Poem of the Day:


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Pravara and Varudhini


Pravara walked on, and blown on the breeze,
He smelled the strong bouquet of musk, of camphor, and betel;
By the fragrance led, he held on
And soon before him saw in a blaze
Of beauty, a Gandharva girl, as bright as lightning.
Her eyes were many-petaled nymphaea, and she
Had hair as black and glossy as bumblebees;
Like the full moon, her face, and her twin breasts
Were matched well like a pair of Chakravaka birds;
Her navel was deep-set and of flower-loveliness,
In the full bloom of youth, and fair beyond all words.


She was relaxed on seat of marble
Under a mango tree of thick foilage;
Red skirt peeped through white folds of
White muslin sari, and her hips were large and round.
The skirt's red tinged the marble a soft red.
She played the veena pressed against her breasts;
Moved with lightning motions, tapering fingers
up and down strings that spoke heavenly music;
With half-shut eyes, with concentrated passion,
With Woman's passion, locked in urgent man's embrace, she sang.


She played with wonderful skill, and as she played
Her tinkling wristlets kept time, and notes came fast,
Shimmered numerous as sunlit ripples.
Then she heard footsteps, and raising up her eyes,
She saw coming, the lover of her dreams;
A lover outshining Nala-Kubara in manly beauty.
Her heart beat fast, her eyes opened like lotus to morning sun,
In a cluster of enameled petals, and O her so round breasts
Swelled forth prickling the skin's surface,
And her whole being kindled, longing for love's embraces.


She saw him; she rose and hurried
With rustling footsteps, and her anklets tinkled,
Her hair cascaded down, her breasts quivered, and hips swayed with great grace;
She sought the vantage of a tall and slender, smooth
Arecanut palm in flower, and by its trunk
Stood all aflutter, and poured forth her eyes' light
Into that river of white made by the God of Earth's approach.


from Manucharitram by Allasani Peddana (16th c.)
translated from the Teluga by Tambimuttu and R. Appalaswany
from the collection: India Love Poems 1954
illustrated with wood engravings by Jeff Hill



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Well... if you look at Indian art you can see a definite admiration of voluptuous breasts and hips. 😄



Quite different from the Japanese obsession with giant penises:


The male figures in many works of Indian sculpture are rendered in a manner no less sensuous. I wonder about how they are portrayed in Indian poetry?





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So, Indian men like women super stacked.

And Japanese men show themselves as super hung.

Which is more wishful thinking?
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ~ Maya Angelou

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.


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Alas for Ms Angelou, while it's a fine metaphor (if somewhat lacking in subtlety), in the real world caged birds sing the same song as free ones.


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Ode on a Grecian Urn- John Keats


Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?


Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!


Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.


Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.


O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."


That last stanza reiterates the common theme put forth by the ancient Greeks:

Ho bíos brakhús,
hē dè tékhnē makrḗ...

and translated by the Romans into Latin:

Vīta brevis,
ars longa...

or Life is short and Art is long.

Keats poem also points the way toward art pour l'art and ultimately Modernism in that final couplet:

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

These famous lines have long been employed as my signature.
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? (William Shakespeare)

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,

Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,

When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.



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Gretchen am Spinnrade: Johann Goethe


- N V Het Tooneel

Meine Ruh' ist hin,
Mein Herz ist schwer;
Ich finde sie nimmer
Und nimmermehr.

Wo ich ihn nicht hab'
Ist mir das Grab,
Die ganze Welt
Ist mir vergällt.


-Eugene Delacroix

Mein armer Kopf
Ist mir verrückt,
Mein armer Sinn
Ist mir zerstückt.

Meine Ruh' ist hin,
Mein Herz ist schwer;
Ich finde sie nimmer
Und nimmermehr.


- Scottish-American soprano Mary Garden (1874-1967) portrayed Goethe's character Gretchen in Charles Gounod's opera Faust.

Nach ihm nur schau' ich
Zum Fenster hinaus,
Nach ihm nur geh' ich
Aus dem Haus.

Sein hoher Gang,
Sein' edle Gestalt,
Seines Mundes Lächeln,
Seiner Augen Gewalt,

Und seiner Rede
Sein Händedruck,
Und ach sein Kuß!


-Ary Scheffer

Meine Ruh' ist hin,
Mein Herz ist schwer,
Ich finde sie nimmer
Und nimmermehr.

