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Bavarian Gentians -- D H Lawrence

Forwarding Thomas's poems while he's away...
(Poem #77) Bavarian Gentians
Not every man has gentians in his house
in soft September, at slow, sad Michaelmas.

Bavarian gentians, big and dark, only dark
darkening the daytime, torch-like, with the smoking blueness of Pluto's
ribbed and torch-like, with their blaze of darkness spread blue
down flattening into points, flattened under the sweep of white day
torch-flower of the blue-smoking darkness, Pluto's dark-blue daze,
black lamps from the halls of Dis, burning dark blue,
giving off darkness, blue darkness, as Demeter's pale lamps give off
lead me then, lead the way.

Reach me a gentian, give me a torch!
let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of this flower
down the darker and darker stairs, where blue is darkened on blueness
even where Persephone goes, just now, from the frosted September
to the sightless realm where darkness is awake upon the dark
and Persephone herself is but a voice
or a darkness invisible enfolded in the deeper dark
of the arms Plutonic, and pierced with the passion of dense gloom,
among the splendor of torches of darkness, shedding darkness on
the lost bride and her groom.
-- D H Lawrence
Published posthumously.
From 'Last Poems', 1932.

Lawrence's 'Bavarian Gentians' hypnotizes the reader with its rolling,
flowing sounds, its gently rising and falling cadences, its almost
soporific repetitions... as the soft and sweeping syllables wrap
themselves around you, you become entranced, slipping into the world of
"Pluto's dark-blue daze", falling under the spell of the gently spoken



This poem, written close to Lawrence's death, is much more meaningful if
you know what a Bavarian Gentian looks like. It's a blue tubular flower
and was one of the symbols that Lawrence claimed as his  own, along with
the phoenix, dark sun, and rainbow symbols.

Here he relates the flower with the Persephone myth. Persephone, a
daughter of Zeus and Demeter, was abducted by Pluto, King of Hades. For
six months of the year she must reign as Queen alongside Pluto but is
allowed to return to the surface for the other six. Persephone carries
the flower torch-like into the underground to light her way to Pluto's
chambers. Or rather it is Pluto's "blue-smoking darkness" which
overtakes the light of day, her consciousness. "Black lamps from the
halls of Dis." It is Death which has come, and the flower acts as guide
into the "sightless realm." But like the phoenix, Persephone will once
again be resurrected for she is a symbol of springtime rebirth. And
although Lawrence's body is dead, his consciousness arises again each
time we read his words.

In a letter to Ernest Collings dated Jan. 17, 1913, Lawrence writes:
    "I conceive a man's body as a kind of flame, like a candle flame,
forever upright and yet flowing: and the intellect is just the light
that is shed on to the things around. And I am not so much concerned
with the things around--which is really mind--but with the mystery of
the flame forever flowing, coming God knows how from out of practically
nowhere, and being itself, whatever there is around it, that it lights
up. We have got so ridiculously mindful, that we never know that we
ourselves are anything--we think there are only the objects we shine
upon. And there the poor flame goes on burning ignored, to produce this
light. And instead of chasing the mystery in the fugitive, half-lighted
things outside us, we ought to look at ourselves, and say 'My God, I am
                    (p. 563-64/The Portable D.H. Lawrence/Penguin)

This is what's known as Lawrence's "belief in the blood" speech. I
quoted the second half of the speech first because it's important to
understand that Lawrence wasn't so much anti-intellectual as he was
anti-self-conscious. He was himself both self-conscious and
intellectual, and therefore knew that these things came at a high price.
So here then is the first part of that speech:

"My great religion is a belief in the blood, the flesh, as being wiser
than the intellect. We can go wrong in our minds. But what our blood
feels and believes and says, is always true. The intellect is only a bit
and a bridle."

The blue gentian, the "forked flame" which plays a part at the end of
Lady Chatterley's Lover, is also the body of man. It is our bodies that
wilt and die, drawing us to Pluto's chambers in the "marriage of the
living dark." We are all virgins to Death. And the reason not everyone
has "gentians in his house in soft September" is because not everyone
knows how to be truly alive in the flesh. Not everyone knows how to
"achieve your own beauty as the flowers do" -- existing instead in a
kind of living-death so that the "nuptials" are replaced with apathy.
Lawrence relished the contrast between life and death, day and night,
male and female. It is the "marriage of the living dark" at which he is
"wedding guest."

    -- Tina Ferris, from the WWW.

archy interviews a pharoh -- Don Marquis

(Poem #76) archy interviews a pharoh
boss i went
and interviewed the mummy
of the egyptian pharoh
in the metropolitan museum
as you bade me to do

what ho
my regal leatherface
says i

little scatter footed
says he

kingly has been
says i
what was your ambition
when you had any

and journalistic insect
says the royal crackling
in my tender prime
i was too dignified
to have anything as vulgar
as ambition
the ra ra boys
in the seti set
were too haughty
to be ambitious
we used to spend our time
feeding the ibises
and ordering
pyramids sent home to try on
but if i had my life
to live over again
i would give dignity
the regal razz
and hire myself out
to work in a brewery

old tan and tarry
says i
i detect in your speech
the overtones
of melancholy

yes i am sad
says the majestic mackerel
i am as sad
as the song
of a soudanese jackal
who is wailing for the blood red
moon he cannot reach and rip

on what are you brooding
with such a wistful
there in the silences
confide in me
my perial pretzel
says i

i brood on beer
my scampering whiffle snoot
on beer says he

my sympathies
are with your royal
dryness says i

my little pest
says he
you must be respectful
in the presence
of a mighty desolation
little archy
forty centuries of thirst
look down upon you

oh by isis
and by osiris
says the princely raisin
and by pish and phthush and phthah
by the sacred book perembru
and all the gods
that rule from the upper
cataract of the nile
to the delta of the duodenum
i am dry
i am as dry
as the next morning mouth
of a dissipated desert
as dry as the hoofs
of the camels of timbuctoo
little fussy face
i am as dry as the heart
of a sand storm
at high noon in hell
i have been lying here
and there
for four thousand years
with silicon in my esophagus
as gravel in my gizzard
of beer

divine drouth
says i
imperial fritter
continue to think
there is no law against
that in this country
old salt codfish
if you keep quiet about it
not yet

what country is this
asks the poor prune

my reverend juicelessness
this is a beerless country
says i

well well said the royal
my political opponents back home
always maintained
that i would wind up in hell
and it seems they had the right dope

and with these hopeless words
the unfortunate residuum
gave a great cough of despair
and turned to dust and debris
right in my face
it being the only time
i ever actually saw anybody
put the cough
into sarcophagus

dear boss as i scurry about
i hear of a great many
tragedies in our midsts
personally i yearn
for some dear friend to pass over
and leave to me
a boot legacy
yours for the second coming
of gambrinus

-- Don Marquis
I felt it was time for another of these <g>. This one is a lot funnier than
'the lesson of the moth', especially the string of epithets traded back and
forth.  There's a nice accompanying cartoon at
<[broken link]>

Nothing really to say about this poem - if you missed the earlier one, with
a more detailed commentary on Archy and Mehitabel, look it up at poem #36


seti set: The Seti dynasty ruled Egypt around 1300-1200 BC
the sacred book perembru: seems to be a piece of nonsense, carrying on from
      'pish and phthush...' since I couldn't find any other reference to it
gambrinus: the only reference I could find was an online database of beer
      recipes; I assume the name has something to do with beer, but I
      couldn't trace it.

Don Marquis died in 1937, so I assume the poem was written during the
Prohibition era.


The face that launch'd a thousand ships -- Christopher Marlowe

from Dr. Faustus...
(Poem #75) The face that launch'd a thousand ships
Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.
Her lips suck forth my soul: see, where it flies!
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.
Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips,
And all is dross that is not Helena.
I will be Paris, and for love of thee,
Instead of Troy, shall Wittenberg be sack'd;
And I will combat with weak Menelaus,
And wear thy colours on my plumed crest;
Yea, I will wound Achilles in the heel,
And then return to Helen for a kiss.
O, thou art fairer than the evening air
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars;
Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter
When he appear'd to hapless Semele;
More lovely than the monarch of the sky
In wanton Arethusa's azur'd arms;
And none but thou shalt be my paramour!
-- Christopher Marlowe
20 lines of blank verse, and a wealth of phrases that have passed into
the language - this speech of Faust's is deservedly celebrated.

I've often thought that one of the marks of true poetic genius is the
ability to coin phrases that resonate in the mind of the reader, phrases
which take on a life of their own, becoming, in the end, part and parcel
of the language they're written in. Shakespeare is, of course, the
pre-eminent figure of English poetry in this regard (as he was in so
many other ways), but name almost any other 'great' poet, and you'll
find that his/her works contain their own fair share of new expressions
which become commonplace as the years go by. Examples are too numerous
to mention... from Milton's "trip the light fantastic" to Eliot's "not
with a bang but a whimper", great poems and great poets have enriched
both literature and language.



