life’, 2012

After tortellini in The Olive Grove on the quays
I drive over to the adjacent shopping centre,

Perhaps PD has just had a nice Sunday lunch and probably a glass of wine but now it is time to go shopping. It is only a short distance and again perhaps indicating a need to have his car close to the shops for walking and packing.

It is very frustrating when you can’t find a parking spot. And it is very tempting to take a place reserved for permit holders, the disabled or in this case GOLDEN ISLAND EXPECTANT MOTHERS. It looks like this signage is very significant to the mind of PD being in capitals.

Shopping was obviously a great struggle and he emerges in quite a state – dazed, exhausted, apprehensive ,breathless and equally it is a struggle to load the boot.

A little unfortunate that he confronts not a parking inspector but a lady who is indignant at taking a spot reserved for pregnant ladies – A small bejowled?, red-headed, middle-aged lady in black. She seems to be somewhat officious and is taking his number plate. Appropriate colors are chosen – red and black – and she had her Jack Russell terrier in a muzzle a dog like the owner known to be vicious. There is no leniency given to this poor old fellow and PD is angry at such lack of respect.

So he then defines himself as a GOLDEN ISLAND EXPECTANT MOTHER. He states that he has been expecting for nineteen years. Now a normal pregnancy is nine months. I think that maybe he is talking about a medical condition that far outweighs the struggle of pregnancy. And he states emphatically that Ireland is his GOLDEN ISLAND and that he will park where he can.

His final outrage response is to give the colourful retort ‘go soap your jowls in the jacuzzis of Malaga.’ Well, only a poet can come up with something original in such confrontational circumstances. And then he tells the lady emphatically I AM A GOLDEN ISLAND EXPECTANT MOTHER! It would surprise me greatly if the red-headed lady recognized this personification.

From this poem you might think that PD himself is a rather outlandish character unafraid of standing his ground against authority and himself a little cantankerous. He is an Irish poet of note.

From Wikipedia …
He was shortlisted in 2005 for the Poetry Now Award for his collection, The Art of Life. In 2009, he was conferred with an honorary degree by Trinity College, Dublin. Durcan was the Ireland Fund Artist-in-Residence in the Celtic Studies Department of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto in October 2009. In 2011 Durcan was conferred with an honorary doctorate from University College Dublin. Between 2004–2007 Durcan was the third Ireland Professor of Poetry.

More information on Paul Durcan on Wikipedia.

Description of an idea – Bruce Dawe – Analysis

Description of an idea

You can nail it to a cross
And it will rise again after three days.
You can put it in the arena with several wild beasts
and it will survive its own dismemberment.
You can tie it to a stake and light faggots under it
and the crackling of the flames will speak volumes.
You can exile it to Siberia
and it will still cry out with the voice of Ivan Denisovich.
You can beat it to a bloody pulp in a public square in Peking
and it will still think of freedom.
You can turn the Star Chamber and the SS
and the KGB and the Savak
and the State Security Bureau
loose on it

and someone somewhere will still think it
and someone somewhere will still die for it
and someone somewhere will give it new life.

For an idea is an organism more mysterious in its action
than the miracidium.
…You can declare an idea anathema to 999,999,999 people
and the billionth will reach for a dictionary.

Bruce Dawe (1930 – 2020)

Miracidium – a free-swimming cillated larval stage which a parasitic fluke passes from the egg to its first host, typically a snail

Anathema – something greatly disliked

Essentially a list poem of six ‘You can …’ type statements which show serious repressive organisations and associated horrific happenings over the ages in chronological order …

The crucifixion
Gladiator fights
Burning at the stake
Siberia – used by Russia as a place of exile
Ivan Denisovich – a prisoner of war by the Germans who was incorrectly sentenced to 10 years forced labour by Russia
Star Chamber – English court which sat in the royal Palace of Westminster from the 15th century to the mid-17th century
SS – military branch of the Nazi party
KGB – Secret Police of the Soviet Union
Savak – secret police in Iran supported by the USA
State Security Bureau – secret intelligence and security in China
(George Floyd can now be added to the list.)

And then the three ‘and someone somewhere’ responses that the idea will still live … and of more importance ‘someone will die for it’ … indicating the idea has value.

And then the closing two statements that an idea is a truly mysterious thing in its action … and that word miracidium a mysterious wonder of the natural world … and the idea may be anathema to a billion but to someone it will be worth considering … looking in the ‘dictionary’ = to try to understand what it means.

