Machines – Michael Donaghy – Analysis

Machines
Dearest, note how these two are alike;
This harpsichord pavane by Purcell
And the racer's twelve-speed bike.

The machinery of grace is always simple.
This chrome trapezoid, one wheel connected
To another of concentric gears,
Which Ptolemy dreamt of and Schwinn perfected,
Is gone. The cyclist, not the cycle, steers.
And in the playing, Purcell's chords are played away.

So this talk, or touch if I were there,
Should work its effortless gadgetry of love,
Like Dante's heaven, and melt into the air.

If it doesn't, of course, I've fallen. So much is chance,
So much agility, desire, and feverish care,
As bicyclists and harpsicordists prove

Who only by moving can balance,
Only by balancing move.
Michael Donaghy (1954 – 2004)
from ‘Dances Learned Last Night’

Pavane – a stately court dance
Ptolemy – An ancient Greek astronomer, who proposed a way of calculating the movements of the planets on the assumption that they, along with the sun and the stars, were embedded in clear spheres that revolved around the Earth.
Schwinn – Ignaz Schwinn’s passion for bicycles led him to produce some of the most iconic designs and significant mechanical innovations in cycling.
Dante – famous Italian poet who wrote ‘The Inferno’

The conceit is to compare the bicycle with the harpsicord. Two very unlike machines and I found it hard to identify the harpsicord as a machine, but both are human built to perform quite different functions. The poem explores the similarities. And at the forefront of the comparison both requite human skill for successful operation. And both require the use of hands and feet.

The key attribute is balance. And unlike the harpsichord if you lose balance on a bike, you can easily fall and injure yourself. When starting to use a bike you start to move and then balance. Perhaps there is a bit of a wobble at first. And, if successful, you continue to balance as you move. Balance in playing a musical instrument is another matter.

But by mentioning Ptolemy the entire world can be considered a machine. His mathematical ideas falsely equated the earth as the center with all other bodies revolving around in concentric circular motion. And the concept is that by the effortless gadgetry of love the machines can be used to create something quite beautiful like Dante’s journey to Heaven in his famous Inferno poem.

For the world to move and evolve with love as the blood force balance is perhaps the key. This is quite difficult of course for- ‘so much is chance, so much agility, desire, and feverish care’. And the world of today is out of balance as we try to correct for the injuries made by humans to the environment.

People love their machines. And on a personal note, as a keen cyclist, I have come to love a racing bike I acquired about eighteen months ago. But it has taken me about that time to really adjust to it including adapting a few accessories to make it exactly as I want it when riding. And after extensive service and new chain and different gear set it is just wonderful to glide along the many cycle paths in Canberra. And I am sure we all have a particular special item we adore. And if we extend the thought from this poem to the world and the life we lead then love is needed as we evolve. Quite a balancing act

Michael Donaghy on Wikipedia Michael Donaghy – Wikipedia

On love and domestic life – Vikram Seth

Prandial Plaint

My love, I love your breasts, I love your nose.
I love your accent and I love your toes.
I am your slave. One word, and I obey.
But please don't slurp your morning brew that way.

Vikram Seth (1952 -

From The Times of India

Vikram Seth is one if India’s most renowned writers. He’s known for his fiction and poetry and has been awarded with several honours in both Britain and India for his contirbution towards literature. He’s recieved a Padma Shri, a Sahitya Academy Award, a Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, an Order of the British Empire(Officer) and several other prizes for individual works.

His poetry is known for it’s witty wordplay, it’s rhythm and rhyme scheme. With simple words and thoughtful phrasing he evokes rich imagery, and there’s always a clever message clear towards the end.

And this is clearly evident in the above poem!

Prandial = during or in relation to dinner or lunch, such as a mealtime conversation
Plaint = complaint

What a wonderful humorous poem all about relationships and living together where the sublime and down to earth acceptance is such a contrast. That last line!

Vikram Seth on Wikipedia

It happens all the time in heaven – Hafiz – Comments

It happens all the time in heaven

It happens all the time in heaven,
And some day It will begin to happen
Again on earth -

That men and women who are married,
And men and men who are Lovers,

And women and women who give each other Light,

Often get down on their knees and while 
So tenderly holding their lovers hand, with 
Tear-filled eyes will sincerely say, “My dear,
How can I be more loving to you; my darling, 
How can I be more kind?"

