Sunday, May 2, 2021

May and the Poets


There is May in books forever;

May will part from Spenser never;

May's in Milton, May's in Prior,

May's in Chaucer, Thomson, Dyer;

May's in all the Italian books: --

She has old and modern nooks,

Where she sleeps with nymphs and elves,

In happy places they call shelves,

And will rise and dress your rooms

With a drapery thick with blooms.

Come, ye rains, then if ye will,

May's at home, and with me still;

But come rather, thou, good weather,

And find us in the fields together.

Leigh Hunt

BIO: Leigh Hunt was born in London, England and became a well-known critic, essayist, poet, and writer. His parents were forced to leave America after the American Revolution due to their loyalty to the Crown. He married and had ten children. His notable poetical work, "The Story of Rimini," was published in 1816. He became editor of The Examiner, a newspaper known for its controversy and rebelliousness against the Crown, and spent time in jail as a result. Well-acquainted with Byron, Lamb, Shelley, Keats, and other intellectuals, Hunt frequently lived in poverty and was forced to seek the patronage of Shelley and then Byron. After Byron dropped him, Hunt published a tell-all book about the notorious Lord and his companions which further isolated him from society. He earned the reputation of a "rascal" and died in 1859. Charles Dickens' Bleak House character, Harold Skimpole, is based on Hunt.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

"Richard Cory" - the poem that inspired Simon & Garfunkel


Richard Cory

Whenever Richard Cory went downtown,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich --yes, richer than a king --
And admirably schooled  in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Edwin Arlington Robinson

In 1966, Simon & Garfunkel borrowed Robinson's poem, "Richard Cory," modernized the language, and set it to music. The song is both thought-provoking and astonishing - just like Robinson's poem - and was included in the duo's hit album, Sounds of Silence.

Bio: While Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935) is not remembered much now, he was a highly prolific and enthusiastically praised poet in his time. He often wrote on "themes of personal failure, artistic endeavor, materialism [and wealth], and the inevitability of [progress and] change" (Robert Gilbert). Robinson self-published his books of poetry until Houghton Mifflin agreed to publish his book of poems, Captain Craig, in 1902. The book was not successful, and Robinson became a drifter and alcoholic. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt became aware of Robinson and his book, The Children of the Night. Roosevelt convinced Charles Scribner's Sons to republish the book. He also obtained a job for Robinson at the New York Customs House. Job security allowed Robinson to continue with his writing. Robinson won a Pulitzer Prize for his Collected Poems in 1922. He won a second Pulitzer Prize in 1924. In 1927, he won a third Pulitzer Prize. Robinson died of cancer in 1935.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Three Irish Poets: Joyce, Wilde, and Yeats


Dublin, Ireland

James Joyce:


My love is in a light attire

     Among the apple trees,

Where the gay winds do most desire

     To run in companies.

There, where the gay winds stay to woo

     The young leaves as they pass,

My love goes slowly, bending to

     Her shadow on the grass.

And where the sky's a pale blue cup

     Over the laughing land,

My love goes lightly, holding up

     Her dress with dainty hand.


Oscar Wilde:

Magdalen Walks

The little white clouds are racing over the sky,

     And the fields are strewn with the gold of the flower of March,

     The daffodil breaks under foot, and the tasselled larch

Sways and swings as the thrush goes hurrying by.

A delicate odour is borne on the wings of the morning breeze,

     The odour of leaves, and of grass, and of newly upturned earth,

     The birds are singing for joy of the Spring's glad birth,

Hopping from branch to branch on the rocking trees.

And all the woods are alive with the murmur and sound of Spring,

     And the rose-bud breaks into pink on the climbing briar,

     And the crocus-bed is a quivering moon of fire

Girdled round with the belt of an amethyst ring.

And the plane to the pine-tree is whispering some tales of love

     Till it rustles with laughter and tosses its mantle of green,

     And the gloom of the wych-elm's hollow is lit with the iris sheen

Of the burnished rainbow throat and the silver breast of a dove.

See! the lark starts up from his bed in the meadow there,

     Breaking the gossamer threads and the nets of dew,

     And flashing adown the river, a flame of blue!

The kingfisher flies like an arrow, and wounds the air.


W.B. Yeats:

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I hear it in the deep heart's core.


