TCS: Poets Forged in the Heat of August

Good Morning!

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Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers
on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum,
so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in
your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.

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“I just completed a long car trip on a Sunday
in August with two small children, which
believe me is enough to convince you that

Samuel Beckett was right about everything.”

― Lev Grossman

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August is like the Sunday of Summer – Kelly Dwyer


A profusion of poets this week – I found too many to include all of them!

So here are eight poems that I liked the best.

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August 15

Breathes There the Man

(from The Lay of the Last Minstrel)

 by Sir Walter Scott

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
“This is my own, my native land!”
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned,
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung.


“Breathes There the Man” from The Lay of the Last Minstrel by Sir Walter Scott – reproduction of the 1923 edition, republished in 2012 by Nabu Press

Sir Walter Scott born August 15, 1771, in Edinburgh, Scotland; Scottish historical novelist, poet, playwright, and historian. A childhood bout of polio in 1773 left Scott with a pronounced limp, a condition that would much affect his life and writing. To improve his lameness he was sent in 1773 to live in the rural Scottish Borders, at his paternal grandparents’ farm at Sandyknowe.  Here he was taught to read by his aunt Jenny Scott and learned from her the speech patterns and many of the tales and legends that later marked much of his work. He spent most of the next five years either a Sandyknowe or undergoing spa treatments in Bath, England. Scott is best known for his novels Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, and Waverly, and his narrative poems The Lady of the Lake, Marmion, and Lockinvar. As an advocate, judge, and legal administrator by profession, he combined writing and editing with daily work as Clerk of Session and Sheriff-Depute of Selkirkshire.  He was an active member in the Highland Society, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Scott died after a stroke at age 61 in 1832.

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Lord, Deliver, Thou Canst Save

(Prayer for the Slave)

by Eliza Lee Cabot Follen

Lord! deliver; Thou canst save; Save from evil
Hear, O hear the kneeling slave,
mighty God!
Break, O break th’oppressor’s rod.

May the captive’s pleading fill
All the earth and all the sky;
Every other voice be still,
While he pleads with God on high.

He whose ear is everywhere,
Who doth silent sorrow see,
Will regard the captive’s prayer,
Will from bondage set him free.

From the tyranny within,
Save thy children, Lord! we pray;
Chains of iron, chains of sin,
Cast, forever cast away.

Love to man, and love to God,
Are the weapons of our war;
These can break th’oppressor’s rod,
Burst the bonds that we abhor.


This poem is in the public domain.

Eliza Lee Cabot Follen born August 15, 1787, American writer, editor, poet, hymnist and abolitionist; she was a Unitarian known for her piety, and among her many works are two which she edited for the Sunday school classroom: the Christian Teacher’s Manual and a periodical called the Child’s Friend. She also wrote Anti-Slavery Hymns and Songs, and To Mothers in the Free States, as well as a collection of poems for children called The Lark and the Linnet

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A Last Appeal

by Edith Nesbit

KNOWING our needs, hardly knowing our powers,
Hear how we cry to you, brothers of ours! –
Brothers in nature, pulse, passions, and pains,
Our sins in you, and your blood in our veins.
First in your palace, or last in our den,
Basest or best, we are all of us men!
Justice eternal cries out in our name,
What is the least common manhood can claim?
‘Food that we make for you,
Money we earn:
Give us our share of them–
Give us our turn.’
Landowners, bankers, and merchants, we make
Out of our lives this new wealth that you take.
Have we earned only such pitiful dole
As just holds worn body to desolate soul?
When that soul is bewildered each day and perplext
With the problem of how to get bread for the next,
Is it better to end it, as some of us do,
Or to fight it out bravely, still calling to you–
‘Food that we make for you,
Money we earn:
Give us our share of them–
Give us our turn’?
Ever more passionate grows our demand–
Give us our share of our food and our land:
Give us our rights, make us equal and free–
Let us be all we are not, but might be.
Our sons would be honest, our daughters be pure,
If our wage were more certain, your vices less sure–
Oh, you who are forging the fetters we feel,
Hear our wild protest, our maddened appeal–
‘Food that we make for you,
Money we earn:
Give us our share of them–
Give us our turn.’
Hear us, and answer, while Time is your friend,
Lest we be answered by God in the end;
Lest, when the flame of His patience burns low,
We be the weapon He shapes for His blow–
Lest with His foot on your necks He shall stand,
And appeal that you spurned be new-born as command,
And thunder your doom, as you die by the rod
Of the vengeance of man through the justice of God.
‘Food that we make for you,
Money we earn:
Give us our share of them–
Give us our turn.’


This poem is in the public domain.

Edith Nesbit born August 15, 1858; prolific British novelist, short story writer, poet, essayist, and political activist. She published many children’s books under the name E. Nesbit, including The Bastable Family trilogy, The Railway Children, and The Enchanted Castle, but also wrote over a dozen novels for adults, such as Her Marriage Lines, The Red House, and The Lark. She was a co-founder of the Fabian Society in 1884. The society’s early members included George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Annie Besant, Ramsay MacDonald, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, and Emmeline Pankhurst. Nesbit died at age 66 in 1924.

