Off with the Faeries

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[Spirit of Night, John Atkinson Grimshaw – 1879 – from: https://thehotbid.com/2019/04/25/john-atkinson-grimshaws-spirit-of-night-could-fly-past-500000-at-christies-new-york/ ]

This month’s blog entry was inspired by thoughts of the fey, fairies, elves, dwarves and dragons, other beings in other worlds. It was also helped by starting to watch Carnival Row and by the writings of Neil Gaiman. I think of myself as a spiritual person and someone open to ideas of other ways of looking at the universe. I’m a lifelong fantasy fan but also a lover of old tales such as the Celtic stories. The worlds of the fey and the literature of their worlds is such a rich seam for poets and writers. It’s also an excuse to include one of my favourite pieces. I first came across this poem in a very old Monty Python sketch where they ‘amended’ classic poems! The piece itself is so very evocative. my mind constructs the scene as I read it. I hear the horns sounding, horses neighing, huge gates crashing open or closed. Tennyson sometimes gets overlooked because he was poet laureate at a time when people were expected to be jingoistic and to support the empire. This is to dismiss his other work though. He was a decent man who tried to improve to lot of others and had many struggles himself. Splendor Falls is part of a much longer piece which is full of imagination and magic. Try him, if you like imagination and great writing, you will enjoy his work.

The Splendor Falls

The splendor falls on castle walls
    And snowy summits old in story;
The long light shakes across the lakes,
    And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O, hark, O, hear! how thin and clear,
    And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O, sweet and far from cliff and scar
    The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying,
Blow, bugles; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O love, they die in yon rich sky,
    They faint on hill or field or river;
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
    And grow forever and forever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.

Alfred Lord Tennyson – 1809-1892

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[“Golden Wood” by Ruth Sanderson,  from: https://faefolk.weebly.com/lesson-2-2.html ]

My own piece, this time, is from a walk I did in the local area. Passing three big reservoirs and a country park, I arrived on a moor in the South Pennines. A glorious day with Sun but a cooling light breeze too. It was so easy to get lost in another view of the scene. Make your own mind up about what I saw, that’s a privilege we all should have!

Faerie

So I sat on the hill, watching Faeries dance.
In bright, warm Sun. They didn’t mind, the watching.
Smiled and laughed at me, with me?
But not one spoke, no questions, greetings 
went unanswered, unregarded, unimportant.

The lines they sang, seemed odd to me,
odes to flowers, words to the wind, songs about grass.
The dew and morning, the sunset and the dusk.
Then meaning, slowly seeps, to the part of my brain,
not constructed by society, not conditioned.

Rhymes and chimes, rhythms of life, no strife.
The height of grass, the things that pass,
and the things that remain, that endure.
Praise to the Green Mother and the powers 
of seasons, to bring new things and bless old ones.

I move to take a picture, to have the evidence.
They don’t care, don’t scare, they just sing and dance.
Later, all alone, I open the picture, the record of music,
but all that’s there, is a hill top, covered in cotton,
buds and buds of cotton in the grass.

Glen Proctor

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[Moor of Cotton Grass – picture from Author’s collection. ]

Audio version:

We’ll finish with another ‘empire’ poet, Rudyard Kipling. Kipling is famous for his prose, of course, but he was also an accomplished poet. Try his ‘Recessional’ for an awe-inspiring piece. He was adept at weaving meaning into his works so that you only realise what he was talking about much later. This shorter piece carries a stern rebuke for boasting, for arrogance, for trust in force of arms and tells of the futility of martial strength in the end. Don’t make empty threats to the fairy queen!

The Queen Of Fairy Land

“I have a thousand men,” said he,
“To wait upon my will;
And towers nine upon the Tyne,
And three upon the Till.”

“And what care I for your men? ” said she,
“Or towers from Tyne to Till?
Sith you must go with me,” said she,
“To wait upon my will.

And you may lead a thousand men
Nor ever draw the rein,
But before you lead the Fairy Queen
‘Twill burst your heart in twain.”

He has slipped his foot from the stirrup-bar,
The bridle from his hand,
And he is bound by hand and foot
To the Queen of Fairy Land.

Rudyard Kipling, 1865 – 1936

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[Celtic Fairy Queen, Nene Thomas – image from: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/262334747020336360/ ]

 

Beauty

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[Minhwa – Korean Folk Painting, image from: https://kccuk.org.uk/en/archive/crafts-design/minhwa-beauty-korean-folk-paintings/ ]

This blog entry was partly inspired by a lovely fellow blogger Nehavermaa – find her blog at https://nehavermaa.wordpress.com – always interesting questions and discussions about the meaning of life, human feelings and the things that affect us. Nehavermaa recently asked about the kinds of love, whether love crosses the line to obsession, does beauty cloud our thoughts sometimes? I believe, in the strange times we’re going through, a little beauty might distract us, but in a good way. It’s also an opportunity to choose some of the most wonderful poetry ever written like this piece from Byron, a very famous piece, but no less wonderful for that:

She walks in beauty

She walks in beauty, like the night 
Of cloudless climes and starry skies; 
And all that’s best of dark and bright 
Meet in her aspect and her eyes; 
Thus mellowed to that tender light 
Which heaven to gaudy day denies. 

