Quote: When Good Poets Go Bad

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In the following quote, Fiver, a sensitive rabbit, has just heard an evocative poem recited by another rabbit, in an underground hall.

They followed Fiver up the run and overtook him at the entrance. Before either of them could say a word, he turned and began to speak as though they had asked him a question.

“You felt it, then? And you want to know whether I did? Of course I did. That’s the worst part of it. There isn’t any trick. He speaks the truth. So as long as he speaks the truth it can’t be folly — that’s what you’re going to say, isn’t it? I’m not blaming you, Hazel. I felt myself moving toward him like one cloud drifting into another. But then at the last moment I drifted wide. Did I say the roof of the hall was made of bones? No! It’s like a great mist of folly that covers the whole sky: and we shall never see to go by Frith’s light any more. Oh, what will become of us? A thing can be true and still be desperate folly, Hazel.”

Watership Down, pp. 111 – 112

Scots Gettin’ Sentimental

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And days o’auld lang syne?

We twa hae paidelt in the burn Frae mornin’-sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar’d Sin’ auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes, And pu’d the gowans fine;

We’ve wander’d mony a weary foot, Sin’ auld lang syne.

And here’s a hand, my trusty fere, And gi’es a hand o’ thine;

We’ll tak’ a richt gude willie waught For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup, And surely I’ll be mine,

We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet For the sake o’ auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne my dear, For auld lang syne,

We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet, For auld lang syne.

Seventy Scottish Songs, ed. Helen Hopekirk, 1992. pp. 128 – 131

And the translation (done with the help of the source’s glossary):

Should our old friends be forgot, and never remembered?

Should our old friends be forgot, and the good old days?

The two of us used to paddle in the brook from dawn until dinner-time,

But the wide seas have come between us since those good old times.

The two of us used to run all over the hills and pick all the daisies,

[But] we have wandered much farther than that, since those good old times.

Now take my hand, my trusty comrade, and give me your hand too;

We’ll take a draught to show our good will for [each other and] those good old times.

And surely you’ll [drink out of] your pint-flagon, and I’ll [drink out of] mine,

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet for the sake of those good old times.

The Angel is Not Impressed: A Poem

Were you bitter, Zechariah? Many fruitless years had you

asked and asked God for a child, just to see your prayers fall through?

Standing slack-jawed at the altar, towering o’er you, Gabriel’s face:

not a chance you could have doubted God’s real power in that place.

But those dark years were your downfall, and your anger was your sin.

Now’s my chance, your sad heart whispered, Just to get one good dig in.

“It’s too late — You should have given us a baby long ago!”

Any man could understand it, but not the angel Gabriel.

Bitter mouths ought to be silenced, so the angel struck you dumb.

And so, dazed and unhappy, out into the light you come.

In a comedy of errors, Luke says you “kept making signs,”

till those gathered came to realize God had come to you inside.

Sometimes silence is a blessing. Yours was not empty but full

as you watched your once-hard neighbors come to wish Elizabeth well,

like an acorn dead below ground till its time comes to unfurl.

Nine months dumb, your mouth was ready to unsay its bitter ways:

Ready to croon to a baby, ready to explode in praise.

Isaiah Quote of the Week

See, the Lord, the LORD Almighty, will lop off the boughs with great power.

The lofty trees will be felled, the tall ones will be brought low.

He will cut down the forest thickets with an ax;

Lebanon will fall before the Mighty One.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;

from his roots a branch will bear fruit.

The spirit of the LORD will rest upon him —

the spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

the spirit of counsel and of power,

the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD —

and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,

or decide by what he hears with his ears;

but with righteousness he will judge the needy,

with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;

with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

The wolf will live with the lamb,

the leopard will lie down with the goat;

the calf and the lion and the yearling together;

and a little child will lead them.

The cow will feed with the bear,

their young will lie down together,

and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,

and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.

They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,

for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD

as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 10:33 – 11:9

A Decent Man Would Never Write “No Irish Need Apply”

Well, I couldn’t stand his nonsense, so aheld of him I took

and I gave him such a baetin’ as he’d get in Donnybrook.

He hollered me the murther, and to get away did try

and swore he’d nivver write again, “No Irish Need Apply.”

He made a big apology, and I bid him then goodbye,

sayin’, “When nixt you want a baetin’, write ‘No Irish Need Apply.'”

Well, some may think it a misfortune to be christened Patrick Dan,

but to me it is an honor to be born an Irishman.

Sure, I’ve heard that in America, it always is the plan

that an Irishman is just as good as any other man.

A home and hospitality they nivver will deny

to strangers here, or ever write, “No Irish Need Apply.”

Oh, but some black sheep are in the flock: “A drrty lot,” says I;

a daecent man would nivver say, “No Irish Need Apply.”

See below

Happy St. Patrick’s Day yesterday!

Let’s Go Way Back

Today, because yesterday was Valentine’s Day, I am posting a poem that I … ahem … love. No, it’s not by me, nor is it by G.K. Chesterton. (Though he did write some great poetry.) It’s by a rising star who happens to be a friend of mine … Benjamin Ledford.

The Normans came to England and they found the Saxons there.

The Saxons said “Go back to France! We’re first! This isn’t fair!”

But the Saxons came from Germany where they had lived before,

And came and found the Angles living on the English shores.

The Angles were from Denmark whence they came in viking raids,

And they conquered tidy towns and forts that Roman troops had made.

The Romans came from Rome, of course, that goes without much saying,

And when they invaded England it was Celts that they were slaying.

Some Celts had fled to Scotland as they hurried to escape,

But others were already there — the Picts for goodness’ sake!

And before the Picts or Celts or Brits or any of these others,

There was someone building Stonehenge in the south with giant boulders.

And those Stonehenge folks, well surely, they’re the oldest Englishmen.

But could it be, or do you wonder,

Was there someone there before them?

Ben Ledford, 2021

Now, go forth and read this to your history students!