Christopher Marlowe was born on 6 February 1564, the eldest son of a
shoemaker. Apparently he was never really meant to follow in his
father's footsteps (sorry), because he was very well educated, which,
back then, meant that he could read and translate Ovid. At 23, he went
off to London and became the dramatist for the theatre company owned by
Lords Admiral and Strange. Dramatist was a rotten job, really, but
Christopher (or Kit, as he was often called) had several outside
hobbies, like talking to his friend Sir Walter Raleigh, being an
atheist, and getting arrested for an 'unspecified' offense.

Kit's plays include works such as The Famous Tragedy of the Rich Jew of
Malta, Edward the Second, and the infamous Dr. Faustus. His most
ambitious work was the heroic epic Tamburlaine the Great, a play in two
parts of five acts each. This was in poem form, as all plays were then,
but it has the added distinction of being the first play written in
English blank verse. This may not seem terribly exciting, but bear in
mind that it was Kit's pioneering use of blank verse that encouraged
Shakespeare to try it. He was the first to write a genuine tragedy in
English, again paving the way for Shakespeare. Kit also wrote one of the
most famous lyric poems in the English language, "The Passionate
Shepherd to his Love".

Now we get to the really interesting stuff. In the spring of 1593, a
friend of Kit's was captured and tortured by the Queen's Privy Council.
Based on this 'evidence,' the Council was preparing to arrest Kit. But
before this arrest could take place, Kit was killed in a brawl at a
rooming-house in the town of Deptford. He was staying there with three
of his friends--and let me tell you, these were some very interesting
friends. Ingram Frizer was a known con artist and (even worse) a
moneylender. Nicholas Skeres was Frizer's frequent accomplice and
probably a fence. Robert Poley was an occasional courier/spy for Her
Majesty's secret service, who had boasted of his ability to lie
convincingly under any circumstances. Frizer's master, Thomas
Walsingham, was a cousin of the noted spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham.
On the night of 30 May 1593, the four of them had just finished eating
when Frizer and Kit began arguing over the bill. Kit eventually grabbed
Frizer's dagger and attacked him from behind, and in the ensuing fight,
Frizer regained his dagger and stabbed and killed his friend. He was
quickly pardoned on grounds of self-defense, and his employers did not
fire or otherwise ostracize him.

Both the timing of Kit's death and the lack of any retribution against
his murderer have led some scholars to theorize that his death was faked
and Kit himself took up a new identity to escape the Privy Council. Some
go so far as to state that this new identity, was, of course, obviously,
that of William Shakespeare. Either people think it unreasonable for one
tiny island to have produced two literary geniuses in such a short space
of time, or they're subscribing to the idea that Shakespeare received a
terrible education.

But I've digressed sadly from our friend Kit. Regardless of how it
ended, he led a very interesting life, and it's a great shame that he
was unable to continue his pioneering work (under his own name, at

    -- from the Web,

PS. I'm going on vacation for two weeks, starting today, but fear not -
the Minstrels will go on without me :-). Actually, I've already sent
Martin my next few poems; he'll do the list-sending thing.

Cargoes -- John Masefield

(Poem #74) Cargoes
  Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
  Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
  With a cargo of ivory,
  And apes and peacocks,
  Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

  Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
  Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
  With a cargo of diamonds,
  Emeralds, amethysts,
  Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

  Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
  Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
  With a cargo of Tyne coal,
  Road-rails, pig-lead,
  Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.
-- John Masefield
A lovely poem, and one that works on several levels. Of course, it is about
progress, and nostalgia, and as such is somewhat unsubtle. But it is also a
poem redolent with beauty; the beauty and mystery of strange and distant
lands, and forever vanished times that linger yet in racial memory, the
sensual, evocative beauty of gems and spices, the beauty of words and
phrases that flow trippingly off the tongue. Masefield was truly a poet who
could both appreciate and recapture the pleasures of the senses - he is far
more descriptive than introspective (compare, for example, Keats' 'To a
Skylark', Wordsworth's 'Daffodils' and Coleridge's 'Kublai Khan' for very
different treatments of this kind of beauty).

Incidentally, this is a lovely poem to recite subvocally - don't quite read
it out loud, but form the words with your mouth as you read them.

  moidore<e>r. Also 8 moyodore, moedor(e, moydor(e, moider, moidor.
  [Curruptly a. Pg. moeda d'ouro lit. `gold coin' (moeda money, ouro:-L.
  aurum gold). ] A gold coin of Portugal, current in England in the first
  half of the 18th century. In later use, the word survived as a name for
  the sum of 27s., which was approximately the value of the coin. -- OED


I Remember, I Remember -- Philip Larkin

(Poem #73) I Remember, I Remember
Coming up England by a different line
For once, early in the cold new year,
We stopped, and, watching men with number plates
Sprint down the platform to familiar gates,
'Why, Coventry!' I exclaimed. "I was born here.'

I leant far out, and squinnied for a sign
That this was still the town that had been 'mine'
So long, but found I wasn't even clear
Which side was which. From where those cycle-crates
Were standing, had we annually departed

For all those family hols? . . . A whistle went:
Things moved. I sat back, staring at my boots.
'Was that,' my friend smiled, 'where you "have your roots"?'
No, only where my childhood was unspent,
I wanted to retort, just where I started:

By now I've got the whole place clearly charted.
Our garden, first: where I did not invent
Blinding theologies of flowers and fruits,
And wasn't spoken to by an old hat.
And here we have that splendid family

I never ran to when I got depressed,
The boys all biceps and the girls all chest,
Their comic Ford, their farm where I could be
'Really myself'. I'll show you, come to that,
The bracken where I never trembling sat,

Determined to go through with it; where she
Lay back, and 'all became a burning mist'.
And, in those offices, my doggerel
Was not set up in blunt ten-point, nor read
By a distinguished cousin of the mayor,

Who didn't call and tell my father There
Before us, had we the gift to see ahead -
'You look as though you wished the place in Hell,'
My friend said, 'judging from your face.' 'Oh well,
I suppose it's not the place's fault,' I said.

'Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.'
-- Philip Larkin
The title of today's poem is, of course, a take on Thomas Hood's famous
'I Remember, I Remember', one of those poems which *everyone* seeems to
have studied in school or read at some point in their lives. Larkin
brings a whole new perspective to childhood and growing up; like Auden
in 'Musee des Beaux Arts' (Minstrels, Poem #68), he is concerned with
the meaningfulness of 'events' in our lives, as opposed to the unadorned
fact of 'living'.

The whole poem hinges on the effectiveness of the last line, a line
whose 'truth' comes as a revelation. And (in my mind, at least) the
purpose of poetry is to create such revelations, to open up new ways of
looking at the world, to make the reader feel
                    " - like some watcher of the skies
                When a new planet swims into his ken;"
Larkin's poem performs this task admirably.

As an aside, note the exquisite skill with which Larkin translates the
rhythms of conversational English into metrical (and rhymed) verse - it
seems effortless because it's done so very well.



Philip Larkin was born in 1922 in Coventry, England. He attended St.
John's College, Oxford. His first book of poetry, 'The North Ship', was
published in 1945 and, though not particularly strong on its own, is
notable insofar as certain passages foreshadow the unique sensibility
and maturity that characterizes his later work. In 1946, Larkin
discovered the poetry of Thomas Hardy and became a great admirer of his
poetry, learning from Hardy how to make the commonplace and often dreary
details of his life the basis for extremely tough, unsparing, and
memorable poems. With his second volume of poetry, 'The Less Deceived'
(1955), Larkin became the preeminent poet of his generation, and a
leading voice of what came to be called `The Movement,' a group of young
English writers who rejected the prevailing fashion for neo-Romantic
writing in the style of Yeats and Dylan Thomas. Like Hardy, Larkin
focused on intense personal emotion but strictly avoided sentimentality
or self-pity.

In 1964, he confirmed his reputation as a major poet with the
publication of 'The Whitsun Weddings', and again in 1974 with 'High
Windows': collections whose searing, often mocking, wit does not conceal
the poet's dark vision and underlying obsession with universal themes of
mortality, love, and human solitude. Deeply anti-social and a great
lover (and published critic) of American jazz, Larkin never married and
conducted an uneventful life as a librarian in the provincial city of
Hull, where he died in 1985.

    -- from the Academy of American Poets website,
[broken link]

You can read the original 'I Remember, I Remember' by Thomas Hood at
[broken link]

Madhushala (The Tavern) -- Harivansh Rai Bachchan

Guest poem sent in by Sameer Siruguri
(Poem #72) Madhushala (The Tavern)
  Seeking wine, the drinker leaves home for the tavern.
  Perplexed, he asks, "Which path will take me there?"
  People show him different ways, but this is what I have to say,
  "Pick a path and keep walking. You will find the tavern."