One shade the more, one ray the less, 
Had half impaired the nameless grace 
Which waves in every raven tress, 
Or softly lightens o’er her face; 
Where thoughts serenely sweet express, 
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place. 

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow, 
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent, 
The smiles that win, the tints that glow, 
But tell of days in goodness spent, 
A mind at peace with all below, 
A heart whose love is innocent!

Lord Byron, 1788 – 1824

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[Beauty With Birds 2 by Gautam Sarkar, picture from: https://www.mojarto.com/artworks/goutam-sarkar/beauty-with-birds-2-218706 ]

My own piece this time is one I wrote a few years ago now. It was for a lady I knew then who lived far away. There is a lot of beauty in music, in the way the sounds, the harmonies can affect us, in the words themselves and in the memories music can recall for us. I’ve included an audio reading and a short guitar piece, just to set the mood:

For hope

I sit by the river and sing songs to the fishes 
Guitar in hand, voice loudly ringing
I sing of my longing, my hopes and my dreams 
Ever playing, ever singing

Knowing that the fishes, 
will sing in turn across the sea
Telling the whales and crabs and turtles, 
of my thoughts and dreams of she

A tree hears my tune, and tells the air
of the dream of my love, of her
A sparrow sings it to a robin,
who sings again with small heart throbbing

The song goes on, to the lark and the gull
The waves and the wind carry it full
until at last, on a far dreamed shore, 
it comes to land and travels to your door

In your long night spent dreaming, 
My thoughts to you come streaming
Live in peace, in light, in love
Knowing that you are my Sun.

Glen Proctor

Audio version:

 

Music:

 

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[A Mermaid, 1900 John William Waterhouse RA – image from: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/work-of-art/a-mermaid ]

I’ll finish with a piece by another truly great writer. I was first introduced to Khalil Gilbran when someone recommended his book, The Prophet. The Prophet is full of wisdom, spoken by a traveller, such beautiful and wise words. In this poem, he addresses the subject of beauty directly:

Beauty XXV

And a poet said, “Speak to us of Beauty.” 

Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall you find her unless she herself be your way and your guide? 

And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech? 

The aggrieved and the injured say, “Beauty is kind and gentle. 

Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us.” 

And the passionate say, “Nay, beauty is a thing of might and dread. 

Like the tempest she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us.” 

The tired and the weary say, “beauty is of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit. 

Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear of the shadow.” 

But the restless say, “We have heard her shouting among the mountains, 

And with her cries came the sound of hoofs, and the beating of wings and the roaring of lions.” 

At night the watchmen of the city say, “Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the east.” 

And at noontide the toilers and the wayfarers say, “we have seen her leaning over the earth from the windows of the sunset.” 

In winter say the snow-bound, “She shall come with the spring leaping upon the hills.” 

And in the summer heat the reapers say, “We have seen her dancing with the autumn leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her hair.” 

All these things have you said of beauty. 

Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied, 

And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy. 

It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth, 

But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted. 

It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear, 

But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears. 

It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw, 

But rather a garden forever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in flight. 

People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face. 

But you are life and you are the veil. 

Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. 

But you are eternity and you are the mirror.

Khalil Gibran, 1883 – 1931

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[Rivington Reservoir on a beautiful day – picture by the author]

 

Beltane

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[Rhiannon by Wendy Andrew, image from: https://www.thequirkycelts.co.uk/shop/greetingscards/wheel-of-the-year-greetings-cards/beltane-cards/beltane-card-5/ ]

A lighter and nicer entry this time, to help make up for the darkness of the last entry. Beltane, ‘the bright shining fire’, is a celebration of the return of fertility to the world. Traditionally celebrated on 1st May, Beltane is a time of lovers’ pledges and marriages. Taking place between the Spring equinox and the Summer solstice, it marks the time for turning animals out for pasture and planting seed, a time of fertility. It celebrates the union of a god and goddess, which makes it auspicious for human couples too. We’ll start our celebration with an earthy poem of love by the master, Robert Burns. Burns was someone who was no stranger to the lists of love himself, he writes beautiful romantic verse and song.

On A Bank Of Flowers

On a bank of flowers, in a summer day, 
For summer lightly drest, 
The youthful, blooming Nelly lay, 
With love and sleep opprest; 
When Willie, wand’ring thro’ the wood, 
Who for her favour oft had sued; 
He gaz’d, he wish’d 
He fear’d, he blush’d, 
And trembled where he stood. 

Her closed eyes, like weapons sheath’d, 
Were seal’d in soft repose; 
Her lip, still as she fragrant breath’d, 
It richer dyed the rose; 
The springing lilies, sweetly prest, 
Wild-wanton kissed her rival breast; 
He gaz’d, he wish’d, 
He fear’d, he blush’d, 
His bosom ill at rest. 

Her robes, light-waving in the breeze, 
Her tender limbs embrace; 
Her lovely form, her native ease, 
All harmony and grace; 
Tumultuous tides his pulses roll, 
A faltering, ardent kiss he stole; 
He gaz’d, he wish’d, 
He fear’d, he blush’d, 
And sigh’d his very soul. 

As flies the partridge from the brake, 
On fear-inspired wings, 
So Nelly, starting, half-awake, 
Away affrighted springs ; 
But Willie follow’d — as he should, 
He overtook her in the wood; 
He vow’d, he pray’d, 
He found the maid 
Forgiving all, and good. 

