Monthly Archives: April 2008

Four words, sixteen syllables, one poem

Rhyme for a Child Viewing a Naked Venus in a Painting
– by Robert Browning

He gazed and gazed and gazed and gazed,
Amazed, amazed, amazed, amazed.

venusbirth.jpg

Painting: Birth of Venus, by Sandro Botticelli (1486)

Note: The poem is one syllable longer than the title…which is impressive.

IPSTPD: Part II: NewsPoetry

From 2001-2003 I published a multitude of poems at Newspoetry.

This was the mission statement of the website:

1. an alternative online news source where credible journalism is secondary to interesting writing,
2. a documentary record of the turn of the American millennium,
3. a fun collaborative hypertext writing project
4. an elaborate attempt to get myself to read the newspaper.

Some of the archives from 1999-2002 are available at the link above, though you will find as you click on some of the internal links to read poetry, that some of the poetry is missing. As one might expect, much of the poetry can also be found at The Wayback Machine, but that’s not the easiest place to find stuff unless you know it’s there.

So to honor International Pixel-Stained Techno-Peasant Day, I am going to re-release 18 newspoems. Most of them are from 2001, though a couple are from 2002. All of them precede my creation of a blog, so many of you aren’t familiar with them. (Though the poetry of one of my most frequent commenters – DL Emerick – also can be found in the NewsPoetry archives.)

This isn’t all of my poetry that appeared at NewsPoetry, but I like the number 18, and I want to release this today. I can always add more later.

As I mention in the comment thread to my previous post, I have also added a link in my sidebar to several comics that I created under the title: Make Louvre (Not War).

International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day

Filker, Tom Smith points out that today is the first anniversary of the declaration of April 23 as International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day.

Those wishing to celebrate must post a creative work of theirs online without getting any payment for it.

(So the first thing you should do is follow the link above, and download one of the FIVE things Tom Smith posted, because he’s a wonderfully humorous filker)

I will be observing the holiday a little later today in grand fashion. Stay tuned, my contributions aren’t likely to be online until tonight. (Hint: They’ve been online before, and while technically they are still online in a fashion, they are very difficult to find, as I noticed a google search on my name doesn’t do it anymore. So I will repair this situation.)

Two by Robert Louis Stevenson

Good and Bad Children

CHILDREN, you are very little,
And your bones are very brittle;
If you would grow great and stately,
You must try to walk sedately.

You must still be bright and quiet,
And content with simple diet;
And remain, through all bewild’ring,
Innocent and honest children.

Happy hearts and happy faces,
Happy play in grassy places—
That was how, in ancient ages,
Children grew to kings and sages.

But the unkind and the unruly,
And the sort who eat unduly,
They must never hope for glory—
Theirs is quite a different story!

Cruel children, crying babies,
All grow up as geese and gabies,
Hated, as their age increases,
By their nephews and their nieces.

Epitaph

THE angler rose, he took his rod,
He kneeled and made his prayers to God.
The living God sat overhead:
The angler tripped, the eels were fed.

Earthy poems

Earth! my Likeness! – by Walt Whitman

EARTH! my likeness!
Though you look so impassive, ample and spheric there,
I now suspect that is not all;
I now suspect there is something fierce in you, eligible to burst forth;
For an athlete is enamour’d of me—and I of him; 5
But toward him there is something fierce and terrible in me, eligible to burst forth,
I dare not tell it in words—not even in these songs.

INVOCATION TO THE EARTH – William Wordsworth
FEBRUARY 1816

                                 I

        "REST, rest, perturbed Earth!
    O rest, thou doleful Mother of Mankind!"
A Spirit sang in tones more plaintive than the wind:
"From regions where no evil thing has birth
I come--thy stains to wash away,
Thy cherished fetters to unbind,
And open thy sad eyes upon a milder day.
The Heavens are thronged with martyrs that have risen
        From out thy noisome prison;
        The penal caverns groan
With tens of thousands rent from off the tree
Of hopeful life,--by battle's whirlwind blown
Into the deserts of Eternity.
Unpitied havoc! Victims unlamented!
But not on high, where madness is resented,
And murder causes some sad tears to flow,
Though, from the widely-sweeping blow,
The choirs of Angels spread, triumphantly augmented.

