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.
I do not believe in confining children to things they understand.
They want, and they need, the thing they do not understand.
– Laura E. Richards
In a word, they wanted Progress, that hallowed, good, and gentle thing,
and they demanded it in a terrible fashion, with oaths on their lips
and weapons in their hands. They were barbarous, yes; but barbarians
in the cause of civilization … For our part, if we had to choose
between the barbarians of civilization and those civilized
upholders of barbarism, we would choose the former.
– Victor Hugo, from Les Miserables
Thirteen Poets with birthdays this week.
1802 – Victor Hugo born, French author, poet, and playwright. He was better known as a poet in France, and outside his homeland for his novels Les Misérables, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (French: Notre-Dame de Paris).
by Victor Hugo
The sun set this evening in the clouds.
Tomorrow, the storm shall come, and the evening, and the night;
Then the dawn will clear the dark mists;
Then the nights, then the days, the footprints of vanishing time!
All these days will pass; they will pass in crowds
Over the face of the seas, over the face of the mountains,
Over rivers of silver, over the rolling forests
Like a distant hymn for our beloved dead.
And the face of the waters, and the brow of the mountains,
Wrinkled but not aged, and the evergreen woods
Will return to them their youth: the river of the country
Forever takes the tide from the hills to the seas.
But I, lowering my head more with each day,
I go, and, cooled under the merry sun,
I will depart soon, amid the celebrations,
Unmissed by the vast and blinding world.
– translator not credited
1915 – Elisabeth Eybers born, South African poet, the first woman to publish a volume of poetry in Afrikaans in 1936. Noted for Die Ander Dors (The other thirst), and Kruis of Munt (Head or tail). She moved to Amsterdam in 1966, remaining there the rest of her life.
Poet as Housewife
by Elisabeth Eybers
Always a broom leaned against a wall,
meals never on time, if they come at all.
Days without dates through which she moves
empty and stubborn, slightly confused.
Ironing hung dejectedly over a chair,
gestures that come from who-knows-where.
Old letters unanswered, piled together,
papers and pills stuffed deep in a drawer.
Thankful to be part of your heart’s great whole
yet devoted to the limits of her own small skull.
O orderly biped, take heed,
leave her alone – let her read.
– translated from Afrikaans by Jacquelyn Pope
“Poet as Housewife” was published in the July/August 2009 issue of Poetry magazine
1807 – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow born in Portland before it was transferred from Massachusetts to Maine; American poet of the fireside school. After graduating from Bowdoin College, he traveled extensively in Europe, before becoming a professor of modern languages at Bowdoin. In 1836, he took up the Smith Professorship of Modern Languages at Harvard College. He published his first book of poetry, Voices of the Night, which contained both his poems and his translations of other poets, in 1839. His first public support of the abolition movement, Poems on Slavery, was published in 1842. During the American Civil War, Longfellow’s son was injured, and Longfellow wrote the poem “Christmas Bells” which became the basis for the carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” He died at age 75 in 1882. He is best know today for “Paul Revere’s Ride” and “The Song of Hiawatha.”
The Rainy Day
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
1850 – Laura Howe Richards born in Boston; prolific American author, poet, and biographer. She wrote over 90 books, including many for children. Her mother was Julia Ward Howe, and her father founded the Massachusetts School for the Blind. In 1917, Laura Howe Richards, with her sister Maud Howe Elliott, and assisted by their sister Florence Howe Hall, won the first Pulitzer Prize for Biography for their book Julia Ward Howe, 1819-1910. Laure Howe Richards died at age 92 in 1943. In 1959, her children’s book Tirra Lirra posthumously won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award.
The Owl, The Eel And The Warming-Pan
by Laura Howe Richards
The owl and the eel and the warming-pan,
They went to call on the soap-fat man.
The soap-fat man he was not within:
He’d gone for a ride on his rolling-pin.
So they all came back by the way of the town,
And turned the meeting-house upside down.