Robert Burns, 1759 – 1796 

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[Wildflowers on the Northumberland Coast – image from: http://www.northumberlandcoastaonb.org/wildflowers/ ]

The hare is an important symbol in Beltane. This time of year in the UK, we see hares much more often. They ‘box’ each other for mating rights and give rise to the idea of the ‘Mad March Hare’, memorable for his appearance at the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Alice in Wonderland. We might also be one of the lucky few to glimpse a baby hare, known as a leveret. I used the image of the hare as inspiration for my own piece this time. A poem in celebration of Beltane and the return of life:

Beltane

He came, the mystic hare, Dana’s blessing.
Leaping into the midplace, between 
the Spring and the Summer. Leaping for the Sun, 
to warm our days, to scatter flowers, 
to bring the bees and birds to nest. 
To play music of Spring. Beltane magic, 
as the blossom blooms and falls. 
We live again, past the dark of Winter.

Touching our roots, our heart’s memories.
Growing and seeking, love in May.
in tune with her moods, the Green Mother.
So very many daisies and dandelions,
buttercups and bluebells. Making the
World come alive again under our
clear blue sky. If we live in the Mother’s
touch, we hear find the music.

Glen Proctor

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(Solstice Hare by Lisa Parker, image from: https://www.otherwisetrading.co.uk/other/canvas-wall-art/solstice-hare-canvas.php ]

Audio of ‘Beltane’ read by the author:

 

I’ll finish this entry on Beltane with a poem by Eileen Carney Hulme. Much more recent that the verses I usually feature. This poem speaks of the soul bonding associated with Beltane. The deep, peaceful, contented love between two hearts that fit just right together. Enjoy these lovely words and images, stay safe and well all:

Belonging

We never really slept,
just buried clocks
in the sanctuary 
of night

every time I moved
you moved with me,
winged eyelashes
on your cheek returns a kiss

small spaces of silence
in between borrowed breaths
arms tighten
at the whisper of a name

all the words of the heart
the unanswered questions
are at this moment
blue rolling waves

tonight our souls rest
fragrant in spiritual essence
candle-flamed, undamaged
utterly belonging.

Eileen Carney Hulme, 1953 – 

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[Beltane Wishing Tree, image from: https://www.mookychick.co.uk/health/witchcraft-spirituality/may-tree-decoration-beltane.php ]

 

Lockdown

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[Brighton in lockdown – from: https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/18374187.uk-coronavirus-lockdown-will-last-vaccine-developed/ ]

It’s time to write about this I think. I’m in the fifth week of ‘stay at home’. Managing ok but I’m fortunate to live where I do and be in the situation I’m in. There are many people in terrible situations right now. The world is different from last year, better? Time will tell. This situation is unique. The modern age means we have resources that were just not available in past pandemics but, people have had their freedom curtailed before. There’s a huge body of literature out there from writers like Defoe. I thought I’d approach the subject from the point of view of lack of freedom. I’ll start with one of the most famous lockdown/lock up pieces of all time, the Ballad of Reading Gaol. Written by Oscar Wilde after his incarceration. It has a lot to say about punishment and confinement, well worth reading the full piece:

The Ballad of Reading Gaol (extract)

Six weeks the guardsman walked the yard, 
In the suit of shabby gray: 
His cricket cap was on his head, 
And his step seemed light and gay, 
But I never saw a man who looked 
So wistfully at the day. 

I never saw a man who looked 
With such a wistful eye 
Upon that little tent of blue 
Which prisoners call the sky, 
And at every wandering cloud that trailed 
Its ravelled fleeces by. 

He did not wring his hands, as do 
Those witless men who dare 
To try to rear the changeling Hope 
In the cave of black Despair: 
He only looked upon the sun, 
And drank the morning air. 

He did not wring his hands nor weep, 
Nor did he peek or pine, 
But he drank the air as though it held 
Some healthful anodyne; 
With open mouth he drank the sun 
As though it had been wine! 

Oscar Wilde, 1854 – 1900

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[Reading Gaol in 1844 – Image from: https://www.readingabbeyquarter.org.uk/gaol ]

For my own piece, this month, I’m also just going to provide an extract. I think this must be the longest piece of poetry I’ve ever written! Just a record of the first four weeks of the lockdown and the things I noticed. The fact that these weeks coincided with Spring in the UK has meant a particularly prolific time for nature. We have also had such beautiful weather, as if Mother Nature saved the best for us to be out of the way? Anyway, here’s a few verses. I may extend this poem when we finally emerge and get to meet and hug fellow humans again?

And then (extract)

it rained, not on the plain,
mainly on the window pane.
Colder too, the Spring paused for us.

Next day, sunshine, maybe on Lieth too.
Birds busy. Chatting with friends,
with a keyboard. Their kids are bored,
need bored games, egg hunt for chocolate?

Ignoring the news, nothing has changed.
Sunny and bright, new day, new way.
Talks about birds, writing new words.

Long chat with friends, who aren’t now friendly,
to eacg other. Who have fallen apart, not from lockdown,
not the disease, cracks long seen, from outside.
They ran out of polyfilla, but it’s for the best.

