Friday, November 27, 2009

Health Care

Pass or fail, I really don't see any way but that the health care reform debate is going to take us into next February at the earliest.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Triolet

Love had not matched their early hope,
There at the end of life's proceeding.
Life showed them on the downward slope
Love had not matched their early hope.
The dismal frayed end of the rope
Outdid their dread, their fears exceeding.
Love had not matched their early hope,
There at the end of life's proceeding.

-Thomas Banks-

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Horace Ode 1.19

Beware, O bark, the waves that wish to tear thee from these shores;
And bravely seek the harbor, for thy sides are reft of oars;
See how thy broken mast and yards are groaning in the gale!
Unsound, alas! thy ropeless hull, unsafe thy shredded sail!

Thou hast no gods to call upon when Sable Care is thine;
The sailor trusts no showy sterns, though built of Pontic pine.
O ship that wert my woe, that art my love, avoid the seas
And shun the treacherous waters of the shining Cyclades.

-Translated from the Latin by Franklin P. Adams-

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Villanelle of Changes

Since Persia fell at Marathon
The yellow years have gathered fast.
Long centuries have come and gone.

And yet (they say) the place will don
A phantom fury of the past,
Since Persia fell at Marathon.

And as of old, when Helicon
Trembled and swayed with rapture vast
(Long centuries have come and gone),

This ancient plain, when night comes on,
Shakes with a ghostly battle-blast,
Since Persia fell at Marathon.

But into soundless Acheron
The glory of Greek shame was cast:
Long centuries have come and gone,

The suns of Hellas have all shone,
The first is fallen to the last,
Since Persia fell at Marathon,
Long centuries have come and gone.

-Edward Arlington Robinson-

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

You Ask Me Why...

You ask me why, though ill at ease
Within this region I subsist,
Whose spirits falter in the mist
And languish for the purple seas.

It is the land that freemen till,
That sober-suited Freedom chose,
The land where, girt with friends or foes
A man may speak the thing he will;

A land of settled government,
A land of just and old renown,
Where Freedom slowly broadens down
From precedent to precedent;

Where Faction seldom gathers head,
But, by degrees to fullness wrought,
The strength of some diffusive thought
Hath time and space to work and spread.

Should banded unions persecute
Opinion, and induce a time
When single thought is civil crime,
And individual freedom mute,

Tho' power should make from land to land
The name of Britain trebly great-
Tho' every channel of the state
Is filled and choked with golden sand-

Yet waft me from the harbor mouth
Wild Wind! I seek a warmer sky,
And I shall see before I die
The palms and temples of the South.

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson-

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Trees

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of growing new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

-Philip Larkin-

Monday, October 19, 2009


A woman I have never seen before
Steps from the darkness of her townhouse door
At just that crux of time when she is made
So beautiful that she or time must fade.

What use to claim that as she tugs her gloves
A phantom heraldry of all the loves
Blares from the lintel? That the staggered sun
Forgets, in his confusion, how to run?

Still, nothing changes as her perfect feet
Click down the walk that issue in the street,
Leaving the stations of her body there
Like whips that map the countries of the air.

-Richard Wilbur-

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Everyone Sang

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark green fields- on, on, and out of sight.

Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun;
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away; O, but everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

-Siegfried Sassoon-

Friday, October 9, 2009


So President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. They might as well just change the name of it to the "Thanks for Not Being Bush Prize."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


"How did the party go in Portman Square?"
"I cannot tell you; Juliet was not there."

"And how did Lady Gaster's party go?"
"Juliet was next to me and I do not know."

-Hillaire Belloc-

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Say not the righteous come into Death's keep:
For here good Saon lies, whose noble name
Secures him holy sleep.

-Translated from the Greek by Thomas Banks-

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Rose cheeked Laura, come;
Sing thou smoothly with thy beauty's
Silent music, either other
Sweetly gracing.

Lovely forms do flow
From consent divinely framed:
Heaven is music, and thy beauty's
Birth is heavenly.

These dull notes we sing
Discords need for help to grace them;
Only beauty purely loving
Knows no discord.

But still moves delight,
Like clear springs renew'd by flowing,
Ever perfect, ever in them-
Selves eternal.

-Thomas Campion-

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Minor Key

Let me enjoy the earth no less
Because the all-enacting Might
That fashioned forth its loveliness
Had other aims than my delight.

About my path their flits a Fair,
Who throws me not a word or sign;
I'll charm me with her ignoring air,
And laud the lips not meant for mine.

From manuscripts of moving songs
Inspired by scenes and dreams unknown,
I'll pour out raptures that belong
To others, as they were my own.

And some day hence, towards Paradise
And all its blest-if such there be-
I will lift glad, afar-off eyes,
Though it contain no place for me.

-Thomas Hardy-

For a Dead Lady

No more with overflowing light
Shall fill the eyes that now are faded,
Nor shall another's fringe with night
Their woman-hidden world as they did.
No more shall quiver down the days
The flowing wonder of her ways,
Whereof no language may requite
The shifting and the many-shaded.

