Category Archives: Poetry

Science Fiction Poetry

Poet

Since I enjoy poetry (I don’t write it) and enjoy Science Fiction, my research into the Hugo Wars uncovered an interesting fact. There’s no Hugo for Science Fiction poetry.

Now science fiction magazines have published poetry for almost a century now. The Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) created its own awards, the Rhysling, to make up for this oversight. This award had been handed out continuously since 1978. If you look the award up, you’ll recognize some of the winners as authors you know.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Poetry and speculative fiction have a long association. The medieval poetry of gods and monsters hold the stories of Siegfried and Beowulf. Bryon’s Childe Harold inspired two multi-book stories, one from Gordon R. Dickson and the other from Stephen King.

This, of course, begins another of those continuous discussions of ‘What is Poetry’ with an additional twist. What makes it SF poetry?

I won’t try to answer that. I don’t want to start any flame wars. However, I think I can point to a shining example that all of the SFPA would agree with. Their award is named after a fictional character, a poet, in a Robert Heinlein story, ‘The Green Hills of Earth’. The story is a biography of “Noisy” Rhysling and includes a song with the same name as the story. Here’s a bit of it:

Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet —

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.
–Robert A Heinlein

Is it poetry? I think so. Is it SF poetry? With rockets and space flight throughout the solar system it definitely is. What gives it such power? The poem’s strength lies in the emotional impact. Heinlein manages in a few lines to capture the homesickness of every person who has left his familiar world for another.

Go and search the Internet and find more Science Fiction poetry. With English the most spoken language in the world there must be a few thousand who will like Science Fiction poetry.

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

All the connections

Have Gun

On the weekend I was watching an episode of “Have Gun Will Travel”, specifically Season 2 Episode 34 – Comanche. This was a half hour western television series from the 1950’s. If you want to watch it, go to YouTube where you can find all the episodes.

I’m not certain if watching a fifty year old television series says more about me or the current state of television. Stop laughing.

Now the main character on “Have Gun Will Travel” is a soldier of fortune named Paladin, who lives in San Francisco, and works all over the American west. His character is portrayed as a well-read, well-educated man, with a taste for the theatre. Usually he quotes some piece of writing during the show.

Sometimes I know the quote. However in this episode I didn’t. It ran as follows:

And when he fell in whirlwind, he went down

As when a lordly cedar, green with boughs,

Goes down with a great shout upon the hills,

And leaves a lonesome place against the sky.

Catchy isn’t it? I had to look it up. It turns out this is the last lines from a poem “Lincoln, Man of the People” by Edwin Markham who was the subject of one of my blogs earlier. I have a particular liking for another of his poems, ‘The Man with a Hoe’. I found the connection fascinating.

I decided to look up the writers for this series. There were 225 episodes, 24 written by Gene Roddenberry. Other contributors included Bruce Geller, Harry Julian Fink, Don Brinkley and Irving Wallace. This particular episode was one of three that was written by Irving Wallace. He is better known for his novels and the movies they inspired.

It’s get stranger. During WWII, Wallace served in the Frank Capra unit in Fort Fox along with Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss). So there’s only one degree of separation between Dr. Seuss and Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek fame.

Want some other connections? Movies from Wallace’s novels starred everyone from Paul Newman to Tom Selleck, to Jane Fonda, to Cloris Leachman. And this is another connection to me, because Tom Selleck started in ‘Three Men and a baby’ a picture I worked on as a movie extra.

For writers, the connections are many, complex and not always obvious at first sight.

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

And Nobody Noticed

US Poet Laureate Philip Levine

This is an angry blog today. Why am I angry? I’m angry at the strange silly balance in our modern culture that raises some to exalted levels who have no talent and commits to obscurity the great voices of our age.

What if I told you that on February 14th of this year a man died? This man had been appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. His awards include the following:

  • Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award,
  • Pulitzer Prize for Poetry,
  • National Book Award for Poetry,
  • Los Angeles Times Book Prize,
  • Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine,
  • Guggenheim Foundation fellowship,
  • National Book Award for Poetry,
  • National Book Critics Circle Award,
  • Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize from Poetry,
  • Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets,
  • American Academy of Arts and Letters Award,
  • Frank O’Hara Prize.