Glen Proctor

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[Cherry blossom – picture from the author’s collection]

Audio version here:

 

The final poem this time is from another new poet to Poet Shrub. Lisel Mueller was born in Germany but her family fled to the US to escape the nazi regime when she was fifteen years old. She worked as a poet, translator and academic teacher, teaching at the University of Chicago, Elmhurst College and Goddard College. This piece is about the changes that can come over us when solitude descends. She talks about how we adapt language to people our world:

Things

What happened is, we grew lonely
living among the things,
so we gave the clock a face,
the chair a back,
the table four stout legs
which will never suffer fatigue.

We fitted our shoes with tongues
as smooth as our own
and hung tongues inside bells
so we could listen
to their emotional language,

and because we loved graceful profiles
the pitcher received a lip,
the bottle a long, slender neck.

Even what was beyond us
was recast in our image;
we gave the country a heart,
the storm an eye,
the cave a mouth
so we could pass into safety.

Lisel Mueller, 1924 – 2020

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[Morning Solitude by Terry Gleeson – from: https://www.mutualart.com/Artwork/Morning-Solitude/0ACF1CC63473B41C ]

I want to leave a little extra here. Just a noodle on the guitar to let you know I’m thinking of you. Stay safe and well, enjoy beauty and peace where you find it. Wishing love and blessings for you all.

 

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[Bluebell Wood – Image from: https://www.countryfile.com/wildlife/trees-plants/bluebells-guide-where-to-see-best-walks-around-the-uk-and-how-to-grow/ ]

 

Hope

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[The Hope Valley, Edale, Derbyshire – picture from: https://www.theoutdoorcity.co.uk/sheffield-city-life/attractions/hope-valley-p867991 ]

This blog entry is inspired by the dark things going on in the World just now. I don’t need to list them, they’re plain for all to see. What keeps us functioning most is hope. I find hope in many things nowadays. This wasn’t always the case and I went through some dark times. Now, I see the daffodils are just starting to show, I hear the birds are singing and collecting material for nests. The weather warms and the World turns. There are puppies to greet and wildlife to watch. Hills to be walked and adventures to be had. I’ll continue to hope and to write because not to hope is to crawl away and hide.

The first piece this time is a longer poem than I would normally include in Poet Shrub. I just couldn’t miss the opportunity to include one of the most inspiring poems of all time though. We sadly lost the wonderful Maya a few years ago but her words live on. These are words full of hope, inspiring and compassionate:

Still I rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise

Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014

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{Early Daffodils emerging – picture from: http://naturalistsnotebook.mnapage.info/2019/01/21/sefton-park-20th-january-2019/ ]

My own piece this time is from memories of watching waterfalls, something I love to do. Sitting, watching, loving the sound and the sight. It also prompts thoughts of what would be, what could be. Science tells us there are an infinite number of universes, newly created each time we observe an event. That ties in with the religious idea of karma too. We influence the universe we live by our thoughts and actions. I wrote this piece a while ago but I’ve re-worked it a little since then:

Drip

from the rock above, a hundred feet.
I watch that drop, form, hesitate,
stretch and fall. To splash on a stone
lying at my feet and run away, to join
the stream, gurgling on its way, to
be a river. 

I watch again, next drop, falling  
and another. Every drop that falls,
creating the universe anew, so
the quantums say, they should know.
Drip, a galaxy, splash, a star.
Each possibility held in a jewel of water.
Shining in the Sun.

As they fall, they strike a stone.
Leftward, always on the left, they run away.
I watch, each and every fall, each drip.
Each new universe, decided in observation.
Thinking, if it falls to the right, the universe
changes, time begins again, and in the 
infinite possibilities, she might be here, still. 
The one reality, I yearn to live in,
hope to have.

Drop.

Glen Proctor

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[Bracklinn Falls, Callander – from: https://www.stirlingselfcatering.co.uk/blog/waterfalls/ ]

Audio version of my poem:

 

A more direct paean to hope here from Thomas Hardy. Hardy is one of those writers better known for his prose but his poetry is so beautiful. I highly recommend searching some pieces for yourself. 

Song of Hope 

O sweet To-morrow! – 
After to-day 
There will away 
This sense of sorrow. 
Then let us borrow 
Hope, for a gleaming 
Soon will be streaming, 
Dimmed by no gray – 
No gray! 

While the winds wing us 
Sighs from The Gone, 
Nearer to dawn 
Minute-beats bring us; 
When there will sing us 
Larks of a glory 
Waiting our story 
Further anon – 
Anon! 

Doff the black token, 
Don the red shoon, 
Right and retune 
Viol-strings broken; 
Null the words spoken 
In speeches of rueing, 
The night cloud is hueing, 
To-morrow shines soon – 
Shines soon!

Thomas Hardy, 1840 – 1928

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[Thomas Hardy’s Wessex – from: https://discoverenglandtours.com/heritage-england-guided-tours/thomas-hardys-wessex-dorset ]

I rarely include modern pieces, to avoid the problem of distributing other artists’ work and denying them royalties. I did want to include this short extract I saw today though, along with a link to the book. Such a song of hope. Please keep supporting all the arts in these troubling times. We need to lift our hearts, compassion is the only thing to save us. Stay safe, love freely and help where you can.