  Hark! The wine gurgles and splashes as it falls from the goblet.
  Hark! It sounds like the tinkling of bells on the feet of an intoxicated girl.
  We have reached there, a few steps are we from the tavern,
  Hark! Hear the laughter of the drinkers, as the fragrance of the tavern wafts through the air.

  Call it not lava, though it flows red, like a tongue of flame.
  Call it not the blistered heart, for it is only foaming wine.
  Lost memories serve the wine, that intoxicates with pain.
  If you find happiness in suffering, come to my tavern.

  He who has burnt all scriptures with his inner fire,
  Has broken temples, mosques and churches with carefree abandon,
  And has cut the nooses of pandits, mullahs and priests ---
  Only he is welcome in my tavern.

  Alas, he that with eager lips, has not kissed this wine,
  Alas, he that trembling with joy, has not touched a brimming goblet,
  He that has not drawn close the coy wine-maiden by her hand,
  Has wasted this honey-filled tavern of Life.

  My beloved wine-maiden seems a priest; her wine as pure as the Ganga's waters.
  With unbroken pace, she rotates the rosary of wine glasses.
  "Drink more! Drink more!" she intones in prayer.
  I am Shiva incarnate and this tavern is my temple.

  Only once every year, the fires of Holi are lit.
  Only once is the game played and are garlands of lamps lit.
  But, O, those who are lost in the world, come and see the tavern any day,
  The tavern celebrates a Holi, every morning and a Diwali every night.

  Whatever the taste on my lips, it tastes like wine.
  Whatever the vessel in my hands, it feels like a goblet.
  Every face dissolves into the features of my wine-maiden,
  And whatever be in front of my eyes, they fill only with visions of the tavern.

  Ah, Beautiful, your lovely face is like a crystal bowl,
  Whose precious gem is your beauty, sparkling like sweet, intoxicating wine.
  I am the wine-maiden and I am the guest.
  Where sit we together, there indeed is the tavern.

  A mere two days she served me but the young maiden is sulking now.
  She fills my goblet and passes it curtly to me.
  Her coquetry and charms are lost arts;
  All the tavern wishes now is to fulfil its obligations.

  Life is short. How much love can I give and how much can I drink?
  They say, "He departs," at the very moment that he is born.
  While he is being welcomed, I have seen his farewell being prepared.
  They started closing the shutters of the tavern, as soon as they were raised.

  O maiden! Which burning heart has been pacified by drinking?
  Every drinker repeats only one chant, "More! More!"
  Seeking satisfaction, he leaves behind so many desires.
  Of how many such hopes is this tavern a tomb?

  Yama will come as the wine-maiden and bring his black wine,
  Drink, and know no more consciousness, O carefree one.
  This is the ultimate trance, the ultimate wine-maiden and the ultimate goblet.
  O traveller, drink judiciously, for you will never find the tavern again.

  Each day, O companion, spills more wine from my life.
  Each day, O fortunate one, this goblet, my body, is burnt.
  Each day, O lovely woman, this wine-maiden, my youth, distances itself from me.
  Each day, O beauty, this tavern, my Life, is drying up.

  When from the earthen jar of my body, the wine of life is emptied,
  When the final wine-maiden comes with her bowl of poison,
  When my hand forgets the touch of the goblet, and my lips the taste of wine,
  Whisper in my ears, "the wine, the goblet, the tavern!"

  Touch not my lips with tulasi, but with the goblet, when I die.
  Touch not my tongue with the Ganga's waters, but with wine, when I die.
  When you bear my corpse, pallbearers, remember this!
  Call not the name of God, but call to the truth that is the tavern.

  Weep over my corpse, if you can weep tears of wine.
  Sigh dejectedly for me, if you are intoxicated and carefree.
  Bear me on your shoulders, if you stumble drunkenly along.
  Cremate me on that land, where there once was a tavern.

  Pour on my ashes, not ghee, but wine.
  Tie to a vine of grapes, not a waterpot, but a wine-goblet.
  And when, my darling, you must call guests for the ritual feast,
  Do this - call those who will drink and have the tavern opened for them.

  If anyone asks my name, say it was, "The Drunkard".
  My work? I drank and passed the goblet to everyone.
  O Beloved, if they ask my caste, say only that I was mad.
  Say my religion worshipped goblets and then chant with your rosary, "The tavern, the tavern!"

  O son, raise not water at my final rites, but wine in your palms.
  And sit somewhere, having filled the Ganga with wine.
  If you can wet the earth somewhere, my soul will be satisfied.
  Offer your libations to your ancestral spirits by reading repeatedly, "The tavern, the tavern."
-- Harivansh Rai Bachchan
The translation is mine, though I had one that was blessed by Bachchan
Sr. himself. I didn't think it captured the rhythm of the original, though. It
emphasised the meaning of each line more, and put words in that weren't in the
original. I have attempted to be as literal as possible and let the readers see
the meaning for themselves. I have also limited severely the use of upper-case

Of course, the force of the original is lost, for many reasons. Most Hindi and
Urdu poetry is written in a certain philosophical style (which is perhaps the
Sufi style mentioned in the quotes below), which is inextricably linked to the
language itself and, I believe, cannot be reproduced in English. At a more
mundane level, inadequate translation plays a role, for eg. the words "pran"
and "jeevan", which translate to "life" but which convey different senses of
the word.

Check out for the Hindi original of
the above. It is very badly spelt and has other glitches, but I couldn't find a
better version that doesn't require installing a new font on your machine.



When the book was first published in 1935, Harivansh Rai Bachchan found himself
famous overnight. Since then the original Hindi version has been translated
into English, Marathi, Bengali and Malayalam. It has been set to music and
choreographed and performed by celebrated Indian dancers. The full poem
contains 135 verses. [ ed: The 20 translated above are from the popular musical
rendition of the poem by Manna Dey and Bachchan Sr. himself. ]

The poem shows traces of the Persian Sufi style and is patterned, to some
extent, on the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Bachchan, who has translated the
Rubaiyat into Hindi, has acknowledged the Persian influence in his work and
indeed it is this aspect of his poetry that sets it apart form the work of the
major Hindi poets of our time.

The range of the 135 verses of Madhushala is wide: wine and the tavern or
wine-house serve as the basic metaphors in the poem and symbolise the fillness
and intoxication of life as well as its pain and frustration. Love, Beauty,
Pain, Sorrow, Death --- all of these and more are woven into the rich texture
of the poem. Madhushala embodies the entire philosophy of Bachchan: the
passionate yearning of the soul for beauty ending only in frustration, the
pathetic scarcity and transience of beauty in the world, the agony of
disillusionment, the inevitability of death and a stoic acceptance of fatalism
as the only armour for the soul -- these are the themes of not only Madhushala
but of all of Bachchan's poetry.


Harivansh Rai Bachchan was born in 1907 and was educated at Allahabad, Banaras
Hindu and Cambridge Univeristies. He was the first Indian ever to receive a PhD
in English at the latter.

Returning in 1954, he taught and was also a radio broadcaster. He has published
seventy-five books, three for children, and has translated Shakespeare's
tragedies into Hindi.

[ed: Most people today, however, will perhaps identify him more easily as
Amitabh Bachchan's father. ]




1. Madhushala, Marjorie Boulton and Ram Swaroop Vyas, Penguin

2. Innumerable web sites, incl:

   a. [broken link]
   b. [broken link]

Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day? (Sonnets XVIII) -- William Shakespeare

(Poem #71) Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day? (Sonnets XVIII)
  Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
  Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
  Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
  And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
  Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
  And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
  And every fair from fair sometime declines,
  By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
  But thy eternal summer shall not fade
  Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
  Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
  When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
        So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
        So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
-- William Shakespeare
One of Shakespeare's best known sonnets, and IMHO one of his finest. The
theme - the interplay between time, beauty and love - was a favourite of
his, and one that he returned to repeatedly, exploring it via a number of
metaphors and images (see, especially, Sonnet LV, "Nor marble, nor the
gilded monuments" for another beautiful one).

This particular sonnet has, incidentally, supplied the title for Bates' "The
Darling Buds of May" - Shakespeare is probably the most fertile source of
titles in general I've encountered.


The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter -- Ezra Pound

In conformance with my own literary tastes, this poem is decidedly
romantic, but not, please note, Romantic...
(Poem #70) The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter
While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.
And we went on living in the village of Chokan:
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.

At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever and forever.
Why should I climb the lookout?