However, his passing was too insignificant for the likes of Fox News, and CNN.

Philip Levine started working in the Detroit car factories at the age of fourteen. He didn’t stay there. He finished high school and went to University for a Bachelor of Arts which he completed in 1950. Then back to the ‘Stupid’ jobs for Chevrolet and Cadillac.

He wrote poetry about working in a Detroit auto factory.

Maybe in a century or two, when the world has forgotten Leslie Gore, and E.L. James, it will remember Philip Levine, and his portraits of working class Americans will be enjoyed.

Library of Congress

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

 

 

The Valentine’s Day Conspiracy

Chaucer

As a child at Our Lady of Lourdes, the nuns taught us that St. Valentine was a martyr during the early days of the church. The emperor, Claudius the Cruel had forbidden marriages, believing that single men made better soldiers, but Valentinus, a priest, continued to secretly perform marriages. After he was jailed, Valentinus he restored sight to the blind daughter of his jailer, who wrote him a letter of thanks that became the first Valentine.

It was a great story, but a complete crock of doo doo.

To begin, there were three different martyrs name Valentinus in the early days of the church. We know little about any of them, and they had nothing to do with the exchange of love letters.

So how and when did this expensive annual habit actually begin? Blame Chaucer. He wrote a  poem in 1382 to honor the first anniversary of King Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia’s engagement. In the poem he mentions that birds mated on St. Valentine’s feast day which was February 14. Did Chaucer make this up? We can’t tell for certain.

The poem that started it all.

In fourteenth century in France, during the age of courtly love, this caught on like wild fire. Three other notable authors (Otton de Grandson, John Gower, and Pardo from Valencia) made similar references and it took off faster than Fifty Shades of Gray. Letters and confections became the rage on this day. Wooers gave a charm in the shape of a key as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart. Such charms were also given to children to ward off St Valentine’s Malady. He’s the patron saint of epilepsy. (He is also the patron of beekeepers (along with St. Ambrose) although I’m not sure if that is connected.)

The connection between love letters and February 14th continued in France and England through to the present. In Hamlet you’ll find a mention of the feast so it was familiar to Shakespeare and his audience in Elizabethan England. With the creation of a postal system and the printing of mass produced cards in the 1840’s in the United States, the day became part of our modern celebrations.

Alas, February 14th is no longer the feast day of St. Valentine. In 1969 the Catholic Church revised its Calendar of Saints. Saints Cyril and Methodius now claim that day.

 

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

 

 

Grace Darling

Grace_Darling_Thomas_Musgrave_Joy

Grace Darling was an English lighthouse keeper’s daughter, famed for participating in the rescue of survivors from the shipwrecked Forfarshire in 1838. In the early hours of 7 September 1838, Darling spotted survivors on Big Harcar, a nearby low rocky island. She and her father William determined that the weather was too rough for the lifeboat to put out from Seahouses (then North Sunderland). They took a rowing boat (a 21 foot, 4-man Northumberland coble) on a long route that kept to the lee side of the islands, a distance of nearly a mile. Darling kept the coble steady in the water while her father helped four men and the lone surviving woman, Mrs. Dawson, into the boat.

Darling became a celebrity. Gifts including fifty pounds from Queen Victoria amounted to seven-hundred pounds. Painters flocked to her island to capture her image. Marriage proposals arrived with every mail.

However, the story doesn’t have a happy ending. Grace Darling died of tuberculosis in October 1842, at the age of twenty-six.

And as you might suspect, there’s a poem in the works. The question was should I include the one by Wordsworth or by Swinburne? You read and decide.

Swinburne

Wordsworth

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

 

The boy stood on the Burning deck

The Explosion of the Orient by English painter George Arnald

I wrote a blog about parlor poetry a while ago, and thought about revisiting the subject. The poem in question is Casabianca. Don’t know it? Well it was a staple of elementary school readers in the United Kingdom and the United States over a period of about a century spanning, roughly, the 1850s through the 1950s.

