About Roland's Ragbag

Long retired; Expatriate Tyke; Eclectic; Not-So-Grumpy Old Man.

G.K.Chesterton: ‘Wine And Water’

 (Poem No.47 of my favourite short poems)

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874 – 1936), was an English writer, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, theologian, biographer, and literary and art critic.  He was a large man, standing 6 feet 4 inches and weighing over 20 stone (130 kg).  His girth, perhaps in part due to his great fondness for wine,  occasioned a famous incident when he remarked to his friend George Bernard Shaw  “Look at you, anyone would think a famine had struck England.”  Shaw retorted, “To look at you, anyone would think you have caused it”.

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Wine And Water

Old Noah he had an ostrich farm and fowls on the largest scale,
He ate his egg with a ladle in a egg-cup big as a pail,
And the soup he took was Elephant Soup and fish he took was Whale,
But they all were small to the cellar he took when he set out to sail,
And Noah he often said to his wife when he sat down to dine,
“I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.”

The cataract of the cliff of heaven fell blinding off the brink
As if it would wash the stars away as suds go down a sink,
The seven heavens came roaring down for the throats of hell to drink,
And Noah he cocked his eye and said, “It looks like rain, I think,
The water has drowned the Matterhorn as deep as a Mendip mine,
But I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.”

But Noah he sinned, and we have sinned; on tipsy feet we trod,
Till a great big black teetotaller was sent to us for a rod,
And you can’t get wine at a P.S.A., or chapel, or Eisteddfod,
For the Curse of Water has come again because of the wrath of God,
And water is on the Bishop’s board and the Higher Thinker’s shrine,
But I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

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To reinforce Chesterton’s delight in the drinking of wine, I quote a verse from another of his poems on the same subject . . . 

“Feast on wine or fast on water,
And your honour shall stand sure …
If an angel out of heaven
Brings you other things to drink,
Thank him for his kind attentions,
Go and pour them down the sink.”

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SQUARE-BASHING

RAF Hednesford 1953

SQUARE-BASHING

Eight weeks I bashed that square,
Pounded that acre of ground.
Hurt and ached and bled,
The experience was profound.

“Serve your country’s need”
That is what they said,
“Don’t let the enemy win,
Suffer pain instead.

We need more cannon fodder,
Don’t let your country down,
So let’s see what you’re made of,
And get rid of that frown.”

And so I did my service,
My nation needed me.
Became a lowly sprog
By government decree.

Placed in a special POM flight
Given ‘housewife’, fork, and knife,
With such items in my kit-bag
I was number-stamped for life.

“Lay your kit out pronto
Neatly on your bed.
I want to see you bleeding”,
That’s what our corporal said.

Then out to the parade ground,
Twice daily we would drill
Until I ached all over,
Felt positively ill.

I pulled out all the stops,
To keep in step I tried,
But what I wished to do was
To run away and hide.

Route marching was no joke,
‘God Bless the Union Jack’.
I sweated and I faded
With full pack on my back.

Assault Courses were great fun,
Not for us, for our tormentors,
Braving tunnels, barbed wire and mud,
They crucified dissenters.

I cut the grass with scissors,
Painted pebbles white,
Ironed my boots with polish,
All this to help me fight.

I did my share of jankers,
Scrubbed latrines that stank,
Peeled countless grey potatoes,
Flushed out the septic tank.

Cleaned my rifle daily,
Bren guns I dismantled,
Was oft confined to barracks,
All leave and passes cancelled.

This was my National Service,
It taught me to obey.
At the time it was a penance,
It was the British way.

Perhaps it made us what we are,
My fellow sprogs and me.
Did we in our small way help stop
The start of World War Three?

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drill-corporal

A ‘SHOUT’ of Drill Corporals

GLOSSARY of Military Terms and Jargon

National Service:   National Service was peacetime conscription. All able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 30 were called up. They initially served for 18 months. But in 1950, during the Korean War (1950-53), this was increased to two years.  From 1949 until 1963 more than 2 million men were called up to the British Army, Royal Navy or Royal Air Force.

