William Butler Yeats – Sailing To Byzantium

A poem that caught my curiosity back in school, and I just couldn’t figure it out for ages, but a great piece nonetheless:

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

By W. B. Yeats

Patrick Kavanagh – Memory Of My Father

A beautiful piece from my school days:

Every old man I see
Reminds me of my father
When he had fallen in love with death
One time when sheaves were gathered.
That man I saw in Gardner Street
Stumbled on the kerb was one,
He stared at me half-eyed,
I might have been his son.
And I remember the musician
Faltering over his fiddle
In Bayswater, London,
He too set me the riddle.
Every old man I see
In October-coloured weather
Seems to say to me:
“I was once your father.”

By Patrick Kavanagh

William Wordsworth – Daffodils

One of my first lessons in poetry and all time favorites:

I wander’d lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

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

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

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils.

By William Wordsworth.

Max Ehrmann – Desiderata

Thoughts on how to live your life to the fullest and best.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

By Max Ehrmann (circa. 1927)

Madhu Chamarty – My Milieu

Vacillations of the summer wind,
Distant tune of a French harmonica playing on the radio,
Ambient noises from a slowly retiring city,
This my milieu as I lay in bed

Then it began, the sweet nostalgia of my lifespan (so far!)
echoes of distant memories,
of childhood playgrounds and rustic townhouses,
of crowded schoolyards, Angrezi cars and late night bazaars (well said!),
This my milieu as I lay in bed

Of friends made and relatives lost,
places seen and stages past,
Many a sight rushing through the head,
from Hyderabad to Dublin’s Brazen Head,
This my milieu as I lay in bed

Then appeared an old lady,
with her dog and her book, on the balcony next door,
With hands as frail as the window sill, and a gaze as thick as the midsummer haze,
I could almost feel her breath, heavy with wisdom, age and memories stead,
This my milieu as I lay in bed

My mind continued its race through the past,
drawing up a portrait so intricate yet so fast,
A mental theatre of life: the night’s natural tune, images with skin and blood,
(Oh, The Bard is remembered!)
This my milieu as I lay in bed

I decided to rest, amidst the sounds of wind chimes and Orioles,
The old lady gave one last look,
to turn in with her Whippet and her book,
Two different people, as apart as can be,
Brought together briefly, just for a time, or perhaps for eternity

What was her thought, I wondered, was it a conscious stream?
While there I was, swaying in my subconscious dream,
Juxtaposed we were, either at random or by fate’s intricate thread, (or His spread?)
I closed my eyes to fall asleep; my heart grew fonder of the moonlight up ahead,
This my milieu as I lay in bed.

By Madhu Chamarty.

Madhu Chamarty – The Uncommon

Interesting thoughts from an insightful friend.

Testing times presented to all,
some shy away, some may fall,

There are some, unlike the rest,
those that rise, rise above the best,

When asked how, and like who?
be uncommon, and they point to you.

By Madhu Chamarty.

Prasanna Ellanti – Elegy for a withered soul

Post from March 2009:

O’withered soul,
Darkness does shine for you,
Not a laugh or smile to light you, no melodies,
A smile, her candour means no more to me.

To stand the will to live, flee,
Into the darkness, to find comfort on a broken kinship,
But carry with thee the scar of those memories, deeply, and
With wretched wanting.

by Prasanna Ellanti.

Madhu Chamarty – Three Wise Men

Post from October 2008:

Here’s an ode to three wise men I know,
Each so decorated, with much to bestow
What brought them to me? Chance, perhaps fate?
Many a good quality, they encapsulate

First there was the quiet one, stoic & simple,
Imparting wisdom as a matter of principle,
Brevity, intellect, but seemingly aloof;
I used to wonder, why no thought, no debate,
Then it dawned on me:
In matters of the heart, his word was most accurate

Then the stern one, open and fun,
With many a fair friend and advice unexplained,
Tough to perceive, caring with some restraint,
Then it dawned on me:
What he says is seldom faint

Finally the buoyant one, a friend to everyone,
Pleasant, effervescent, but an open book to none,
Crossing stages, reinforcing learning (yes, quite)
Like brothers in arms marching through philosophical fields,
Then it dawned on me:
Emotional mines we unsealed, imbibing all that introspection yields

Thus I carry on, amidst winds of change,
On the shoulders of giants, with collective strength in range,
Calmer, wiser, aware and “on the way”;
We may part ways, each with a different sway
But in my memory these three wise men will remain always.

by Madhu Chamarty.

Pablo Neruda – I do not love you…

Post from October 2008:

Part of the series on poetry that inspires me.

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep. 

by Pablo Neruda.


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