Month: November 2018

The Anxious Dead

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O guns, fall silent till the dead men hear
Above their heads the legions pressing on:
(These fought their fight in time of bitter fear,
And died not knowing how the day had gone.)

O flashing muzzles, pause, and let them see
The coming dawn that streaks the sky afar;
Then let your mighty chorus witness be
To them, and Caesar, that we still make war.

Tell them, O guns, that we have heard their call,
That we have sworn, and will not turn aside,
That we will onward till we win or fall,
That we will keep the faith for which they died.

Bid them be patient, and some day, anon,
They shall feel earth enwrapt in silence deep;
Shall greet, in wonderment, the quiet dawn,
And in content may turn them to their sleep.

 

John MccRae

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30th November – On This Day In History

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Born:

1872 John McCrae (poet – In Flanders Fields)

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Died:

2007 Evel Knievel (motorcycle stunt man)

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On This Day:

1487 German Beer Purity Law is pronounced, stating that beer may only be brewed from water, malt and hops

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Have a good Friday, 30th November

The Unconquered Dead

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“. . . defeated, with great loss.”

Not we the conquered! Not to us the blame
Of them that flee, of them that basely yield;
Nor ours the shout of victory, the fame
Of them that vanquish in a stricken field.

That day of battle in the dusty heat
We lay and heard the bullets swish and sing
Like scythes amid the over-ripened wheat,
And we the harvest of their garnering.

Some yielded, No, not we! Not we, we swear
By these our wounds; this trench upon the hill
Where all the shell-strewn earth is seamed and bare,
Was ours to keep; and lo! we have it still.

We might have yielded, even we, but death
Came for our helper; like a sudden flood
The crashing darkness fell; our painful breath
We drew with gasps amid the choking blood.

The roar fell faint and farther off, and soon
Sank to a foolish humming in our ears,
Like crickets in the long, hot afternoon
Among the wheat fields of the olden years.

Before our eyes a boundless wall of red
Shot through by sudden streaks of jagged pain!
Then a slow-gathering darkness overhead
And rest came on us like a quiet rain.

Not we the conquered! Not to us the shame,
Who hold our earthen ramparts, nor shall cease
To hold them ever; victors we, who came
In that fierce moment to our honoured peace.

 

– John McCrae

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29th November – On This Day In History

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Born:

1898 CS Lewis (author – Narnia series)

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Died:

1986 Cary Grant (actor)

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On This Day:

1962 Britain and France agree to jointly build Concorde

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Have a good Thursday, 29th November

A Dream

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Amid the mystic fields of Love
I wander’d, and beheld a grove.
Breathlessly still was part, and part
Was breathing with an easy heart;
And there below, in lamblike game,
Were virgins, all so much the same,
That each was all. A youth drew nigh,
And on them gazed with wandering eye,
And would have pass’d, but that a maid,
Clapping her hands above her, said,
‘My time is now!’ and laughing ran
After the dull and strange young man,
And bade him stop and look at her.
And so he call’d her lovelier
Than any else, only because
She only then before him was.
And, while they stood and gazed, a change
Was seen in both, diversely strange:
The youth was ever more and more
That good which he had been before;
But the glad maiden grew and grew
Such that the rest no longer knew
Their sister, who was now to sight
The young man’s self, yet opposite,
As the outer rainbow is the first,
But weaker, and the hues reversed.
And whereas, in the abandon’d grove,
The virgin round the Central Love
Had blindly circled in her play,
Now danced she round her partner’s way;
And, as the earth the moon’s, so he
Had the responsibility
Of her diviner motion. ‘Lo,’
He sang, and the heavens began to glow,
‘The pride of personality,
Seeking its highest, aspires to die,
And in unspeakably profound
Humiliation Love is crown’d!
And from his exaltation still
Into his ocean of good-will
He curiously casts the lead
To find strange depths of lowlihead.’

To one same tune, but higher, ‘Bold,’
The maiden sang, ‘is Love! For cold
On Earth are blushes, and for shame
Of such an ineffectual flame
As ill consumes the sacrifice!’