The grace, divine, definitive,
Clings only as a faint forestalling;
The laugh that love could not forgive
Is hushed, and answers to no calling;
The forehead and the little ears
Have gone where Saturn keeps the years;
The breast where roses could not live
Has done with rising and with falling.

The beauty, shattered by the laws
That have creation in their keeping,
No longer trembles at applause,
Or over children that are sleeping;
And we who delve in beauty's lore
Know all that we have known before
Of what inexorable cause
Makes Time so vicious in his reaping.

-Edward Arlington Robinson-


I cannot find my way; there is no star
In all the shrouded heavens anywhere;
And there is not a whisper in the air
Of any living voice but one so far
That I can hear it only as a bar
Of lost, imperial music, played when fair
And angel fingers wove, and unaware,
Dead leaves to garlands where no roses are.

No, there is not a glimmer, nor a call,
For one that welcomes, welcomes when he fears,
The black and awful chaos of the night;
For through it all-above, beyond it all-
I know the far-sent message of the years,
I feel the coming glory of the light.

-Edward Arlington Robinson-

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Your Body Is Stars

Your body is stars whose millions glitter here:
I am lost amongst the branches of the sky
Here near my breast, here in my nostrils, here
Where our vast arms like streams of fire lie.

How can this end? My healing fills the night
And hangs its flags in worlds I cannot near.
Our movements range through miles, and when we kiss
The moment widens to enclose long years.

Beholders of the promised dawn of truth
The explorers of immense and simple lines,
Here is our goal, men cried, but it was lost
Amongst the mountain mists and mountain pines.

So with this face of love, whose breathings are
A mystery shadowed on the desert floor:
The promise hangs, this swarm of stars and flowers,
And then there comes the shutting of a door.

-Stephen Spender-


There is no sorrow
Time heals never;
No loss, betrayal,
Beyond repair.
Balm for the soul, then,
Though grave shall sever
Lover from loved
And all they share;
See, the sweet sun shines,
The shower is over,
Flowers preen their beauty,
The day how fair!

Brood not too closely
On love, on duty;
Friends long forgotten
May wait you where
Life with death
Brings all to an issue;
None will long mourn for you,
Pray for you, miss you,
Your place left vacant,
You not there.

-Walter De La Mare

Sunday, September 13, 2009

To Laurels

A funeral stone
Or verse, I covet none;
But only crave
Of you that I may have
A sacred laurel springing from my grave:
Which being seen
Blessed with perpetual green,
May grow to be
Not so much called a tree,
As the eternal monument of me.

-Robert Herrick-

Friday, September 11, 2009


He wished for none to wait on his commanding;
He knew no thralldom, and he wished no throne.
But what few seek and fewer find, he won-
The Peace of God Which Passes Understanding.

-Thomas Banks-

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Reckoning

At my age one begins
To chalk up all his sins,
Hoping to wipe the slate
Before it is too late.

Therefore I call to mind
All memories of the kind
That make me wince and sweat
And tremble with regret.

What do these prove to be?
In every one, I see
Shocked faces that, alas,
Now know me for an ass.

Fatuities that I
Have uttered, drunk or dry,
Return now in a rush
And make my old cheek blush.

But how can I repent
From mere embarrassment?
Damn-foolishness can't well
Entitle me to Hell.

Well, I shall put the blame
On the pride that's in my shame.
Of that I must be shriven
Before I'll be forgiven.

-Richard Wilbur-

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Iste Mundus

This world, deep in madness raving,
False delights and pleasures yields,
Which desert us, fade around us
Like the lilies of the fields.

Life's mundane distracted prospect
Drives the Heaven from our eyes,
And sinks men's souls in Tartarus,
Where the death-worm never dies.

What we see and taste and touch
Of the world we populate
Falls and withers round about us
Like oak leaves grown to Autumn's date.

The things of flesh and mortal law
Prove their slightness when they fade,
That of swiftly passing shadows
And of breathless bloodless shade.

But should we loose our earthly ties
And deny this world our trust,
We shall find far greater joys
And be numbered with the just,
And shall merit for our wages
To behold the Age of Ages.

-Translated from the Latin by Thomas Banks-

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Dirge in the Woods

A wind sways the pines,
And below,
Not a breath of wild air;
Still as the mosses that grow
On the flooring and over the lines
Of the roots here and there.
The pine tree drops its dead;
They are quiet, as under the sea.
Overhead, overhead
Rushes life in a race,
As the clouds the clouds chase;
And we go,
And we drop like the fruits of the tree,
Even we,
Even so.

-George Meredith-

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Leave me O Love, which reachest but to dust,
And thou my mind inspire to higher things:
Grow rich in that which never taketh rust:
What ever fades, but fading pleasure brings.

Draw in thy beams, and humble all thy might,
To that sweet yoke, which lasting freedoms be:
Which breaks the clouds and opens forth the light,
That does both shine and give us sight to see.

O take fast hold, let that light be thy guide,
In this small course which birth draws out to death,
And think how evil becometh him to slide,
Who seeketh heav'n, and come to heavenly breath.
Then farewell world, thy uttermost I see,
Eternal Love maintain thy life in me.