More than that. Whether you read Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, or Ian Fleming’s ‘Moonraker’ you’ll find references to it. In film, look for it in ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’, or ‘The Unit’ and others.

The poem by Felicia Heman, celebrates an event during the Battle of the Nile in 1798 aboard the French ship Orient.

Here is the complete poem.

The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
Shone round him o’er the dead.

Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud, though child-like form.

The flames rolled onhe would not go
Without his Father’s word;
That father, faint in death below,
His voice no longer heard.

He called aloud‘say, Father, say
If yet my task is done?’
He knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of his son.

‘Speak, father!’ once again he cried,
‘If I may yet be gone!’
And but the booming shots replied,
And fast the flames rolled on.

Upon his brow he felt their breath,
And in his waving hair,
And looked from that lone post of death
In still yet brave despair.

And shouted but once more aloud,
‘My father! must I stay?’
While o’er him fast, through sail and shroud,
The wreathing fires made way.

They wrapt the ship in splendour wild,
They caught the flag on high,
And streamed above the gallant child,
Like banners in the sky.

There came a burst of thunder sound
The boyoh! where was he?
Ask of the winds that far around
With fragments strewed the sea!

With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,
That well had borne their part
But the noblest thing which perished there
Was that young faithful heart.

The young son, Giocante, of Commander Louis de Casabianca remained at his post. His name would have been forgotten, but for this poem.

Whenever you doubt the power of words and poems, just utter the first line of this poem and see who with you knows some more of it.

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

 

 

Hope for Lost Works of Greek and Roman Times

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79, The scrolls of Herculaneum were blasted by volcanic gas hotter than 300C. The scrolls still exist today, but are essentially ashes that haven’t fallen apart. How Many? The best count that I have found is 1,785. However, there are still 2,800 m² left to be excavated, so there could be more scrolls, many more.

Since their discovery this scrolls have been a source temptation and a source of anguish. What do they contain? We don’t know. To unroll the scroll is to destroy it. The riches trapped in the scrolls have been locked in their condition until most recently.

Using a 3D X-ray imaging technique Scientists this they may be able to read the scrolls without rolling them. Dr Vito Mocella from the National Research Council’s Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems (CNR-IMM) in Naples, Italy, has identified a handful of Greek letters within a rolled-up scroll for the very first time.

The technique doesn’t actually read the scroll it reads the difference in thickness caused by the dried ink on the papyrus. It reads the thickness of the ink, not the ink itself. It’s difficult because the Papyrus isn’t perfectly flat. Imperfections can disguise vertical and horizontal strokes, so letter with curved lines are easiest to detect.

With over seventeen hundred scrolls it is possible that some lost works of literature may be recovered. There is some speculation that the villa that housed the scrolls was owned by Father-in-law of Julies Caesar. It is believed that the library might have been collected and selected by Piso’s family friend and client, the Epicurean Philodemus of Gadara.

I can speculate. Actually, anyone can. If this was Julius Caesar’s Father-in-law, we can hope to find the following works by the famous Roman:

  • Anticatonis Libri II (only fragments survived)
  • Carmina et prolusiones (only fragments survived)
  • De analogia libri II ad M. Tullium Ciceronem
  • De astris liber
  • Dicta collectanea (“collected sayings”, also known by the Greek title άποφθέγματα)
  • Letters (only fragments survived)
  • Iter (only one fragment survived)
  • Laudes Herculis
  • Libri auspiciorum (“books of auspices”, also known as Auguralia)
  • Oedipus
  • possibly some early love poems

By Cicero:

  • Four tragedies in the Greek style: Tiroas, Erigones, Electra, and one other.
  • Hortensius, a dialogue also known as “On Philosophy”.
  • Consolatio, written to soothe his own sadness at the death of his daughter Tullia Ciceronis

By Homer:

  • The Odyssey mentions the blind singer Demodocus performing a poem recounting the otherwise unknown “Quarrel of Odysseus and Achilles”, which might have been an actual work that did not survive.
  • The sequel to the Odyssey?

By Livy:

  • 107 of the 142 books of Ab Urbe Condita, a history of Rome

By Ovid:

  • Medea, of which only two fragments survive.