From ‘I Shimmer Sometimes Too’

I do not unlove.
That is not the question.
I love everyone I have
ever loved intensely
and against time.

Porsha Olayiwola

[Available from: https://buttonpoetry.com/product/i-shimmer-sometimes-too/ and other reputable booksellers.]

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[The Butterfly Wings of Love, Chirila Corina – from: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-butterfly-wings-of-love-chirila-corina.html ]

 

The Storm

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[Stormy sunset – picture from the author’s collection]

This blog was prompted by the storms that hit the UK over the last couple of weeks. We’re fortunate that we don’t get storms like the Caribbean, Asia and other places that suffer so much. It’s rare for a building to collapse, for people to die. Flooding is a problem but mostly our own fault, for cutting down trees and building on flood plains. I find there’s something earthy and primeval about storms. Perhaps awaking race memory of hiding in a cave as the clouds built and towered and the rain and hail stuck down. There’s also the wonderful scenes as the storm passes, sometimes with a rainbow. We’ll begin with a new poet for Poet Shrub, but a very famous one indeed. Siegfried Sassoon, one of the most celebrated poets of the twentieth century. Often quoted and an integral part of many poetry courses, Sassoon has a wonderful touch with words:

Storm and Sunlight

I
In barns we crouch, and under stacks of straw, 
Harking the storm that rides a hurtling legion 
Up the arched sky, and speeds quick heels of panic 
With growling thunder loosed in fork and clap 
That echoes crashing thro’ the slumbrous vault.
The whispering woodlands darken: vulture Gloom 
Stoops, menacing the skeltering flocks of Light, 
Where the gaunt shepherd shakes his gleaming staff 
And foots with angry tidings down the slope. 
Drip, drip; the rain steals in through soaking thatch
By cob-webbed rafters to the dusty floor. 
Drums shatter in the tumult; wrathful Chaos 
Points pealing din to the zenith, then resolves 
Terror in wonderment with rich collapse. 

II
Now from drenched eaves a swallow darts to skim 
The crystal stillness of an air unveiled 
To tremulous blue. Raise your bowed heads, and let 
Your horns adore the sky, ye patient kine! 
Haste, flashing brooks! Small, chuckling rills, rejoice! 
Be open-eyed for Heaven, ye pools of peace! 
Shine, rain-bow hills! Dream on, fair glimpsиd vale 
In haze of drifting gold! And all sweet birds, 
Sing out your raptures to the radiant leaves! 
And ye, close huddling Men, come forth to stand 
A moment simple in the gaze of God
That sweeps along your pastures! Breathe his might! 
Lift your blind faces to be filled with day, 
And share his benediction with the flowers.

Siegfried Sassoon, 1886 – 1967

Janette-George-After-the-Storm-Wychwood-800x392-570x392.jpg

[After the Storm by Janette George, from: https://www.wychwoodart.com/shop/original-painting/after-the-storm-2 ]

My own piece this time comes from a conversation held with a friend about how we love the rain. One of my favourite memories is standing in the rain after a really hot day. The sound and smell of those cooling showers is just so affecting. To stand by a window and watch a storm beating down is also so satisfying for us. In my case, because I love water in all it’s forms and because relatives were sailors, I think it might be the call of the sea. I wrote this piece in a hurry after the UK’s recent stormy weather:

Storm watching

We love the rain, us two weirdos. The sound of it,
the smell of it, the beat on the window of it, the very
wet of it all. The pools that form, the streams that run, 
gurgling and rushing to their joining.

Water in motion, composing a melody,
a symphony of wet, a soothing song
to us who understand, and can listen.
For us who remember, our times in the song.

Water pooling, then running, to a river, to the mouth
to the call of the sea. To meet the waves and leave the shore,
Joining the scent, of ozone and weed.
Sound of the water, from rain to the sea,

You sang me your tune and I played for you,
to the rhythm of rain, a harmony of love, 
of music and heart, as we watched and welcomed the rain,
and the waters meeting, singing that song, again.

Glen Proctor

Audio version of this poem:

 

Storm Freya at Portreath. Picture by Dom Haughton.jpg.gallery.jpg

[Stormy sea from storm Brendan – from: https://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/18155808.weather-warnings-issued-storm-brendan-hits-uk/ ]

We’ll finish with a short piece by another new poet to Poet Shrub, Jean Toomer. An appropriate poem to finish with as it tells of the storm’s passing. A US-born writer and poet, Toomer worked as a teacher in the turbulent, racial tension-ridden times in Georgia. His experiences later led him to renounce his writing career and become a Quaker. A gentle, thoughtful man, this short piece, quite modern in approach, illustrates his wonderful way with words:

Storm Ending

Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads,
Great, hollow, bell-like flowers,
Rumbling in the wind,
Stretching clappers to strike our ears . . .
Full-lipped flowers
Bitten by the sun
Bleeding rain
Dripping rain like golden honey—
And the sweet earth flying from the thunder.