-Sir Philip Sidney-

When the Eye of Day Is Shut

When the eye of day is shut,
And the stars deny their beams,
And about the forest hut
Blows the roaring wood of dreams,

From deep clay, from desert rock,
From the sunk sands of the main,
Come not at my door to knock,
Hearts that loved me not again.

Sleep, be still, turn to your rest
In the lands where you are laid;
In far lodgings east and west
Lie down on the beds you made.

In gross marl, in blowing dust,
In the drowning ooze of sea,
Where you would not, lie you must,
Lie you must, and not with me.

-A.E. Housman-

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More Bridges

The first we met we did not guess
That Love would prove so hard a master;
Of more than common friendliness
When first we met we did not guess.
Who could foretell this sore distress,
This irretrievable disaster
When first we met? We did not guess
That Love would prove so hard a master.

-Robert Bridges-

Some Bridges

All women born are so perverse
No man need boast of their possessing.
If naught seems better, nothing's worse;
All women born are so perverse.
From Adam's wife, that proved a curse
Though God had made her for a blessing,
All women born are so perverse
No man need boast their love possessing.

-Robert Bridges-

Monday, August 31, 2009


I am Winter, that do keep
Longing safe amidst of sleep.
Who should say if I were dead
What should be remembered?

-William Morris-


Summer looked for long am I;
Much shall change or e'er I die.
Prithee take it not amiss
Though I weary thee with bliss.

-William Morris-

Friday, August 28, 2009

Martial: Epigrams


You came to see me only once
When I was sick in bed;
I thank you, Oppian; had you come
More often, I'd be dead.


I'll not believe that I'm your heir, until
I read it after probate, in your will.


Fabulla swears the hair she wears is hers;
Does that place her among the perjurers?


Matho complains that my book is more than a little uneven;
If he is telling the truth, then he is praising my pen.
Books that are even throughout, Matho, are sure to be dreadful;
Books without height and depth come from the stupidest men.

-Translated by Rolfe Humphreys-

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mass at Dawn

I dropped my sail and dried my dripping seines
Where the white quay is chequered by cool planes
In whose great branches, always out of sight,
The nightingales are singing day and night.
Though all was grey beneath the moon's grey beam,
My boat in her new paint shown like a bride,
And silver in my baskets shown the bream:
My arms were heavy and I was heavy-eyed,
But when with food and drink, at morning light,
The children met me at the water side,
Never was wine so red or bread so white.

-Roy Campbell-

Since There's No Help

Since there's no help, come, let us kiss and part.
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me,
And I am glad, yea, glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
Shake hands forever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love's latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, passion speechless lies,
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes,
Now, if thou wouldst, when all have giv'n him over,
From death to life thou might'st yet him recover.

-Michael Drayton-

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


'What is the world O Soldiers?
It is I.
I, this incessant snow,
This northern sky,
Soldiers, this solitude
Through which we go
Is I.'

-Walter de la mare-

Saturday, August 22, 2009


See, Mignonne, hath not the rose
That this morning did unclose
Her purple blossoms to the light,
Lost before the day be dead,
The glory of her raiment red,
Her color, bright as yours is bright?

Ah, Mignonne, in how few hours
The petals of her purple flowers
All have faded, fallen, died;
Sad Nature, mother ruinous,
That seest thy child perish thus
'Twixt matin song and eventide.

Hear me, my darling, speaking sooth,
Gather the flower of thy youth,
Take ye your pleasure at the best;
Be merry ere your beauty flit,
For length of days will tarnish it
Like roses that were loveliest.

-Pierre Ronsard-

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nil Nimium Studeo, Caesar, Tibi Velle Placere

Caesar, it is not much my care
To flatter in a pleasing light;
Nor do I care which rumor's true,
Whether your soul be black or white.

-Translated from the Latin by Thomas Banks-

From the Greek of Plato

Thou wert the morning star among the living,
Ere thy fair light had fled;
Now, having died, thou art as Hesperus, giving
New splendour to the dead.

-Translated by P.B. Shelley-

The Fall of a Soul

I sat unsphering Plato ere I slept:
Then through my dream the choir of gods was borne,
Swift as the wind and splendid as the morn,
Fronting the night of stars; behind them swept
Tempestuous darkness o'er a drear descent,
Wherein I saw a crowd of charioteers
Urging their giddy steeds with cries and cheers,
To join the choir that aye before them went:
But one there was who fell, with broken car
And horses swooning down the gulf of gloom;
Heavenward his eyes, though prescient of their doom,
Reflected glory like a falling star,
While with wild hair blown back and listless hands
Ruining he sank toward undiscovered lands.

-John Addington Symonds-

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


How can I, that girl standing there,
My attention fix
On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish Politics?

Yet here's a well traveled man
That knows what he's about,
And there's a politician,
That has both read and thought;

And maybe what they say is true
Of war and war's alarms,
But oh, that I were young again,
And held her in my arms!

-William Butler Yeats-

Sunday, August 16, 2009

As I Gird on for Fighting

As I gird on for fighting
My sword upon my thigh,
I think on old misfortunes
Of better men than I.

Think I, the round world over,
What golden lads are low
With hurts not mine to mourn for
And shames I shall not know.