Square-bashing:  Marching drills and other military exercises practised on a parade ground.  At the outset of their 2-year service, all N.S. recruits were required to go through an 8 week course.

Housewife’:  The Housewife holdall/pouch contained all that a soldier would require to carry out any repairs to his clothing when necessary. Inside it would contain a thimble, two balls of grey darning wool (for socks), 50 yards of linen thread wound around card, needles, brass dish buttons (for Battledress) and plastic buttons for shirts.

POM – Potential Officer Material:  National Service recruits who had attained sufficient GCE level passes in leaving school examinations were all considered as POMs and placed in separate units from other recruits.

Sprog:  Military slang for new recruits or trainees.

Jankers:  In the British Armed Services, jankers is the term used for the official punishment or restriction of privileges for a minor breach of discipline.

Bren gun:  Light machine gun made by Britain in the 1930s and used in various roles until 1992.

Corporal:  A non-commissioned officer in the armed forces. This rank was typically placed in charge of the drill training of new recruits.

Number-stamped:  New recruits were all given a service number which was stamped on their individual possessions, including their ‘housewife’ and their own set of cutlery.

Military Assault Course:  Used in military training to increase fitness, to demonstrate techniques that can be used for crossing very rough terrain, and to increase teamwork and self-confidence.  Often undertaken whilst thunderflashes are being let off in close proximity, and incorporating obstacles representing the most likely difficult terrain that a soldier might come across.

[ With acknowledgement for the assistance given by Des – Sarum5254 ]

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River Thames Sunsets

A selection of my photographs, taken on different occasions between 2004 and 2010, of sunsets – looking westwards from the south bank of the River Thames along the four mile stretch of the River in Surrey, England, between Chertsey and Walton-on-Thames . . .

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Thames3

Thames4

Thames5

Thames6

Thames7

Thames8

 

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Words From The Grave

A poem with alternate lines having the same rhyme . . . 
as –  A – B – C – B – D – B – E- -B . . .  etc.

RIP

WORDS FROM THE GRAVE

 

Tread softly as you pass my grave

Do not disturb these tombstones 

If you should hear

My sighs and moans

Fret not and do not tarry

It will be just my aching bones

Clumsy now and out of practice

Having heard those ringing tones

Fumbling in my bloody shroud

To answer that damned ringing phone

Yet once again to take a call

From that old seadog, Davy Jones,

Who, speaking from his seabed Locker

Invites me to a Game Of Thrones

 

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Misdemeaners

An Acrostic Poem is one in which the first letter of each line spells out a complete word.  The poem’s title is often given as this, usually single, word.

crime


A short example would be . . . 

C ommitted a crime
R elied on his knife  
I  nterred doing time
M essed up a life
E verlasting paradigm

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MISDENEANOURS

 An Acrostic Verse

 

aybe I can be forgiven,

I n my innocence I was misled.

S uffering then from youthful hubris,

D efeated by my life, I bled.

E very new experience seemed

M y very strength to sap.

E ach and every test I faced

A waited me with some mishap.

N ow at last I shall be brave,

U ndo the spell which youth has cast.

O vercome my earlier errors,

R esist with vigour all my terrors,

S wap my lifestyle now forever.

 

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‘The Reason’ – by Stevie Smith

(Poem No.47 of my favourite short poems)

The Reason

The Reason – Poem by Stevie Smith

 

My life is vile
I hate it so
I’ll wait awhile
And then I’ll go.

Why wait at all?
Hope springs alive,
Good may befall
I yet may thrive.

It is because I can’t make up my mind
If God is good, impotent or unkind.