Jean Toomer, 1894 – 1967

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[Rainbow after the storm – picture from the author’s collection]

 

Light – Revisit

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[Dappled sunlight, Drinkwater Park, Prestwich, Lancs. – picture from Author’s collection]

I last wrote an entry about light just under a year ago. I was prompted to choose this subject again after some beautiful pictures of Winter light from the BBC Springwatch team. I’m fascinated by changing natural light. In the Northern Temperate zone, where I live, the quality of daylight changes from season to season. A clear, sunny day in Winter is incredibly crisp and clear. More so than at any other time. Unfortunately, the clear weather also means it’s very cold, so you need to wrap up well to take pictures! Light is also metaphotical, the dawn of memories, of understanding, or love.  There is good reason why religions refer to the dawning of understanding as ‘enlightenment’. We’ll start with a new poet to this blog, William E. Stafford, a US poet of the early twentieth century. He writes of sunlight in a rural setting:

The light by the barn

The light by the barn that shines all night
pales at dawn when a little breeze comes.

A little breeze comes breathing the fields
from their sleep and waking the slow windmill.

The slow windmill sings the long day
about anguish and loss to the chickens at work.

The little breeze follows the slow windmill
and the chickens at work till the sun goes down–

Then the light by the barn again. 

William E. Stafford, 1914 – 1993

 

bradford-on-avon-tithe-barn.jpg

[Bradford-on-Avon Tithe Barn – image from: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/bradford-on-avon-tithe-barn/history/ ]

Part of the reason why it’s taken so long to produce another blog entry is that I was stuck for inspiration for my own piece. I finally got down to writing when it hit me that ‘light’ is metaphorical as well as actual. I returned to study late in life and decided to study the social sciences. My introductory course involved a lot of thinking about what ‘society’ and the ‘social’ involves. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful tutor who used various methods to open my eyes to what influences and shapes us. This poem is a tribute to her!

The light (Seeing of)

She asked me, “what did your Dad do?”
“When you were five, did your Mum work?”
“What did you have for tea, on Saturday nights,
back then, in your home, when you were six?”

It didn’t click, not then, didn’t illuminate
any dark spaces, in my brain.
Until much later, when I saw paths to it,
knowledge I mean, much later, I understood.

Some of me is my past, some the present.
Genetics mix with education, with station in life,
with ethnicity, with who I think I am.
Much later, the light that tutor turned on,
lit up the world and I found me there.

She also talked of spaghetti and recipes, 
cooking and places, she’d been.
They were days and ways of enlightenment, 
I’m glad I met her and let in the light.

Glen Proctor

Audiofile:

 

Antahkarana-Spiral-of-Spiritual-Illumination-Energy-energyenhancement-org.jpg

[Antahkarana-Spiral-of-Spiritual-Illumination – image from: http://www.thetruthaboutenlightenment.org/spiritual-enlightenment/spiritual-enlightenment/attachment/antahkarana-spiral-of-spiritual-illumination-energy-energyenhancement-org/ ]

We’ll finish with another new poet to the Poet Shrub blog, the founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, painter and poet: Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti. This piece sort of combines the other two poems in that it concerns a memory of light or how light can stir memory. Sometimes, the quality, colour, intensity of light can trigger thoughts. Sunsets are particularly good for this but it also happens to me in forest glades, by open water or at sunrise. A beautiful and thoughtful poem:

Sudden Light

I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.

You have been mine before,—
How long ago I may not know:
But just when at that swallow’s soar
Your neck turned so,
Some veil did fall,—I knew it all of yore.

Has this been thus before?
And shall not thus time’s eddying flight
Still with our lives our love restore
In death’s despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1828 –  1882

Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_-_The_Day_Dream_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

[The Day Dream, Dante Gabriel Rossetti – 1880 – image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti#/media/File:Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_-_The_Day_Dream_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg ]

 

The Past

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[Vassily Maximov – Everything is in the Past, 1889 – from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Past ]

For this entry, I look at poems about what is past, memories, reverie, thoughts on times gone by. This blog entry arose from my finding a poem I wrote some time ago and decided to edit. It was one of a group written from pictures hanging in the Manchester Art Gallery. This particular picture was a photograph of old terrace streets being demolished. I grew up in just such a terrace and remember the streets very well. Such a sense of community, security, home. I feel lucky to have that kind of childhood compared to the sterile existence of many new estates. We’ll begin with a poem by the English writer and illustrator, Thomas Hood. Hood reminds me of days of innocence and uncomplicated joy in this piece:

I Remember, I Remember

I remember, I remember
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon
Nor brought too long a day;
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away.

I remember, I remember,
The roses, red and white,
The vi’lets, and the lily-cups,
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday,—
The tree is living yet!

I remember, I remember,
Where I was used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then,
That is so heavy now,
And summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow!

I remember, I remember,
The fir trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was a childish ignorance,
But now ’tis little joy
To know I’m farther off from heav’n
Than when I was a boy.

Thomas Hood, 1799 – 1845

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[Rope swing in the woods – from: https://blog.rowleygallery.co.uk/heavens-rope-swing/ ]

I remember the sheer joy of finding an old rope hung from a tree in the woods. Even now, there is an almost irresistible attraction to swings. There is no age limit to enjoying swinging from trees! This leads nicely into my own piece, mentioned above. Inspired by a photograph in Manchester Art Gallery. It was such a joyful time, a time when you knew most people in the street and they knew you. A time when you could play in the street with no dangers. Many such places were demolished and the residents moved to tower blocks where values of community suffered. This poem is a little recital of memories from those happy times.

