Night Piece

Vrubel - Seraphim - 04

“Seraphim” by Mikhail Vrubel

Gaunt in gloom

The pale stars their torches,

Enshrouded, wave.

Ghost-fires from heaven’s far verges faint illumine —

Arches on soaring arches —

Night’s sin-dark nave.



The lost hosts awaken

To service, till

In moonless gloom each lapses, muted, dim,

Raised when she has and shaken

Her thurible.


James Joyce

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I’m crying all the time now.

I cried all over the street when I left the Seattle Wobbly Hall.

I cried listening to Bach.

I cried looking at the happy flowers in my backyard, I cried at the sadness of the middle-aged trees.


Happiness exists, I feel it.

I cried for my soul, I cried for the world’s soul.

The world has a beautiful soul.

God appearing to be seen and cried over. Overflowing heart of Paterson.


Arctic, 1956

Allen Ginsberg

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A ball will bounce; but less and less. It’s not

A light-hearted thing, resents its own resilience.

Falling is what it loves, and the earth falls

So in our hearts from brilliance,

Settles and is forgot.

It takes a sky-blue juggler with five red balls


To shake our gravity up. Whee, in the air

The balls roll around, wheel on his wheeling hands,

Learning the ways of lightness, alter to spheres

Grazing his finger ends,

Cling to their courses there,

Swinging a small heaven about his ears.


But a heaven is easier made of nothing at all

Than the earth regained, and still and sole within

The spin of worlds, with a gesture sure and noble

He reels that heaven in,

Landing it ball by ball,

And trades it all for a broom, a plate, a table.


Oh, on his toe the table is turning, the broom’s

Balancing up on his nose, and the plate whirls

On the tipof the broom! Damn, what a show, we cry:

The boys stamp, and the girls

Shriek, and the drum booms

And all come down, and he bows and says good-bye.


If the juggler is tired now, if the broom stands

In the dust again, if the table starts to drop

Through the daily dark again, and though the plate

Lies flat on the table top,

For him we batter our hands

Who has won for once over the world’s weight.


By Richard Wilbur

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[Epistle to Mr. Murray]

childe harolde painting

Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer by Caspar David Friedrich (1818)


My dear Mr Murray,

You’re in a damned hurry

To set up this ultimate Canto, [1]

But (if they don’t rob us)

You’ll see Mr Hobhouse

Will bring it safe in his portmanteau. —


Mr. Murray, Byron’s publisher



For the Journal you hint of, [2]

As ready to print off;

No doubt you do right to commend it

But as yet I have writ off

The devil a bit of

Our ‘Beppo’, when copied – I’ll send it. —



Henry Gally Knight


In the mean time you’ve ‘Gally’ [3]

Whose verses all tally,

Perhaps you may say he’s a Ninny,

But if you abashed are

Because of ‘Alashtar’

He’ll piddle another ‘Phrosine’. —



Then you’ve Sotheby’s tour, [4]

No great things to be sure —

You could hardly begin with a less work,

For the pompous rascallion

Who don’t speak Italian

Nor French, must have scribbled by guesswork.



No doubt he’s a rare man

Without knowing German

Translating his way up Parnassus,

And now still absurder

He meditates Murder

As you’ll see in the trash he calls Tasso’s.



But you’ve others his betters

The real men of letters —

Your Orators — critics — and wits —

And I’ll bet that your Journal

(Pray is it diurnal?)

Will pay with your luckiest hits. —



You can make any loss up –

With ‘Spence’ and his Gossip, [5]

A work which must surely succeed,

Then Queen Mary’s Epistle-craft, [6]

With the new ‘Fytte’ of ‘Whistlecraft’ [7]

Must make people purchase and read. —

george chalmers

George Chalmers, author of The Life of Mary Queen of Scots (1819)



Then you’ve General Gordon [8]

Who ‘girded his sword on’

To serve with a Muscovite Master

And help him to polish

A Nation so owlish,

They thought shaving their beards a disaster.


Thomas Gordon



For the man ‘poor and shrewd

With whom you’d conclude

A Compact without more delay,

Perhaps some such pen is

Still extant in Venice,

But please Sir to mention your pay?



Now tell me some news

Of your friends and the Muse

Of the Bar, — or the Gown — or the House,

From Canning the tall wit

To Wilmot the small wit

Ward’s creeping Companion and Louse — [9]

john william

John William Ward



Who’s so damnably bit

With fashion and Wit

That he crawls on the surface like Vermin

But an Insect in both, —

By his Intellect’s growth

Of what size you may quickly determine.



Now, I’ll put out my taper

(I’ve finished my paper

For these stanzas you see on the brink stand)

There’s a whore on my right

For I rhyme best at Night

When a C–t is tied close to my Inkstand.



