Sunday, 5 January 2014

Mountain Pines by Robinson Jeffers

In scornful upright loneliness they stand, 
Counting themselves no kin of anything 
Whether of earth or sky. Their gnarled roots cling 
Like wasted fingers of a clutching hand 
In the grim rock. A silent spectral band 
They watch the old sky, but hold no communing 
With aught. Only, when some lone eagle's wing 
Flaps past above their grey and desolate land, 
Or when the wind pants up a rough-hewn glen, 
Bending them down as with an age of thought, 
Or when, 'mid flying clouds that can not dull 
Her constant light, the moon shines silver, then 
They find a soul, and their dim moan is wrought 
Into a singing sad and beautiful.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Ovid Speaks by Ovid

On this day, January 2 in the year 17 A. D. Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso) lost and exiled along the Black Sea, wrote one of the finest poems 'Ovid speaks' -

A hundred curses on this place of banishment,
back door to nowhere by the Black Sea.
The warmest day here would freeze the legs off a heron!

It’s a far cry from the cosiness and comforts of Rome.
I’m going to seed here among barbarians
with as much learning and table manners between them as a flea.

Oh for a drop of that divine elixir,
fruit of the vine that gives sparkle to words!
For liquor here there’s nothing but ice in the bottom of a jug.

Oh for the sunny slopes of those homeland vines again,
olive groves, wooded hills.
There I could live off consonants and vowels.

Scintillating Rome! Always in my thoughts,
where I juggled with life and death. There I gave colour
to humility, boldness to the sweetest sounds.

My brain will snap before I understand this Black Sea blather,
it strikes the ears betimes as the howl of wolves,
other times the wrenching of ice from itself.

Augustus it was who betrayed me and blackened my name,
but harsh though his judgement, his punishment, might seem
I swear he will not have victory over my words.

No king, no regime, however powerful
will tyrannise my poetry now or in times to come.
From age to age my poems will surge. They will speak

To rising generations in the fullness of time;
freemen who couldn’t care less about Caesar and his ilk.
This is our age, let him know it, the age of Ovid, Virgil and Horace.

But Augustus is too self-important to see
that it is by the grace of poets that he lives and breathes,
and so will it always be; it is we who fashion the ageless legislation

Of the free word, the honest word that bows not to tyranny,
the glowing commandments of poetry forever guarded by the Muse.
Forgive this hubris, this pride that has brimmed over,

Stature, name and honour have been taken from me
I’m rootless, a beggar. Thrown to the winds
the Word my only home.

Nothing to do but brandish my quill.