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The Poets

December 31, 2009

2010

“Another fresh new year is here . . .
Another year to live!
To banish worry, doubt, and fear,
To love and laugh and give!

This bright new year is given me
To live each day with zest . . .
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best!

I have the opportunity
Once more to right some wrongs,
To pray for peace, to plant a tree,
And sing more joyful songs!”

Old Long Since


Auld Lang Syne is a Scottish dialect poem written by Robert Burns, one of Scotland's finest poets. The literal transliteration of the title (auld lang syne) is "old long since" (which roughly means "days gone by").

The poem was inspired by an old folk song, and possibly influenced by a ballad written by James Watson in 1711. Upon its completion in 1788, Burns submitted it to the Scots Musical Museum with heavy emphasis on its oral and antiquated origin.

The poem, which begins with the question as to whether or not old time should be forgotten, has become a celebratory song in most English speaking countries. In America, for example, it is sung as a New Year comes into existence, and the ‘Old Year’ recedes.


****


Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne

We twa hae run aboot the braes
And pou'd the gowans fine;
we've wander'd mony a weary foot
Sin' auld lang syne

We two hae paidled i' the burn,
Frae mornin' sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin' auld lang syne

And here's a hand, my trusty friend,
And gie's a hand o' thine;
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne


****


Since the publication of Burns’ poem and the selection of music that was to attend it, many versions of the song have since come into being (notwithstanding, the common theme has remained the same). Below is a version- a pretty version- of that old Scottish folk song passed down to us here as we exit a decade, and enter a new one.

Have a happy and safe New Year.



Robert Burns*


Robert Burns (1759 - 1796)

Born in Alloway, Scotland, on January 25, 1759, Robert Burns was the first of William and Agnes Burnes' seven children. His father, a tenant farmer, educated his children at home. Burns also attended one year of mathematics schooling and, between 1765 and 1768, he attended an "adventure" school established by his father and John Murdock. His father died in bankruptcy in 1784, and Burns and his brother Gilbert took over farm. This hard labor later contributed to the heart trouble that Burns' suffered as an adult.

At the age of fifteen, he fell in love and shortly thereafter he wrote his first poem. As a young man, Burns pursued both love and poetry with uncommon zeal. In 1785, he fathered the first of his fourteen children. His biographer, DeLancey Ferguson, had said, "it was not so much that he was conspicuously sinful as that he sinned conspicuously." Between 1784 and 1785, Burns also wrote many of the poems collected in his first book, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, which was printed in 1786 and paid for by subscriptions. This collection was an immediate success and Burns was celebrated throughout England and Scotland as a great "peasant-poet."

In 1788, he and his wife, Jean Armour, settled in Ellisland, where Burns was given a commission as an excise officer. He also began to assist James Johnson in collecting folk songs for an anthology entitled The Scots Musical Museum. Burns' spent the final twelve years of his life editing and imitating traditional folk songs for this volume and for Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs. These volumes were essential in preserving parts of Scotland's cultural heritage and include such well-known songs as "My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose" and "Auld Land Syne." Robert Burns died from heart disease at the age of thirty-seven. On the day of his death, Jean Armour gave birth to his last son, Maxwell.

Most of Burns' poems were written in Scots. They document and celebrate traditional Scottish culture, expressions of farm life, and class and religious distinctions. Burns wrote in a variety of forms: epistles to friends, ballads, and songs. His best-known poem is the mock-heroic Tam o' Shanter. He is also well known for the over three hundred songs he wrote which celebrate love, friendship, work, and drink with often hilarious and tender sympathy. Even today, he is often referred to as the National Bard of Scotland.



*Biography from Poets.org

December 24, 2009

A Hymn for Christmas-Day


In the 1793 edition of Hymns and Sacred Poems, under the title Hymn for Christmas Day, there's a poem that contemporary carolers are most likely very familiar with- or should I say almost familiar with. I refer to that delightful Christmas hymn, Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.

The song as it’s commonly sung today consists of thirty lines divided into three stanzas. However, when Charles Wesley wrote the poem (and make no mistakes- it's a poem) there were twenty additional lines, and every stanza was a quatrain. The original beginning couplet of the poem, which is now a repeating couplet in our contemporary hymn, was also different:

Hark! how all the welkin rings
“Glory to the King of Kings”

The couplet as it exists in its current form was a change initiated by a friend and coworker of Wesley’s, George Whitefield - I have a feeling it may have had something to do with that funny little word, welkin.

A little over a hundred years later Felix Mendelssohn would dedicate a musical piece to Gutenberg’s achievement of the printing press. Meant to be a purely secular piece, the music behind that dedication would later serve as the melody for Wesley’s poem (a beautiful choice made by William Cummings).

Below is Wesley’s poem as it appeared in Hymns and Sacred Poems. I would love to know what others think about the last four stanzas, the ones many hardley know. Enjoy, and have a merry Christmas all.

*******

Hark, how all the welkin rings,
“Glory to the King of kings;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconcil’d!”

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
Universal nature say,
“Christ the Lord is born to-day!”

Christ, by highest Heaven ador’d,
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb!

Veil’d in flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail th’ incarnate Deity!
Pleas’d as man with men to appear,
Jesus, our Immanuel here!

Hail, the heavenly Prince of Peace,
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.

Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth.

Come, desire of nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conquering seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

Now display thy saving power,
Ruin’d nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to thine.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.

Let us thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the life, the inner man:
O, to all thyself impart,
Form’d in each believing heart.

December 21, 2009

Keep Me in Thee


Keep me in thee in this day
Grace me that I may not stray
Let what's wrought be wrought by thee
That thy will be willed in me

-jwm

December 20, 2009

A Dark Fog Has Lifted


Years ago- around the late 90s- I found a poem tucked away within the pages of a book of mine, the Dialogues of Plato. It was hand written on yellow notebook paper, and had the name ‘john’ jotted just a little to the upper right hand of it.