Pictures at an exhibition

Half-ruined house, torn down memories
kids sat in the street, with the dog.
Dirty faces, eagerly staring,
at changes all around them

Young minds not burdened by memories,
to be thrown away with the bricks
Older faces worrying, what will be?
Streets going fast, no trace left, 
of your birthplace, your home. 

The little ones run for the ginnel, 
with the dog. For the sound of a bike.
A gleaming, great BSA.
Begging for a short ride, 
perched on the tank,

as Dad comes home, from the Saturday shift.
Fish and chips waiting, for dog and us.
Saturday treat, and Mum’s day off.
TV on, for Dad’s betting choices, 
football results, checking the pools.

Cheese for tea, melted in the oven. 
Spread over bread as we hide,
from Doctor Who battling Daleks.
Cups of tea, shared with dog. Our home.
Till they knock us down, and disperse our tribe

Glen Proctor

barnard-st-and-george-st-towards-mandale-rd-c1974.jpg

[Junction of Barnard Street and George Street, Thornaby-on-Tees – from: https://rememberingthornaby.wordpress.com ]

Sound file of me reading my poem:

 

I’m going to finish this delve into the past with a wonderful poem by Douglas Dunn. I had the huge pleasure and honour to sit and listen to Douglas talk about his life and work. A magical afternoon where he also recited some of his poetry including this piece. The poem appeared in his early collection, ‘Terry Street’. I strongly urge everyone to get hold of this work and read it! 

A Removal from Terry Street

On a squeaking cart, they push the usual stuff,
A mattress, bed ends, cups, carpets, chairs,
Four paperback westerns. Two whistling youths
In surplus US Army battle-jackets
Remove their sister’s goods. Her husband
Follows, carrying on his shoulders the son
Whose mischief we are glad to see removed,
And pushing, of all things, a lawnmower.
There is no grass in Terry Street. The worms
Come up cracks in concrete yards in moonlight.
That man, I wish him well. I wish him grass.

Douglas Dunn, 1942 –

handcart-removals-2.jpg

[Old handcart, moving home – from: http://helengeary.com/moving-to-141/ ]

a-row-of-victorian-terraced-houses-in-an-east-london-street-due-for-demolition-mary-evans-picture-library.jpg

[Terraced houses in East London – from: https://www.findmypast.co.uk/1939register/the-1930s-home/ ]

 

Bridges

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[Arnside Viaduct, between Lancashire and Cumbria – picture from Author’s collection]

Bridges provide links. One place to another across places you would find difficult to cross. They provide means for two or more methods of transport to occupy the same space. In music, the bridge links the first part of the song to the second, sometimes allowing a key change too. Bridges can change you, open up new vistas, ease your path. This blog looks at bridges in a few different ways. Gary Soto brings back memories of his childhood in Saturday at the Canal. Reading the poem reminds me of the Bryan Adams song: Summer of ’69.  I grew up by an industrial river rather than a canal but the memories are very similar. We had bridges for trains and bridges over the rail tracks. We would delight in standing on the footbridge near the station as the train went by underneath.

Saturday at the Canal

I was hoping to be happy by seventeen.
School was a sharp check mark in the roll book,
An obnoxious tuba playing at noon because our team
Was going to win at night.
The teachers were
Too close to dying to understand.
The hallways
Stank of poor grades and unwashed hair.
Thus,
A friend and I sat watching the water on Saturday,
Neither of us talking much, just warming ourselves
By hurling large rocks at the dusty ground
And feeling awful because San Francisco was a postcard
On a bedroom wall.
We wanted to go there, 
Hitchhike under the last migrating birds
And be with people who knew more than three chords
On a guitar.
We didn’t drink or smoke,
But our hair was shoulder length, wild when
The wind picked up and the shadows of
This loneliness gripped loose dirt.
By bus or car,
By the sway of train over a long bridge,
We wanted to get out.
The years froze
As we sat on the bank.
Our eyes followed the water,
White-tipped but dark underneath, racing out of town.

Gary Soto, 1952 – 

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[Canal lock gates at Marsden, Yorkshire – picture from Author’s collection]

My own piece came about on a train journey into Manchester. The rail line crosses a few bridges on its way into the city. A modern one over the motorway and more ancient ones as you approach the town centre. There is a distinctive look to Victorian ironwork, the rivets, the ornamentation, even on industrial constructions. The years of thick paint peel in places to show the colours beneath, rust streaks run down from bolts. So much new building is taking place across the city centre, it makes a stark contrast with these old structures. The old is comforting somehow, as if somethings don’t change even in the middle of modernisation.

Middle Bridge

Layers of flaking, rusty, worn out iron.
Peeling apart, like puff pastry on a vanilla slice.
Not so tasty, no icing, no custard.
Grey paint, huge rivets, decaying,
ageing ungracefully, groaning and muttering.

The old train fits, clickerty-clacking across.
Thumping and grinding, screeching and binding
on the rails, across the bridge,
of forgotten old iron losing its paint.
Above a byroad, leading nowhere, with potholes.

I sing in my head, ‘The morning Sun,
when it’s on your rails, really shows your age.’
Any old iron, any old iron, 
chunky, clunky, peeling, yielding, old iron.
Staying the other side of the tracks,
from the blinding glass and concrete
of a shiny new city, 
hiding its ageing relatives.