At sixteen you departed,
You went into far Ku-to-en, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden;
They hurt me. I grow older.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
As far as Cho-fo-Sa.
-- Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound (1885-1972)
Variant Name(s): Ezra Weston Loomis Pound (full name); William Atheling
(pseudonym); The Poet of Titchfield Street (pseudonym); Alfred Venison

Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho, in 1885, and raised in Philadelphia,
the son of Homer Loomis Pound and Isabel Weston Pound. He made his first
visits to Europe with his family in 1898 and 1902. He attended the
Cheltenham Military Academy when he was twelve and soon after attended
the Cheltenham Township High School. Just before his sixteenth birthday
Pound entered the University of Pennsylvania, and in 1903 he transferred
to Hamilton College, receiving his bachelor's degree in 1905. He taught
Romance languages at Wabash College in Indiana for a short time in 1907,
but was dismissed after a scandal involving a stranded actress that he
allowed to stay overnight with him in his room. After this and a failed
courtship with Mary S. Moore, Pound decided to leave for Europe, where
he privately published his first volume of poetry, 'A lume spento', in
Venice in 1908. He then moved to London and by 1911 was immersed in the
literary and intellectual milieu and was a respected critic and poet.
Around this time Pound founded a poetic movement called Imagism, which
linked techniques derived from the Symbolist movement and Oriental
poetry, such as haiku.

Pound spent much of his time concerned with promoting the careers of
many of the great writers of the time and was a key figure in the
publication of many influential works, including Ernest Hemingway's 'In
Our Time', and T. S. Eliot's 'The Waste Land'. In 1921 Pound moved to
Paris and from there to Rapallo, Italy, in 1924. In Italy Pound endorsed
the Fascist government of Benito Mussolini and declared his political
and anti-semitic beliefs in a series of radio broadcasts during World
War II. After the war Pound was arrested by American allies and charged
with treason. He was found mentally incapable to stand trial and was
committed to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington D.C. in 1946. Upon
his release in 1958 he returned to Italy. He died in Venice in 1972 and
is buried in San Michele Cemetery on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.

[Overview of the poem]

'The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter' was published in 1915 in Ezra
Pound's third collection of poetry, Cathay: Translations, which contains
versions of Chinese poems composed from the sixteen notebooks of Ernest
Fenollosa, a scholar of Chinese literature. Pound called the poems in
English which resulted from the Fenollosa manuscripts "translations,"
but as such they are held in contempt by most scholars of Chinese
language and literature. However, they have been acclaimed as "poetry"
for their clarity and elegance. They are variously referred to as
"translations," "interpretations," "paraphrases," and "adaptations."
Pound's study of the Fenollosa manuscripts led to his preoccupation with
the Chinese ideogram (a written symbol for an idea or object) as a
medium for poetry. In fact, he realized that Chinese poets had long been
aware of the image as the fundamental principle for poetic composition
that he himself was beginning to formulate. Pound further maintained
that the poetic image did not lose anything in translation between
languages nor was it bound by time, but effectively communicated through
time and across cultures, accruing meaning in the process. 'The
River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter', for example, communicates with depth
and poignance the human experience of sorrow at separation, the human
experience of love. Working with the literary traditions of other
cultures was typical not only of Pound, but of most of his
contemporaries, who were not convinced that the only culture of value
was European. However, Pound's work has significance not only for its
cross- cultural innovations, but for the "cross-chronological"
breakthrough notion that the human response to the world links us all,
so that an American in the twentieth century can share and learn from
the human experience of an eighth century Chinese river-merchant's wife.


This translation, 'The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter', is structured
into 5 stanzas: the first of 6 lines, and the second, third, and fourth
of 4 lines each. Each of the first four stanzas is image-centered,
focusing an emotional point in the history of the relationship between
the river-merchant's wife and her husband. The final stanza of 10 lines
and a dropped half-line begins with the presentation of a similar
central image that collects an enhancing detail in each line until line
25 shifts into direct emotional statement. The last four lines mix this
direct letter-writing style with the final image closing the physical
and emotional distance between the river-merchant and his wife.It was
Pound's belief that the pictorial quality of the Chinese ideogram, in
its "closeness to the thing itself," had the capacity for raising the
mundane to the poetic. Likewise, Pound's ear for the music of
conversational speech raised natural speech rhythms to the level of
poetry. In this poem he expertly combines these to create a sense of the
conversational naturalness of letter-writing with the focused, direct,
and simple presentation of image inspired by the Chinese ideograms in
which the poem was originally written. Pound's insistence on the
centrality of image to poetry is in great part responsible for the
varied line lengths of this poem written in unrhymed free verse. While
each of the first four stanzas concentrates on one image, the individual
lines themselves are as long as Pound needs them to be to focus each
component of the central image of the stanza in the mind of the reader.
This technique is termed end-stopped lines, meaning that a complete idea
is expressed in a line, with no spillover into the next line. However,
the use of capital letters at the beginnings of each line is a signal
that it is the lines of poetry , rather than the sentence constructions,
that are the basic units of meaning.The poet employs direct address
throughout the poem, taking on the persona of the wife as the "I" who is
writing the letter and thus entering her experience. This use of the
first-person "I" also makes it possible for the reader of the poem to
enter her experience. In addition, the direct address to the
second-person "you" allows the poem also to be experienced as if it is a
letter to the reader.


American critic and poet T. S. Eliot has called Pound "the inventor of
Chinese poetry" for the twentieth century. Nevertheless, he sees Cathay:
Translations, containing the much anthologized poem 'The
River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter', as more than intelligent literary
archaeology of poems from eighth century China. It establishes Pound's
particular literary genius "for expressing himself through historical
masks" that would become the hallmark of his later major work, the
Cantos. It is Eliot's critical assessment, furthermore, that the value
of Pound's work in this collection is the clarity with which he presents
his perception that "the present is no more than the present
significance of the past." In fact, Eliot maintains that Pound's
translations of ancient Chinese poetry are decidedly Modernist because
they affirm the universality of human experience through time and across
cultures.Eliot grants that while Pound's style in these translations
might not reflect that of the Chinese originals, his poetic concern for
image provides an effective means for "transporting the content" of the
original picture-making Chinese ideograms. Thus the value of these poems
is not as Chinese translations, but as a stage in the development of
Pound's poetic concerns from his original concepts of "luminous detail"
and "Imagism," through "vortex" and "haiku" and "metaphor," and
ultimately to the "ideogrammatic composition" of his Cantos. Pound is
not generally viewed as especially gifted in composing his own original
poems, but the accusation of Chinese language scholars that he
mistranslates the poems of this volume is brushed aside by such critics
of poetry as Hugh Kenner, who is perfectly willing to read them as
"Pound's interpretative paraphrases that are informed by his own
concerns and background." It is Michael Alexander's estimation that
these poems have been "underrated" as mere translations, rather than
appreciated for their highly disciplined free verse. Indeed, as William
Pratt has noted, "the relatively pure images of Cathay ... seem less and
less like translations and more and more like original poems." William
Van O'Connor suggests that Pound's "translations" have a song-like
quality, which he notes especially in 'The River-Merchant's Wife: A
Letter'. In this poem Pound's belief that poetry always had and always
should reflect the conversational speech of its day combines with his
intensive study of musical forms to achieve the composition of lyrical
natural lines toward the development of the convincing voice of the
poem's persona. M. L. Rosenthal and Sally M. Gall acknowledge the
"rhythmic successes" of such poems as 'The River-Merchant's Wife: A
Letter' as responsible for a move away from dramatic presentation of
character and monologue toward "what the poem before us is creating." It
is their contention that these poems go beyond "Imagism" and
"phanopoeia" ("the casting of images upon the visual imagination"),
engendering a progression of centered images in a sequence, or pattern,
of human thought and emotion.Accordingly, David E. Ward postulates that
the guiding principle of Pound's theory is a belief in a shared poetic
tradition that allows full expression of the emotional patterns of human
experience and response. 'The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter' is an
eloquent manifestation of this principle.

My own two bits? Heartbreakingly beautiful and poignant; there's nothing
more I can say.


There is no god, the wicked sayeth -- Arthur Hugh Clough

(Poem #69) There is no god, the wicked sayeth
"There is no God," the wicked saith,
    "And truly it's a blessing,
For what He might have done with us
    It's better only guessing."

"There is no God," a youngster thinks,
    "or really, if there may be,
He surely did not mean a man
    Always to be a baby."

"There is no God, or if there is,"
    The tradesman thinks, "'twere funny
If He should take it ill in me
    To make a little money."

"Whether there be," the rich man says,
    "It matters very little,
For I and mine, thank somebody,
    Are not in want of victual."

Some others, also, to themselves,
    Who scarce so much as doubt it,
Think there is none, when they are well,
    And do not think about it.

But country folks who live beneath
    The shadow of the steeple;
The parson and the parson's wife,
    And mostly married people;

Youths green and happy in first love,
    So thankful for illusion;
And men caught out in what the world
    Calls guilt, in first confusion;

And almost everyone when age,
    Disease, or sorrows strike him,
Inclines to think there is a God,
    Or something very like Him.
-- Arthur Hugh Clough
Clough is another slightly less-known poet whom I like for the sheer
enjoyability of his verses. The one above is a good introduction to his
work, being nicely representative of both his style and his choice of
themes. The regular, simple metre and rhyme scheme - tending almost towards
children's poetry - make a nice contrast with the seriousness other poets
have led us to expect of the topic, and save the poem from being cliched. I
fully agree with the EB - "His best verse has a flavour that is closer to
the taste and temper of the 20th century than to the Victorian age"

The poem's simplicity may also mask the elegance and economy of its
phrases, and their often startling aptness - go back and read it again,
noting bits like 'thank somebody', 'mostly married people' and, of course,
the final couplet.