Hafiz Iran/Persia (1320 – 1389)
Translation by Daniel Ladinsky

See this site for more translations of Hafiz

Hafiz was a great fourteen century Persian poet and mystic revered in Iran to this day.

How to be humble and get down on your knees to respond to the one you love. To listen and hear the need in those you love. The poem asks a key question in the last line. The problem is how to respond and be more kind. Perhaps being kind may involve confronting the one you love to address a deeper need.

And I have always wondered whether Jesus gave the perfect response to those he met?

Hafiz on Wikipedia

The Third Body – Robert Bly – Analysis

The Third Body

A man and a woman sit near each other, and they do not long
at this moment to be older, or younger, nor born
in any other nation, or time, or place.
They are content to be where they are, talking or not talking.
Their breaths together feed someone whom we do not know.
The man sees the way his fingers move;
he sees her hands close around a book she hands to him.
They obey a third body that they share in common.
They have made a promise to love that body.
Age may come, parting may come, death will come.
A man and a woman sit near each other;
as they breathe they feed someone we do not know,
someone we know of, whom we have never seen.

Robert Bly (1926 – 2021)

This is a poem about an elderly couple sitting on a park bench just totally content in the moment not looking for anything else in life just happy to be together in their comfortable known self. Perhaps they have been married for many years and know each other intimately. So this is really a poem about love, love that has grown from long term companionship. And love exist in in their silence. Perhaps love can always be found in the silence of life that speaks to us continually.

Between then they are one body although a couple. They both share in the one book being held in their hands as it is passed between them. But they are connected to a third common body. And this is the question asked by the poem –

Their breaths together feed  – but who? And a very living body that needs them, feed appears in two lines
They obey a third body – but to whom is their allegiance? And a promise made
someone we know of –attributes known – heard about but never seen … who is the poet talking about?

Like or great poems there is no answer other than in the mind of the reader.

so what can this body be –
perhaps it is marriage itself
their heritage
family
perhaps life
love
the body of goodness
or maybe spiritual connections
the bigger unity withing existence
Jesus or even God

Going back to the couple on the bench and both hands together with the book. Why do you think a book was chosen? And how is the book significant in their relationship? What a difference if it was a ham sandwich.

But there is certainly a feeling that this third body is connected in some way to death. The couple are at that stage when death is on the radar. There is a comfortable feeling associated with this connection and they have added their own personal value to this Third Body throughout their lifetime. They are happy and at peace with the world.

Robert Bly on Wikipedia

A Poem from the Iona Community by Peter Millar

Each month Peter Millar, a long-time member of the Iona Community shares a reflection.  At Easter it took the form of a poem which Peter asked readers to share with others.

Reference There is no copyright on this poem. No quotes from others. It
would be great if you could share it in these days of Lent and of Easter. Thank you and let us hold God’s amazing world in our hearts.
Peter.

Easter 2022 
                            
Every new day across our planet
there is a constant certainty moving in our midst - it is this:
violence, disconnection and radical change 
are our sure companions and disturbers.
Sometimes the whole edifice spins too fast as we
ponder the human future and the divisions that ensnare us. 

Yet within these shadows are fragile possibilities of light
always inviting us to engage with other visions and
truths -  ones that spring from our depths:
emerging from places of insight, where life-giving
currents still flow freely in fractured times.
Ancient wisdoms that renew and restore. 
 
I call it Resurrection,
while others who don’t go there, know its meaning.
Whatever our path, is it not the willingness to see
our world through the eyes of Love; to know we are all wounded
healers: to walk in another’s shoes: to touch the Good Earth and its radiant
Mystery, and to believe that farewells should be free of regrets, that matters
most in every age? 

 Peter Millar, Edinburgh, Easter 2022

I know Easter has come and gone but I am sharing this poem because it aligns with my view of the latent nature of love (or Jesus) in all humanity. In this case defined by Peter in his Easter poem as ‘Resurrection’ –

… while others who don’t go there, know its meaning.
whatever our path, is it not the willingness to see
our world through the eyes of Love; …

And so inclusively expressed independent of traditional religious spirituality.

The resurrection is a gift. An amazing gift of love connecting all humanity in that common denominator giving purpose to the world. At the same time providing individual support and care empowering the on-going beautification of life.