What evil luck soever
Remains for me in store,
'Tis sure much finer fellows
Have fared much worse before.

So here are things to think on
That ought to make me brave,
As I strap on for fighting
My sword that will not save.

-A.E. Housman-

Monday, August 10, 2009


Bind up your hair with a golden pin,
And bind up every wandering tress:
I bade my heart build these poor rhymes:
It worked at them, day our, day in,
Building a sorrowful loveliness
Out of the battles of old times.

You need but lift a pearl-pale hand,
And bind up your long hair and sigh:
And all men's hearts must burn and beat;
And candle-like foam on the dim sand,
And stars climbing the dew-dropping sky,
Live but to light your passing feet.

-William Butler Yeats-

Saturday, August 8, 2009


The sickness of desire, that in dark days
Looks on the imagination in despair,
Forgetteth man, and stinteth God his praise;
Nor but in sleep findeth a cure for care.
Uncertainty that once gave scope to dream
Of laughing enterprise and glory untold,
Is now a blackness that no stars redeem,
A wall of terror in a night of cold.

Fool! thou that hast impossibly desired
And now impatiently despairest, see
How naught is changed; joy's wisdom is attired
Splendid for others' eyes if not for thee.
Not love or beauty or youth from earth is fled;
If they delight thee not, 'tis thou art dead.

-Robert Bridges-

Thursday, August 6, 2009


When Adam day by day
Woke up in Paradise,
He always used to say
"Oh, this is very nice."

But Eve to realms of bliss
Transported him for life;
The more I think on this,
The more I beat my wife.

-A.E. Houseman-

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The More Loving One

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

-W.H. Auden-

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Epitaph on a Tyrant

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And he was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

-W.H. Auden-

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

As the Ruin Falls

All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I have never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends merely to serve my turn.

Peace, reassurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch out of my proper skin:
I talk of love- a scholar's parrot may talk Greek-
But, self-imprisoned, merely end where I begin.

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack
I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.

-C.S. Lewis-

I Have a Rendezvous with Death

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air-
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath-
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear. . .
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

-Alan Seeger-

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rectius Vives

Licinius, stray thou not so high
That fear of heaven you forget,
But slip not down where cowards lie,
Not thus low yet;

Do thou the shining middle keep,
Not envying the envied throne,
Thou shalt not as a pauper sleep,
Nor woebegone.

The tallest pine is oft blown down,
The tower from its proud height drops,
And crashing lighting strikes upon
High mountain-tops.

The ready heart prepares for ill,
Braced to receive the evil lot;
But Jove blows back the same snow's chill
His winds have brought.

Though fortune favor thee not now,
Why must the future thee misuse?
Apollo oft unbends his bow
To court the muse.

Take spirit in the narrow strait,
But wisely navigate the gail,
And 'till the blasting wind abate,
Keep short thy sail.

-Translated from the Latin by Thomas Banks-

A Farewell to Arms

His golden locks time hath to silver turn'd;
O time too swift, of swiftness never ceasing!
His youth 'gainst time and age had ever spurn'd,
But spurn'd in vain; youth waineth by increasing:
Beauty, strength, youth, are flowers but fading seen;
Duty, faith, love, are roots, and ever green.

His helmet now shall make a hive for bees,
And lovers' sonnets turned to holy psalms,
A man-at-arms must serve now on his knees,
And feed on prayers, which are Age's alms:
But though from court to cottage he depart,
His saint is sure of his unspotted heart.

And when he saddest sits in homely cell,
He'll teach his swains this carol for a song-
'Blest be the hearts that wish my sovereign well,
Curst be the souls that wish her any wrong.'
Goddess, allow this aged man his right
To be your beadsman now that was your knight.

-George Peel-

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Late Flowering Lust

My head is bald, my breath is bad,
Unshaven is my chin,
I have not now the joys I had
When I was young in sin.

I run my fingers down your dress
With brandy-certain aim,
And you respond to my caress
And maybe feel the same.

But I've a feeling of my own
On this reunion night,
Wherein two skeletons are shown
To hold each other tight.

Dark sockets look on emptiness
That once was loving-eyed,
The mouth that opens for a kiss
Has got no tongue inside.

I cling to you inflamed with fear
As now you cling to me;
I feel how frail you are, my dear,
And wonder what will be.

A week? Or twenty years remain?
And then- what kind of death?
A losing fight with frightful pain
Or a gasping fight for breath?

Too long we let our bodies cling,
We cannot hide disgust
At all the thoughts that in us spring
From this late flowering lust.

