Friday, April 04, 2008

"Still the sea is salt"

In my continuing series of poems for National Poetry Month, here is a lovely lyric by A.E. Housman. While his poems may not have the grandeur of Tennyson or the philosophical heft of Matthew Arnold, his ear is matchless and his handling of meters and his musicality make him worthy of a wider readership.

Stars, I have seen them fall,
But when they drop and die
No star is lost at all
From all the star-sown sky.
The toil of all that be
Helps not the primal fault;
It rains into the sea,
And still the sea is salt.

And in the spirit of NaPoWriMo, here's a fragment of my own. Perhaps it will grow into a fulll poem, but in any case, it's all I have that's new to offer at the moment.


Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?
And was it the bass or the keening
vocal that kept me awake for two hours
in the first place? And did I ever
actually fall asleep?

This piece was inspired by a writing "assignment" from the editors of Red Morning press, a small poetry press, sent to their e-mail list. The challenge was to use the last line of a favorite poem as a starting point for a poem of one's own. Your assigment: Identify the poem and author of my first line.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's great to see Housman mentioned on your blog. I agree he gets less recognition than he should. I reviewed his Collected Poems at

His subject matter is quite wide-ranging and provocative. Imagine telling someone to "go ahead and commit suicide" as he did in poem XLV from The Shropshire Lad!

If it chance your eye offend you,
Pluck it out, lad, and be sound:
‘Twill hurt, but here are salves to friend you,
And may a balsam grows on ground.

And if your hand or foot offend you,
Cut it off, lad, and be whole;
But play the man, stand up and end you,
When your sickness is your soul.

10:10 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Thanks Bernie! Great to know another Housman lover. I'll read your review.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Francesca said...

Ode to a Nightingale ... is there a statute of limitations ?

5:11 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

"Ode to a Nightingale ... is there a statute of limitations ?"

Francie: I'm not sure I understand this comment. The Ode is and always will be one of the greatest poems in the English language and my personal favorite.

8:40 AM  

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