Biographical Notes:

Clough, Arthur Hugh

    b. Jan. 1, 1819, Liverpool
    d. Nov. 13, 1861, Florence

    poet whose work reflects the perplexity and religious doubt of mid-19th
    century England. He was a friend of Matthew Arnold and the subject of
    Arnold's commemorative elegy "Thyrsis."

  While at Oxford, Clough had intended to become a clergyman, but his
  increasing religious skepticism caused him to leave the university. He
  became head of University Hall, London, in 1849, and in 1852, at the
  invitation of Ralph Waldo Emerson, he spent several months lecturing in
  Massachusetts. He later worked as a government education official and
  helped his wife's first cousin, Florence Nightingale, in her philanthropic
  work. While on a visit to Italy he contracted malaria and died at age 42.

  Clough's deeply critical and questioning attitude made him as doubtful of
  his own powers as he was about the spirit of his age, and he gave his
  contemporaries the impression of promise unfulfilled, especially since he
  left the bulk of his verse unpublished. Nonetheless, Clough's Poems (1862)
  proved so popular that they were reprinted 16 times within 40 years of his
  death. His best verse has a flavour that is closer to the taste and temper
  of the 20th century than to the Victorian age, however. Among his works
  are Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich (1848) and Amours de Voyage (1858), poems
  written in classical hexameters and dealing with romantic love, doubt, and
  social conflict. The long, incomplete poem Dipsychus most fully expresses
  Clough's doubts about the social and spiritual developments of his era,
  while his sharpest criticisms of Victorian moral complacency are found in
  "The Latest Decalogue":

      Thou shalt not kill, but need'st not strive
      Officiously to keep alive.


  [Matthew] Arnold's friend Arthur Hugh Clough died young but managed,
  nonetheless, to produce three highly original poems. The Bothie of
  Tober-na-Vuolich (1848) is a narrative poem of modern life, written in
  hexameters. Amours de Voyage (1858) goes beyond this to the full-scale
  verse novel, using multiple internal narrators and vivid contemporary
  detail. Dipsychus (published posthumously in 1865 but not available in an
  unexpurgated version until 1951) is a remarkable closet drama that debates
  issues of belief and morality with a frankness, and a metrical liveliness,
  unequaled in Victorian verse.

        -- EB


Musee des Beaux Arts -- W H Auden

(Poem #68) Musee des Beaux Arts
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the plowman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
-- W H Auden
I like this poem for the exquisite simplicity of its language; there's
something almost Wordsworthian in its phrases and images,
straightforward in their construction, yet subtle in their

Sometime free verse rubs me the wrong way because it's *too* free -
poets use the lack of constraint as an excuse to turn out shoddy work (I
have the opposite complaint about 'structured' (for want of a better
word) verse - all too often, the *meaning* of the poem is lost behind
the details of its surface construction). But Auden's  'Musee des Beaux
Art' is not a victim of either shortcoming - the poem is no less elegant
or carefully crafted for its not being a part of any particular
metre/rhyme scheme. Indeed, I think that there's a definite (and very
well-thought-out) correspondence betweem form and meaning here - see the
comments under 'Construction' below.

Apart from that... well, Auden is not necessarily a poet with whom I
agree (on most matters, at least), but that doesn't in any way detract
from the quality of his work. Admitted, his output was uneven at best;
nevertheless, there are times (and today's poem is one of them) when he
wrote truly magnificent poetry.



Auden was born in 1907 and was raised in northern England, the son of a
doctor and a nurse. He received his primary education at St. Edmund's
School in Surrey and Gresham's School in Kent. Auden's early interest in
science and engineering earned him a scholarship to Oxford University;
however, his interest in poetry led him to switch his field of study to
English. While at Oxford, Auden became familiar with modernist poetry,
particularly that of T. S. Eliot, and he became a central member of a
group of writers that included Stephen Spender, C. Day Lewis, and Louis
MacNeice, a collective variously labeled the "Oxford Group" or the
"Auden Generation." In 1928 Auden's first book, Poems, was privately
printed by Spender. During the same year, Eliot accepted Auden's verse
play Paid on Both Sides: A Charade for publication in his magazine
Criterion. After graduating from Oxford Auden lived for over a year in
Berlin before returning to England to become a teacher. During the 1930s
Auden traveled to Spain and China, became involved in political causes,
and wrote prolifically. In this period he composed The Orators: An
English Study (1932), an experimental satire that mixes poetry and
prose; three plays in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood; two
travel books — one of which was written with Louis MacNeice; and the
poetry collection Look, Stranger! (1936; published in the United States
as On This Island).

Auden left England in 1939 and became a citizen of the United States.
His first book as an emigrant, Another Time (1940), contains some of his
best-known poems, among them "September 1, 1939," and "Musee des Beaux
Arts." His 1945 volume The Collected Poetry, in which he revised,
retitled, or excluded many of his earlier poems, helped solidify his
reputation as a major poet. Throughout his career Auden won numerous
honors and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize forThe Age of Anxiety: A
Baroque Eclogue (1947) and the National Book Award for The Shield of
Achilles (1955). In his later years, Auden continued to teach, to
deliver lectures, and to edit and review books. He wrote several more
volumes of poetry, including City without Walls and Many Other Poems
(1969), Epistle to a Godson and Other Poems (1972), and the posthumously
published Thank You, Fog: Last Poems (1974). He died while on a trip to
Vienna in 1973. He is buried in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey.


First published in 1940 in a collected volume of verse entitled, Another
Time, "Musee des Beaux Arts" explores the enduring human response to
tragedy and challenges the accepted categorization of "ordinary" life
experiences. The poem's title refers to the Museum of Fine Arts in
Brussels, an institution Auden visited in 1938. While there he viewed
the Brueghel alcove which contains a number of works including Icarus,
the canvas the poem refers to in detail. Drawing on this and other
paintings, Auden articulates a notion of human nature which the poem
indicates transcends time and space. Opening with generalizations and
moving to specifics, the poem argues that the image presented by the
"Old Masters" of the Renaissance period, that individual human suffering
is viewed with apathy by others, is an accurate one. Juxtaposing images
of suffering and tragedy with the banal actions of everyday life
suggests that individual tragedies are individual burdens as humankind
responds with indifference. Auden wrote that "In so far as poetry, or
any of the arts, can be said to have an ulterior purpose, it is, by
telling the truth, to disenchant and disintoxicate." Auden's poem seeks
to disenchant or deromanticize death, martyrdom and suffering and
achieves this through the juxtaposition of "ordinary" events with
universally recognized "extraordinary" ones. This comparison, however,
forces a reconsideration of these accepted categories, and the poem
appears to suggest that those events worthy of celebration are the
ordinary, everyday occurrences.


"Musee des Beaux Arts" is written in free verse, meaning that the poem
is essentially "free" of meter, regular rhythm, or a rhyme scheme.
Unlike a Petrarchan sonnet, for instance, which is written in iambic
pentameter (each line contains five divisions or feet, and each foot
consists of an unaccented syllable followed by an accented syllable),
and is divided into two parts, an octave and a sestet, the octave
rhyming abbaabba and the sestet usually rhyming cdecde, free verse
employs varying line lengths and an irregular rhyme pattern, often
shunning a rhyme scheme altogether.Like the specific structural
considerations of the sonnet form, the seeming lack of structure which
free verse offers is purposely employed and works to illuminate the
poem's meaning. In Auden's lyric, the long irregular lines, subtly
enforced by the irregular end rhyme pattern, create a casual,
conversational air more prosaic than poetic, and a somewhat blase tone
which is reflective of the benign world illustrated in Brueghel's art.
The casual, easy-going argument the tone suggests is ironic for the
topic of discussion, the human position and its seeming indifference to
suffering, is anything but light and easygoing. Appearing to be the
antithesis of the sonnet, the poem does reflect the Petrarchan sonnet
form in one way: Auden's poem is distinguished by two parts which relate
to one another much like the octave and sestet of a sonnet. Thus, like a
sonnet, the poem is marked by a definite break or turn in thought. The
first thirteen lines of the poem introduce the poem's theme and discuss
it in general term, while the second half of the poem develops and
illustrates the general idea with a specific example.