1912 – Lawrence Durrell was born in Jalandhar, Punjab, British India, English novelist and poet. He was sent to England at age 11 for his schooling, but he was a disinterested student, and failed his university entrance exams. After his father’s death in 1928, the rest of his family returned to England. He published his first poetry collection, Quaint Fragments, in 1931, at age 19. In 1935, the family moved to the Greek island of Corfu, where they could live more economically and escape the English winters. During WWII, Durrell served as a press attaché to the British embassies, first in Cairo and then Alexandria, which would inspire his best-known work, the four novels which make up The Alexandrian Quartet. In 1947, Durrell was sent by the British Council Institute to Córdoba, Argentinan to give lectures on cultural topics. Next, they posted Durrell to Belgrade, Yugoslavia (1946-1952). He then moved to Cyprus, but later settled in a small village in the Languedoc region in France. In 1966, Durrell and many other former and present British residents became classified as non-patrial, as a result of an amendment to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, a law was covertly intended to reduce migration from India, Pakistan, and the West Indies. Durrell was refused citizenship because he had not known he needed to “register as a British citizen in 1962 under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962.” Sir Patrick Reilly, the ambassador in Paris, was so incensed that he wrote to his Foreign Office superiors: “’I venture to suggest it might be wise to ensure that ministers, both in the Foreign Office and the Home Office, are aware that one of our greatest living writers in the English language is being debarred from the citizenship of the United Kingdom to which he is entitled.” In 1990, Durrell at age 78 died in France of a stroke, after suffering for many years from emphysema.
Durrell’s third wife died of cancer in 1967.
This Unimportant Morning
by Lawrence Durrell
This unimportant morning
Something goes singing where
The capes turn over on their sides
And the warm Adriatic rides
Her blue and sun washing
At the edge of the world and its brilliant cliffs.
Day rings in the higher airs
Pure with cicadas, and slowing
Like a pulse to smoke from farms,
Extinguished in the exhausted earth,
Unclenching like a fist and going.
Trees fume, cool, pour – and overflowing
Unstretch the feathers of birds and shake
Carpets from windows, brush with dew
The up-and-doing: and young lovers now
Their little resurrections make.
And now lightly to kiss all whom sleep
Stitched up – and wake, my darling, wake.
The impatient Boatman has been waiting
Under the house, his long oars folded up
Like wings in waiting on the darkling lake.
“This Unimportant Morning” from Collected Poems:1931-1974, © 1980 by Lawrence Durrell – E.P. Dutton and Company
1783 – Gabriele Rossetti born, Italian poet, constitutionalist, and scholar, founder of the secret revolutionary society Carbonari (1800-1831). He was born in the Kingdom of Naples. After Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies revoked the constitution in 1821, Rossetti was forced into exile in Malta for three year, until a British admiral of the Royal Navy sent Rossetti to London in 1824. He held the post of Professor of Italian at King’s College London from 1831, as well as teaching Italian at King’s College School, until failing eyesight led to his retirement in 1847. His published works include literary criticism, Romantic poetry, and his Autobiography. He died at age 71 in 1854.
Life in Italy
by Gabriele Rossetti
I know my fame will have but scanty flight,
Readers to whom I speak of Italy.
Yet, if in any of you there rose a wish
To know me who I am, I’ll meet it here.
Ovid’s own native soil is mine as well:
He spoke about himself, and so will I.
In verses Ovid wrote, but I in prose—
Prose of eleven syllables with rhymes;
But, be they verses, I shall not contest.
And, without more preamble, hear me now.
Along the beach of the Frentani lies
On teeming hills, the Adriatic near,
A small municipality of Rome—
Histonium once and Vasto now ’tis called.
There, with no waft of Fortune, I received
A humble cradle from a worthy pair.