It was Mahomet’s notion

That comical motion

Increased his ‘devotion in prayer’ —

If that tenet holds good

In a Prophet, it should

In a poet be equally fair. —



For, in rhyme or in love

(Which both come from above)

I’ll stand with our ‘Tommy‘ or ‘Sammy‘)

But the Sopha and lady

Are both of them ready

And so, here’s ‘Good Night to you dammee!’

Lord Byron

p. 342-344

Lord Byron: The Major Works (Ed. Jerome J. McGann)

[1]  Childe Harold Canto IV. Hobhouse left Venice with the MS of the canto the same day as this letter.

[2] Journal.  Murray never did publish this journal he contemplated.

[3] Minor poet Henry Gally Knight wrote Alashtar  and Phrosine (both 1817).

[4] Sotheby’s tour: Farewell to Italy (1818).

[5] ‘Spence’ Edward Malone’s edn. of Spence’s Observations was published in 1820.

[6] George Chalmers, The Life of Mary Queen of Scots (1819).

[7] ‘Whistlecraft’: the pseudonym under which Frere composed the ottava rima poem (The Monks and the Giantswhich so influenced Byron’s Beppo.

[8] ‘Gordon’: the contemporary soldier and traveller Thomas Gordon.

[9] Wilmot: Byron’s first cousin Sir Robert Wilmot.

[10] Ward: Byron’s old friend John William Ward

childe harolde

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The man who wanted a prayer-mat


‘Once someone asked the Prophet to provide

A prayer-mat, and the best of men replied:

“The desert’s arid sands are burning now.

Pray there; against the hot dust press your brow

And feel it sear your flesh; the wounded skin

Will be an emblem of the wound within.”

If no scar marks your heart, the countenance

Of love will pass you by without a glance;

But heart’s wounds show that on the battlefield

Your friends have found a man who will not yield.’


extract from The Conference of the Birds (spoken by a hoopoe)

By Farid Ud-Din Attar (Trans. Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis)

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This darksome burn, horseback brown,

His rollrock highroad roaring down,

In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam

Flutes and low to the lake falls home.


A windpuff-bonnet of fawn-froth

Turns and twindles over the broth

Of a pool so pitchblack, fell-frowning,

It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.


Degged with dew, dappled with dew

Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,

Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,

And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.


What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and of wilderness? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wildness and wet;

Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

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Our March


Crash through the squares with a rebel tread.

Lift up proudly the crag of your head.

We’ll cleanse the towns of the world as they drown

in the second flood that our angers spread.

The piebald days, they plod.

The wagon years creak as they come.

Speed is our only god,

our heart is a summoning drum.


The heavens were strong, but our gold is stronger.

Ah, will the wasps of bullets yet sting?

The others lug guns out, but we have our songs.

Our boisterous shout is the gold we ring.

Green, spill on the fields anew,

cover the past with your pride,

Rainbow, arch over the blue

for the galloping years we ride.


The starry skies in their boredom yawn,

shut out from the songs where our ardours thrive.

Ho there, Great Bear, let us all be drawn

right up to heaven while yet we’re alive.

Drink then to joy and shout.

Spring in our blood comes to pass.

O hearts, exult as you beat,

our breasts are cymbals of brass.


V. Mayakovsky

(Translated by Jack Lindsay)

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When first my eyes did view and mark


When first mine eyes did view and mark

Thy fair beauty to behold,

And when mine ears listened to hark

The pleasant words that thou me told,

I would as then I had been free

From ears to hear and eyes to see.


And when my lips gan first to move,

Whereby my heart to thee was known,

And when my tongue did talk of love

To thee that has true love down thrown,

I would my lips and tongue also

Had then been dumb, no deal to go.


And when my hands have handled aught

That thee hath kept in memory,

And when my feet have gone and sought

To find and get thy company,

I would each hand a foot had been,

And I each foot a hand had seen.


And when in mind I did consent

To follow this my fancy’s will,

And when my heart did first relent

To taste such bait my life to spill,

I would mine heart had been as thine,

Or else thy heart had been as mine.


By Thomas Wyatt

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This Sixth Molar


This Sixth Molar,
molested unmercifully
by years’ ravages,
abstract it, Dentist, please –
first bit of the whole foul heap
to go for good.


By Peter Reading

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Sonnet On the Death of Richard West


In vain to me the smileing Mornings shine,

And redning Phoebus lifts his golden Fire:

The Birds in vain their amorous Descant joyn;

Or chearful Fields resume their green Attire:

These Ears, alas! for other notes repine,

A different Object do these eyes require.

My lonely Anguish melts no Heart, but mine;

And in my Breast the imperfect Joys expire.

Yet morning smiles the busy Race to chear,

And new-born Pleasure brings to happier Men:

The Fields to all their wonted Tribute bear:

To warm their little Loves the Birds complain:

I fruitless mourn to him, that cannot hear,

And weep the more because I weep in vain.


Thomas Gray

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