Poetry Corner – The Mystery Cat

Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw -
 For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
 He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
 For when they reach the scene of crime - Macavity's not there!

 Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
 He's broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
 His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
 And when you reach the scene of crime - Macavity's not there!
 You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air -
 But I tell you once and once again, Macavity's not there!

 Macavity's a ginger cat, he's very tall and thin;
 You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
 His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed;
 His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
 He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he's half asleep, he's always wide awake.

 Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
 For he's a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
 You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square -
 But when a crime's discovered, then Macavity's not there!

 He's outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
 And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard's.
 And when the larder's looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
 Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke's been stifled,
 Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair -
 Ay, there's the wonder of the thing! Macavity's not there!

 And when the Foreign Office find a Treaty's gone astray,
 Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
 There may be a scrap of paper in the hall or on the stair -
 But it's useless to investigate - Macavity's not there!

 And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
 `It must have been Macavity!' - but he's a mile away.
 You'll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,
 Or engaged in doing complicated long-division sums.

 Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
 There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
 He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:
 At whatever time the deed took place - MACAVITY WASN'T THERE!

 And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
 (I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
 Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
 Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!

- T. S. Eliot, from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

Poetry Corner – My Last Duchess

THAT'S my last Duchess painted on the wall, 
Looking as if she were alive. I call 
That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf's hands 
Worked busily a day, and there she stands. 
Will 't please you to sit and look at her? I said 
"Fra Pandolf" by design, for never read 
Strangers like you that pictured countenance, 
The depth and passion of its earnest glance, 
But to my self they turned (since none puts by 
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I) 
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst, 
How such a glance came there; so, not the first 
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 't was not 
Her husband's presence only, called that spot 
Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps 
Fra Pandolf chanced to say, ``Her mantle laps 
Over my lady's wrist too much,'' or ``Paint 
Must never hope to reproduce the faint 
Half-flush that dies along her throat:'' such stuff 
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough 
For calling up that spot of joy. She had 
A heart--how shall I say?--too soon made glad, 
Too easily impressed: she liked whate'er 
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere. 
Sir, 't was all one! My favor at her breast, 
The bough of cherries some officious fool 
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule 
She rode with round the terrace--all and each 
Would draw from her alike the approving speech, 
Or blush, at least. She thanked men,--good! but thanked 
Somehow,--I know not how--as if she ranked 
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name 
With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame 
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill 
In speech--(which I have not)--to make your will 
Quite clear to such an one, and say, ``Just this 
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss, 
Or there exceed the mark''--and if she let 
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set 
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse, 
--E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose 
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt, 
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without 
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; 
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands 
As if alive. Will 't please you rise? We'll meet 
The company below, then. I repeat, 
The Count your master's known munificence 
Is ample warrant that no just pretence 
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed; 
Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed 
At starting, is my object. Nay, we'll go 
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though, 
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, 
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!


- Robert Browning

Poetry Corner – The (Other) Raven

RAVEN, from the dim dominions 
    On the Night's Plutonian shore, 
Oft I hear thy dusky pinions 
    Wave and flutter round my door- 
See the shadow of the pinions 
    Float along the moon-lit floor; 

Often, from the oak-woods glooming 
    Round some dim ancestral tower, 
In the lurid distance looming- 
    Some high solitary tower- 
I can hear thy storm-cry booming 
    Through the lonely midnight hour. 

When the moon is at the zenith, 
    Thou dost haunt the moated hall, 
Where the marish flower greeneth 
    O'er the waters, like a pall- 
where the House of Usher leaneth, 
    Darly nooding to its fall: 

There I see thee, dimly gliding,- 
    See thy black plumes waving slow,- 
In its hollow casements hiding, 
    When there shadow yawns below, 
To the sullen tarn confiding 
    The dark secrets of their woe:- 

See thee, when the stars are burning 
    In their cressets, silver clear,- 
When Ligeia's spirit yearning 
    For the earth-life, wanders near,- 
When Morella's soul returning, 
    Weirdly whispers "I am here." 

Once, within a realm enchanted, 
    On a far isle of the seas, 
By unearthly visions haunted, 
    By unearthly melodies, 
Where the evening sunlight slanted 
    Golden through the garden trees,- 

Where the dreamy moonlight dozes, 
    Where the early violets dwell, 
Listening to the silver closes 
    Of a lyric loved too well, 
Suddenly, among the roses, 
    Like a cloud, thy shadow fell. 

Once, where Ulalume lies sleeping, 
    Hard by Auber's haunted mere, 
With the ghouls a vigil keeping, 
    On that night of all the year, 
Came thy sounding pinions, sweeping 
    Through the leafless woods of Weir! 