– translator not credited
1909 – Stephen Spender born in Kensington, London; English poet, novelist, essayist, and critic, known for his themes of social injustice and the class struggle. He taught in both British and American universities. Though a British citizen, he served as Consultant in Poetry to the U.S. Library of Congress (1965-1966). He died at age 86 in London.
by Stephen Spender
My parents kept me from children who were rough
Who threw words like stones and wore torn clothes
Their thighs showed through rags they ran in the street
And climbed cliffs and stripped by the country streams.
I feared more than tigers their muscles like iron
Their jerking hands and their knees tight on my arms
I feared the salt coarse pointing of those boys
Who copied my lisp behind me on the road.
They were lithe they sprang out behind hedges
Like dogs to bark at my world. They threw mud
While I looked the other way, pretending to smile.
I longed to forgive them but they never smiled.
“My Parents” from New Collected Poems, © 2004 by the Estate of Stephen Spender –
Faber and Faber, Ltd.
1692 – John Byrom of Manchester born, English poet, hymnist, and inventor of an early form of shorthand. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, and became a fellow there in 1714. Byrom was a member of the Royal Society when Isaac Newton was president. He is best known for the lyrics of the Anglican hymn “Christians, awake, salute the happy morn.”
On Clergymen Preaching Politics
by John Byrom
Indeed, Sir Peter, I could wish, I own,
That parsons would let politics alone;
Plead, if they will, the customary plea,
For such like talk, when o’er the dish of tea:
But when they tease us with it from the pulpit,
I own, Sir Peter, that I cannot help it.
If on their rules a justice should intrench,
And preach, suppose a sermon, from the bench,
Would you not think your brother magistrate
Was a little touched in his hinder pate?
Now which is worse, Sir Peter, on the total
The lay vagary, or the sacredotal?
In ancient times, when preachers preached indeed
Their sermons, ere the learned learnt to read,
Another spirit, and another life,
Shut the church doors against all party strife:
Since then, how often heard, from sacred rostrums,
The lifeless din of Whig and Tory nostrums!
‘Tis wrong, Sir Peter, I insist upon’t;
To common sense ’tis plainly an affront:
The parson leaves the Christian in a lurch,
Whene’er he brings his politics to church;
His cant, on either side, if he calls preaching,
The man’s wrong-headed, and his brains want bleaching.
Recall the time from conquering William’s reign,
And guess the fruits of such a preaching vein:
How oft its nonsense must have veered about,
Just as the politics were in, or out:
The pulput governed by no gospel data,
But new success still mending old errata.
Were I a king (God bless me) I should hate
My chaplains meddling with affairs of state;
Nor would my subjects, I should think, be fond,
Whenever theirs the Bible went beyond.
How well, methinks, we both should live together,
If these good folks would keep within their tether!
1893 – Mercedes de Acosta born, American author, poet, and playwright; she was admired for her decorative taste and elegance, and had several affaires with well-known performers from Broadway and Hollywood, including Alla Nazimova, Isadora Duncan, Eva Le Gallienne, Marlene Dietrich, and Greta Garbo. Unfortunately, this caused her to be taken less seriously as a writer. She was a tireless advocate for women’s rights, studied Hindu mysticism for several years, became a vegetarian, and refused to wear fur coats or any fur on her clothing.
by Mercedes de Acosta
Through the window-pane I see your face,
Its outline a little vague
In the dimness of the shadow.
But the whiteness of your skin
Is like a clean ship’s sail,
Standing out in the darkness of a night.
And your eyes, I see them like two golden bowls,
With the rays of a thousand moonbeams sweeping over them.
As I pass out into the blackness,
I wonder if I have ever really known you—
Or if you exist at all,
And are not but a twisted, fevered, silver creation of my brain.
And the unreality of you comes over me,
Like a mist upon a lonely sea.
“Unreality” from Imposeida (Imposed) by Mercedes de Acosta – La Mirada, 2016 edition
1921 – Richard Wilbur born in New York City; American poet, lyricist, and translator, mainly of 17th century French plays. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry twice: in 1957 for Things of This World, which also won the National Book Award, and in 1989 for New and Collected Poems. He was the second U.S. Poet Laureate (after the title change from Consultant in Poetry) appointed by the Librarian of Congress for 1987-1988. He wrote the lyrics for some of the songs in the Leonard Bernstein musical Candide, including “Glitter and Be Gay.” In 1994, he received the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton. He died at age 96 in 2017.