-Sir John Betjeman-

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Clock Striking Midnight

Hark to the echo of time's footsteps; gone
These moments are into the unseen grave
Of ages. They have vanished nameless. None,
While they are deep under the eddying wave
Of the chaotic past, shall place a stone
Sacred to these, the nurses of the brave,
The mighty, and the good. Futurity
Broods on the the ocean, hatching 'neath her wing
Invisible to man the century,
That on its hundred feet, a sluggish thing,
Gnawing away the world, shall totter by
And sweep dead mortals with it. As I sing
Time, the colossus of the world, that strides
With each foot plunged in darkness silent glides,

And puffs death's cloud upon us. It is vain
To struggle with the tide. We all must sink,
Still grasping the thin air, with frantic pain
Grappling with fame to buoy us. Can we think
Eternity by whom swift Time is slain,
And dragged along to dark destruction's brink,
Shall be the echo of man's puny words?
Or that our grovelling stars shall e'er be writ
In never fading stars; or like proud birds
Undazzled in their cloud built eyrie sit
Clutching the lightning, or in cloudy herds
Diving amid the sea's vast treasury flit?
Sink, painted clay back to thy parent earth
While the glad spirit seeks a brighter birth.

-T.L. Beddoes-

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Oft have I seen at some cathedral door
A laborer, pausing in the dust and heat,
Lay down his burden, and with reverend feet
Enter, and cross himself, and on the floor
Kneel to repeat his Paternoster o'er;
Far off the noises of the world retreat;
The loud vociferations of the street
Become an indistinguishable roar.
So, as I enter here from day to day,
And leave my burden at this minster gate,
Kneeling in prayer, and not ashamed to pray,
The tumult of the time disconsolate
To inarticulate murmurs dies away,
While the eternal ages watch and wait.


Monday, July 13, 2009

False Though She Be

False though she be to me and love,
I'll ne'er pursue revenge;
For still the charmer I approve,
Though I deplore her change.

In hours of bliss we oft have met:
They could not always last;
And though the present I regret,
I'm grateful for the past.

-William Congreve-

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Carmen Saeculare

Enter A Statesman, preparing his memoirs.

To me, their spite was worth more than their praise;
The moan and murmur of the stiff-necked host
When budding bureaucrat for its love plays,
Teaches of Demos' whims and ways the most.

The public votes for beer to fill its stock,
(For native rights, mind you, not surpluses)
And acquiescing tribunes split the rock
Out of which flow both bread and circuses.

The man's love for his child knows no loss,
The kings of labor bless the poor with alms,
But the same mob nails the preacher to the cross
Five days from feting him with prayers and palms.

To anarchy and insurrectionist
They turned the all forgiving eye that grieves,
And instantly they rounded out death's list
And hung some holy fool between two thieves.

They work their work, I mine- till God prefers
By death or ballot us to separate-
War's rumors, cries for peace, a world of stirs-
These will suffice to summarize The State.

-Thomas Banks-

The Truly Great

I think continually on those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul's history
Through corridors of light where the hours are suns
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the spirit clothed from head to foot with song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.

What is precious is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from the ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
See how their names are feted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life
And wore at their hearts the fire's center.
Born of the sun they traveled a short while toward the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.

-Stephen Spender-

Monday, July 6, 2009


I would not have her other than she is;
No curtsying change, no bowing alteration
Would I ask for my worship; None of this.
Her radiance is my remuneration.

-Thomas Banks, 2005-

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Leveller

The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate,
Death lays his icy hand on kings:
Sceptre and crown
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

Some men with swords may reap the field,
And plant fresh laurels where they kill:
But their strong nerves at last must yield,
They tame but one another still:
Early or late
They stoop to fate,
And must give up their murmuring breath
When they, pale captives, come to death.

The garlands wither on your brow,
Then boast no more your mighty deeds!
Upon death's purple altar now,
See where the victor-victim bleeds.
Your heads must come
To the cold tomb:
Only the actions of the just smell sweet,
And blossom in the dust.

-James Shirley-

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Light Woman

So far as our story approaches its end,
Which do you pity the most of us three?
My friend, or the mistress of my friend
With her wanton eyes, or me?

My friend was already too good to lose,
And seemed in the way of improvement yet,
When she crossed his path with her hunting-noose
And over him drew her net.

When I saw him tangled in her toils,
A shame, said I, if she adds just him
To her nine-and-ninety other spoils,
The hundredth for a whim!

And before my friend be wholly hers,
How easy to prove to him, I said,
An eagle's the game that her pride prefers,
Though she snaps at a wren instead!

So, I gave her my own eyes to take,
My hand sought hers as in earnest need,
And round she turned for my noble sake,
And gave me herself indeed.

The eagle am I, with my fame in the world,
The wren he is, with his maiden face.
You look away and your lip is curled?
Patience, a moment's space!

For see, my friend goes shaling and white;
He eyes me as the basilisk:
I have turned, it appears, his day to night,
Eclipsing his sun's disk.

And I did it, he thinks, as a very thief;
"Though I love her-" that he comprehends-
"One should master one's passions, (love in chief)
And be loyal to one's friends!"

And she, she lies in my hand as tame
As a pear late basking over a wall;
Just a touch to try and off it came;
'Tis mine; can I let it fall?

With no mind to eat it, that's the worst!
Were it thrown in the road, would the case assist?
'Twas quenching a dozen blue-flies' thirst
When I gave its stalk a twist.

And I- what I seem to my friend, you see-
What I soon shall seem to his love, you guess:
What I seem to myself, do you ask of me?
No hero, I confess.

'Tis an awkward thing to play with souls,
And matter enough to save one's own:
Yet think of my friend, and the burning coals
He played with for bits of stone!

