Three Poems

My Sad Captain, by Thom Gunn

One by one they appear in

the darkness: a few friends, and

a few with historical

names. How late they start to shine!

but before they fade they stand

perfectly embodied, all

the past lapping them like a

cloak of chaos. They were men

who, I thought, lived only to

renew the wasteful force they

spent with each hot convulsion.

They remind me, distant now.

True, they are not at rest yet,

but now that they are indeed

apart, winnowed from failures,

they withdraw to an orbit

and turn with disinterested

hard energy, like the stars.


O Captain! My Captain, by Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

                         But O heart! heart! heart!

                            O the bleeding drops of red,

                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,

                                  Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise upfor you the flag is flungfor you the bugle trills,

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreathsfor you the shores a-crowding,

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

                         Here Captain! dear father!

                            This arm beneath your head!

                               It is some dream that on the deck,

                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,

The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,

From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;

                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!

                            But I with mournful tread,

                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,

                                  Fallen cold and dead.


Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


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Home is so Sad by Philip Larkin

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,unnamed
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.

“Aurad baztarabam awwal bawujud

Juz hairatam az hayat chize nafzud;

Raftem ba’Ikrah wa nadanem che bud

Za in amadan wa raftan wa budan maqsud.”

Omar Khayyam

“He brought me hither to my great surprise

From life I gather but a dark surmise;

I go perforce. Why come? Why live? Why go?

I ask these questions, but find no replies.”

Thought Crimes

Vacillating on the edge of boredom, desirous of some adventure.
Awaiting the end of exams, seeking an escape.
I’m provided with a book, some cash and a long road ahead.
Which do I undertake?
The ennui of these words too seems pretentious.
Distracted, denounced, disengaged.
Disappear.


Egdon Heath as imagined by photographer Herman Lea for the frontispiece of the 1912 edition of The Return of the Native

As to why I wrote this drab of an excuse of “poetry”, I’ll never know. All I know is that whilst studying Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy, I’m overwhelmed by the meticulous portrayal of Edgon Heath which forms the backdrop of the story. I’ve always have had a reverential fondness for the Victorian moorlands and heaths. Here are four paintings that, for me, are an ideal depiction of Hardy’s heath. Complement it with the following extracts from the book:

  • “Civilization was its enemy: and ever since the 2 beginning of vegetation its soil had worn the same antique brown dress, the natural and invariable garment of the particular formation. . . . The great inviolate place had an ancient permanence which the sea cannot claim.”
  • “The sun had branded the whole heath with its mark, even the purple heath-flowers having put on a brownness under the dry blazes of the few preceding days. Every valley was filled with air like that of a kiln, and the clean quartz sand of the winter water-courses, which formed summer paths, had undergone a species of incineration since the drought had set in3
  • “She looked at the sky overhead, and saw that the sapphirine hue of the zenith in spring and early summer had been replaced by a metallic violet. Occasionally she came to a spot where independent worlds of ephemerons were passing their time in mad carousal, some in the air, some on the hot ground and vegetation, some in the tepid and stringy water of a nearly dried pool. All the shallower ponds had decreased to a vaporous mud amid which the maggoty shapes of innumerable obscure creatures could be indistinctly seen, heaving and wallowing with enjoyment. Being a woman not disinclined to philosophize she sometimes sat down under her umbrella to rest and to watch their happiness, for a certain hopefulness as to the result of her visit gave ease to her mind, and between important thoughts left it free to dwell on any infinitesimal matter which caught her eyes.”4