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Favourite Poetry Thread

Does what it says on the tin, innit.

Philip Larkin - This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

Published by arthurCRS at 10:49am on Fri 30th January 2009. Viewed 4,731 times.

There once was a man from Nantucket....

Published by DJ Ohmygod at 10:52am on Fri 30th January 2009.

The only poem I know by rote, aside from Roger McGough's (I think) Nits:

are the pits

Published by arthurCRS at 10:52am on Fri 30th January 2009.

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Published by captain fantastic (not active) at 10:54am on Fri 30th January 2009.

ditto on that one ^^^^. Can't believe I actually remember most of it!

Published by BennyG at 10:56am on Fri 30th January 2009.

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Published by captain fantastic (not active) at 10:57am on Fri 30th January 2009.


Pete The Pirate Squid by Roman Dirge

There's not alot of things he did,
Pete the Pirate Squid.

Published by JazzRTC at 10:57am on Fri 30th January 2009.

Not strictly a poem, but...

When I was a young man I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murrays green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over
Then in nineteen fifteen my country said Son
It's time to stop rambling 'cause there's work to be done
So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun
And they sent me away to the war
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we sailed away from the quay
And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers
We sailed off to Gallipoli

How well I remember that terrible day
How the blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter
Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well
He chased us with bullets, he rained us with shells
And in five minutes flat he'd blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia
But the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we stopped to bury our slain
We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs
Then we started all over again

Now those that were left, well we tried to survive
In a mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
But around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over tit
And when I woke up in my hospital bed
And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead
Never knew there were worse things than dying
For no more I'll go waltzing Matilda
All around the green bush far and near
For to hump tent and pegs, a man needs two legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me

So they collected the cripples, the wounded, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where my legs used to be
And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
Then turned all their faces away

And now every April I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving old dreams of past glory
And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore
The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, "What are they marching for?"
And I ask myself the same question
And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men answer to the call
But year after year their numbers get fewer
Some day no one will march there at all

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
And their ghosts may be heard as you pass the Billabong
Who'll come-a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Published by Old Rocker at 10:59am on Fri 30th January 2009.

John Clare by Wendy Cope

John Clare, last night I cried
For you--your grass-green coat,
Your oddness, others' spite,
Your fame, enjoyed and lost,
Your gift, and what it cost.

Awake in the early hours,
I heard you with my eyes,
Carolling woods and showers.
As if a songbird's throat
Could utter words, you wrote.

I listened late and long--
Each clear, true, loving note
Placed justly in its song.
Sometimes for sheer delight,
John Clare, I cried last night.

Fate Playing by Ted Hughes

Because the message somehow met a goblin,
Because precedents tripped your expectations,
Because your London was still a kaleidoscope
Of names and places any jolt could scramble,
You waited mistaken. The bus from the North
Came in and emptied and I was not on it.
No matter how much you insisted
And begged the driver, probably with tears,
To produce me or to remember seeing me
Just miss getting on. I was not on it.
Eight in the evening and I was lost and at large
Somewhere in England. You restrained
Your confident inspiration
And did not dash out into the traffic
Milling around Victoria, utterly certain
Of bumping into me where I would have to be walking.
I was not walking anywhere. I was sitting
Unperturbed, in my seat on the train
Rocking towards Kings Cross. Somebody,
Calmer than you, had a suggestion. So,
When I got off the train, expecting to find you
Somewhere down at the root of the platform,
I saw that surge and agitation, a figure
Breasting the flow of released passengers,
Then your molten face, your molten eyes
And your exclamations, your flinging arms
Your scattering tears
As if I had come back from the dead
Against every possibility, against
Every negative but your own prayer
To your own Gods. There I knew what it was
To be a miracle. And behind you
Your jolly taxi-driver, laughing, like a small god,
To see an American girl being so American,
And to see your frenzied chariot-ride –
Sobbing and goading him, and pleading with him
To make happen what you needed to happen-
Succeed so completely, thanks to him.
Well, it was a wonder
That my train was not earlier, even much earlier,
That it pulled in, late, the very moment
You irrupted onto the platform. It was
Natural and miraculous and an omen
Confirming everything
You wanted confirmed. So your huge despair,
Your cross-London panic dash
And now your triumph, splashed over me,
Like love forty-nine times magnified,
Like the first thunder cloudburst engulfing
The drought in August
When the whole cracked earth seems to quake
And every leaf trembles
And everything holds up its arms weeping.

To his Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv'd virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Published by Doris (not active) at 11:01am on Fri 30th January 2009.

I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen;
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut
And "Thou shalt not," writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.

