Punishment of the Gods

Atlas At Culzean

The ‘Atlas’ Sundial, Culzean Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland … Photo: WHB 2003  ©

PUNISHMENT OF THE GODS

The ancient gods of Greece and Rome, omniscient in their sagacity,
Showed no restraint at all in exercising their voracity.

Eternal punishment was dealt by Zeus to those who crossed him;
Ever the vengeful God dispersed reprisal on a whim.

Prometheus, fettered to a rock, Zeus’s ego damaged,
Condemned to have his entrails by an eagle daily ravaged.

For Sisyphus he set the task of rolling a stone uphill. 
For all I know that poor old chap is pushing skywards still.

Wretched Tantalus suffered long, his grasp forever taunted
By receding fruit and water, always close, but always daunted.

For lusting after Zeus’s wife, Ixion was bound to a wheel,
Then the wheel was set on fire, a vicious cruel ordeal.

Other gods and goddesses were equally disdaining
Of lesser gods and vulgar mortals of whom they were complaining.

Arachne she was killed by fate, but brought back as a spider,
Condemned continually to weave, forever an outsider.

Actaeon was turned into a stag for just one venial sin,
Then torn apart by his own hounds, his heart ripped from his skin.

Narcissus met his Nemesis beside the mirrored pool.
He pined away with love forlorn; he broke the golden rule.

Atlas he was made to bear the whole of heavens’ weight; 
Upon his shaken Titan shoulders, his cursed aeonian fate.

So thus discomfited mankind was taught not to transgress;
Displease the gods who dares, condemned to unceasing deep distress.

 

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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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Let Sleeping Ducks Lie

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Morning on the River Lowman, Devon … Photo: WHB – 2017  ©

 

LET SLEEPING DUCKS LIE

Pillowed heads
nestled
self-cushioned
oblivious
to my interference
in their down time

Dead to the busy world
and to my stare
my attempt
to disturb their lives
with my own

Our only mutual assurance
the comfort
of another sunrise
another day
to forage
to survive
to face
new concerns
different uncertainties

 The inbuilt plight
of all creation
fortified only
by a will
to endure
to survive
and thrive

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Inspiration

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Waters of the River Lowman, Devon – Photo:  WHB, 2017   ©

 

INSPIRATION

 

As Lowman meanders
hardly awake
over its pebbled bed
and as clear waters
give back the russet tones
of disturbed sand
of silt-stained rocks
so I muse

Imagination awakes
words flow
with the waters of the stream
transmuting my senses

into visions
of solitude
and silence
of grace in being
delight in life itself

These images
transposed
revisiting me now

with imprinted memories
of awe
of richness

felt in the bones of my youth
replicated now
in the dis-ease of old age

 

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VAN GOGH by Mervyn Peake

(No.55 of my favourite short poems)
Mervyn Peake-Self Portrait

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

Van Gogh-Wheatfield With Cypresses

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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Popular Opinion

 

ItWasMe

From Reddit (detail) – Sep., 2017

“Popular opinion is the greatest lie in the world. ”  ― Thomas Carlyle   Thomas Carlyle

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WAS IT ME?

Three faces of the truth
Did, Didn’t, Might-Have-Done
Owned up only to being honest

DID . . .

Ok
Hands up
I admit it
You aren’t wrong
It was me
I am guilty
You’ve got me bang to rights

DIDN’T

It wasn’t me
You are mistaken
Not guilty
I deny it all
I was never there
I couldn’t have done it
I have a watertight alibi

MIGHT-HAVE-DONE

I don’t know
It might have been me
It could have been me
But – what does it matter
I don’t care
You don’t care
No-one cares

JUDGEMENT

Being economical with the truth
Right or wrong
True or false
Truth will out
Justice will triumph
 
Or so says popular opinion 
The greatest lie in the world

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A Broken Heart

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‘Hands On Heart’ Photoshopped  Photo: WHB – Sep., 2017

PALPITATIONS

When palpitations
of the heart
start
that sudden
gulp
that gasp for air

is it love
or lust
or life itself
forcing me to face
my future

that unwonted throb
unwanted gasp
those ensuing reverberations
erupted flutterings
flip-floppings

before I am returned
to that steady beat
that controlled thump
which promises
certitude

My heart
that part
of me
held dear
so near
yet no longer
steady
nor ready
to yearn
to long for
and to desire
to allow free reign
to emotion

now caution
rules
demands attention
ectopic beating
atrial contraction
call it whatever
heart-hiccups
love-stutters
heebie-jeebies
screaming habdabs
all one

palpitations
once a passion
now a symptom

a broken heart
is not
just love forgone
it is
a life in peril

 

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MOONSTRUCK

moonstruck

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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