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August 16

Another complaint of Lord Pierrot

by Jules Laforgue

The one who keeps me informed how a woman feels, 
I shall say to her first, with my least frigid air, 
“The sum of the angles of a triangle equals 
Two right angles, my dear.”

And if this cry escapes her: “God, how I love you!”
“God rewards his own.” Or sadly contemplative: 
“Keyboards have a heart. My theme is always of you.”

I: “All is relative.”

With blazing eyes, aware of being tedious: 
“Ah, you don’t love me! But so many others do!” 
I with an eye racing toward the Unconscious: 
“Well enough, thanks. And you?”
“Let’s see which can be more faithful.” “What’s the idea?”
“The one who loses wins.” Then another couplet: 
“Ah, you would be the first to grow tired, I swear . . .” 
“Go ahead. Place your bet.” 
Finally, still pretending that I don’t believe, 
    If one evening she should die, and not make a fuss, 
    I shall say, “How so? We had what it takes to live! 
    Then it was serious?” 

– translated by Louis Simpson


Autre complainte de Lord Pierrot

par Jules Laforgue

Celle qui doit me mettre au courant de la Femme! 
 Nous lui dirons d’abord, de mon air le moins froid: 
“La somme des angles d’un triangle, chère âme, 
“Est égale à deux droits.” 

Et si ce cri lui part: “Dieu de Dieu! que je t’aime!” 
—“Dieu reconnaîtra les siens.” Ou piquée au vif: 
—“Mes claviers ont du coeur, tu seras mon seul thème.” 
 Moi: “Tout est relatif.” 

De tous ses yeux, alors! se sentant trop banale: 
 “Ah! tu ne m’aimes pas; tant d’autres sont jaloux!” 
Et moi d’un oeil qui vers l’Inconscient s’emballe: 
“Merci, pas mal; et vous?” 

—“Jouons au plus fidèle!”—“A quoi bon, ô Nature!” 
“Autant à qui perd gagne!” Alors, autre couplet: 
—“Ah! tu te lasseras le premier, j’en suis sûre …” 
“Après vous, s’il vous plaît.” 

Enfin, si, par un soir, elle meurt dans mes livres, 
Douce; feignant de n’en pas croire encor mes yeux, 
J’aurai un: “Ah çà, mais, nous avions De Quoi vivre! 
“C’était donc sérieux?” 


“Autre complainte de Lord Pierrot” from Les Complaintes, by Jules Laforgue, reprinted by Nabu Press in 2012.

Jules Laforgue born August 16, 1860, in Uruguay; French Symbolist poet, noted for his lyrical irony; one of the early developers of vers libre. Hired as a reader to the Empress of Germany, he remained in Berlin for nearly six years before returning to settle in Paris. He died there of tuberculosis in 1887.

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The Waradgery Tribe

by Mary Gilmore

Harried we were, and spent,
broken and falling,
ere as the cranes we went,
crying and calling.

Summer shall see the bird
backward returning;
never shall there be heard
those, who went yearning.

Emptied of us the land;
ghostly our going;
fallen like spears the hand
dropped in the throwing.

We are the lost who went,
like the cranes, crying;
hunted, lonely and spent
broken and dying.


“The Waradgery Tribe” from The Collected Verse of Mary Gilmore, reprinted by University of Queensland Press, 2006 edition

Mary Gilmore born August 16, 1865, Australian writer, journalist, poet, labor movement activist, and crusader for the disadvantaged; inaugural editor of the women’s section of The Australian Worker (1908-1931), advocating for women’s suffrage, pensions for the elderly and invalids, and just treatment of the Aboriginal people. During this time she also wrote for The Bulletin and The Sydney Morning Herald. Her first volume of poetry was published in 1910, which was followed by 20 additional collections; her best known poem is “No Foe Shall Gather Our Harvest” a morale booster during WWII.  She was appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1937 for her contributions to literature. By the late 1940s, she was the doyenne of the Sydney literati, and in the 1950s and 60s became a well-known personality on radio and television. At 87, she began writing “Arrows,” a column for The Tribune, the Australian Communist Party’s newspaper (1952-1963), but never joined the party. When Dame Mary died at age 97, she was accorded a state funeral, one of the few writers to be so honored. Her likeness has been featured on the Australian ten-dollar note since 1993.

