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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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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I Remember The Bellows

Following on from my blog two days ago, ( ‘Fire, Forge and Furnace’ ) in which I attempted to place the work of the blacksmith in an historical context, I thought it may be the time to re-blog one of my very first published poems ( ‘I Remember The Bellows’ ), which described my introduction to the smithy, the blacksmith’s forge and, for me at the time, all its excitement and wonder.

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I grew up a long time ago, on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, in a staunch Methodist household, the son of the village blacksmith and farrier.  Two abiding memories of my early years were . . .

1. on weekdays, of pumping the bellows to maintain the heat of the fire in his forge, and . . .

 2. on Sundays, of being concealed behind the chapel organ, pumping the bellows to maintain the air to the organ  pipes during the hymn singing.

 For good or ill, BELLOWS thus became a significant part of my childhood, and I recently recalled these formative experiences in the following, light-hearted verses.

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I REMEMBER THE BELLOWS

 

Arms activate,  
Biceps bulge. 
I remember the bellows. 
Let my memory indulge. 

*

 The forge and the furnace  
The farrier’s tools.
His anvil, his hammers,
His tongs and ferrules.

 I build up the heat
Till the iron is blood-shot,
And molten and moulded –
Into what shape I know not. 

*

The pipes and the console
The organist’s tools
His feet and his fingers
Obey all the rules.

 I build up the wind
In the pipes till they sound
Out their diapason
To all those around.

 *

 So, it’s weekdays the smithy
And Sundays the Chapel.
A slave to them both,
And all that for an apple.

 Whilst I labour discretely,
And pump up and down,
They can’t do without me –
Best  aerator in town.

 

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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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Carpe Diem

(No.53 of my favourite short poems) 

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Not in fact a poem this week, but an inspirational  monologue on the significance of writing poetry and of the importance of  ‘carpe diem’  (translated from the Latin as ‘seize the day’), or the importance of making the most of the present time before it is too late.  The thesis is presented in the film ‘Dead Poets’ Society’ in a speech to his pupils by the charismatic English teacher, Mr Keating, who taught his pupils about life, not just about poetry and the English language.   Mr Keating was played in the film by Robin Williams.

From ‘Dead Poets Society’ … screenplay written by Tom Schulman

Mr. Keating:

“In my class, you will learn to think for yourselves again. You will learn to savor words and languages. No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.  I see that look in Mr Pitts’ eyes like 19th century literature has nothing to do with going to business school or medical school, right?  Maybe.  You may agree and think yes, we should study our Mr. Pritcher and learn our rhyme and meter and go quietly about the business of achieving other ambitions.  Well, I have a secret for you.  Huddle Up…Huddle UP!  We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute.  We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.  And the human race is filled with passion.  Medicine, law, business these are all noble pursuits necessary to sustain life.  But poetry, beauty, romance, and love; these are what we stay alive for.  To quote from Whitman “Oh me, Oh life! … of the question of these recurring;  of the endless trains of the faithless … of cities filled with the foolish;  what good amid these? Oh me, Oh life.”  “Answer…that you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. …  What will your verse be?” 

Robin Williams - Dead Poets Society

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Watch “Robin Williams – What will your verse be? – excerpt from Dead Poets Society” on YouTube  . . .

Mr Keating’s speech from ‘Dead Poets’ Society’

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Thomas H. Schulman ( 1950 – 2016) is an American screenwriter best known for his semi-autobiographical screenplay Dead Poets Society. The film won the Best Screenplay Academy Award in 1989, and was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director.  (From Wikipedia)

Robin McLaurin Williams (1951 – 2014) was an American stand-up comedian and actor. Starting as a stand-up comedian in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the mid-1970s, he is credited with leading San Francisco’s comedy renaissance.  (From Wikipedia)

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Ruthless Rhymes

Ruthless Rhymes

RUTHLESS RHYMES

In his book ‘Word Play‘ (Pub. Coronet Books, 2015) Gyles Brandreth talks about his love of short pithy rhymes which he calls ‘Potted Poetry’ or ‘Terse Verse’.  He particularly enjoys those which he calls ‘ruthless’ and which make a pungent point in just 4 lines.  One such which he quotes is:

‘I had written to Aunt Maud
Who was on a trip abroad
When I heard she’d died of cramp –
Just too late to save the stamp.’

He goes on to invite his readers to compose their own ‘ruthless rhymes’.  I doubt if the following could be considered as ruthless as his examples, but here are a few which I managed to create . . .

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Winston Hawden Archibald Hughes
Revelled in a life of booze;
One night he downed a bottle of gin,
The landlord rang his next of kin.