And other thoughts come to mind on this idea of an impregnable idea … perhaps freedom and the human spirit itself is equally impregnable … I like to think so.

Bruce Dawe an Australian poet who died earlier this year … a link to one of his memorable poems – ‘At Shaggers Funeral’.

Bruce Dawe on Wikipedia.

Timothy Winters – Charles Causley – Comments

Timothy Winters

Timothy Winters comes to school
With eyes as wide as a football pool,
Ears like bombs and teeth like splinters:
A blitz of a boy is Timothy Winters.

His belly is white, his neck is dark,
And his hair is an exclamation mark.
His clothes are enough to scare a crow
And through his britches the blue winds blow.

When teacher talks he won’t hear a word
And he shoots down dead the arithmetic-bird,
He licks the patterns off his plate
And he’s not even heard of the Welfare State.

Timothy Winters has bloody feet
And he lives in a house on Suez Street,
He sleeps in a sack on the kitchen floor
And they say there aren’t boys like him any more.

Old man Winters likes his beer
And his missus ran off with a bombardier.
Grandma sits in the grate with a gin
And Timothy’s dosed with an aspirin.

The Welfare Worker lies awake
But the law’s as tricky as a ten-foot snake,
So Timothy Winters drinks his cup
And slowly goes on growing up.

At Morning Prayers the Master helves
For children less fortunate than ourselves,
And the loudest response in the room is when
Timothy Winters roars “Amen!”

So come one angel, come on ten:
Timothy Winters says “Amen
Amen amen amen amen.”
Timothy Winters, Lord.
Amen!

Charles Causley (1917 -2003)

This is probably the most well-known poem of Charles Causley. It is based on a real person. It is an eight stanza ballad written in the 1950s about a boy who was afflicted with a series of misfortunes aptly described in each stanza.

Here is a reading of the poem by the author

S1 … people would have known about the blitz
S2 … home life is clearly expressed in the state of dress and personal presentation
S3 … not a good scholar, rather bad manners at table – not aware of ‘Welfare’
S4 … shoes are lacking, his bed rather primitive … thought to be not in society
S5 … his dad is a bit of an alcoholic so too his Grandma who is now looking after him after his mum took off with a soldier
S6 … Welfare aren’t very responsive to the situation
S7 … prayers at school include the less fortunate … he certainly says amen to that but the question is – is he just saying amen with no understanding of his unfortunate predicament
S8 … come one angel come ten or more … here’s a plea … Timothy Winters has asked for help whether he is aware or not of his need … he certainly needs his prayers to be answered.

This poem asks a few questions including …

How does society integrate the disadvantaged and unlikable? … the role of ‘Welfare’ and similar support organisations and that of individual response?

How to stop further disadvantage when in mainstream life? Well, in three words awareness, acceptance and support.

Considering awareness, here is an incident when I was a seven or eight year old. My mother had kindly invited an elderly friend for afternoon tea and it was a somewhat formal occasion as we all sat around the dining table. Towards the end of the tea I noticed her friend trying to pick up the patterned flowers from her plate to eat. I sadly admit that my response was to laugh for I knew nothing about being elderly. Awareness, and hopefully respect and sensitivity, increases both with life-experience and education.

Unfortunately that was far from the case in the reprehensible inhuman police killing of the African-American man George Floyd. It leaves an ugly scar on the face of modern day America.

Charles Causley on Wikipedia

Demain, dès l’aube – Victor Hugo

Demain, dès l’aube

Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
Tomorrow, at dawn, at the hour when the countryside whitens,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
I will depart. You see, I know you wait for me.
J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
I will go through the forest and over the mountains.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.
I cannot stay far from you any longer.

Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
I will trudge on, my eyes fixed on my thoughts,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Ignoring everything around me, without hearing a sound,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Alone, unknown, back stooped, hands crossed,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.
Saddened, and the day will be like night for me.

Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
I will neither see the golden glow of the falling evening,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Nor the sails going down to Harfleur in the distance,
Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
And when I arrive, I will place on your tomb
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.
A bouquet of green holly and flowering heather.

Victor Hugo (1802 – 1885)

This is one of French writer Victor Hugo’s most famous poems. It was published in his 1856 collection Les Contemplations

Harfleur – was the principal seaport in north-western France for six centuries, until Le Havre was built about five kilometres downstream. The suffix fleur comes from Old Norse Flöthe meaning ‘estuary or arm of the sea’ – and not flower. The precise meaning of the prefix “har” is unknown.