“Because he swings so neatly through the trees”
by Richard Wilbur
Because he swings so neatly through the trees,
An ape feels natural in the word trapeze.
“Because he swings so neatly through the trees” from The Pig in the Spigot, © 2000 by Richard Wilbur – Voyager Books
1904 – Dr. Seuss born as Theodor Seuss Geisel in Springfield, Massachusetts; American Children’s author and cartoonist who published over 60 books which have sold over 600 million copies, and been translated into over 20 languages. After college, he worked as a magazine illustrator and cartoonist, as an illustrator for advertising campaigns, and as a political cartoonist. He published his first children’s book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street in 1937. During WWII, he worked in the animation and film department of the United States Army. After the war, he returned to writing children’s books. He won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958 for Horton Hatches the Egg and again in 1961 for And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. He won a special Pulitzer Prize in 1984 citing his “contribution over nearly half a century to the education and enjoyment of America’s children and their parents.” Geisel died of cancer in 1991 at age 87. In 1996, the National Education Association (NEA) chose the nearest weekday to the birthday of Dr. Seuss for its annual Read Across America Day.
Horton Hatches the Egg
by Dr. Seuss
I meant what I said
And I said what I meant….
An elephant’s faithful
One hundred per cent!
And it should be,
it should be, it SHOULD be
Because Horton was faithful!
He sat and he sat!
“My goodness! My gracious!”
they shouted. “MY WORD!
It’s something brand new!
IT’S AN ELEPHANT-BIRD!!”
“Horton Hatches the Egg” from Horton Hears a Who!, © 1954 by Dr. Seuss Enterprises L.P. – Random House Children’s Books
1652 – Thomas Otway born near Midhurst Sussex, England; English Restoration period dramatist and poet; best known for his plays Venice Preserv’d and The Orphan, or the Unhappy Marriage. In 1678, he obtained a commission in an English regiment serving in the Netherlands, but the troop was disbanded in 1679, and the men were left to find their way home as best they could. They were also with depreciated paper, and Otway arrived in London late in the year, and suffered in dire poverty until his death at age 33 in 1685.
by Thomas Otway
I did but look and love awhile,
’Twas but for one half-hour;
Then to resist I had no will,
And now I have no power.
To sigh and wish is all my ease;
Sighs which do heat impart
Enough to melt the coldest ice,
Yet cannot warm your heart.
O would your pity give my heart
One corner of your breast,
’Twould learn of yours the winning art,
And quickly steal the rest.
1878 – Edward Thomas born, English writer and poet. He started writing poetry at age 36, but he had been a nature and travel writer, as well as a critic and biographer since 1899, after he had married and left college without a degree. Thomas enlisted in the Artists Rifles in July 1915, despite being a mature married man who could have avoided enlisting. Thomas was promoted to corporal, and in November 1916 was commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery as a second lieutenant. He was killed in action soon after he arrived in France at Arras on Easter Monday, in April 1917. Thomas is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Agny in France. In 1985, Thomas was among 16 Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner. The inscription, written by fellow poet Wilfred Owen, reads: “My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.”
by Edward Thomas
This ploughman dead in battle slept out of doors
Many a frosty night, and merrily
Answered staid drinkers, good bedmen, and all bores:
‘At Mrs Greenland’s Hawthorn Bush,’ said he,
‘I slept.’ None knew which bush. Above the town,
Beyond ‘The Drover’, a hundred spot the down
In Wiltshire. And where now at last he sleeps
More sound in France—that, too, he secret keeps.
“A Private” from Edward Thomas: The Annotated Collected Poems, edited by Edna Longley – Bloodaxe Books, 2008 edition