Another Time is the first book Auden published as an emigrant to the
United States, and the collection is viewed by critics as a pivotal one
that marks Auden's turn from secular political concerns towards ethical
concerns, concerns often addressed by Christianity. "Musée des Beaux
Arts" is one poem which captures Auden's increased awareness of
Christianity. The poem hints at Auden's involvement in the conflict
between meaningful events and an oblivious world. In W. H. Auden Dennis
Davidson argues that this involvement is suggested by the use of
adjectives that indicate certain values, for instance, a "miraculous
birth," or an "important failure." These words hint at an emotional
sensitivity which recognizes and feels human suffering within a cold and
indifferent world. Davidson calls such a response, as captured in the
closing lines of the poem, a "sensitive acceptance." "Sensitive
acceptance" means taking a stance midpoint between hardened stoicism and
ardent sensibility. While such a response recalls the individual who
reads of human tragedy in the newspaper as he/she engages in a mundane
activity such as consuming breakfast, this approach, according to
Davidson, "points also in the direction of a religious acceptance of
suffering." Religious acceptance means coming to terms with the ways of
the world. Thus, the poem hints at Auden's increased interest in ethical
concerns and his eventual reconversion to Christianity. Richard Johnson,
in Man's Place: An Essay on Auden, also states that the poem insinuates
a Christian awareness, particularly in its construction of time. Johnson
notes that the poem shifts one's perspective of reality. It does this by
layering time and events. For instance, the poem places the reader in
front of a painting in a museum, challenging the reader to develop the
analogy between the world within the painting and the world outside the
museum. By leading the reader through various periods of time (through
the images in the poem), a continuity of events is implied. Thus, events
such as the birth and death of Christ become relevant to the time and
place of the reader. Johnson states, "the perspective shifts constantly
to put the reader into the position of being able to see," to see things
in a way one normally would not see. Such shifts make the reader "aware
of his 'human position.'" Addressing one's "human position" means
determining one's response to and place in the world, and this is
achieved through the individual consideration of issues such as those
presented in the poem.

For a line-by-line analysis, see

The Ballad of East and West -- Rudyard Kipling

Sorry about Sunday's poem - I was terminally deficient.
(Poem #67) The Ballad of East and West
Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face,
                        tho' they come from the ends of the earth!

Kamal is out with twenty men to raise the Border-side,
And he has lifted the Colonel's mare that is the Colonel's pride:
He has lifted her out of the stable-door between the dawn and the day,
And turned the calkins upon her feet, and ridden her far away.
Then up and spoke the Colonel's son that led a troop of the Guides:
"Is there never a man of all my men can say where Kamal hides?"
Then up and spoke Mahommed Khan, the son of the Ressaldar:
"If ye know the track of the morning-mist, ye know where his pickets are.
At dusk he harries the Abazai -- at dawn he is into Bonair,
But he must go by Fort Bukloh to his own place to fare,
So if ye gallop to Fort Bukloh as fast as a bird can fly,
By the favour of God ye may cut him off ere he win to the Tongue of Jagai.
But if he be past the Tongue of Jagai, right swiftly turn ye then,
For the length and the breadth of that grisly plain is sown with Kamal's men.
There is rock to the left, and rock to the right, and low lean thorn between,
And ye may hear a breech-bolt snick where never a man is seen."
The Colonel's son has taken a horse, and a raw rough dun was he,
With the mouth of a bell and the heart of Hell
  and the head of the gallows-tree.
The Colonel's son to the Fort has won, they bid him stay to eat --
Who rides at the tail of a Border thief, he sits not long at his meat.
He's up and away from Fort Bukloh as fast as he can fly,
Till he was aware of his father's mare in the gut of the Tongue of Jagai,
Till he was aware of his father's mare with Kamal upon her back,
And when he could spy the white of her eye, he made the pistol crack.
He has fired once, he has fired twice, but the whistling ball went wide.
"Ye shoot like a soldier," Kamal said.  "Show now if ye can ride."
It's up and over the Tongue of Jagai, as blown dustdevils go,
The dun he fled like a stag of ten, but the mare like a barren doe.
The dun he leaned against the bit and slugged his head above,
But the red mare played with the snaffle-bars, as a maiden plays with a glove.
There was rock to the left and rock to the right, and low lean thorn between,
And thrice he heard a breech-bolt snick tho' never a man was seen.
They have ridden the low moon out of the sky, their hoofs drum up the dawn,
The dun he went like a wounded bull, but the mare like a new-roused fawn.
The dun he fell at a water-course -- in a woful heap fell he,
And Kamal has turned the red mare back, and pulled the rider free.
He has knocked the pistol out of his hand -- small room was there to strive,
"'Twas only by favour of mine," quoth he, "ye rode so long alive:
There was not a rock for twenty mile, there was not a clump of tree,
But covered a man of my own men with his rifle cocked on his knee.
If I had raised my bridle-hand, as I have held it low,
The little jackals that flee so fast were feasting all in a row:
If I had bowed my head on my breast, as I have held it high,
The kite that whistles above us now were gorged till she could not fly."
Lightly answered the Colonel's son:  "Do good to bird and beast,
But count who come for the broken meats before thou makest a feast.
If there should follow a thousand swords to carry my bones away,
Belike the price of a jackal's meal were more than a thief could pay.
They will feed their horse on the standing crop,
  their men on the garnered grain,
The thatch of the byres will serve their fires when all the cattle are slain.
But if thou thinkest the price be fair, -- thy brethren wait to sup,
The hound is kin to the jackal-spawn, -- howl, dog, and call them up!
And if thou thinkest the price be high, in steer and gear and stack,
Give me my father's mare again, and I'll fight my own way back!"
Kamal has gripped him by the hand and set him upon his feet.
"No talk shall be of dogs," said he, "when wolf and gray wolf meet.
May I eat dirt if thou hast hurt of me in deed or breath;
What dam of lances brought thee forth to jest at the dawn with Death?"
Lightly answered the Colonel's son:  "I hold by the blood of my clan:
Take up the mare for my father's gift -- by God, she has carried a man!"
The red mare ran to the Colonel's son, and nuzzled against his breast;
"We be two strong men," said Kamal then, "but she loveth the younger best.
So she shall go with a lifter's dower, my turquoise-studded rein,
My broidered saddle and saddle-cloth, and silver stirrups twain."
The Colonel's son a pistol drew and held it muzzle-end,
"Ye have taken the one from a foe," said he;
  "will ye take the mate from a friend?"
"A gift for a gift," said Kamal straight; "a limb for the risk of a limb.
Thy father has sent his son to me, I'll send my son to him!"
With that he whistled his only son, that dropped from a mountain-crest --
He trod the ling like a buck in spring, and he looked like a lance in rest.
"Now here is thy master," Kamal said, "who leads a troop of the Guides,
And thou must ride at his left side as shield on shoulder rides.
Till Death or I cut loose the tie, at camp and board and bed,
Thy life is his -- thy fate it is to guard him with thy head.
So, thou must eat the White Queen's meat, and all her foes are thine,
And thou must harry thy father's hold for the peace of the Border-line,
And thou must make a trooper tough and hack thy way to power --
Belike they will raise thee to Ressaldar when I am hanged in Peshawur."

They have looked each other between the eyes, and there they found no fault,
They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on leavened bread and salt:
They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on fire and fresh-cut sod,
On the hilt and the haft of the Khyber knife, and the Wondrous Names of God.
The Colonel's son he rides the mare and Kamal's boy the dun,
And two have come back to Fort Bukloh where there went forth but one.
And when they drew to the Quarter-Guard, full twenty swords flew clear --
There was not a man but carried his feud with the blood of the mountaineer.
"Ha' done! ha' done!" said the Colonel's son.
  "Put up the steel at your sides!
Last night ye had struck at a Border thief --
  to-night 'tis a man of the Guides!"

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face,
                                tho' they come from the ends of the earth!
-- Rudyard Kipling
Another wonderful poem by Kipling. "At his best he is unforgettable", says
Louis Untermeyer, " standing mountain-high above his host of imitators.",
and this poem is certainly one of his best, a thrilling ballad with
beautifully turned phrases and a powerful, compelling rhythm.

Strangely enough, the first line is frequently seized upon by people who,
having read no more of the poem, leap up and accuse Kipling of racism. (That
he was imbued with the British imperialist mentality, and was one of the
chief proponents of the 'White Man's burden' attitude, is another matter -
he was merely a product of his times, and no more culpable for being its
chief surviving voice. There is certainly no evidence of even that much in
the above poem; quite the opposite in fact.)


The Tyger -- William Blake

... dunno what happened to Sunday's poem. Martin?
(Poem #66) The Tyger
Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? And what dread feet?

What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
-- William Blake
Another famous poem which is no less wonderful for being popular... this
is one of the earliest poems I remember being entranced by, and to this
day the magic remains as powerful as it was the first time round.