It was written after the death of his daughter. A fully focused personal journey of communion. It is a very moving poem.

Here is a reading of the french with a musical background.

I took the translation from the internet. I would prefer some less literal minor changes … for example, in the last stanza –

I will neither see the golden glow of falling evening,
nor the sails going down in the distance at Harfleur,
and when I arrive, I will place on your grave
a bouquet of green holly and heather in flower.

However, I do love the french and nothing can equal the beauty of the original language.

Victor Hugo on Wikipedia … he will always be remembered for Les Miserables

Pluck – Eva Dobell – some ANZAC Day words

Pluck

Crippled for life at seventeen,
His great eyes seems to question why:
with both legs smashed it might have been
Better in that grim trench to die
Than drag maimed years out helplessly.

A child – so wasted and so white,
He told a lie to get his way,
To march, a man with men, and fight
While other boys are still at play.
A gallant lie your heart will say.

So broke with pain, he shrinks in dread
To see the ‘dresser’ drawing near;
and winds the clothes about his head
That none may see his heart-sick fear.
His shaking, strangled sobs you hear.

But when the dreaded moment’s there
He’ll face us all, a soldier yet,
Watch his bared wounds with unmoved air,
(Though tell-tale lashes still are wet),
And smoke his Woodbine cigarette.

Eva Dobell (1876 – 1963)

Today is ANZAC Day. The 25th of April is one of Australia’s most important national days. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War at Gallipoli. It is a day of remembrance for those from both countries who have died in any wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

Often war related poetry is from a male perspective. This poem by Eva Dobell is from firsthand experience as a nurse.

Pluck = spirited and determined courage and was certainly needed by many war victims in dealing with horrific wounds at an early age.

S1 – many nurses and medics have thoughts of this nature when seeing the horrors of the condition of their patients. However, recovery even in such adverse conditions is still possible and an on-going life possible albeit a very different life.
S2 – the irony that the soldier falsified his age in order take part in the war and fight for country while others were more circumspect. He was very young and probably out for adventure and without understanding.
S3 – He is about to be dressed and again he shows determined courage in not showing any weakness to the nursing staff.
S4 – He faces his bared wounds as a soldier with unmoved air but the nurse sees the tell-tale suffering undergone in his eyes as he smokes a cigarette. Woodbine was a brand that was cheap and popular with the working class and with soldiers during both World Wars. Smoking was acceptable in the recovery wards.

Eva Dobell on Wikipedia

And here is a link to previous ANZAC Day Posts including the Australian poet Judith Wright.

When All The Others Were Away at Mass – Seamus Heaney – Analysis

When All The Others Were Away at Mass
from Clearances III – In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives—
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

Seamus Heaney (1939 – 2013)

This is a personal poem on a precious incident between mother and son that will always be remembered. Both are engaged in a domestic task working in unison and perhaps of more importance is that they had the time together to share in potato peeling while the rest of the family was away at Mass. ‘I was all hers’ are key words as Seamus reveled at having a time of complete togetherness. And he had obviously seen solder melt and form droplets to fall away from the heated iron. And likewise when the potatoes were peeled they would fall and the splash would break the silence of their intense communion and bring them to their senses. You can easily picture this intimate scene.

The sestet lines are much later in the relationship when his mother is dying and the parish priest is in attendance. The priest is dominating the scene with much noise (hammer and tongs). Oblivious to the religious background Seamus remembers that one incident when he was closest to his mother – ‘her breath in mine’ marrying with the octet words ‘I was all hers’.

I think, for all of us, when we empty the purse of life we will treasure such gold coins among the clutter.

Here is a reading of this poem by Seamus Heaney.

This sonnet was chosen by the public (via a poll by the national broadcaster) as Ireland’s favourite poem of the last 100 years. Here is a link to the eight sonnets Heaney wrote in memory of his mother, Margaret Kathleen Heaney.

For a detailed analysis with images of mother and child see this link.

Seamus Heaney – An Irish poet, playwright and translator is widely recognised as one of the major poets of the 20th century. He is the author of over 20 volumes of poetry and criticism, and edited several widely used anthologies. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 ‘for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.’ He taught at Harvard University (1985-2006) and served as the Oxford Professor of Poetry (1989-1994). ‘Walk on air against your better judgement’ from his poem, ‘The Gravel Walks’ is inscribed on his headstone.

A link to Seamus Heaney on Wikipedia.