                       II

        "False Parent of Mankind!
        Obdurate, proud, and blind,
I sprinkle thee with soft celestial dews,
Thy lost, maternal heart to re-infuse!
Scattering this far-fetched moisture from my wings,
Upon the act a blessing I implore,
Of which the rivers in their secret springs,
The rivers stained so oft with human gore,
Are conscious;--may the like return no more!
May Discord--for a Seraph's care
Shall be attended with a bolder prayer--
May she, who once disturbed the seats of bliss
        These mortal spheres above,
Be chained for ever to the black abyss.
And thou, O rescued Earth, by peace and love,
And merciful desires, thy sanctity approve!"
    The Spirit ended his mysterious rite,
And the pure vision closed in darkness infinite.

Rest – Christina Georgina Rossetti

O EARTH, lie heavily upon her eyes;
Seal her sweet eyes weary of watching, Earth;
Lie close around her; leave no room for mirth
With its harsh laughter, nor for sound of sighs.
She hath no questions, she hath no replies, 5
Hush’d in and curtain’d with a blessèd dearth
Of all that irk’d her from the hour of birth;
With stillness that is almost Paradise.
Darkness more clear than noonday holdeth her,
Silence more musical than any song; 10
Even her very heart has ceased to stir:
Until the morning of Eternity
Her rest shall not begin nor end, but be;
And when she wakes she will not think it long.

Yes. Today is Earth Day.

Modern Major General – W.S. Gilbert

The border between lyrics to songs and poetry can be fuzzy. The definition of a ‘ballad’ is a narrative poem intended to be sung. With the ballad below, many are familiar with Sullivan’s tune, but it is Gilbert’s poem.

The Modern Major-General – WS Gilbert

I am the very pattern of a modern Major-Gineral,
I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral;
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical,
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical;
About binomial theorem I’m teeming with a lot o’ news,
With interesting facts about the square of the hypotenuse,
I’m very good at integral and differential calculus,
I know the scientific names of beings animalculous.
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-Gineral.

I know our mythic history – KING ARTHUR’S and SIR CARADOC’S,
I answer hard acrostics, I’ve a pretty taste for paradox;
I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of HELIOGABALUS,
In conics I can floor peculiarities parabolous.
I tell undoubted RAPHAELS from GERARD DOWS and ZOFFANIES,
I know the croaking chorus from the “Frogs” of ARISTOPHANES;
Then I can hum a fugue, of which I’ve heard the music’s din afore,
And whistle all the airs from that confounded nonsense “Pinafore.”
Then I can write a washing-bill in Babylonic cuneiform,
And tell you every detail of CARACTACUS’S uniform.
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-Gineral.

In fact, when I know what is meant by “mamelon” and “ravelin,”
When I can tell at sight a Chassepot rifle from a javelin,
When such affairs as SORTIES and surprises I’m more wary at,
And when I know precisely what is meant by Commissariat,
When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery,
When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery,
In short, when I’ve a smattering of elementary strategy,
You’ll say a better Major-GenerAL has never SAT a gee –
For my military knowledge, though I’m plucky and adventury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century.
But still in learning vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-Gineral!

Putting a Critic in His Place

First the Critic Speaks:

To Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1912)
Arthur Guiterman

Gentle Sir Conan, I’ll venture that few have been
Half as prodigiously lucky as you have been.
Fortune, the flirt! has been wondrously kind to you.
Ever beneficent, sweet and refined to you.
Doomed to the practise of physic and surgery,
Yet, growing weary of pills and physicianing,
Off to the Arctic you packed, expeditioning.
Roving and dreaming, Ambition, that heady sin,
Gave you a spirit too restless for medicine:
That, I presume, as Romance is the quest of us,
Made you an Author-the same as the rest of us.
Ah, but the rest of us clamor distressfully,
“How do you manage the game so successfully?
Tell us, disclose to us how under Heaven you
Squeeze from the inkpot so splendid a revenue!”
Then, when you’d published your volume that vindicates
England’s South African raid (or the Syndicate’s),
Pleading that Britain’s extreme bellicosity
Wasn’t (as most of us think) an atrocity
Straightaway they gave you a cross with a chain to it
(Oh, what an honor! I could not attain to it,
Not if I lived to the age of Methusalem!)
Made you a knight of St. John of Jerusalem!
Faith! as a teller of tales you’ve the trick with you!
Still there’s a bone I’ve been wanting to pick with you:
Holmes is your hero of drama and serial:
All of us know where you dug the material!
Whence he was moulded-’tis almost a platitude;
Yet your detective, in shameless ingratitude
Sherlock your sleuthhound with motives ulterior
Sneers at Poe’s “Dupin” as “very inferior!”
Labels Gaboriau’s clever “Lecoq, ” indeed,
Merely “a bungler,” a creature to mock, indeed!
This, when your plots and your methods in story owe
More than a trifle to Poe and Gaboriau,
Sets all the Muses of Helicon sorrowing.
Borrow, Sir Knight, but in decent borrowing!
Still let us own that your bent is a cheery one,
Little you’ve written to bore or to weary one,
Plenty that’s slovenly, nothing with harm in it,
Give me detective with brains analytical
Rather than weaklings with morals mephitical
Stories of battles and man’s intrepidity
Rather than wails of neurotic morbidity!
Give me adventures and fierce dinotheriums
Rather than Hewlett’s ecstatic deliriums!
Frankly, Sir Conan, some hours I’ve eased with you
And, on the whole, I am pretty well pleased with you.

And then the response

To An Undiscerning Critic
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1912)

Sure there are times when one cries with acidity,
“Where are the limits of human stupidity?”
Here is a critic who says as a platitude,
That I am guilty because “in ingratitude,”
Sherlock, the sleuthhound, with motives ulterior,
Sneers at Poe’s Dupin as very “inferior.”
Have you not learned, my esteemed commentator,
That the created is not the creator?
As the creator I’ve praised to satiety
Poe’s Monsieur Dupin, his skill and variety,
And have admitted that in my detective work,
I owe to my model a deal of selective work.
But is it not on the verge of inanity
To put down to me my creation’s crude vanity?
He, the created, the puppet of fiction,
Would not brook rivals nor stand contradiction.
He, the created, would scoff and would sneer,
Where I, the creator, would bow and revere.
So please grip this fact with your cerebral tentacle.
The doll and the maker are never identical.

***

Alas, the last two lines of Doyle’s poem need to be in the armory of every writer, as there will always be people who do not understand this.

The Deacon’s Masterpiece or The Wonderful “One-Hoss Shay”

A poem about another earthquake…

The Deacon’s Masterpiece or The Wonderful “One-Hoss Shay”
— Oliver Wendell Holmes

HAVE you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay,
That was built in such a logical way
It ran a hundred years to a day,
And then of a sudden, it—ah, but stay,
I ‘ll tell you what happened without delay,
Scaring the parson into fits,
Frightening people out of their wits,—
Have you ever heard of that, I say?
Seventeen hundred and fifty-five.

Georgius Secundus was then alive,—
Snuffy old drone from the German hive.
That was the year when Lisbon-town
Saw the earth open and gulp her down,
And Braddock’s army was done so brown,
Left without a scalp to its crown.
It was on the terrible Earthquake-day
That the Deacon finished the one-hoss shay.

Now in building of chaises, I tell you what,
There is always somewhere a weakest spot,—
In hub, tire, felloe, in spring or thill,
In panel, or crossbar, or floor, or sill,
In screw, bolt, thoroughbrace,—lurking still,
Find it somewhere, you must and will,—
Above or below, or within or without,—
And that’s the reason, beyond a doubt,
A chaise breaks down, but doesn’t wear out.

But the Deacon swore (as Deacons do,
With an “I dew vum,” or an “I tell yeou,”)
He would build one shay to beat the taown
‘n’ the keounty ‘n’ all the kentry raoun’;
It should be so built that it could n’ break daown;
—”Fur,” said the Deacon, “‘t ‘s mighty plain
Thut the weakes’ place mus’ stan’ the strain;
‘n’ the way t’ fix it, uz I maintain,
Is only jest
T’ make that place uz strong uz the rest.”