William Blake

Published by rishistar at 11:02am on Fri 30th January 2009.

Cheese is a kind of meat,
A tasty yellow beef.
I milk it from my teat,
But I try to be discrete.
Oh cheese! Oh cheese!

Published by DJ Ohmygod at 11:03am on Fri 30th January 2009.

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Published by captain fantastic (not active) at 11:18am on Fri 30th January 2009.

W. H. Davies

WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Published by newportandy at 11:19am on Fri 30th January 2009.

I don't really get poetry but I think this poem and it's variants had the most effect on me from an early age.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Martin Niemöller

Published by DJ Ohmygod at 11:27am on Fri 30th January 2009.

I discovered this poem last week and I really like it. It's not to everyone's taste though.

Sylvia Plath:
The Bee Meeting

Who are these people at the bridge to meet me? They are the villagers----
The rector, the midwife, the sexton, the agent for bees.
In my sleeveless summery dress I have no protection,
And they are all gloved and covered, why did nobody tell me?
They are smiling and taking out veils tacked to ancient hats.

I am nude as a chicken neck, does nobody love me?
Yes, here is the secretary of bees with her white shop smock,
Buttoning the cuffs at my wrists and the slit from my neck to my knees.
Now I am milkweed silk, the bees will not notice.
They will not smell my fear, my fear, my fear.

Which is the rector now, is it that man in black?
Which is the midwife, is that her blue coat?
Everybody is nodding a square black head, they are knights in visors,
Breastplates of cheesecloth knotted under the armpits.
Their smiles and their voces are changing. I am led through a beanfield.

Strips of tinfoil winking like people,
Feather dusters fanning their hands in a sea of bean flowers,
Creamy bean flowers with black eyes and leaves like bored hearts.
Is it blood clots the tendrils are dragging up that string?
No, no, it is scarlet flowers that will one day be edible.

Now they are giving me a fashionable white straw Italian hat
And a black veil that molds to my face, they are making me one of them.
They are leading me to the shorn grove, the circle of hives.
Is it the hawthorn that smells so sick?
The barren body of hawthon, etherizing its children.

Is it some operation that is taking place?
It is the surgeon my neighbors are waiting for,
This apparition in a green helmet,
Shining gloves and white suit.
Is it the butcher, the grocer, the postman, someone I know?

I cannot run, I am rooted, and the gorse hurts me
With its yellow purses, its spiky armory.
I could not run without having to run forever.
The white hive is snug as a virgin,
Sealing off her brood cells, her honey, and quietly humming.

Smoke rolls and scarves in the grove.
The mind of the hive thinks this is the end of everything.
Here they come, the outriders, on their hysterical elastics.
If I stand very still, they will think I am cow-parsley,
A gullible head untouched by their animosity,

Not even nodding, a personage in a hedgerow.
The villagers open the chambers, they are hunting the queen.
Is she hiding, is she eating honey? She is very clever.
She is old, old, old, she must live another year, and she knows it.
While in their fingerjoint cells the new virgins

Dream of a duel they will win inevitably,
A curtain of wax dividing them from the bride flight,
The upflight of the murderess into a heaven that loves her.
The villagers are moving the virgins, there will be no killing.
The old queen does not show herself, is she so ungrateful?

I am exhausted, I am exhausted ----
Pillar of white in a blackout of knives.
I am the magician's girl who does not flinch.
The villagers are untying their disguises, they are shaking hands.
Whose is that long white box in the grove, what have they accomplished, why am I cold.

Published by Doris (not active) at 11:29am on Fri 30th January 2009.

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Published by World Music World (not active) at 11:34am on Fri 30th January 2009.

Roman Dirge! I love him - but not as much as I love Lenore, obviously!

Speaking of Lenore, it's an obvious choice but Poe's The Raven has to be one of my favourites. Also Kipling's If and pretty much everything by Byron.

Published by John Techno at 12:12pm on Fri 30th January 2009.

i'm a huge fan of this poem by percy shelley "the mask of anarchy" written after the peterloo massacre when the police went mental in manchester in 1819

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth, like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you –
Ye are many, they are few!

Published by ozzy rules at 12:22pm on Fri 30th January 2009.

There's not a shakespeare sonnet
Nor a beethoven quartet
That's easier to like than you
or harder to forget

You think that sounds extravagant?
I haven't finished yet
I like you more
Than I would like
To have a cigarette

Wendy Cope.

Published by molly at 2:05pm on Fri 30th January 2009.

I bought Mr LP a copy of Mervyn Peake's Collected Poems for Christmas and it is very good. My favourite so far is..