G Proctor

With apologies for not including a read version of my poem in the last entry. Here’s ‘Middle Bridge’ spoken by me!

 

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[Bridges leading into Manchester Victoria Station – from: https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/ ]

We’ll finish with a poem by A E Houseman extolling the Thames valley. The poem follows the river from English countryside to capital city to wide estuary. He mentions the many bridges over the river. A lot more now than in the days of his writing this. Enjoy the journey as you drift down the lazy water. 

In Valleys of Springs and Rivers

“Clunton and Clunbury,
Clungunford and Clun,
Are the quietest places
Under the sun.”

In valleys of springs and rivers,
By Ony and Teme and Clun,
The country for easy livers,
The quietest under the sun,

We still had sorrows to lighten,
One could not be always glad,
And lads knew trouble at Knighton
When I was a Knighton lad.

By bridges that Thames runs under,
In London, the town built ill,
‘Tis sure small matter for wonder
If sorrow is with one still.

And if as a lad grows older
The troubles he bears are more,
He carries his griefs on a shoulder
That handselled them long before.

Where shall one halt to deliver
This luggage I’d lief set down?
Not Thames, not Teme is the river,
Nor London nor Knighton the town:

‘Tis a long way further than Knighton,
A quieter place than Clun,
Where doomsday may thunder and lighten
And little ’twill matter to one.

A E Houseman, 1859 – 1936

goring-on-thames-shutterstock_108970889.jpg

{Goring-on-Thames – picture from: http://www.rivercruiseline.co.uk/river/river-thames ]

 

Legends and myths

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[The Hippogryph by Magnus Norén – found at: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/e46OY ]

I love stories in general but old stories, full of magic and derring-do, are especially enthralling for me. I remember at Junior school, listening to tales from the Greek myths, Later in life, I was introduced to the delight that is Celtic myth and legend. The Viking sagas are also hugely enjoyable. This blog looks at some of the poetry based around legend, legendary deeds, people, beings, animals. There’s a rich and fertile landscape in myths for those who would tell stories, in prose or verse. We’ll start with a poem from the land of legend, Ireland, by one of its most distinguished and celebrated poets, William Butler Yeats. I love Yeats poetry and this early work has a more whimsical feel than his later writing:

The Stolen Child

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berries
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

W.B. Yeats, 1865 – 1935

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[The Fairy Raid – Sir Noel Paton – from https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/oct/17/the-fairy-raid-proof-that-fairies-exist-archive-1868 ]

My own piece this time comes with a story. I belong to a group centered around books. We got talking one day about poems with our names in. One friend made the comment that she didn’t know of any poem about her first name, Astrid. I take such things as a challenge. Astrid means ‘beloved of the gods’ so that gave me my theme. I was also at the time looking at the saga form of poetry after reading Tolkien’s ‘Sigurd and Gudrun’, Tolkien’s version of the Elder Edda saga (you  may know the story from Wagner’s Ring cycle). I decided she should have a Norse saga form poem and this is the result:

Astrid

Astrid, beloved of gods, wreathed in gold
Gifted to Valhalla, glad heart, strong soul
Astrid, set in the sky, sailing high
Believe in the World, sing your sigh

Why no tale, to tell your deeds? where the bard who leads?
Why no minstrel with song, who demands he cedes?
To her place in the hall, her shield on the wall
Let saga tell, her story shall call

To all who love beauty, love life, love song
To rest in love, to join, to belong,
To that creed, of music, of musing
On the beauty of Earth, of the memories we are losing

The lute shall sing, the horn shall bring
All to the hall, to ring
With the sound of her name, her fame
And the bravest, the strongest, the best they came

and found her, beloved of gods

Glen Proctor

blommeridunbrage.jpg

[Idun and Brage, Nils Blommér – found at: https://eclecticlight.co/2017/10/15/visions-of-asgard-paintings-of-norse-mythology-minor-gods-and-the-wild-hunt/ ]

To finish with, a poem about the old Norse gods from a poet new to me. I suspect I’ll be seeking more of her work. Very much in the heroic saga vein, It concerns the Frost Giant Ymir, defeated by Odin. I enjoyed this piece immensely. 

The Frost Myth

Out of Frost and Fire sprang Ymir,
Type of Chaos, long ago;
Mighty Odin slew the giant,
As the Norsemen know.

From the rushing blood the ocean
In swift thunderous torrents whirled;
From the ponderous carcass Odin
Carved the Mitgard world,–

Of his hair made waving forests,
Of his skull the vaulted sky,
Moulded from his bones the mountains
Which around us lie.

Lo, today, upon my window
Odin carves on every pane,
(To rebuke my skeptic smiling),
A new world again.

Mountain, forest, plain and river,
Flash upon my raptured sight;
Here is Summer’s perfect joyance,
And Spring’s dear delight.

Ferny cliff, cascade and grotto,
Glitter on the frosty pane–
Miracle the Norsemen chanted
Here is wrought again.

Who shall say the gods have left us,
Or that Odin’s power is lost,
When new Mitgards rise before us
Out of Fire and Frost?

Alice Williams Brotherton, 1848 – 1930

KnYgV6dv_090217154806lola.jpg

[Ymir – by Milivoj Ceran – found at: https://www.comicartfans.com/gallerypiece.asp?piece=1260997 ]