Stevie Smith

 

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Il Dolce Far Niente

‘Il Dolce Far Niente’ translates as ‘Sweet Idleness’, ‘The sweetness of doing nothing’, or perhaps the feeling that doing nothing can be a positive rather than a negative ‘activity’.  The concept is Italian and appears to derive its meaning from the languor of life in those countries which enjoy a Mediterranean climate.

In view of the demands made upon us all in our modern world of hectic activity, where, for many, Facebook and Twitter command more attention than making face-to-face conversation, it seems appropriate for us all on occasion to take time out, to halt life’s frantic pace, to pause every now and again to enjoy our surroundings and our fellow human beings.

The concept matches well with the thoughts of W.H.Davies expressed in his famous poem   ‘Leisure’  (q.v.).   The idea has also long been a favourite subject of both poets and pictorial artists, particularly during the 19th Century.

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‘Dolce Far Niente’ by John Singer Sargent – 1907 (Brooklyn Museum, New York)

IL DOLCE FAR NIENTE

how mellow is the stillness
of a moment’s rest
the tranquility of a pause
to catch one’s breath

 merely to sit
and let life’s gladness in
to squander time
bask in the quietude
embrace serenity
and savour solitude

such dulcet times
are gifted to us
as blessings
to counter
life’s feverish pace
how pleasant to give in
let the world go 
without a fight
relax and let time pass
submit to lethargy
such rest is
cathartic
curative

in the moment
seek stillness
let life lapse
take time out from caring
to sit and look
relax and watch
unbend
allow the strain
to become becalmed

be still
in the silence of the day
give thoughts
the space to bloom
and eyes the time
to gaze

empower the present
and let it be enjoyed
for what it is
not for what will follow
for in the present
the past is severed
and be sure
the future
will have its day

look to the now
the sun, the moon
the stars, the sea
the wind, the rain
the warmth, the chill
ponder upon them
and upon life

or ponder not
just accept them
be glad
and be still

dolce far niente 1880 john william waterhouse

 ‘Dolce Far Niente’ by John William Waterhouse – … 1880  (Kirkcaldy Galleries)

The Lake District

[ Photo Blog #48 ]

England, Cumbria, The Lake District

Never far from water in the Lake District

My photographs, taken several years ago on what would now be considered to be an old camera

1AmblesidePier

Ambleside Pierhead on Lake Windermere

2AmblesidePier

Evening at Ambleside Pierhead on Lake Windermere

3Borrowdale

Bridge crossing the River Derwent in Borrowdale

4BrantwoodConistonJetty03

The Landing Jetty and Coniston Launch at Brantwood on Coniston Water

5Buttermere

On Buttermere

6Buttermere

The ‘Sentinels’ on Buttermere, the Lake District’s most photographed trees.

7ConistonGondola

The Steam Yacht on Coniston Water

8Derwenwater@Keswick

Derwentwater at Keswick

9Thirlmere01

Thirlmere

10SkelwithForce

Skelwith Force

11FromNannyBrow

Autumn colours near Skelwith Bridge, Ambleside

It’s Your Decision

To Be Or Not To Be

Pen & Ink Drawing … WHB – July 2017

TO BE OR NOT TO BE –
IT’S YOUR DECISION

give in
just let life happen
don’t resist
or make a move towards it
let it approach you
and when it does
just stand your ground
and wait
don’t even think
for when you react
then you will be committed
bound to some response
compelled to a decision
confirmed in participation

in life

and thus
inevitably
to becoming
a human being

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Nature’s Evensong

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©  Photograph … ‘Sunset’ – courtesy of Canadian artist, Alma Kerr

 

Sunset

and the soulful sound

of the sea

seduce my senses

in the calm

of this still summer’s eve

ripples roll gently towards me

from the red sun-kissed sea

silhouette sails

hug the horizon

purposeful gulls

tread the foreshore

forever watchful

while I

a silent spectator

scan the scene

evening’s tableau

serene

and yet wholly alive

entranced and awed

mesmerised

beyond beauty

by Nature’s evensong

its benediction

on a desperate world

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