Published in 1794 as one of the Songs of Experience, Blake's "The Tyger"
is a poem about the nature of creation, much as is his earlier poem from
the Songs of Innocence, "The Lamb." However, this poem takes on the
darker side of creation, when its benefits are less obvious than simple
joys. Blake's simplicity in language and construction contradicts the
complexity of his ideas. This poem is meant to be interpreted in
comparison and contrast to "The Lamb," showing the "two contrary states
of the human soul" with respect to creation. It has been said many times
that Blake believed that a person had to pass through an innocent state
of being, like that of the lamb, and also absorb the contrasting
conditions of experience, like those of the tiger, in order to reach a
higher level of consciousness. In any case, Blake's vision of a creative
force in the universe making a balance of innocence and experience is at
the heart of this poem.The poem's speaker is never defined, and so may
be more closely aligned with Blake himself than in his other poems. One
interpretation could be that it is the Bard from the Introduction to the
Songs of Experience walking through the ancient forest and encountering
the beast within himself, or within the material world. The poem
reflects primarily the speaker's response to the tiger, rather than the
tiger's response to the world.It important to remember that Blake lived
in a time that had never heard of popular psychology as we understand it
today. He wrote the mass of his work before the Romantic movement in
English literature. He lived in a world that was in the opening stages
of the Industrial Revolution, and in the midst of political revolutions
all over Europe and in America. As we look at his work we must in some
way forget many of the ideas about creativity, artists, and human nature
that we take for granted today, and reimagine them for the first time
as, perhaps, Blake did himself. It is in this way that Blake's poetry
has the power to astound us with his insight.


"The Tyger" contains six four-line stanzas, and uses pairs of rhyming
couplets to create a sense of rhythm and continuity. The notable
exception occurs in lines 3 and 4 and 23 and 24, where "eye" is
imperfectly paired, ironically enough, with "symmetry."The majority of
lines in this lyric contain exactly seven syllables, alternating between
stressed and unstressed syllables:

     Tyger! / Tyger! / burning / bright . . .

This pattern has sometimes been identified as trochaic tetrameter — four
("tetra") sets of trochees, or pairs of stressed and unstressed
syllables — even though the final trochee lacks the unstressed syllable.
There are several exceptions to this rhythm, most notably lines 4, 20,
and 24, which are eight-syllable lines of iambic tetrameter, or four
pairs of syllables that follow the pattern unstress/stress, called an
iamb. This addition of an unstressed syllable at the beginning of each
of these lines gives them extra emphasis.


"The Tyger" has long been recognized as one of Blake's finest poems; in
his 1863 Life of William Blake, biographer Alexander Gilchrist relates
that the poem "happens to have been quoted often enough ... to have made
its strange old Hebrew-like grandeur, its Oriental latitude yet force of
eloquence, comparatively familiar" and that essayist and critic Charles
Lamb wrote of Blake: "I have heard of his poems, but have never seen
them. There is one to a tiger ... which is glorious!" In his 1906 work
William Blake: A Critical Essay, British poet and critic Algernon
Charles Swinburne similarly calls the lyric "a poem beyond praise for
its fervent beauty and vigour of music."Many critics have focused on the
symbolism in "The Tyger," frequently contrasting it with the language,
images, and questions of origin presented by its "innocent" counterpart,
"The Lamb." E. D. Hirsch, Jr., for instance, notes that while "The
Tyger" satirizes the lyrics found in "The Lamb" that is not the poem's
primary function. As the critic asserts in his Innocence and Experience:
An Introduction to Blake, in combining tones of terror and awe at a
being that could create the tiger as well as the lamb, the poet
"celebrates the divinity and beauty of the creation and its
transcendance of human good and evil without relinquishing the Keatsian
awareness that 'the miseries of the world Are misery.'" Hazard Adams
believes that the poem demonstrates that "creation in art is for Blake
the renewal of visionary truth." He explains in his 1963 study William
Blake: A Reading of the Shorter Poems that while the tiger may be
terrifying, it presents an intensity of vision that should be welcomed
with "a gaiety which can find a place in the divine plan for both the
tears and spears of the stars, ... and for both the tiger and the
lamb."While 'The Tyger' can be read in a variety of ways, Mark Schorer
asserts in William Blake: The Politics of Vision that "the juxtaposition
of lamb and tiger points not merely to the opposition of innocence and
experience, but to the resolution of the paradox they present." As the
lamb is subjected to the travails of the world, "innocence is converted
to exprience. It does not rest there. Energy can be curbed but it cannot
be destroyed, and when it reaches the limits of its endurance, it bursts
forth in revolutionary wrath." Jerome J. McGann, however, asserts in a
1973 essay that the poem defies specific interpretation: "As with so
many of Blake's lyrics, part of the poem's strategy is to resist
attempts to imprint meaning upon it. "The Tyger" tempts us to a
cognitive apprehension but in the end exhausts our efforts." As a
result, the critic concludes, "the extreme diversity of opinion among
critics of Blake about the meaning of particular poems and passages of
poems is perhaps the most eloquent testimony we have to the success of
his work."

For a very detailed, line-by-line analysis of the poem, do visit


Home Thoughts From Abroad -- Robert Browning

(Poem #65) Home Thoughts From Abroad
  Oh, to be in England
  Now that April's there,
  And whoever wakes in England
  Sees, some morning, unaware,
  That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
  Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
  While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
  In England--now!

  And after April, when May follows,
  And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
  Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
  Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
  Blossoms and dewdrops--at the bent spray's edge--
  That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
  Lest you should think he never could recapture
  The first fine careless rapture!
  And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
  All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
  The buttercups, the little children's dower
  --Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!
-- Robert Browning
About time we had some Browning, methinks :) I wouldn't call his poetry
'great', but it's often beautiful, and never less than enjoyable. While
noted mostly for his longer pieces, Browning has written a number of short
poems of surprising beauty. The one above is a nice example - it captures
the feel of the English countryide perfectly, and has some wonderfully
lyrical phrases. I like the somewhat irregular rhyme scheme and metre too -
they lend the poem a 'natural' air that fits in well with the imagery. If
'Song' was an etching, 'Home Thoughts' is a watercolour; at once vivid and
muted, detailed and impressionistic. (I'm just waiting for the flood of
emails[1] telling me I know even less about art than I do about poetry, but
you get the picture[2].) Someone remind me not to post at 6am again <g>.

[1] hi thomas :)
[2] no pun intended. honest.

Biographical Notes:

Robert Browning, 1812 - 1889

  English poet and dramatist, whose most ambitious work was The Ring and the
  Book (1868-69): a verse narrative in ten parts based on a real murder
  trial conducted in Florence.

  Tennyson had no admirer more generous than Robert Browning. At the end of
  their lives the reputation of these fellow-poets was about equal but
  divergent. Tennyson was the people's poet, Browning the poet of esoterics,
  real or aspiring.

  Browning was, he himself confesses, a "supremely passionate, unluckily
  precocious" youngster. [...] Pauline, his first published poem, he wrote
  at twenty-one, and afterwards rejected. It recounts something of his
  novitiate as a poet; for, like the greatest, he early knew himself elect
  to poetry, and resolved "to look and learn / Mankind, its cares, hopes,
  fears, its woes and joys."

  Late in life, in his Parleyings with Certain People of Importance in their
  Day, he recalls men whose books and ideas and music had held a leading
  part in his formative years. But the dominant infuence early and late was
  the poetry of Shelley, especially m its idealism and its straining for a
  vision of the perfect beyond the imperfect. His feeling for Shelley
  dictated Memorabilia.

  Somehow young Browning suffered little of the misery of body and soul so
  often the lot of young poets... A certain cheerful buoyancy about him, a
  balance between his abundant physical and spiritual health saved him and
  his poetry, as it had saved Fielding and Scott. It lay at the base of his
  life-long optimism, and was so constant that he exhibits no marked
  "phases" of development, but is much the same Browning to the end. His
  work accordingly defies sharp classification.

  If any one event marked a change in his work, it was his famous marriage
  with Elizabeth Barrett in 1846. Everyone knows the romantic story of the
  dreary household in that "long, unlovely" Wimpole Street, the narrow
  father ruling his large household with a hand that had ruled slaves in the
  West Indies, slowly forcing his daughter into invalidism, part imaginary,
  part real; and how, like a miracle, the hearty, sanguine young Robert,
  first attracted by her poetry, had sought her out loved her at once,
  inspired her with the purpose of recovery, married her secretly, and bore
  her off, pet spaniel and all, in triumph to Italy. He was thirty-four, she
  was forty.

  When his wife died Browning was forty-nine. In profound grief he left his
  beloved Italy as a home forever. How deeply he felt his loss, and what
  intimations it gave him, one may guess from his Prospice and such other
  poems in the volume, Dramatis Personae of 1864, as Abt Vogler and Rabbi
  Ben Ezra. Ever since his suppressed Pauline he had been averse to
  autobiographical revelations in his poetry; but the courage and
  characteristic balance and faith which sustained him through the
  twenty-seven years in which his wife was a memory shine cloudless in one
  of his last poems, the Epilogue to Asolando.


