Saturday, April 5, 2008

Poems for Algernon

O, mes amis, je m'excuse ! It's been nearly an entire week since we last celebrated a birthday of someone that no one ever reads anymore except as required for a college lit course. On this day over 170 years ago, English poet Algernon Charles Swinburne screamed his way into this mortal coil.

He would later write some, à mon avis, some groovy stuff, so for your literary edification, here are the first three stanzas from his A Watch In the Night. Given the state of the world, they still resonate a bit, no?

Watchman, what of the night? -
Storm and thunder and rain,
Lights that waver and wane,
Leaving the watchfires unlit.
Only the balefires are bright,
And the flash of the lamps now and then
From a palace where spoilers sit,
Trampling the children of men.

Prophet, what of the night? -
I stand by the verge of the sea,
Banished, uncomforted, free,
Hearing the noise of the waves
And sudden flashes that smite
Some man's tyrannous head,
Thundering, heard among graves
That hide the hosts of his dead.

Mourners, what of the night? -
All night through without sleep
We weep, and we weep, and we weep.
Who shall give us our sons?
Beaks of raven and kite,
Mouths of wolf and of hound,
Give us them back whom the guns
Shot for you dead on the ground.


susan said...

May I leave a brief favorite addition? It's from Rilke's 'Book of Hours':

What's Rome? it crumbled.
What is the world? We are destroying it
before your towers can taper into spires,
before we can assemble your face
from piles of mosaic.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I feel smarter for having visted here today. And more cultured.

TomCat said...

It could have been written today.

Randal Graves said...

susan, certainly a worthy addition to this theme. So much great art is born out of the evils we perpetrate against the world and each other. Funny how that works.

dcap, thanks for stopping by and feeling more cultured, but if that's happening here, than the bar is quite low!

tomcat, exactly.

Baldwin Park Democrat said...

"someone that no one ever reads anymore except as required for a college lit course" ...

What a shame.

Tengrain said...

Non, non, et non. O, mes amis, je m'excuse ! means you are excusing yourself. The reflexive verbs are hard on us Americans.

Vous m'excusez or even Excusez-moi is what I think you meant.

But an excellent poem. I, too, feel more cultured.



FranIAm said...

You are such a blogger of many tastes and so diverse.

Now completely off topic, I had to share this with you!

Dr. Zaius said...

All that and a weak chin! That guy has everything.

Dean Wormer said...

Some man's tyrannous head,
Thundering, heard among graves
That hide the hosts of his dead.

Is this a backhanded way of remembering Charlton Heston?

Anita said...

Ahhh, Swinburne. One of my favorite Victorian-era poets. Robert Buchanan referred to Swinburne's and Rosetti's works as the "Fleshy School of Poetry."

Anita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
okjimm said...

.....feeling more cultured, but if that's happening here, than the bar is quite low!----

exactly!!! That is why I feel comfortable reading your blog. My bar is soooooo low, that I, too, derive culture from the mad, hyrdophobic ravings of a mad man from Cleveland! ;) ohhhhh I do not want to be presumptive,,,,,but are MAD, right???? I have had enough ravings from the sane..... there is only clarity and sense from the truly MAD...

Still haven't found the Nun. My heart is breaking.

La Belette Rouge said...

Poem and bday in one post--you are a posting overachiever. Slack a little, would you, you make us other Gen Xer's look bad. ;-)

Candace said...

That gave me chills. It's completely relevant today, sadly.

La Belette Rouge said...

It has taken me nearly five months to figure it out--but I just figured out your alias. I am slow. :-)

PoliShifter said...

well well well

Mr. Fancy Pants

Anonymous said...

RG, Sorry for being late to this game. Nice selection from Swinburne. Man, you sure know how to pick 'em.

Randal Graves said...

baldwin park dem, that sort of was a generalization on my part, but a valid one. I never see anyone reading poetry anymore. Well, reading.

tengrain, well, s'excuser means to 'apologize' but I think we would translate it as "I'm sorry" as opposed to "I apologize." Hey, it's close enough dammit, I'm no expert. ;-)

fran, oh fine, go on and insult Cthulhu by associating him with that first-rank lunatic Cheney.

dr. zaius, yes, he does remind one of Glass Joe, doesn't he? Except for the wacky hair.

dean, I suppose we can pry the gun from his cold, dead hands now, huh.

anita, certainly an apt description.

okjimm, I'm not mad, the rest of you are fucking nuts! And I heard a rumor that she's back amongst the electrons.

LBR, I just took the last two days off, happy? ;-) And there really isn't anything highbrow or French about that character, so I can see why you would've been thrown off. ;-)

candace, it certainly is. I'm sure we could find far too many older pieces that still are.

poli, only on weekends.

spartacus, thanks. Now, if I only knew how to write 'em!

Scarlet W. Blue said...

Kind of refreshing for a Victorian, eh?