Oft, with Proserpine I wander 
    On the Night's Plutonian shore, 
Hoping, fearing, while I ponder 
    On thy loved and lost Lenore- 
On the demon doubts that sunder 
    Soul from soul for evermore; 

Trusting, though with sorrow laden, 
    That when life's dark dream is o'er, 
By whatever name the maiden 
    Lives within thy mystic lore, 
Eiros, in that distant Aidenn, 
    Shall his Charmion meet once more.

- Sarah Helen Whitman, something of an interesting character in and of herself.

Poetry Corner – Ishmael

AND Ishmael crouched beside a crackling briar 
Blinded with sand, and maddened by his thirst, 
A derelict, though he know not why accursed. 
And lo! One saw, and strung the dissonant lyre, 
Made firm his bow unto the arrow's spire, 
And gave him dates and wine. Then at the first 
Flushings of dawn Ishmael arose, and burst 
To triumphing freedom, ran, and eased desire.

His domain was the desert. None tamed him. 
None bought or sold his spirit, though his hand 
Dripped red against the dawn and sunset stain.

Thrones melted, kingdoms passed to the world's rim. 
But Ishmael scourged the lion in Paran land, 
And kept his faith with God. And he will reign.

- Herbert Edward Palmer

Poetry Corner – Recompense

I have not heard lutes beckon me, nor the brazen bugles call,
But once in the dim of a haunted lea I heard the silence fall.
I have not heard the regal drum, nor seen the flags unfurled,
But I have watched the dragons come, fire-eyed, across the world.

I have not seen the horsemen fall before the hurtling host,
But I have paced a silent hall where each step waked a ghost.
I have not kissed the tiger-feet of a strange-eyed golden god,
But I have walked a city's street where no man else had trod.

I have not raised the canopies that shelter revelling kings,
But I have fled from crimson eyes and black unearthly wings.
I have not knelt outside the door to kiss a pallid queen,
But I have seen a ghostly shore that no man else has seen.

I have not seen the standards sweep from keep and castle wall,
But I have seen a woman leap from a dragon's crimson stall,
And I have heard strange surges boom that no man heard before,
And seen a strange black city loom on a mystic night-black shore.

And I have felt the sudden blow of a nameless wind's cold breath,
And watched the grisly pilgrims go that walk the roads of Death,
And I have seen black valleys gape, abysses in the gloom,
And I have fought the deathless Ape that guards the Doors of Doom.

I have not seen the face of Pan, nor mocked the Dryad's haste,
But I have trailed a dark-eyed Man across a windy waste.
I have not died as men may die, nor sin as men have sinned,
But I have reached a misty sky upon a granite wind.

- Robert E. Howard

This misses out being my favorite Howard piece because, evocative and strong as it is, but it ends weak without pulling the strands together. Who speaks? Where–beyond the realms of imagination–is he? I, too, wish to know of the road to this far, fantastic place…

“Add title”

Some have broken the bounds of the narrow land

Laid open the book of dreams

Drawn doorways in the sand 

walked through Shadow to the many worlds

With fellowship and dread companions

From the last castle to the Gaean Reach

strangers and pilgrims in a strange land, 

progressing, our destination universe.

The farthest star but a mote in God's eye.


When the world turned upside down,

through a splinter in the mind's eye, recall

who goes there, out of the dark?

A star rider on a steel horse, 

a rite of passage through abyss of wonder,

shelters of stone to the starpilot's grave. // clan of cave bear to the lioness rampant

I saw the doors of his mouth open

and the lamps of his eyes shine.

A final rose bloom for Ecclesiastes,

and no night, ever, without stars.


What's it like out there -- Skagganauk, or the space beyond,

the birthplace of creation, or the crossroads of time?

There is time enough for love. 

Soul music in a minor key, sung by no woman born

In a many-colored land: red, blue, and green.

East of Eden, children of the mind await their childhood's end.

The player of games is gonna roll the bones.

Computers don't argue, the right to arm bears is in the bone

Equal rites are observed,

And no man sayeth call him lord.


There are Skylarks three in an alien sky;

from homely house to lonely mountain 

the long patrol guards moss and flower;

a stainless steel rat runs for president (to hell and back).

Sheep are electric. The horse and his boy

dream of dancing mountains.

All cats are gray, walking between the walls

To say nothing of the dog

that bays with five mouths

the fool moon.


Creatures there are of light and darkness:

When true night falls on the borders of infinity

two suns setting cast slithering shadows

across the long tomorrow. 