Mein Busen drängt
Sich nach ihm hin.
Ach dürft ich fassen
Und halten ihn!

Und küssen ihn
So wie ich wollt',
An seinen Küssen
Vergehen sollt'!



Gretchen at the Spinningwheel:

My peace is gone,
my heart is sore,
I’ll find it never,

Where he is not,
my world is all
a silent grave,
and turned to gall.


-Frank Cadogan Cowper

And my poor head
is torn apart
by thoughts of him
who has my heart.

My peace is gone,
my heart is sore,
I’ll find it never,


-Eugene Delacroix

I watch at the window
for him alone:
and only for him
I leave my home.

My one and only,
my North my South–
his step, his bearing,
his eyes, his mouth,


-Ary Scheffer

the sound of his voice,
A stream of bliss,
the touch of his hand,
and – ah! – his kiss!

My peace is gone,
my heart is sore,
I’ll find it never,


-Ary Scheffer

My poor heart races,
To feel him near:
ah! Just to clasp him
and hold him here.

And kiss and kiss
again, till I
under his kisses,
sink and die.


Gretchen am Spinnrade is a well-known ballad from Johann Goethe's masterpiece, Faust. The Faust legend has inspired numerous brilliant works of art beyond Goethe's play: Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, Mikhail Bulgakov's Master and Margarita, Thoman Mann's Doctor Faustus, Stephen Vincent Benét's The Devil and Daniel Webster, Mephisto by Klaus Mann and further works of literature by Paul Valéry, Václav Havel, David Mamet, Ivan Turgenev, Washington Irving, Oscar Wilde, John Banville, Fernando Pessoa, etc..., films including F.W. Murnau's Faust, István Szabó's Mephisto and musical works by Arrigo Boito, Ferruccio Busoni, Charles Gounod, Hector, Berlioz, Richard Wagner, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Tchaikovsky, etc... to say nothing of a vast array of works of visual art including the ones shown above.


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Invictus- William Ernest Henley

A 12-year-old boy John Lewis befriended two years ago read the late congressman's favorite poem "Invictus" at his service.
"John Lewis was my hero, my friend. Let’s honor him by getting in good trouble,” Tybre Faw said.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.




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I know, I know, I'm impossibly irreverent, but the Keats reminds me of Hermione Gingold in The Music Man.

"One Grecian urn...
"Two Grecian urns..."


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Ode on Melancholy: John Keats

No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss'd
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow's mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.


But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.


She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.



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Johann Goethe- Erlkönig


Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind;
Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm,
Er faßt ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm.

Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht? –
Siehst, Vater, du den Erlkönig nicht?
Den Erlenkönig mit Kron' und Schweif? –
Mein Sohn, es ist ein Nebelstreif.

"Du liebes Kind, komm, geh mit mir!
Gar schöne Spiele spiel' ich mit dir;
Manch' bunte Blumen sind an dem Strand,
Meine Mutter hat manch gülden Gewand." –


Mein Vater, mein Vater, und hörest du nicht,
Was Erlenkönig mir leise verspricht? –
Sei ruhig, bleibe ruhig, mein Kind;
In dürren Blättern säuselt der Wind. –

"Willst, feiner Knabe, du mit mir gehn?
Meine Töchter sollen dich warten schön;
Meine Töchter führen den nächtlichen Reihn,
Und wiegen und tanzen und singen dich ein." –

Mein Vater, mein Vater, und siehst du nicht dort
Erlkönigs Töchter am düstern Ort? –
Mein Sohn, mein Sohn, ich seh' es genau:
Es scheinen die alten Weiden so grau. –


"Ich liebe dich, mich reizt deine schöne Gestalt;
Und bist du nicht willig, so brauch' ich Gewalt." –
Mein Vater, mein Vater, jetzt faßt er mich an!
Erlkönig hat mir ein Leids getan! –

Dem Vater grauset's; er reitet geschwind,
Er hält in Armen das ächzende Kind,
Erreicht den Hof mit Mühe und Not;
In seinen Armen das Kind war tot.


The Erlking

Who rides so late through the night and wind?
It is the father with his child.
He has the boy in his arms;
he holds him safely, he keeps him warm.

‘My son, why do you hide your face in fear?’
‘Father, can you not see the Erlking?
The Erlking with his crown and tail?’
‘My son, it is a streak of mist.’