So the Deacon inquired of the village folk
Where he could find the strongest oak,
That could n’t be split nor bent nor broke,—
That was for spokes and floor and sills;
He sent for lancewood to make the thills;
The crossbars were ash, from the straightest trees;
The panels of whitewood, that cuts like cheese,
But lasts like iron for things like these;
The hubs of logs from the “Settler’s ellum,”—
Last of its timber,—they could n’t sell ’em,
Never an axe had seen their chips,
And the wedges flew from between their lips,
Their blunt ends frizzled like celery-tips;
Step and prop-iron, bolt and screw,
Spring, tire, axle, and linchpin too,
Steel of the finest, bright and blue;
Thoroughbrace bison-skin, thick and wide;
Boot, top, dasher, from tough old hide
Found in the pit when the tanner died.
That was the way he “put her through.”—
“There!” said the Deacon, “naow she ‘ll dew!”

Do! I tell you, I rather guess
She was a wonder, and nothing less!
Colts grew horses, beards turned gray,
Deacon and deaconess dropped away,
Children and grandchildren,—where were they?
But there stood the stout old one-hoss shay
As fresh as on Lisbon-earthquake-day!

EIGHTEEN HUNDRED;—it came and found
The Deacon’s masterpiece strong and sound.
Eighteen hundred increased by ten;—
“Hahnsum kerridge” they called it then.
Eighteen hundred and twenty came;—
Running as usual; much the same.
Thirty and forty at last arrive,
And then came fifty, and FIFTY-FIVE.

Little of all we value here
Wakes on the morn of its hundredth year
Without both feeling and looking queer.
In fact, there ‘s nothing that keeps its youth,
So far as I know, but a tree and truth.
(This is a moral that runs at large;
Take it.—You ‘re welcome.—No extra charge.)

FIRST OF NOVEMBER,—the Earthquake-day.—
There are traces of age in the one-hoss shay,
A general flavor of mild decay,
But nothing local as one may say.
There could n’t be,—for the Deacon’s art
Had made it so like in every part
That there was n’t a chance for one to start.
For the wheels were just as strong as the thills,
And the floor was just as strong as the sills,
And the panels just as strong as the floor,
And the whippletree neither less nor more,
And the back-crossbar as strong as the fore,
And spring and axle and hub encore.
And yet, as a whole, it is past a doubt
In another hour it will be worn out!

First of November, ‘Fifty-five!
This morning the parson takes a drive.
Now, small boys, get out of the way!
Here comes the wonderful one-hoss shay,
Drawn by a rat-tailed, ewe-necked bay.
“Huddup!” said the parson.—Off went they.
The parson was working his Sunday’s text,—
Had got to fifthly, and stopped perplexed
At what the—Moses—was coming next.
All at once the horse stood still,
Close by the meet’n’-house on the hill.
—First a shiver, and then a thrill,
Then something decidedly like a spill,—
And the parson was sitting upon a rock,
At half past nine by the meet’n’-house clock,—
Just the hour of the Earthquake shock!
—What do you think the parson found,
When he got up and stared around?
The poor old chaise in a heap or mound,
As if it had been to the mill and ground!
You see, of course, if you ‘re not a dunce,
How it went to pieces all at once,—
All at once, and nothing first,—
Just as bubbles do when they burst.

End of the wonderful one-hoss shay.
Logic is logic. That ‘s all I say.

The Deacon’s Masterpiece or The Wonderful “One-Hoss Shay”

A poem about another earthquake…

The Deacon’s Masterpiece or The Wonderful “One-Hoss Shay”
— Oliver Wendell Holmes

HAVE you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay,
That was built in such a logical way
It ran a hundred years to a day,
And then of a sudden, it—ah, but stay,
I ‘ll tell you what happened without delay,
Scaring the parson into fits,
Frightening people out of their wits,—
Have you ever heard of that, I say?
Seventeen hundred and fifty-five.

Georgius Secundus was then alive,—
Snuffy old drone from the German hive.
That was the year when Lisbon-town
Saw the earth open and gulp her down,
And Braddock’s army was done so brown,
Left without a scalp to its crown.
It was on the terrible Earthquake-day
That the Deacon finished the one-hoss shay.