Then there are the lost works that might, just might show up, but really don’t fit with a Roman library. The lost books of the bible for example, or the lost epistle of Paul.

We just don’t know what the library contains. However, today we have more hope of its recovery than before.

Yes, works can be lost and recovered. The most famous case is the Epic of Gilgamesh, dating from the Third Dynasty of Ur (circa 2100 BC).

 

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

 

 

Danegeld

Danegeld?

Gold for the Danes.

After the Viking victory at the Battle of Maldon in Essex, Sigeric the Serious, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the aldermen of the south-western provinces, advised Æthelred the Unready to buy off the Vikings, to pay them to go away. (Got to love those names.)

In 991 the English made a payment of 3,300 kg of silver. In 994 the Danes returned and laid siege to London. Once more, the English paid Danegeld to make them go away. In 1002 and 1007 more payments. In 1012 the Vikings accepted 17,900 kg of silver to go away, but only after sacking Canterbury and killing its Archbishop. No, it wasn’t Sigeric the Serious who died in 994, but one of his successors.

In 1016, Canute, became the first Danish King of England. The Danegeld failed to keep the Danes away.

This fact of history might have been forgotten, but in 1911, Rudyard Kipling published the following poem. Why then and why this topic? In 1911, Kipling had long been predicting a war with Germany. Ten years earlier he became involved in the debate over the British response to the rise in German naval power known as the Tirpitz Plan to build a fleet to challenge the Royal Navy. He published a series of articles in 1898 which were collected as “A Fleet in Being”.

Perhaps Kipling realized his poetry had a greater impact than his political writings.

 

Rudyard Kipling

Dane-Geld

A.D. 980-1016

It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: —
“We invaded you last night–we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ‘em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: —
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: —

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!”

 To end this story: President Ronald Reagan read this poem at a meeting of the National Security Planning Group in 1985.

 

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

A Company of Knaves and Poets

I’ve been reading about some of these Poet Laureates of Great Britain. My, what a bunch of knaves and poets. I imagine a party with the entire bunch and it would be fun, provided no one was killed.

Consider Ben Jonson. He began as a bricklayer, fought with English troops in Flanders, then returned to London to become an actor, playwright, and a tutor to Sir Walter Raleigh’s son. He’s the one I’d watch at the party. He was tried for killing a fellow actor in a duel in 1598. Imprisoned for this, he converted to Catholicism to be spared death for murder. Perhaps the duel was over a play called ‘The Isle of Dogs’. That piece caused such a stir they closed all the theatres in London.

William Davenant inherited the post on Jonson’s death. He was said to be the godson of William Shakespeare and even rumored to be his love child.

Then there is John Dryden, the only one to be fired from the job. Oh, it wasn’t his poetry. Politics was his downfall. Dryden refused to take an oath of allegiance to William III.

Thomas Shadwell replaced Dryden. This would be another to watch at the party. He was a heavy drinker, and an opium user. Shadwell died from an overdose of opium, which he took in part to relieve his gout. Maybe if he hadn’t drunk he wouldn’t have had the gout.

Nahum Tate is would be a fascinating one to talk to. On one had he wrote the Christmas carol ‘While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night’. On the other hand he revised Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘King Lear’ to give it a happy ending. (I can understand the urge, but that’s akin to putting a Pepsodent smile on the Mona Lisa.)

(We will skip the boring ones. OK?)

William Wordsworth received the appointment at the age of 73. He accepted on the condition he didn’t have to write any poetry on demand. A poet Laureate who didn’t write poetry? He wasn’t the first.

Alfred Tennyson served the longest as poet Laureate, and raised the position to new levels through his dedication, his work, and his poetry. On his death he was publicly mourned by millions, and in respect, no appointment was made to the post of Poet Laureate for four years.

John Masefield was originally a merchant marine officer. That’s probably where his love of the sea came from. However, he became ill in Chile, and following that lived a Hemingway sort of life. He was a vagrant, on the tramp, working in factories and bars in the United States. He returned to England to work on newspapers. He married his wife, a woman twelve years his senior. During the WWI he served with the Red Cross in France as a hospital orderly and on a hospital ship at Gallipoli. (He wrote a book about this battle.)