‘Sweet child, come with me.
I’ll play wonderful games with you.
Many a pretty flower grows on the shore;
my mother has many a golden robe.’


‘Father, father, do you not hear
what the Erlking softly promises me?’
‘Calm, be calm, my child:
the wind is rustling in the withered leaves.’

‘Won’t you come with me, my fine lad?
My daughters shall wait upon you;
my daughters lead the nightly dance,
and will rock you, and dance, and sing you to sleep.’

‘Father, father, can you not see
Erlking’s daughters there in the darkness?’
‘My son, my son, I can see clearly:
it is the old grey willows gleaming.’


‘I love you, your fair form allures me,
and if you don’t come willingly, I’ll use force.’
‘Father, father, now he’s seizing me!
The Erlking has hurt me!’

The father shudders, he rides swiftly,
he holds the moaning child in his arms;
with one last effort he reaches home;
the child lay dead in his arms.

-Translation by Richard Wigmore


The greatest contribution by the Austro-Germans is undoubtedly music. I have read several literary critics argue that the greatest German contribution to Romantic poetry (with the possible exception of Goethe) is the Romantic lieder which combines the highest level of music with poetry. Schubert stands head and shoulders above all when it comes to this musical genre... although there are any number of other composers who were quite brilliant when it came to the lieder: Schumann, Brahms, Wolff, Beethoven, Richard Strauss, Mahler, Wagner, etc... Schubert's Erkoning is one of the most famous and beloved of lieder:

Schubert: Erlkonig

Schubert: Erlkonig Orchestral Version


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Playboy- Richard Wilbur


High on his stockroom ladder like a dunce
The stock-boy sits, and studies like a sage
The subject matter of one glossy page,
As lost in curves as Archimedes once.

Sometimes, without a glance, he feeds himself.
The left hand, like a mother-bird in flight
Brings him a sandwich for a sidelong bite,
And then returns it to a dusty shelf.


What so engrosses him? The wild décor
Of this pink-papered alcove into which
A naked girl has stumbled, with its rich
Welter of pelts and pillows on the floor,

Amidst which, kneeling in a supple pose,
She lifts a goblet in her farther hand,
As if about to toast a flower-stand
Above which hovers an exploding rose


Fired from a long-necked crystal vase that rests
Upon a tasseled and vermilion cloth
One taste of which would shrivel up a moth?
Or is he pondering her perfect breasts?

Nothing escapes him of her body’s grace
Or of her floodlit skin, so sleek and warm
And yet so strangely uniform,
But what now grips his fancy is her face,


And how the cunning picture holds her still
At just that smiling instant when her soul,
Grown sweetly faint, and swept beyond control
Consents to his inexorable will.


Richard Wilbur was a brilliant formalist. Few post-WWII poets had his mastery with poetic forms, rhyme, consonance, alliteration, etc...
These skill would serve him well as a translator or older French poetry. His versions of Molière, Racine, and Cornielle are unsurpassed. Wilbur's own poetry often played these formal elements against the most mundane subjects. In Piazza di Spagna, Early Morning (which I posted earlier) the theme, in spite of the "exotic" title, is merely his response to a girl who spins about while walking down a flight of stairs. In Playboy Wilbur explores the mundane theme of a stockboy perusing a Playboy magazine. I am especially struck with how much Wilbur invests in what might be deemed the "background": "pink papered"; "pelts and pillows"; "pondering perfect" and "sweetly faint and swept". Such repetitions... as well as the use of rhyme... are among the poetic elements akin to the use of a repetition of forms, shapes, colors, etc... by the visual artist.


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The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

-Christopher Marlowe

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove,
That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the Rocks,
Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow Rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing Madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of Roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of Myrtle;


A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty Lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and Ivy buds,
With Coral clasps and Amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.

The Shepherds’ Swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me, and be my love.

Calvert.The Sheep of his Pasture.jpg

The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd

-Sir Walter Raleigh

If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every Shepherd’s tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move,
To live with thee, and be thy love.

Time drives the flocks from field to fold,
When Rivers rage and Rocks grow cold,
And Philomel becometh dumb,
The rest complains of cares to come.

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields,
To wayward winter reckoning yields,
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy’s spring, but sorrow’s fall.


Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of Roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten:
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and Ivy buds,
The Coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

But could youth last, and love still breed,
Had joys no date, nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee, and be thy love.