Sea Fever – by John Masefield

(No.56 of my favourite short poems)

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‘Sea Fever’ . . . WHB: Pen & Wash – Sep., 2017

Sea Fever

 

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

 

By John Masefield


 

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‘Sea Fever’ is perhaps the best known of all the poetic works of John Masefield.  Born in Herefordshire, England, in 1878, he was the British poet laureate for 37 years in the middle of the 20th Century until his death in 1967.   As a young man he trained as a merchant seaman, but, in 1895, he deserted his ship when in New York City.  There he worked in a carpet factory before returning to London to write poems, in many of which he wrote about his experiences at sea.

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VAN GOGH by Mervyn Peake

(No.55 of my favourite short poems)
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Mervyn Peake (1911 – 1968) … Self-Portrait

VAN GOGH   . . .  by Mervyn Peake

Dead, the Dutch Icarus who plundered France
And left her fields the richer for our eyes.
Where writhes the cypress under burning skies,
Or where proud cornfields broke at his advance,
Now burns a beauty fiercer than the dance
Of primal blood that stamps at throat and thighs.
Pirate of sunlight! and the laden prize
Of coloured earth and fruit in summer trance
Where is your fever now? and your desire?
Withered beneath a sunflower’s mockery,
A suicide you sleep with all forgotten.
And yet your voice has more than words for me
And shall cry on when I am dead and rotten
From quenchless canvases of twisted fire

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Wheat Field With Cypresses, 1889 by Vincent Van Gogh

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Fire, Forge and Furnace

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‘The Smith’: Illus.from’The Book Of English Trades’, Museum of English Ryral Life, Reading University.

FIRE, FORGE & FURNACE

It began with the furnace
When limping Hephaestus
tamed his volcanic forge,
before Prometheus
poached fire,
and brought to mankind,
his creation,
those skills of
 inspired artistry
 in metal and the arts,
for which he suffered
until, released, liver-less,
 from his eagle-torn fate

So, his legacy,
passed on to the smith,
farrier, blacksmith, metalworker,
a noble calling
worthy trade
artist in iron
his skill
portrayed in metal
wrought within the fire
of Vulcan’s heart

Bent over the anvil
he finds his future
his art is in iron
his heart lies there too
the kiln his spirit
the anvil his easel
tongs his palette knife
his hammer his brush

Rendering and wrenching
forging
forcing his will
on that malleable metal
moulding with skill
stroking the steel
forming shape
to match imagination
to meet a need
create a masterwork
from his mind’s ferment

The furnace,
bellowed into life,
bright burning coals
in heat and fusion
throw shadows all around
as if their flickering flames
are desperate to escape
and return
to the place of their birth –
the fiery inferno
in Vulcan’s heart.

Hephaestus

Hephaestus

 

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Northumberland – Bamburgh

[ Photo Blog #56 ]

The coast of Northumbria on the North-East of England bordering with Scotland is atmospheric and highly impressive.  It was described by Janet Street Porter on ITV’s ‘Britain’s Best View’ as having ‘a coastline ravaged by nature and steeped in history.  There’s a story round every single corner … you’re not just looking at a view, you’re standing in the footsteps of kings, and all on one of the most dramatic coastlines nature has to offer.’ 

Bamburgh Map

I have visited many times, usually on the way to or from my tours of Scotland.  For me, one of the highlights of a visit to this part of the country is the small town of BAMBURGH. The following photographs I took there in 2003 on one of these visits when I stayed in this historic town for several days.

Bamburgh is a stunningly attractive small town within the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.   In fact it is even perhaps just a village, with a population of only about  450.  It is dominated by its magnificently imposing Castle, once the seat of the former Kings of Northumbria, that can be seen for miles around.  It would be hard not to be impressed by the sheer size of the Castle and there is so much to tell about its long and amazing history.  On the seaward side of the castle and town there are impressive stretches of pure golden sandy beaches with rolling sand dunes and views across the sea to both the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and to the Farne Islands.   The town also houses a museum dedicated to its great heroine, Grace Darling.

To read the story of Grace Darling and of how her heroism caught the attention of the Victorian public, click on this link . . .   The Story Of Grace Darling

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Bamburgh Castle from the North Sea shore

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Looking eastwards towards the castle from the town

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The defensive landward side walls of Bamburgh Castle in the evening sun

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The seaward walls of Bamburgh Castle from the seashore

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Looking north to the castle across the coastline dunes

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The beach of the North Sea at Bamburgh

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Looking eastwards across the North Sea from the sand dunes

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Driftwood marker on Bamburgh beach

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The Bamburgh Sandman (See my earlier blog of October 29th 2016 at: The SANDMAN   )

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This elaborate cenotaph commemorates the life of the early 19th Century lifeboat heroine, Grace Darling, who is buried nearby.