Ancient, my enemy, the old gods waken. 

Alas, Babylon! The city and the stars!

Wolves across the border

A feral darkness, the darkness that comes before,

Beyond the black river. 


I will fear no evil, 

not the hills of the dead nor the black god's kiss,

the wings in the night, or the red nails' gleam;

Daemon, sidhe-devil, or devil in iron

or the nine billion names of God,

for the stars are also fire

and the stars

burn.


Soldier, ask not 

of unfinished tales or a dry, quiet war.

Take iron counsel of the cold equations.

Till we have faces, lest the long night fall,

Raise the sword of Rhiannon

Set a fire upon the deep.

More than honor, we few,

Wee free men, the high crusade,

Seek Armageddon inheritance

In the service of the sword. 


Sleeper, awaken! from this alien shore

To your scattered bodies go

A citizen of the galaxy

and not this pale blue dot

Bid farewell again to the cool, green hills of earth

I have space suit and I will travel

The stars are my destination 

These stars are already ours.

Poetry Corner – Other Tiger

A tiger comes to mind. The twilight here
Exalts the vast and busy Library
And seems to set the bookshelves back in gloom;
Innocent, ruthless, bloodstained, sleek
It wanders through its forest and its day
Printing a track along the muddy banks
Of sluggish streams whose names it does not know
(In its world there are no names or past
Or time to come, only the vivid now)
And makes its way across wild distances
Sniffing the braided labyrinth of smells
And in the wind picking the smell of dawn
And tantalizing scent of grazing deer;
Among the bamboo's slanting stripes I glimpse
The tiger's stripes and sense the bony frame
Under the splendid, quivering cover of skin.
Curving oceans and the planet's wastes keep us
Apart in vain; from here in a house far off
In South America I dream of you,
Track you, O tiger of the Ganges' banks.
	
It strikes me now as evening fills my soul
That the tiger addressed in my poem
Is a shadowy beast, a tiger of symbols
And scraps picked up at random out of books,
A string of labored tropes that have no life,
And not the fated tiger, the deadly jewel
That under sun or stars or changing moon
Goes on in Bengal or Sumatra fulfilling
Its rounds of love and indolence and death.
To the tiger of symbols I hold opposed
The one that's real, the one whose blood runs hot
As it cuts down a herd of buffaloes,
And that today, this August third, nineteen
Fifty-nine, throws its shadow on the grass;
But by the act of giving it a name,
By trying to fix the limits of its world,
It becomes a fiction not a living beast,
Not a tiger out roaming the wilds of earth.
	
We'll hunt for a third tiger now, but like
The others this one too will be a form
Of what I dream, a structure of words, and not
The flesh and one tiger that beyond all myths
Paces the earth. I know these things quite well,
Yet nonetheless some force keeps driving me
In this vague, unreasonable, and ancient quest,
And I go on pursuing through the hours
Another tiger, the beast not found in verse.


- Jorge Luis Borges

Poetry Corner – Bugle Song

The splendor falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story;
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying, 
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying. dying, dying.

O, hark, O, hear! how thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O, sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O love, they die in yon rich sky,
They faint on hill or field or river;
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow for ever and for ever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.


- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Poetry Corner – The Sisters

Actually, this is Lamia and it looks like it’s by John William Waterhouse.
We were two daughters of one race;
She was the fairest in the face.
    The wind is blowing in turret and tree.
They were together, and she fell;
Therefore revenge became me well.
    O, the earl was fair to see!

	She died; she went to burning flame;
She mix’d her ancient blood with shame.
    The wind is howling in turret and tree.
Whole weeks and months, and early and late,
To win his love I lay in wait.
    O, the earl was fair to see!

	I made a feast; I bade him come;
I won his love, I brought him home,
    The wind is roaring in turret and tree.
And after supper on a bed,
Upon my lap he laid his head.
    O, the earl was fair to see!

	I kiss’d his eyelids into rest,
His ruddy cheeks upon my breast.
    The wind is raging in turret and tree.
I hated him with the hate of hell,
But I loved his beauty passing well.
    O, the earl was fair to see!

	I rose up in the silent night;
I made my dagger sharp and bright.
    The wind is raving in turret and tree.
As half-asleep his breath he drew,
Three time I stabb’d him thro’ and thro’.
    O, the earl was fair to see!

	I curl’d and comb’d his comely head,
He looked so grand when he was dead.
    The wind is blowing in turret and tree.
I wrapt his body in the sheet,
And laid him at his mother’s feet.
    O, the earl was fair to see!

- Alfred, Lord Tennyson