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The soldier, his wife and the bum

by Charles Bukowski

I was a bum in San Francisco but once managed
to go to a symphony concert along with the well-dressed people
and the music was good but something about the
audience was not
and something about the orchestra
and the conductor was
not,
although the building was fine and the
acoustics perfect
I preferred to listen to the music alone
on my radio
and afterwards I did go back to my room and I
turned on the radio but
then there was a pounding on the wall:
“SHUT THAT GOD-DAMNED THING OFF!”

there was a soldier in the next room
living with his wife
and he would soon be going over there to protect
me from Hitler so
I snapped the radio off and then heard his
wife say, “you shouldn’t have done that.”
and the soldier said, “FUCK THAT GUY!”
which I thought was a very nice thing for him
to tell his wife to do.
of course,
she never did.

anyhow, I never went to another live concert
and that night I listened to the radio very
quietly, my ear pressed to the
speaker.

war has its price and peace never lasts and
millions of young men everywhere would die
and as I listened to classical music I heard them making love, desperately
and
mournfully, through Shostakovich, Brahms,
Mozart, through crescendo and climax,
and through the shared
wall of our darkness.


“The soldier, his wife and the bum” © 1992 by Charles Bukowski,  from Essential Bukowski: Poems – published by Ecco Press in 2016

Charles Bukowski born August 16, 1920, as Heinrich Karl Bukowski, in what was then the Free State of Prussia in the Weimar Republic; German-American poet, novelist, short story writer, and columnist who lived most of his life in Los Angeles, California, dubbed “laureate of American lowlife” in TIME magazine. He died at age 73 in 1994.

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August 17

from Charlotte Forten’s 1853 journal

by Charlotte Forten Grimké

May those whose holy task it is,
To guide impulsive youth,
Fail not to cherish in their souls
A reverence for truth;
For teachings which the lips impart
Must have their source within the heart.


The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimké, published by Oxford University Press, 1988

Charlotte Forten Grimké born August 17, 1837, in Philadelphia; African American abolitionist, poet, essayist,  and educator.  Her poems and essays appeared in William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator and in Atlantic Monthly. In 1861, Union troops occupied parts of the coastal Carolinas, and she began teaching in a school for newly freed black Americans on the Sea Islands of South Carolina. She kept five journals between 1854-1864 and 1885-1892. A greatly edited version of her journals was published as The Journal of Charlotte Forten in 1953. The first full text of all the journals was finally published until 1988.

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Colour Grey

by Herta Müller

1.
I grow time, beans, the colour gray
And stitch the shadows of a dying day
They make a woman, rather a girl
Lost in the ocean like a grain of pearl
The swans of Coole fly over me
Will they rest for a while by me!
Maybe it’s my turn now.
Deep in the frost where my eyes shall never go
The leopard will print his paw
And with a sudden leap break free
All the chimes of poetry
Maybe it’s my turn now.
The rough beast was never born
Though we devised a cage for his morn
Maybe it’s my turn now.
I have a tale to tell I shall also ring the bell
When you start believing
When you start hearing
Maybe it’s my turn now.

2.
These days I don’t think of you
But after the soot covers me
I begin to wonder where those
Evenings have gone, those wanderings
In the spacious lawns of enchantment
That smacked of no design, though
We were bent on making a sense
The early birds get their worms
I lie in the tireless ticking of my old watch
Counting the bits of frozen blood,
Listening to the worms
That are in all of us
Then I begin to crawl towards the womb
That threw me off a long way back
And look for the dark, the black hole
To suck me up.

3.
I was nice to him
He was nice to me
Only
Our doors, our windows
Kept closed
Lest we smell each other.


– translated by Roger Woodhouse

“Colour Grey” from Herta Müller Poems Translated Into English by Roger Woodhouse (Scribd PDF)

Herta Müller born August 17, 1953 in Romania of Banat Swabian heritage, German-language novelist, poet-lyricist and essayist; won the 2009 Nobel Prize in literature; noted for depicting “the landscape of the dispossessed.” After publication in 1984 of her second book, Drückender Tango (Oppressive Tango), a collection of short stories, her work was banned in Romania, and she moved to Germany

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August 19

The Dog

by Ogden Nash

The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state that the dog is full of love.
I’ve also found, by actual test,
A wet dog is the lovingest.

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A Word to Husbands

by Ogden Nash

To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, shut up.


“The Dog” and “A Word to Husbands” from Collected Verse, © 1961 by Ogden Nash –
J. M. Dent and Sons

Ogden Nash born August 19, 1902, in Rye, New York, American humorous light verse poet who wrote well over 500 poems, one of the best- known and liked U.S. poets. His family moved frequently because of his father’s import-export business. He spent a year at Harvard University in 1920, but dropped out, then taught briefly, tried to sell bonds in New York City, and then became a writer of streetcar card ads. After that, he worked as an editor at Doubleday Publishing. Nash submitted some of his short rhymes to The New Yorker, and editor Harold Ross asked him for more, “They are about the most original stuff we have had lately.” Nash spent three months in 1931 in working on the editorial staff for The New Yorker, and married Frances Leonard. They moved to Baltimore in 1934, were they lived for the rest of their lives. Nash died at age 68 in 1971.

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Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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2 Responses to TCS: Poets Forged in the Heat of August

  1. Svengoolie Newmar says:

    Lovely collection of poems!

Comments are closed.