James Joyce (1882-1941): Joyce was born in Dublin, Ireland. Although he wrote many poems, he is best known for his novels, Ulysses, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Finnegan's Wake, and his collection of short stories, Dubliners. He and his family lived in poverty, often supported by the American poet, Ezra Pound. Joyce was considered in his day to be a genius of modern stream of consciousness literature.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900): Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland. While at Oxford, he was awarded the Newdigate Prize for his long poem, Ravenna. He was a fierce proponent of the aesthetic movement, which called for beauty in art. Wilde is best known for his comedy play, The Importance of Being Earnest, which is still performed today. His remarkable novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was made into a cinematic film, featuring a young Angela Lansbury. In spite of his marriage to Constance Lloyd and fathering two children, Wilde was charged with "gross indecency" in 1895 and imprisoned in Reading Gaol from 1895 to 1897 for his intimate relationship with fellow poet, Lord Alfred Douglas. As a result, Wilde became known as a scandalous figure in Irish-English literature.

W.B. Yeats (1865-1939): Yeats was born in Dublin, Ireland. He sought to return Ireland to its original Celtic roots and actively supported the Celtic Revival movement. He often based his writings on Irish mythology and folklore. He was strongly influenced by American poet Ezra Pound but never abandoned classic forms of poetry. In 1922, he became a Senator for the Irish Free State. In 1923, he was awarded the Nobel Prize. He is considered one of Ireland's most important poets.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Comes Again

Let me be merry now, 't is time;
     The season is at hand
For Christmas rhyme and Christmas chime,
     Close up, and form the band.

The winter fires still burn as bright,
     The lamp-light is as clear,
And since the dead are out of sight,
     What hinders Christmas cheer?

Why think or speak of that abyss
     In which lies all my Past?
High festival I need not miss,
     While song and jest shall last.

We'll clink and drink on Christmas Eve,
     Our ghosts can feel no wrong;
They revelled ere they took their leave --
     Hearken, my Soldier's song:

"The morning air doth coldly pass,
Comrades, to the saddle spring;
The night more bitter cold will bring
Ere dying -- ere dying.
Sweetheart, come, the parting glass;
Glass and sabre, clash, clash, clash,
Ere dying -- ere dying.
Stirrup-cup and stirrup-kiss --
Do you hope the foe we'll miss,
Sweetheart, for this loving kiss,
Ere dying -- ere dying?"

The feasts and revels of the year
     Do ghosts remember long?
Even in memory come they here?
     Listen, my Sailor's song:

"Oh, my hearties, yo heave ho!
Anchor's up in Jolly Bay --
Pipes and swipes, hob and nob --
Mermaid Bess and Dolphin Meg,
Paddle over Jolly Bay --
Tars, haul in for Christmas Day,
For round the 'varsal deep we go;
Never church, never bell,
For to tell
Of Christmas Day.
You heave ho, my hearties, O!
Haul in, mates, here we lay --

His sword is rusting in its sheath,
     His flag furled on the wall;
We'll twine them with a holly-wreath,
     With green leaves cover all.

So clink and drink when falls the eve;
     But, comrades, hide from me
Their graves -- I would not see them heave
     Beside me, like the sea.

Let not my brothers come again,
     As men dead in their prime;
Then hold my hands, forget my pain,
     And strike the Christmas chime.

 Elizabeth Drew Stoddard

BIO: Elizabeth Drew Stoddard only published one volume of poems in her lifetime, a collection in 1895 called Poems. Born in 1823, she lived through the Civil War, which may explain the military theme of this poem. She died in 1902.


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

November Poems



by Elizabeth Drew Stoddard

Much have I spoken of the faded leaf;

       Long have I listened to the wailing wind,

And watched it ploughing through the heavy clouds,

       For autumn charms my melancholy mind.

When autumn comes, the poets sing a dirge:

       The year must perish; all the flowers are dead;

The sheaves are gathered; and the mottled quail

       Runs in the stubble, but the lark has fled!

Still, autumn ushers in the Christmas cheer,

       The holly-berries and the ivy-tree:

They weave a chaplet for the Old Year's bier,

       These waiting mourners do not sing for me!

I find sweet peace in depths of autumn woods,

       Where grow the ragged ferns and roughened moss;

The naked, silent trees have taught me this, --

       The loss of beauty is not always loss!