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Bamburgh rooftops and castle battlements outlined against the rising sun

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The Castle at Sunrise 

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Sunrise over the North Sea from Bamburgh

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Bamburgh Castle . . . Pen and Wash – WHB:  2014   ©

 

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Nearly A Limerick

(No.54 of my short poems)
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A bit of fun to start the week – a Near-Limerick by Gray Joliffe … reproduced from a recent issue of the Daily Mail.   Graham Jolliffe is an illustrator and cartoonist. His work includes ‘Chloe & Co’, and the Wicked Willie character that first appeared in the book, ‘Man’s Best Friend’ in 1984.
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MOONSTRUCK

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MOONSTRUCK

In the middle
of the night
when the moon
is at its height

I’m given
to fanciful excesses
about pretty girls
with golden tresses

Capricious ladies
small and sweet
built-up hair
and dainty feet

Lock their looks
on my leering eyes
and I’m enthralled
anaesthetised

I fall so hard
I cannot rise
it’s my golden apple
the major prize

But always a mirage
a passing dream
just one more fancy
it would seem

My life’s story
told in wishes
always someone
else’s kisses.

 

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Sometimes

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‘Dawn’ … Pen & Wash – WHB  ©

 

SOMETIMES

Sometimes
at first tread of dawn
I sense the dampness of the dew
as it cossets the grass to refresh my world

Sometimes
in the morning’s glow
I feel the sun’s insistence
on bringing me joy for another day

Sometimes
amidst the midday murmur
I hear the singing of my garden’s flowers
intent on making their presence known to me

Sometimes
in the heat of the afternoon
I feel the bee’s ardent resolve
its need to garner the fragrant lavender’s love

Sometimes
in the evening’s stillness
I am aware of the blackbird’s impulse
to trill its sugared song to thrill my enfeebled soul

Sometimes
in the dead of night
I am awoken by the moon’s resolve
to lighten my darkness with its lambent glow

And sometimes
When life’s burdens are upon me
I respond to Nature’s showcased beauty
With renewed resolve to remain a beneficiary of such grace

 

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Ode To Mount Felix

(No.52 of my favourite short poems) 

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A community stitch project has recently been completed and put on display to commemorate the centenary of the Mount Felix Hospital which, throughout World War 1 and afterwards for several years served, as a military hospital in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, for soldiers from New Zealand wounded at Gallipoli and in later battles.    The project is in the form of a tapestry of 44 panels stitched by community groups ranging from primary schools to experienced embroiderers.   By the end of WW1 the hospital, in conjunction with another nearby hospital, had nearly 1,900 beds and some 27,000 patients had been treated during the operational lives of these two hospitals.

One of the panels, pictured below, features a lovely poem composed during his time in this hospital by one of the patients, name unknown,  who was stunned by the beauty and tranquility of his surroundings after experiencing the horrors of war.  I give photographs above and below of the tapestry on which this verse has been embroidered.

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My Inner Self

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‘Contemplation’ – Pen and Wash … WHB: August 2017

MY INNER SELF

In the private
life of my mind 
I am blind 
To all else 
But myself 
It is where I live 
And give 
To no one 

Escaping pain
Selfish thoughts reign
I disdain
Those interruptions
Reality’s incursions 
Into my fenced off realm 
Where exist no qualms
Other than those I truly own
Unknown 
To all save me 

For here I am free 
Disconnected
From my overt life 
My true self’s bed
On which I have bled
A thousand wounds
Unstaunched
But healed within
This inner cache
Hard ego shell
Learned defence
Against reality
And the imperative thrust
of time and circumstance
Looking always for 
That memory trace
That state of grace
To which I aspire. 

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Penelope Fitzgerald – The Kitchen Drawer Poem

 (Poem No.50 of my favourite short poems)

Kitchen Drawer

‘The Kitchen Drawer’ – Penelope Fitzgerald

THE KITCHEN DRAWER POEM

The nutcracker, the skewer, the knife,

are doomed to share this drawer for life.

You cannot pierce, the skewer says,

or cause the pain of in one place.

You cannot grind, you do not know,

says nutcracker, the pain of slow.

You don’t know what it is to slice.

to both of them the knife replies,

with pain so fine it is not pain

to part what cannot join again.

The skewer, nutcracker, and knife

are well adapted to their life.

They calculate efficiency

By what the others cannot be

and power by the pain they cause

and that is life in kitchen drawers.

By Penelope Fitzgerald

 Printed in @London Review of Books’ – 3rd October, 2002.

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Penelope Fitzgerald (1916 – 2000) was an English Booker Prize-winning novelist, poet, essayist and biographer.  In 2008, The Times included her in a list of “the 50 greatest British writers since 1945”. In 2012, The Observer named her final novel, ‘The Blue Flower‘, one of “the ten best historical novels”.  She also wrote a splendid biography of the Victorian artist Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones.

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