  Though not a national poet like Tennyson, Browning became the unwitting,
  and at heart unwilling, father of such a cult in his lifetime as never
  bored another English poet. Browning societies sprang up on both sides of
  the water, graciously accepted by the poet, while he protested that he
  himself was "no Browningite." This cult is not hard to explain. The poet's
  optimism and energy attracted many a mind weary of the forlorn struggle
  against defeat of spirit. His difficulty and supposed subtlety flattered
  the aspirations of blue-stockings, would-be esoterics, and other aspirants
  to "culture." It appealed to the multitude who do not value what they get
  too easily, but enjoy the exercise of earning it, and prize it more when
  won. In America Browning's energy and cheerful relish for everything made
  him a Victorian favorite.

  But now that the cult has subsided, even his advocates find themselves
  slipping into the habit of noting his failings--what he is not rather than
  what he is: he is no stylist, they admit, he is not clear, he is not
  tuneful, he is no reasoner, no philosopher, to some he is hardly
  civilized. Yet no poet, not even Homer, was ever more nearly omnivorous in
  his poetic appetite. Everything stirred poetic excitement in him till his
  great brain was stuffed and overflowing: insects, animals, flowers, every
  object touched with human life---books, walls, clothes, textures, marbles,
  houses, pictures, musical instruments, arms, drugs, and drinking-cups.

  Every poet is tortured with the necessity of fitting matter to form. With
  Browning the matter so abounds and crowds for utterance that it strains,
  distorts, and overflows the form. His language like his mind becomes
  congested, and weak but useful members--articles, conjunctions, relative
  pronouns, copu-las-are crowded out, and sentences get crushed to mere
  absolute phrases. And not content with one word or phrase for one thing,
  his very abundance repeats it, once, twice, thrice, in synonymous words,
  phrases, sentences, accumulating like the kennings in Old English poetry.

        -- Excerpted from
        <>; again,
        do go and read the whole thing.


Instant Fish -- Peter Porter

(Poem #64) Instant Fish
Instant Fish
by Phidias!
Add water
and they swim.
-- Peter Porter
Note: Phidias was a Greek sculptor whose statues were so realistic that
they seemed to be alive.

Porter's take on Phidias is amazingly self-referential; like the fish
being described, the poem expands and takes on layers of meaning in the
mind of the reader. In just 9 short words, Porter manages to invoke the
ideas of life as art and art as life, the meaning of representation, the
role of the viewer, even the effects of time...

(Lest anyone think that I'm reading too much into what is actually a
piece of nonsense, let me add that I thought of many of the above issues
when I first read that poem; later (much later), I read a book of
criticism which had Porter say the same things about this poem. So
there. <g>)


Daffodils -- William Wordsworth

(Poem #63) Daffodils
 I wandered lonely as a cloud
 That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
 When all at once I saw a crowd,
 A host, of golden daffodils;
 Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
 Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

 Continuous as the stars that shine
 And twinkle on the milky way,
 They stretched in never-ending line
 Along the margin of a bay:
 Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
 Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

 The waves beside them danced; but they
 Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
 A poet could not but be gay,
 In such a jocund company:
 I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
 What wealth the show to me had brought:

 For oft, when on my couch I lie
 In vacant or in pensive mood,
 They flash upon that inward eye
 Which is the bliss of solitude;
 And then my heart with pleasure fills,
 And dances with the daffodils.
-- William Wordsworth
Well, it was only a matter of time before this one showed up <g>. It's
certainly one of the most famous poems around[1] - however, there is a
distressingly common attitude that anything so simple, accessible and
popular can't have much poetic merit.

[1] in fact, it topped a recent British poll of best-loved poems - see the
comment to The Listeners (Poem #2)

Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth - in fact, Wordsworth
himself said it best:

  The majority of the following poems are to be considered as experiments.
  They were written chiefly with a view to ascertain how far the language
  of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to
  the purposes of poetic pleasure. Readers accustomed to the gaudiness and
  inane phraseology of many modern writers, if they persist in reading this
  book to its conclusion, will perhaps frequently have to struggle with
  feelings of strangeness and aukwardness: they will look round for poetry,
  and will be induced to enquire by what species of courtesy these attempts
  can be permitted to assume that title. It is desirable that such readers,
  for their own sakes, should not suffer the solitary word Poetry, a word of
  very disputed meaning, to stand in the way of their gratification ...

        -- Preface To Lyrical Ballads (1798)

1. Wordsworth made use of the description in his sister's diary, as well as
   of his memory of the daffodils in Gowbarrow Park, by Ullswater. Cf. Dorothy
   Wordsworth's Journal, April 15, 1802: "I never saw daffodils so beautiful.
   They grew among the mossy stones . . .; some rested their heads upon these
   stones, as on a pillow for weariness; and the rest tossed and reeled and
   danced, and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind, that blew upon
   them over the lake; they looked so gay, ever glancing, ever changing."

2. 'They flash upon that inward eye... ': Wordsworth said that these were
   the two best lines in the poem and that they were composed by his wife.

        -- Representative Poetry Online

Biography and Assessment:

  Wordsworth was born in the Lake District of northern England[...]The
  natural scenery of the English lakes could terrify as well as nurture, as
  Wordsworth would later testify in the line "I grew up fostered alike by
  beauty and by fear," but its generally benign aspect gave the growing boy
  the confidence he articulated in one of his first important poems, "Lines
  Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey . . . ," namely, "that Nature
  never did betray the heart that loved her."
  Wordsworth moved on in 1787 to St. John's College, Cambridge. Repelled by
  the competitive pressures there, he elected to idle his way through the
  university, persuaded that he "was not for that hour, nor for that place."
  The most important thing he did in his college years was to devote his
  summer vacation in 1790 to a long walking tour through revolutionary
  France. There he was caught up in the passionate enthusiasm that followed
  the fall of the Bastille, and became an ardent republican sympathizer.
  The three or four years that followed his return to England were the
  darkest of Wordsworth's life. Unprepared for any profession, rootless,
  virtually penniless, bitterly hostile to his own country's opposition to
  the French, he knocked about London in the company of radicals like
  William Godwin and learned to feel a profound sympathy for the abandoned
  mothers, beggars, children, vagrants, and victims of England's wars who
  began to march through the sombre poems he began writing at this time.
  This dark period ended in 1795, when a friend's legacy made possible
  Wordsworth's reunion with his beloved sister Dorothy--the two were never
  again to live apart--and their move in 1797 to Alfoxden House, near
  Bristol. There Wordsworth became friends with a fellow poet, Samuel Taylor
  Coleridge, and they formed a partnership that would change both poets'
  lives and alter the course of English poetry.


  Through all these years Wordsworth was assailed by vicious and tireless
  critical attacks by contemptuous reviewers; no great poet has ever had to
  endure worse. But finally, with the publication of The River Duddon in
  1820, the tide began to turn, and by the mid-1830s his reputation had been
  established with both critics and the reading public.

  Wordsworth's last years were given over partly to "tinkering" his poems,
  as the family called his compulsive and persistent habit of revising his
  earlier poems through edition after edition. The Prelude, for instance,
  went through four distinct manuscript versions (1798-99, 1805-06, 1818-20,
  and 1832-39) and was published only after the poet's death in 1850. Most
  readers find the earliest versions of The Prelude and other heavily
  revised poems to be the best, but flashes of brilliance can appear in
  revisions added when the poet was in his seventies.

  Wordsworth succeeded his friend Robert Southey as Britain's poet laureate
  in 1843 and held that post until his own death in 1850. Thereafter his
  influence was felt throughout the rest of the 19th century, though he was
  honoured more for his smaller poems, as singled out by the Victorian
  critic Matthew Arnold, than for his masterpiece, The Prelude. In the 20th
  century his reputation was strengthened both by recognition of his
  importance in the Romantic movement and by an appreciation of the darker
  elements in his personality and verse.

  William Wordsworth was the central figure in the English Romantic
  revolution in poetry. His contribution to it was threefold. First, he
  formulated in his poems and his essays a new attitude toward nature. This
  was more than a matter of introducing nature imagery into his verse; it
  amounted to a fresh view of the organic relation between man and the
  natural world, and it culminated in metaphors of a wedding between nature
  and the human mind, and beyond that, in the sweeping metaphor of nature as
  emblematic of the mind of God, a mind that "feeds upon infinity" and
  "broods over the dark abyss." Second, Wordsworth probed deeply into his
  own sensibility as he traced, in his finest poem, The Prelude, the "growth
  of a poet's mind." The Prelude was in fact the first long autobiographical
  poem. Writing it in a drawn-out process of self-exploration, Wordsworth
  worked his way toward a modern psychological understanding of his own
  nature, and thus more broadly of human nature. Third, Wordsworth placed
  poetry at the centre of human experience; in impassioned rhetoric he
  pronounced poetry to be nothing less than "the first and last of all
  knowledge--it is as immortal as the heart of man," and he then went on to
  create some of the greatest English poetry of his century. It is probably
  safe to say that by the late 20th century he stood in critical estimation
  where Coleridge and Arnold had originally placed him, next to John
  Milton--who stands, of course, next to William Shakespeare.

        -- EB