BIO: Elizabeth Drew Stoddard was born in Massachusetts in 1923. She published one volume of poems during her lifetime, POEMS, in 1895. She died in 1902.

November Evening

by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Come, for the dusk is our own; let us fare forth together,

With a quiet delight in our hearts for the ripe, still, autumn weather,

Through the rustling valley and wood and over the crisping meadow,

Under a high-sprung sky, winnowed of mist and shadow.

Sharp is the frosty air, and through the far hill-gaps showing

Lucent sunset lakes of crocus and green are glowing;

'Tis the hour to walk at will in a wayward, unfettered foaming,

Caring for naught save the charm, elusive and swift, of the gloaming.

Watchful and stirless the fields as if not unkindly holding

Harvested joys in their clasp, and to their bosoms folding

The hopes of a Spring, trusted to motherly keeping,

All to be cherished and happed through the months of their sleeping.

Silent the woods are and gray; but the firs than ever are greener,

Nipped by the frost till the tang of their loosened balsam is keener;

And one little wind in their boughs, eerily swaying and swinging,

Very soft and low, like a wandering minstrel is singing.

Beautiful is the year, but not as the spring-like maiden

Garlanded with her hopes, rather the woman laden

With wealth of joy and grief, worthily won through living,

Wearing her sorrow now like a garment of praise and thanksgiving.

Gently the dark comes down over the wild, fair places,

The whispering glens in the hills, the open, starry spaces;

Rich with the gifts of the night, seated with questing and dreaming,

We turn to the dearest of paths where the star of the home light is gleaming.


Sunday, October 25, 2020

Ghost House - Robert Frost


Ghost House 

I dwell in a lonely house I know

That vanished many a summer ago,

     And left no trace but the cellar walls,

     And a cellar in which the daylight falls

And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow.

O'er ruined fences the grape-vines shield

The woods come back to the mowing field;

     The orchard tree has grown one copse

Of new wood and old where the woodpecker chops;

The footpath down to the well is healed.

I dwell with a strangely aching heart

In that vanished abode there far apart

     On that disused and forgotten road

     That has no dust-bath now for the toad.

Night comes; the black bats tumble and dart;

The whippoorwill is coming to shout

And hush and cluck and flutter about:

     I hear him begin far enough away

     Full many time to say his say

Before he arrives to say it out.

It is under the small, dim, summer star.

I know not who these mute folk are

     Who share the unlit place with me --

     Those stones out under the low-limbed tree

Doubtless bear names that the mosses mar.

They are tireless folk, but slow and sad --

Though two, close-keeping, are lass and lad, --

     With none among them that ever sings,

     And yet, in view of how many things,

As sweet companions as might be had.

BIO: Robert Frost - one of America's most beloved poets - was born in San Francisco, CA in 1874 and died in Boston, MA in 1963. He was a teacher and poet who published numerous volumes of poems.


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Sleeping Beauty by Dawn Pisturino


Sleeping Beauty by John Collier, 1921

The Sleeping Beauty

Dedicated to my daughter, Ariel Pisturino

Lying there in sweet repose,
Lips as red as any rose,
The Sleeping Beauty rests her head
Upon a gold and velvet bed;
Golden tresses fair displayed
Around the shoulders softly laid,
Be-decked in sequined, jeweled dress,
Her slender hands across her breast.
Fair Maid! -- What evil cast you here
To sleep a full one hundred year
Until a Prince with noble pride
Into the castle court should ride
And climb the steeply winding stair
To find a maid with golden hair
Lying on a couch asleep,
Lost in dreaming long and deep,
And drop upon the tender lips
A kiss so pure the magic slips.
And, lo! -- the eyelids flutter wide
And see a vision at her side:
A handsome Prince so near and nigh,
The maiden cannot help but sigh
And stretch out pleading hands to him
Who kissed her softly on a whim,
And thanking him with grateful smile,
Requests of him to stay a while.
The Prince proves better than a guest
And presses her against his breast;
Then carries her, swift as the wind,
Upon his horse across the land
To marble castle rising high
Against the purple morning sky.
And when she curtsies to the King,
The Queen presents her with a ring
And crown of jewels sparkling white --
Gifts of softly glowing light --
That bind her to her Prince's life:
No more a maid! -- but now, his wife!

Dawn Pisturino
April 25, 1987/October 20, 2020

Copyright 1987-2020 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.