Now I owned that book for the longest time, read and reread it more times than I can count. My point- that poem wasn’t in there when I first purchased it used from a coffeehouse in downtown Denver, which leads me to believe that it had been dedicated to me anonymously.

At this point in my life poetry and the study thereof had only been a marginal delight- and this at best! No, deep theological and philosophical studies consumed most of my time, which is what makes the dedication of this poem to me odd?

What’s more- and let me premise this by saying I’ve determined the hand writing to be that of a female- the content doesn’t seem to fit the context of my life as it was then. Had it spoke of love in the sense of romance I might have concluded someone’s secret crush snuck that poem in those pages … but it has nothing of the sort. Sure, there’s the 15th and 16th line, but this is predicated upon the idea of family (line 6) rather than a love-relationship.

Anyhow, I recently reread the poem and, despite a few grammatical glitches, must readily admit that I think it’s a good work. I just wish I knew who wrote it.



*****

A dark fog has lifted from
Confused souls,
We have found ourselves
In a clearing.
Looking around we can 5
Recognise our family
Only arms reach away.
We each have our pain
To hold,
Despair preys so close upon 10
Us all.
But we are no longer blind,
We have the eyes to see
What is held most true.
In seeing it in each other 15
We recognise it in ourselves.
Though we face our histories
Alone,
We survive together
In truth, love, beauty and understanding 20
We live.

December 15, 2009

".. to be just so clear .. "


A poet dares to be just so clear and no clearer; he approaches lucid ground warily, like a mariner who is determined not to scrape his bottom on anything solid. A poet's pleasure is to withhold a little of his meaning, to intensify by mystification. He unzips the veil from beauty, but does not remove it. A poet utterly clear is a trifle glaring.

-E.B. White


December 14, 2009

Elhanan

And there was war again with the Philistines; and Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spear staff was like a weaver's beam. ~I Chronicles 20:5


Elhanan
Was a son of Jair’s
Who slew like David
Anak’s heirs-
Titan men
From days of old,
Whose lofty minds
And hearts were cold.

Like Lahmi-
O that foolish foe-
Who mocked the Lord
With words of woe.
His pride-lust
And his scand’lous ways
By Elah’s grounds
Would end his days.

War-prone how
He towered high
As humble lad
And Lord drew nigh …
And just as he
Was weapon clad
A fatal blow
Came from the lad!

And so upon
The desert plain
Dagon’s pride
By God lay slain
Prefiguring
The days to be
When Christ would claim
Like victory.

-jwm



Of the Poem (Parameters):

Meter: Loose; No less than 3 syllables, no more than 5 (per line)
Rhyme Scheme: x.a.x.a.x.b.x.b ('x' represents unrhymed lines)
Stanza: Octet (i.e. 8 lines per stanza)
Note: The meter was inspired by anacreontic verse.

Coming to terms with names:

Elhanan (el-haw-nun) was a warrior and hero who, like David, slew a giant.
Jair (j-air) was the father of Elhanan.
Anak (an-nack) refers to an ancient family of giants, sometimes associated with the Nephilium.
Lahmi (lah-mee) was a giant, and the brother of Goliath.
Elah (ee-lah) is the field where Goliath was put down.
Dagon (day-gun) is the god whom the Philistines worshipped.

Note that in comments area is a brief explication as to the developement of the poem.

December 09, 2009

Happy Birthday Milton


One and four hundred years ago from this day there was born a man who would become one of history's greatest poets ... John Milton.

Anyone who knows me knows that not only does he bare a great influence on my poetic preferences, but that it was by reading his Paradise Lost that I developed an irreversible passion for poetry in the first place.

With that said, here are two poems written by him, poems particularly appropriate for this day's blog as their subjects deal with temporal existence and how we relate to it.

(The first one is about the consuming nature of Time and Eternity's triumph over it; and the second one, written by Milton on his 24th birthday, is about time and how he's aging through it.)


To this thy fete of birth
With joy and godly boast
Thy works and thee in mirth
We celebrate and toast

-jwm

****


On Time

Fly envious Time, till thou run out thy race,
Call on the lazy leaden-stepping hours,
Whose speed is but the heavy Plummets pace;
And glut thy self with what thy womb devours,
Which is no more then what is false and vain,
And meerly mortal dross;
So little is our loss,
So little is thy gain.
For when as each thing bad thou hast entomb'd,
And last of all, thy greedy self consum'd,
Then long Eternity shall greet our bliss
With an individual kiss;
And Joy shall overtake us as a flood,
When every thing that is sincerely good
And perfectly divine,
With Truth, and Peace, and Love shall ever shine
About the supreme Throne
Of him, t'whose happy-making sight alone,
When once our heav'nly-guided soul shall clime,
Then all this Earthy grosnes quit,
Attir'd with Stars, we shall for ever sit,
Triumphing over Death, and Chance, and thee O Time.


****


How Soon Hath Time

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stoln on his wing my three and twentieth year!
My hasting days fly on wtih full career,
But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th.
Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth,
That I to manhood am arrived so near,
And inward ripeness doth much less appear,
That some more timely-happy spirits endu'th.
Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
It shall be still in strictest measure even
To that same lot, however mean or high,
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heaven;
All is, if I have grace to use it so,
As ever in my great Taskmaster's eye.

December 02, 2009

A Quatrain on May


Some want for Winter when it’s May-
But May is haply of my soul.
Should Winter rise by what they pray,
I pray my May their Winter null.

-jwm
Of the Poem:

A fun, simple (albeit cryptic) quatrain I wrote Nov. 9th ... thought I'd post it here as well.

As of April 9th, 2010