 

– Coventry Patmore

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28th November – On This Day In History

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Born:

1757 William Blake (poet)

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Died:

2010 Lesley Nielsen (actor & comedian)

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On This Day:

2012 The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey – premiers (in New Zealand)

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Have a good Wednesday, 28th November

The Yew – Berry

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I
I call this idle history the ‘Berry of the Yew;
Because there’s nothing sweeter than its husk of scarlet glue,
And nothing half so bitter as its black core bitten through.
I loved, saw hope, and said so; learn’d that Laura loved again:
Why speak of joy then suffer’d? My head throbs, and I would fain
Find words to lay the spectre starting now before my brain.
She loved me: all things told it; eye to eye, and palm to palm:
As the pause upon the ceasing of a thousand-voiced psalm
Was the mighty satisfaction and the full eternal calm.
On her face, when she was laughing, was the seriousness within;
Her sweetest smiles, (and sweeter did a lover never win,)
In passing, grew so absent that they made her fair cheek thin.
On her face, when she was speaking, thoughts unworded used to live;
So that when she whisper’d to me, ‘Better joy Earth cannot give,’
Her following silence added, ‘But Earth’s joy is fugitive.’
For there a nameless something, though suppress’d, still spread around;
The same was on her eyelids, if she look’d towards the ground;
In her laughing, singing, talking, still the same was in the sound;—
A sweet dissatisfaction, which at no time went away,
But shadow’d on her spirit, even at its brightest play,
That her mirth was like the sunshine in the closing of the day.

II
Let none ask joy the highest, save those who would have it end
There’s weight in earthly blessings; they are earthy, and they tend,
By predetermin’d impulse, at their highest, to descend.
I still for a happy season, in the present, saw the past,
Mistaking one for the other, feeling sure my hold was fast
On that of which the symbols vanish’d daily: but, at last,
As when we watch bright cloud-banks round about the low sun ranged,
We suddenly remember some rich glory gone or changed,
All at once I comprehended that her love was grown estranged.
From this time, spectral glimpses of a darker fear came on:
They came; but, since I scorn’d them, were no sooner come than gone.—
At times, some gap in sequence frees the spirit, and, anon,
We remember states of living ended ere we left the womb,
And see a vague aurora flashing to us from the tomb,
The dreamy light of new states, dash’d tremendously with gloom.
We tremble for an instant, and a single instant more
Brings absolute oblivion, and we pass on as before!
Ev’n so those dreadful glimpses came, and startled, and were o’er.

III
One morning, one bright morning, Wortley met me. He and I,
As we rode across the country, met a friend of his. His eye
Caught Wortley’s, who rode past him. ‘What,’ said he, ‘pass old friends by?
So I’ve heard your game is grounded! Why your life’s one long romance
After your last French fashion. But, ah! ha! should Herbert chance—’
‘Nay, Herbert’s here,’ said he, and introduced me, with a glance
Of easy smiles, ignoring this embarrassment; and then
This pass’d off, and soon after I went home, and took a pen,
And wrote the signs here written, with much more, and where, and when;
And, having read them over once or twice, sat down to think,
From time to time beneath them writing more, till, link by link,
The evidence against her was fulfill’d: I did not shrink,
But I read them all together, and I found it was no dream.
What I felt I can’t remember; an oblivion which the gleam
Of light which oft comes through it shews for blessedness extreme.
At last I moved, exclaiming, ‘I will not believe, until
‘I’ve spoken once with Laura.’ Thereon all my heart grew still
For doubt and faith are active, and decisions of the will.

IV
I found my Love. She started: I suppose that I was pale.
We talk’d; but words on both sides, seem’d to sicken, flag, and fail.
Then I gave her what I’d written, watching whether she would quail.
In and out flew sultry blushes: so, when red reflections rise
From conflagrations, filling the alarm’d heart with surmise,
They lighten now, now darken, up and down the gloomy skies.
She finish’d once; but fearing to look from it, read it o’er
Ten times at least. Poor Laura, had those readings been ten score,
That refuge from confusion had confused thee more and more!
I said, ‘You’re ill, sit Laura,’ and she sat down and was meek.
‘Ah tears! not lost to God then. But pray Laura, do not speak
I understand you better by the moisture on your cheek.’
She shook with sobs, in silence. I yet checking passion’s sway,
Said only, ‘Farewell Laura!’ then got up, and strode away;
For I felt that she would burst my heart asunder should I stay.
Oh, ghastly corpse of Love so slain! it makes the world its hearse;
Or, as the sun extinct and dead, after the doomsday curse,
It rolls, an unseen danger, through the darken’d universe.
I struggled to forget this; but, forgetfulness too sweet!
It startled with its sweetness, thus involv’d its own defeat;
And, every time this happen’d, aching memory would repeat
The shock of that discovery: so at length I learn’d by heart
And never, save when sleeping, suffer’d thenceforth to depart,
The feeling of my sorrow: and in time this sooth’d the smart.
Yet even now not seldom, in my leisure, in the thick
Of other thoughts, unchallenged, words and looks come crowding quick—
They do while I am writing, till the sunshine makes me sick.

 

– Coventry Patmore

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