I pressed the bell just for a lark,
‘Twas 8 o’clock and after dark.
A lady answered in her nightie,
But sadly she was over ninety.


I longed to kiss her slender neck,
To take a bite not just a peck,
But when I got the chance to do it,
My vampire teeth just weren’t up to it.


Well, tell me now what you would do
If your old man had said to you,
“I no longer want you for a wife” –
I’d stab him with my butter knife.

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NOTES:

The original ‘Ruthless Rhymes’ were composed by Harry Graham and his book ‘RUTHLESS RHYMES FOR HEARTLESS PEOPLE’ was published in 1898.  It contains many short rhymes, all wickedly cruel and completely without morals.

Jocelyn Henry Clive ‘Harry’ Graham (1874–1936) was an English writer. He was a successful journalist who is now best remembered as a writer of verse full of black humour.  At the time of publication of this and several follow-up collections of verse written in a similar vein, Harry Graham was compared to W.S.Gilbert, Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. It has also been suggested that his verse and prose, all exhibiting a delight in language, was an early influence on P. G. Wodehouse.  More information on Harry Graham can be found on the Ruthless Rhymes website and on Wikipedia

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Death’s Calling Card

A Verse in Spenserian Stanza:

In a Spenserian Stanza each verse contains nine lines in total: eight lines in iambic pentameter followed by a single ‘alexandrine’ line in iambic hexameter. The rhyme scheme of these lines is “ababbcbcc.”  Somewhat morbid, but my own composition in this form is offered below . . . 

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Burne-Jones – ‘Merlin & Nimue’ – detail

Death’s Calling Card

In summer time when light is long to last
And evening stretches far into the night,
Then I am wont to think of times gone past
When life was dear and death was out of sight;
But autumn has arrived and dimmed the light,
That short time left to me now presses hard;
Have I done all the planning that I might,
Allowed myself my faults to disregard,
Updated my résumé, my next life’s calling card?

 

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The Dentist’s Chair

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THE DENTIST’S CHAIR

Reclining in the chair
My head below my knees
Waiting for the needle
Feel I want to sneeze.

TV Screen above me
Fixed onto the ceiling
Scene of pure composure
To nullify my feeling

Dentist leaning over
Says “No worse than a sting,
Just a gentle tug,
You’ll hardly feel a thing.”

I feel the pincers grasp it
That remnant of a tooth
Left over from extraction, 
Botched up in my youth.

And then the tugging starts, 
A rip, a tear, a yank,
I felt a sudden rumble
Like the revving of a tank.

He showed me what he’d dug out
Of my poor infected jaw,
A bloody piece of bone
Covered in spit and gore.

All I wanted then was
To get out of his chair;
Escape his gloating clutches,
No more of this nightmare.

It’s taken nearly two weeks, 
No longer feeling sore.
An abscess on one’s gum
One cannot just ignore.

 

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A Poetic Formula

 (Poem No.51 of my favourite short poems) 

A Poetic Formula

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A dozen, a gross and a score

Plus 3 times the square root of 4

Divided by 7

Plus 5 times 11

Is  9 squared

And not a bit more.

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This ingeniously composed equation and the accompanying verse is quoted in Gyles Brandreth’s 2015 book ‘Word Play’ (Coronet Books – Hodder and Stoughton), as a composition by the playwright, Tom Stoppard. 

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North Cape – Nordkapp

[ Photo Blog #52 ]

Nordkapp (English: North Cape) is in Finnmark County of Norway.  It was long claimed as the northernmost point of the continent of Europe. In fact it is the furthest north that one can drive in Europe but, by less than a mile, it is not quite the most northerly point.  The administrative centre of the area is in the town of Honningsvag, where the local population is approximately 3,500.   Nordkapp is a splendid spot, weather permitting, from which to see the midnight sun.  It is normal for about 200,000 tourists to  visit there annually during the two to three months of summer,  the main tourist attraction being the splendid views from the North Cape itself.  The North Cape first became famous when the English explorer Richard Chancellor sailed round it in 1553 while attempting to find a sea route through the North-east Passage. Except for the first photograph, the photographs are from my own visit there in 2002. 

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North Cape itself

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Approaching Honningsvag from the sea

 

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Honningsvag – town and harbour

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Traditional reindeer hide tent – set up for the tourists 

 

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Reindeer and boy in traditional costume

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Reindeer

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View of the summit of Nordkapp

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The summit of the cape has a number of sculptures and statues.

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Pointing towards the North Pole

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Signpost giving the Cape’s coordinates

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View from the Cape to the west

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View north towards Svalbard and the North Pole