One likes to show the truth for the truth;
That the woman was light, is very true:
But suppose she says- "Never mind that youth!
What wrong have I done to you?"

Well, anyhow, here the story stays,
So far at least as I understand;
And, Robert Browning, you writer of plays,
Here's a subject made to your hand!

-Robert Browning-

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Nation That Is Not

When I watch the living meet,
And the moving pageant file
Warm and breathing through the street
Where I lodge a little while,

If the heats of hate and lust
In the house of flesh be strong,
Let me mind the house of dust
Where my sojourn shall be long.

In the nation that is not
Nothing stands that stood before;
There revenges are forgot,
There the hater hates no more.

Lovers lying two by two
Care not whom they sleep beside,
And the bridegroom all night through
Never turns him to the bride.

-A.E. Houseman-

Monday, June 22, 2009


Never weather-beaten sail more willing bent to shore,
Never tired pilgrim's limbs affected slumber more,
Than my wearied sprite now longs to fly out of my troubled breast:
O come quickly, sweetest Lord, and take my soul to rest!

Ever blooming are the joys of heaven's high paradise,
Cold age deafs not there our ears nor vapour dims our eyes,
Glory there the sun outshines, whose beams the blessed only see:
O come quickly, gracious Lord, and raise my sprite to thee!

-Thomas Campion-

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Multa per Gentis et Multa per Aequora Vectus

Cross land and sea, my brother, have I come
Unto thy grave, unto these tearful rites,
To make thee offering in these late lights,
Vain gifts for these thy ashes, fallen dumb,
And weep that wicked fate has stolen thee,
Alas, the better brother, lost to me.
This yet is mine, while still thy loss I wail,
To prove the ancient honors- to adorn
Thee brother; thy mound I pray receives our mourn;
To thee forever, brother, hail and farewell.

-Trans. from the Latin by Thomas Banks-

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Stand close around, ye Stygian set,
With Dirce in one boat conveyed,
Or Charon, rising, may forget
That he is old, and she a shade.

-Walter Savage Landor-

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Kiss

To these I turn, in these I trust-
Brother Lead and Sister Steel.
To his blind power I make appeal,
I guard her beauty clean from rust.

He spins and burns and loves the air,
And splits a skull to win my praise;
But up the nobly marching days
She glitters naked, cold and fair.

Sweet Sister, grant your soldier this:
That in good fury he may feel
The body where he sets his heel
Quail from your downward darting kiss.

-Siegfried Sassoon-

At Rubicon

"Te, Fortuna, sequor."

Stay you, great Caesar, for the battered cause
Smiles bruisedly on her beloved ones,
And we esteem ourselves too faithful sons
To cross this river with you, and Rome's laws.

Think us not traitors to your hopes and trust:
You follow Fortune. May she ever smile
On you; but we shall keep this shore awhile,
Sworn to old Gods, and to our fathers' dust.

Great sire, what triumph shall atone the loss?
No shining order has yet shown herself sure,
Only a hope that blinds from yonder shore.
Past Rubicon's a Rubicon to cross.

-Thomas Banks-

Friday, June 12, 2009

From the "Orphica"

And you shall find, arrived in Hades' land,
A spring and a white cypress there beside;
But come not near; on these banks do not stand;
For from the pool of Memory a tide

Of water, cool and rapid, pouring forth,
And by Her pool a gaurdian: this thy
Password: "A child I am of heaven and earth;
Yea, even thus. My birth was of the sky.

But I am dry with thirst and perishing.
Give me to drink from the pool of memory.
And this allowed, to taste the holy spring,
With heroes dwell, a god new born in thee.

-Translated from the Greek by Thomas Banks-

Thursday, June 11, 2009


There is one sin: to call a green leaf gray,
Whereat the sun in heaven shuddereth.
There is one blasphemy: for death to pray,
For God alone knoweth the praise of death.

There is one creed: 'neath no world-terror's wing
Apples forget to grow on apple-trees.
There is one thing is needful: everything.
The rest is vanity of vanities.

-G.K. Chesterton-


Forget all these, the barren fool in power,
The madman in command, the jealous O,
The bitter world biting its bitter hour,
The cruel now, the happy long ago,

Forget all these, for, though they truly hurt,
Even to the soul, they are not lasting things:
Men are no gods; we tread the city dirt,
But in our souls we can be queens and kings.

And I, O Beauty, O divine white wonder,
On whom my dull eyes, blind to all else, peer,
Have you for peace, that not the whole war's thunder,
Not the world's wreck, can threat or take from here.

So you remain, though all man's passionate seas
Roar their blind tides, I can forget all these.

-John Masefield-

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Fragment from Euripides

Who judges Eros for an impish god,
And less than lord of every holy thing?
O darling fool, naive and overawed!
No god directs our paths save this sweet king.

-Trans. from the Greek by Thomas Banks-

Friday, May 22, 2009

Horace, Ode 1.11 (Tu ne quaesieris (scire nefas) quem mihi, quem tibi. . .

Seek not to know what mortal end
The gods, my friend, have writ for thee,
Nor in dark divination look,
Not necromancer's prophecy.

