September 16, 2014
Brave lodgings for one, brave lodgings for one,
A few feet of cold earth, when life is done;
A stone at the head, a stone at the feet;
A rich, juicy meal for the worms to eat;
Rank grass overhead, and damp clay around,
Brave lodgings for one, these, in holy ground!
This little song appears in The Pickwick Papers, and was therefore the work of a very young Dickens. It is part of a very long history of funny, morbid gravediggers in literature, and is no doubt intended to trigger memories of Hamlet. The illustration, by Hablot Knight Browne, captures this beautifully. It is well worth looking at his other illustrations on Wikimedia Commons.
Gabriel Grub is like a prototype for Scrooge; the miserable man is reformed by exposure to a goblin, just as Scrooge will later be changed by the ghosts. Even in this early book (1836-37) we see how Dickens loved playing with names; a sexton called Grub singing of worms is just wonderful. Grub, unlike Scrooge, is often very drunk.
Asking if Dickens was a great poet is like judging an elephant on its ability to tap dance. It really is missing the whole point of the creature.
I don’t know if any other poets have posted poems about death, but I shall shortly press this feather, dropped by a hungry crow, and find out:
September 9, 2014
Sometimes amongst the flow of evil events that we call ‘news’ you read something so beautiful that it seems to come from a different, kinder planet.
Or Iowa, in this case, where a lesbian couple who have been in a relationship for over 70 years were just married:
This story emphasises that the lives of ninety year olds can be as full of meaning and even excitement as those of people in their twenties. It also reminds people who tend to write off the United States just how diverse that country is. And how diverse Christianity is, too.
I hope that some day we will see such marriages in Australia. Civil marriages and religious marriages, for those who want them. If only most relationships lasted 70 years! To quote Corinthians:
‘But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.’
(For once that is not the King James version, as that translates the last term as ‘charity’, which sounds a little odd to modern ears.)
This story is definitely the poem of the week. And I hope my complete lack of sarcasm may be forgiven by regular readers, for this week only!
August 25, 2014
perched on a log
damp bark transfers water —
my pink frog bum
Now that damp croak of a poem was written at a great event which was held in O’Connor, just up the road from where your poetic blogger lives. (That’s me, if you were wondering.) A group of people met, heard about the wetlands and haiku, and wrote a brimming bucket of the tadpole poems.
The event was organised by Sarah St Vincent Welch (writer) and Edwina Robinson (Urban Waterways Coordinator). There are lovely photos and more poems at the following link, including some more serious ones. But I am particularly chuffed by the photo that follows on from the poem, in which I am indeed perched on a log.
Canberra is a very lucky city, with features such as the urban waterways in the inner city. (If you are imagining a city such as Paris, or Sydney, please don’t. Canberra is not that type of place at all.) The waterways return some of the creek that flowed through this area to a more natural state after it was concreted at some stage. Philosophically, it is an interesting question whether these recreated ponds are ‘natural’, but I am pleased that they exist.
Similarly, is haiku in English actually haiku? Is a haiku that contains a rhyme a proper haiku? Should we worry about such notions of form and purity?
Or should we just play?
Press this feather, fly to New Zealand, and read even more poetry:
August 13, 2014
Hope was but a timid friend;
She sat without the grated den,
Watching how my fate would tend,
Even as selfish-hearted men.
She was cruel in her fear;
Through the bars, one dreary day,
I looked out to see her there,
And she turned her face away!
Like a false guard, false watch keeping,
Still, in strife, she whispered peace;
She would sing while I was weeping;
If I listened, she would cease.
False she was, and unrelenting;
When my last joys strewed the ground,
Even Sorrow saw, repenting,
Those sad relics scattered round;
There is another poem on the same subject by Emily Dickinson, of course, which mentions wings, but I prefer this one, being a renowned misery guts.
If you would like wingèd hope to plop onto your lap like an obese kakapo, may I suggest you press this feather? You will not fly, or run very fast, but you will find yourself reading many poems from New Zealand. However, a flightless parrot tells me that the very fine Hub Poem is by a member of what our Prime Minister just dubbed ‘Team Australia’. A phrase guaranteed to make any poet puke. If you don’t, please hand your licence back in to the Appropriate Authorities.
The poem at the hub is by a third Emily, by the way: Emily Manger.