Dead Rat by Mervyn Peake

Were I a farmer I would call you vermin
Because you’d be the villain of my crops
And gnaw my wealth, but I am not a farmer,
But only one that walks the farmers’ fields,
And so when I came on your stiffen’d body
Lying alone and flowered with frost, your eyeballs
Glazed and your little front paws so beseeching
Crossed on your breast and pink like human fingers,
And when I saw your deadness in the frozen
Light of the winter morning, I, unmanly,
Unfarmerly, and most impractically
Felt that rats even have a right to live
And knew that there was beauty in your body
Dusted with starry marvels of bright frost,
And beauty in the little hands you crossed
Upon your breast before you died this morning.

Published by lilly_p at 10:50pm on Fri 30th January 2009.

The Tay Bridge Disaster
William Topaz McGonagall (1879)
clr gif

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

’Twas about seven o’clock at night,
And the wind it blew with all its might,
And the rain came pouring down,
And the dark clods seem’d to frown,
And the Demon of the air seem’d to say --
“I’ll blow down the Bridge of Tay.”

When the train left Edinburgh
The passengers’ hearts were light and felt no sorrow,
But Boreas blew a terrific gale,
Which made their hearts for to quail,
And many of the passengers with fear did say --
“I hope God will send us safe across the Bridge of Tay.”

But when the train came near to Wormit Bay,
Boreas he did loud and angry bray,
And shook the central girders of the Bridge of Tay
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

So the train sped on with all its might,
And Bonnie Dundee soon hove in sight,
And the passengers’ hearts felt light,
Thinking they would enjoy themselves on the New Year,
With their friends at home they lov’d most dear,
And wish them all a happy New Year.

So the train mov’d slowly along the Bridge of Tay,
Until it was about midway,
Then the central girders with a crash gave way,
And down went the train and passengers into the Tay!
The Storm Fiend did loudly bray,
Because ninety lives had been taken away,
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

As soon as the catastrophe came to be known
The alarm from mouth to mouth was blown,
And the cry rang out all o’er the town,
Good Heavens! the Tay Bridge is blown down,
And a passenger train from Edinburgh,
Which fill’d all the people’s hearts with sorrow,
And made them for to turn pale,
Because none of the passengers were sav’d to tell the tale
How the disaster happen’d on the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

It must have been an awful sight,
To witness in the dusky moonlight,
While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.

Published by bigmal at 11:19pm on Fri 30th January 2009.

Can't remember who it's by, and I may be misquoting...

There was a poo upon a hill
There was a poo upon a hill
It's not there now
It must have shifted.

The poet was a Scot, as I recall.

Published by John Techno at 12:53pm on Mon 2nd February 2009.

If I Could Tell You

Time will say nothing but I told you so,
Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
If we should stumble when musicians play,
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

There are no fortunes to be told, although,
Because I love you more than I can say,
If I could tell you I would let you know.

The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reasons why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

Perhaps the roses really want to grow,
The vision seriously intends to stay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

Suppose all the lions get up and go,
And all the brooks and soldiers run away;
Will Time say nothing but I told you so?
If I could tell you I would let you know.

W.H. Auden

Published by Matt H at 1:06pm on Mon 2nd February 2009.

John, sounds like Ivor Cutler.

Published by DeFrev at 1:09pm on Mon 2nd February 2009.

Separation on the River Kiang

Ko-jin goes west from Ko-kaku-ro,
The smoke flowers are blurred over the river.
His lone sail blots the far sky.
And now l see only the river,
The long Kiang, reaching heaven.

- Li Po (Trans. E. Fenellosa, E. Pound).

Published by Braddy at 1:23pm on Tue 18th September 2018.

Wow. Almost 13 years from joining the site until your first post. That's what I call patience. Well done Braddy!

On the subject of favourite poetry, I moved to East Anglia just after the years took on a "2" as their first digit, and there's an opening line which has stuck in my mind ever since:

"When first we lived beneath the fen-wide skies..."

This used to be posted on the walls of the commuter trains, in the places where they only put adverts now.

My attempts to Google-sleuth the original author have shown some promising leads. I really should follow them up one day.

Published by Wrongfellow at 1:14am on Wed 19th September 2018.
This reply has been edited, last edit at 1:15am on Wed 19th September 2018.

*Waves at Braddy*

I love poetry, but had never spotted this thread. Keats and the Romantics is my sort of thing.

Here's a few lines from a (not Keats) poem:
Alone in my world
I stare into emptiness,
Wishing he was here with me
And could ease the loneliness.
A tear wells in my eye
And rolls gently down my cheek.
A lump in my throat,
I am unable to speak.

Published by MissRegaling at 8:04pm on Wed 19th September 2018.

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