And even if our world is violent and chaotic – life-giving currents still flow freely in fractured times.

I am sure we can all recall the many times when the basic goodness within humanity has been particularly relevant in supporting us at challenging times in our lives. And isn’t the Good earth wonderful in its radiant mystery?

The Iona CommunityWelcome to the Iona Community – A Christian ecumenical community

To Lucasta, Going to the Wars – Richard Lovelace – Comments

To Lucasta, Going to the Wars
Tell me not (Sweet) I am unkind, 
         That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
         To war and arms I fly.
True, a new mistress now I chase, 
         The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
         A sword, a horse, a shield.
Yet this inconstancy is such 
         As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee (Dear) so much,
         Lov’d I not Honour more.
Richard Lovelace (1617 – 1657)

This is a well-known poem by Richard Lovelace who is known as a cavalier poet.  He strongly supported the royalty at the time of the Civil War. It was a very turbulent time in England. He did get injured in battle and eventually died of his wounds.

S1 … RL is trying to placate Lucinda. A religious person perhaps and peace loving

S2 … RL being a soldier gives focus to a new mistress. This implies that a different kind of love is involved.

S3 … RL states that he would not be loved or respected if such Honour were not obeyed. He would not be true to himself. Again, a placating voice.

What exactly is honour and does honour always have precedence? Honour – the quality of knowing and doing what is morally right. Well, we all must make tough decisions according to our conscience.

Richard Lovelace on Wikipedia

Sharing a Christmas Letter …

… sharing a Christmas Letter from a close friend –

Christmas Letter
I know you appreciate a Christmas Letter. And I guess you have been sending out a few to family and friends. Look guys, I wrote this letter to you a few years ago now, I’m not sure whether you understood what I was trying to say and whether you remember the essence.
Well, I just want to reiterate that I do love you dearly and I will be there for you throughout 2022. You are that bit special!
And yes, I know you think of me at times. And you are good at remembering birthdays; I thank you for that.
How could you forget my name LOL. We do have that unique relationship!

Love, as always … be in touch +

Ancient Egyptian Love Poems – John L Foster translator

Ancient Egyptian Love Poems – John L Foster translation

We explored some Egyptian Love Poems created 3,000 years ago at a recent U3A Poetry Appreciation session.

They were translated from the Ancient Egyptian by John L Foster from the book Love Songs of the New Kingdom (Charles Scribner’s Sons – New York 1974)

In 2003 the ABC Radio National program ‘Poetica’ explored this work … the summary text –
Four small collections of anonymous poems have survived from the New Kingdom of pharaonic Egypt. Written on papyri and a stone vase, they are approximately 3,000 years old, but John L Foster’s translations make them seem very contemporary, fresh and erotic. This program presents a selection of the poems accompanied by music from Michael Atherton and the Musicians of the Nile.

Here are two of the poems …

How clever my love with a lasso  

How clever my love with a lasso -  
she'll never need a kept bull!  
She lets fly the rope at me  
(from her dark hair),  
Draws me in with her comehither eyes,  
wrestles me down between her bent thighs,  
Branding me hers with her burning seal. 
(Cowgirl, the fire from those thighs!) 

… this example is quite contemporary … and makes that universal statement on how passionate love flows endlessly through the years

Your love, dear man, is as lovely to me 

Your love, dear man, is as lovely to me  
As sweet soothing oil to the limbs of the restless,  
as clean ritual robes to the flesh of gods,  
As fragrance of incense to one coming home 
It is like nipple-berries ripe in the hand,  
like the tang of grain-meal mingled with beer  
Like wine to the palate when taken with white bread.  
While unhurried days come and go,  
Let us turn to each other in quiet affection,  
walk in peace to the edge of old age.   
And I shall be with you each unhurried day,  
a woman given her one wish:      to see  
For a lifetime the face of her lord. 

… love, food wine nicely married … and oil is referenced so important in ancient times … and it does say something about the culture of the day and the place of woman in society … that very last word Lord … if it was changed to love it would remove the subservient nature

… but I do like the line – walk in peace to the edge of old age … taking quiet affectionate togetherness to the precipice … implying parting at death

It is interesting to see how love is articulated through the centuries in words. And the importance given to love by making it remembered by transcribing on material objects.