Now in building of chaises, I tell you what,
There is always somewhere a weakest spot,—
In hub, tire, felloe, in spring or thill,
In panel, or crossbar, or floor, or sill,
In screw, bolt, thoroughbrace,—lurking still,
Find it somewhere, you must and will,—
Above or below, or within or without,—
And that’s the reason, beyond a doubt,
A chaise breaks down, but doesn’t wear out.

But the Deacon swore (as Deacons do,
With an “I dew vum,” or an “I tell yeou,”)
He would build one shay to beat the taown
‘n’ the keounty ‘n’ all the kentry raoun’;
It should be so built that it could n’ break daown;
—”Fur,” said the Deacon, “‘t ‘s mighty plain
Thut the weakes’ place mus’ stan’ the strain;
‘n’ the way t’ fix it, uz I maintain,
Is only jest
T’ make that place uz strong uz the rest.”

So the Deacon inquired of the village folk
Where he could find the strongest oak,
That could n’t be split nor bent nor broke,—
That was for spokes and floor and sills;
He sent for lancewood to make the thills;
The crossbars were ash, from the straightest trees;
The panels of whitewood, that cuts like cheese,
But lasts like iron for things like these;
The hubs of logs from the “Settler’s ellum,”—
Last of its timber,—they could n’t sell ’em,
Never an axe had seen their chips,
And the wedges flew from between their lips,
Their blunt ends frizzled like celery-tips;
Step and prop-iron, bolt and screw,
Spring, tire, axle, and linchpin too,
Steel of the finest, bright and blue;
Thoroughbrace bison-skin, thick and wide;
Boot, top, dasher, from tough old hide
Found in the pit when the tanner died.
That was the way he “put her through.”—
“There!” said the Deacon, “naow she ‘ll dew!”

Do! I tell you, I rather guess
She was a wonder, and nothing less!
Colts grew horses, beards turned gray,
Deacon and deaconess dropped away,
Children and grandchildren,—where were they?
But there stood the stout old one-hoss shay
As fresh as on Lisbon-earthquake-day!

EIGHTEEN HUNDRED;—it came and found
The Deacon’s masterpiece strong and sound.
Eighteen hundred increased by ten;—
“Hahnsum kerridge” they called it then.
Eighteen hundred and twenty came;—
Running as usual; much the same.
Thirty and forty at last arrive,
And then came fifty, and FIFTY-FIVE.

Little of all we value here
Wakes on the morn of its hundredth year
Without both feeling and looking queer.
In fact, there ‘s nothing that keeps its youth,
So far as I know, but a tree and truth.
(This is a moral that runs at large;
Take it.—You ‘re welcome.—No extra charge.)

FIRST OF NOVEMBER,—the Earthquake-day.—
There are traces of age in the one-hoss shay,
A general flavor of mild decay,
But nothing local as one may say.
There could n’t be,—for the Deacon’s art
Had made it so like in every part
That there was n’t a chance for one to start.
For the wheels were just as strong as the thills,
And the floor was just as strong as the sills,
And the panels just as strong as the floor,
And the whippletree neither less nor more,
And the back-crossbar as strong as the fore,
And spring and axle and hub encore.
And yet, as a whole, it is past a doubt
In another hour it will be worn out!

First of November, ‘Fifty-five!
This morning the parson takes a drive.
Now, small boys, get out of the way!
Here comes the wonderful one-hoss shay,
Drawn by a rat-tailed, ewe-necked bay.
“Huddup!” said the parson.—Off went they.
The parson was working his Sunday’s text,—
Had got to fifthly, and stopped perplexed
At what the—Moses—was coming next.
All at once the horse stood still,
Close by the meet’n’-house on the hill.
—First a shiver, and then a thrill,
Then something decidedly like a spill,—
And the parson was sitting upon a rock,
At half past nine by the meet’n’-house clock,—
Just the hour of the Earthquake shock!
—What do you think the parson found,
When he got up and stared around?
The poor old chaise in a heap or mound,
As if it had been to the mill and ground!
You see, of course, if you ‘re not a dunce,
How it went to pieces all at once,—
All at once, and nothing first,—
Just as bubbles do when they burst.

End of the wonderful one-hoss shay.
Logic is logic. That ‘s all I say.