Far better friend, to take from god
Whatever winters he bestows,
Which number now in secrecy
Hides where the tide Tyhrennian flows.

Be wise, quaf wine; put off vain hopes.
While now we speak, the hour retires.
Live thou today, tomorrow's life
Exalted less in thy desires.

-Translated from the Latin by Thomas Banks-

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Long War

Less passionate the long war throws
Its burning thorn about all men,
Caught in one grief, we share one wound,
And cry one dialect of pain.

We have forgot who fired the house,
Whose easy mischief spilled first blood;
Under one raging roof we lie,
The fault no longer understood.

But as our twisted arms embrace
The desert where our cities stood,
Death's family likeness in each face
Must show at last our brotherhood.

-Laurie Lee, 1945-

Friday, May 15, 2009

Desertion Reconsidered

"Non tamen Aenean, quamvis male cogitat, odi."

I pitied Dido, that her pious lord
Did not slacken his sails or bless her nearness.
My prayers are with him, for his conscience' sake;
His broken vows must vex him, and fate's goading.
His only crime was that he did did not want
For rest except the rest that fate had promised.
But though his mourning her was no event,
Her once loved flesh reduced to unwept ash,
Curse not his coldness, balanced with itself.
The host and queen and mistress met in her
Showed much to him of peace, but could not show
The shadow of Troy's sins that trailed behind.
Gods guide him to his home on Sabine hills;
Beside Sychaeus she resumes her place
And flinches from her quondam king's unfaith,
Who could not know to love her as a church.

-Thomas Banks-

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Sunlight on the Garden

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold;
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend,
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.

The sky was good for flying
Defying church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying

And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.

-Louis Macneice-

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

On Pronunciation

The level of a man's confidence reveals itself nowhere more candidly than in his pronunciation of an unfamiliar word. A friend of mine, who has seen three continents and lived in two, once became the object of reproach when, reading out loud in a German literature class, he met with the name "Goethe," having had no previous encounter with the patronymic of the celebrated polymath. Being himself the very soul of fortitude, he took his phonetic leap of faith and offered the approximation "Goatie." The professor, a woman of refinement, caught her breath in such a way as to appear to have detected a gas leak, or maybe to have been stuck with a hypodermic needle; the posture achieved was one that diversely communicated an absolute authority both over her students and the proper utterance of the family names of the leading Weimar Dramatists. The chastisement that fell upon the head of my friend was of a length and intensity sufficient to cause Kali, Goddess of Blood, the Avenging Furies and the Angel of Death to entertain doubts concerning their future job security.

Such is the nature of Shiboleths. The code of international diplomacy permits that a U.N. representative may declare frankly and without reserve that Venezuela is a failed state, its leadership exemplary of the grossest despotism, its treaties dishonored by worse than Punic mendacity, and its currency not worth the llama hide it is printed on. He may say this much and more. Yet he must not indulge even the slightest liberality in his glossal representation of its name. It is imperative that he abandon the his own countrymen's received pronunciation of the locality in question, and make whatever concessions the junta of cosmopolitanism deems appropriate. Thus "Cheelay" must be "Cheelay," and "Cooba" "Cooba" at all costs. The diplomat may represent the interests and policies of his own nation in all areas but this. When he utters the names of other nations, "be they ne'er so vile," he must betray his patriot's conscience and the doubtless sainted memory of his sixth grade grammar teacher to the linguistic whims of a tin pot caudillo. I cannot help but suppose that these kowtows of the tongue appear as laughable to our enemies as they do to those of us who are not devoted listeners of National Public Radio or readers of the Huffington Post, and they go far in the encouragement of ever more daring acts of oppression whose media coverage must be almost as painful to our ears as the syllabic self abasement that inspired them.

Every diplomat worth his salt must be willing to consider every nation to which he is assigned, no matter how amicable at present, to be a potential competitor in the future, and every competitor a potential enemy. When he (heaven forbid) should have to appear in the chambers of their government to deliver a declaration of war, he should know that the manner in which he reads that declaration is as revelatory of our resolve as the first bombs that soon shall fall on them. Too many of our leaders at this present time concede their prerogatives as statesmen with such alarming alacrity that Neville Chamberlain begins to look like Winston Churchill, and Winston Churchill like Christ in the middle of the forty days of fasting and temptation. Those of us who are disturbed by this servile observance of so many delicate forms of Mandarin humbly request our representatives abroad that they be no more heedful of respecting foreign idioms than the average American is of respecting his own, and respectfully remind them that the only language a citizen of any nation need answer for having abused is the one which is his native birthright.

-Thomas Banks-

Monday, May 11, 2009

Huxley Hall

In the Garden City Cafe with its murals on the wall
Before a talk on 'Sex and Civics' I meditated on the fall.

Deep depression settled on me under that electric glare
While outside the lightsome poplars flanked the rose-beds in the square.

While outside the carefree children sported in the summer haze
And released their inhibitions in a hundred different ways.

She who eats her greasy crumpets snuggled in her inglenook
Of some birch-enshrouded homestead, dropping butter on her book.

Can she know the deep depression of this bright, hygienic hell?
And her husband, stout free-thinker, can he share in it as well?

Not the folk-museum's charting of man's progress out of slime
Can release me from the painful seeming accident of time.

Barry smashes Shirley's dolly, Shirley's eyes are crossed with hate,
Comrades plot a comrade's downfall 'In the interests of the State.'

Not my vegetarian dinner, not my lime juice minus gin,
Can quite shake the faint conviction that we may be born in sin.

-Sir John Betjeman-

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Autumn Rain-Scene

There trudges one to merry-making
With a sturdy swing,
On whom the rain comes down.

To fetch the saving medicament
Is another bent,
On whom the rain comes down.

One slowly drives his herd to stall
Ere ill befall,
On whom the rain comes down.

This bears his missives of life and death
With quickening breath,
On whom the rain comes down.

One watches for signals of wreck and war,
From the hill afar,
On whom the rain comes down.

No care if he gain a shelter or none,
Unhired moves one,
On whom the rain comes down.

And another knows naught of its chilling fall
Upon him at all,
On whom the rain comes down.

-Thomas Hardy-

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When Sometime Lofty Towers

When I have seen by Time's fell hand defaced
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded with decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That Time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death, and cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Vobiscum Est Iope

When thou must home to shades of underground,
And there arrived, a new admired guest,
The beauteous spirits do engirt thee round,
White Iope, blithe Helen, and the rest,
To hear the story of thy finished love,
From that smooth tongue whose music hell can move,

Then thou wilt tell of banqueting delights,
Of masks and revels that sweet youth did make,
Of turnies and great challenges of knights,
And all these triumphs for thy beauty's sake:
When thou hast told these honors done to thee,
Then tell, O tell, how thou didst murder me.

-Thomas Campion-

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Great Minimum

It is something to have wept as we have wept,
It is something to have done as we have done,
It is something to have watched as all men slept,
And seen the stars which never see the sun.

It is something to have smelt the mystic rose,
Although it break and leave the thorny rods,
It is something to have hungered once as those
Must hunger who have ate the bread of gods.

To have seen you and your unforgotten face,
Brave as a blast of trumpets for the fray,
Pure as white lilies in a watery space,
It were something, though you went from me today.

To have known the things that from the weak are furled,
Perilous ancient passions, strange and high;
It is something to be wiser than the world,
It is something to be older than the sky.

In a time of skeptic moths and cynic rusts,
And fattened lives that of their sweetness tire
In a world of flying loves and fading lusts,
It is something to be sure of a desire.

Lo, blessed are our ears for they have heard;
Yea, blessed are our ears for they have seen:
Let the thunder break on man and beast and bird
And the lightning. It is something to have been.

-G.K. Chesterton-

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It Is Not Beauty I Demand

It is not beauty I demand,
A crystal brow, the moon's despair,
Nor the snow's daughter, a white hand,
Not mermaid's yellow pride of hair.

Tell me not of your starry eyes,
Your lips that seem on roses fed,
Your breasts where sleeping Cupid lies,
Nor sleeps for kissing of his bed.

A bloomy pair of vermeil cheeks,
Like Hebe's in her ruddiest hours,
A breath that softer music speaks
Than summer winds a-wooing flowers.

These are but gauds; nay, what are lips?
Coral beneath the ocean-stream,
Whose brink when your adventurer slips
Full oft he perishes on them.

And what are cheeks but ensigns oft
That wave hot youth to fields of blood?
Did Helen's breast though ne'er so soft,
Do Greece or Ilium any good?

Eyes can with baleful ardor burn,
Poison can breath that erst perfumed,
There's many a white hand holds an urn
With lovers' hearts to dust consumed.

For crystal brows-there's naught within,
They are but empty cells for pride;
He who the Siren's hair would win
Is mostly strangled in the tide.

-George Darley-

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Epitaph on One Who Lived to See His Work's Monument

"...Video Mihi Nunc Frustra Sumptum Esse Laborem."

What was the building of his broken hands,
Itself lies broken, strength of stature thence
Fallen in time. He, in death's afterlands,
Discovered late his labor's vain expense.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Unresolved but Highly Probable

1. This next year I have a feeling I will eat more fish and less red meat. The latter does not excite me so much at the six P.M. of the present as in six P.M.'s of yore.

2. I find I drink slightly more than I used to, and that this is quite the best thing.

3. I have almost left off smoking altogether. Aside from the evening cigar or clove enjoyed with company now and again, the thing mostly bores me.

4. I have been teaching myself French for a week now, and believe I will be fluent in it before the start of summer.

5. I would have thought #4 would affect #3 differently than it has done. Hmm.

6. I imagine I'll write a book and see it published.

7. I think I will learn to be more decisive at critical junctures than I have been heretofore. This is quite likely.

8. I am pretty sure this is not a critical juncture.

9. I am comfortable with the single life, but have concluded, more or less, that matrimony is the more historically validated position. This may seem obvious to some, but let us examine the two sides:

1)St. Paul
2)Elizabeth I
3)Thomas Aquinas
4)Leonardo Davinci

4)William Shakespeare

10. I think I would do well to read more devotional and theological literature. I'm woefully under-read in the church fathers.