After the end of WWI, Masefield’s life becomes much more ordinary than that of Hemingway. When he was appointed poet laureate (instead of Kipling), Masefield took his appointment seriously and produced a large quantity of verse. In this capacity he sent his poems to ‘The Times’, including an SASE so they could be returned if unacceptable. A modest man.

In late 1966, Masefield developed gangrene in his ankle. This spread to his leg, and he died of the infection on 12 May 1967. He outlived Hemingway by almost six years. That made him the second longest serving Poet Laureate.

Have you ever read a detective story by Nicholas Blake? Those were written by the next poet Laureate, Cecil Day-Lewis.

Ted Hughes is most noted in this role for writing poems for royal events, such as the christening of Prince Henry of Wales in 1985. I wonder what he would say about the ginger headed Prince Harry today.

Carol Ann Duffy currently holds the laurel. This is the first time a woman, a Scott or a gay person has received the honor. With her first poem as poet laureate, she tackled the scandal over British MPs expenses in the format of a sonnet. Since the pen is mightier than the sword, I wouldn’t want to get on her wrong side.

Imagine them all in the same room, talking, eating and drinking. Jonson and Masefield might be trading war stories. Thomas Shadwell and Dryden would certainly be trading insults. That would be one heck of a party.

 

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

 

Aclaimed poets you never heard of

Poetry is a funny topic. Although it was probably the first human literature and probably predated even writing, we see almost none today. Most famous poets including Lord Byron had to pay to publish their writing. While the words may stir the heart, and live forever, the writers are often forgotten.

No, I don’t write poetry. I have a great respect for those that do and read more than a little of it. However, I lack the patience a poet needs.

The other day I went looking for poetry on the Internet and found more than I could read in the rest of my lifetime. It appears that poets continue to self-publish. Today they use websites. So I tried a different tactic. Instead I went looking for poets. I turned to the term Poet Laureate. This is a poet officially appointed by a government or conferring institution, who is often expected to compose poems for special events and occasions.

There are Poet Laureates for a number of countries, a number of American States, and sometimes cities, or universities. Lots of alternatives. You might search for this term for your own country. So I started with Canada.

What a disappointment. Canada only began the practice in 2001. All the Canadian poets I am familiar with from school and other reading would never have had this opportunity.

The list of Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureates is a follows:

  •     George Bowering (2002–2004)
  •    Pauline Michel (2004–2006)
  •    John Steffler (2006–2008)
  •    Pierre DesRuisseaux (2009–2011)
  •    Fred Wah (2011–2013)
  •    Michel Pleau (2014–present)

I won’t be publishing any of their poems but you might want to search the internet for them.

More on this later.

 

 

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

 

Poet Lauretes of Great Britain

Well I was disappointed in the list for Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureates. Not in the poets, but the paucity of the list. So I thought I would review the same list for Great Britain. The appointments began in England under Henry VII in fifteenth century and continue to the present. Here are the names of the poets:

  • Bernard André
  • John Skelton
  • Edmund Spenser
  • Samuel Daniel
  • Ben Jonson
  • William Davenant
  • John Dryden
  • Thomas Shadwell
  • Nahum Tate
  • Nicholas Rowe
  • Laurence Eusden
  • Colley Cibber
  • Thomas Warton
  • Henry James Pye
  • Robert Southey
  • William Wordsworth
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • Alfred Austin
  • Robert Bridges
  • John Masefield
  • Cecil Day-Lewis
  • John Betjeman
  • Ted Hughes
  • Andrew Motion
  • Carol Ann Duffy.

What shocked me were the names that are missing. Byron, Scott, Kipling. Browning (him and her) and Keats, Yeats, Coleridge, Shelly and Shakespeare. Why?

Well some poets refused the office. Imagine refusing a position with no duties that paid you money and traditionally rewarded you with a butt of canary or sack or sherry, the equivalent of 720 bottles. Cash payments have been presented as an alternative to wine: in 1952, for example, John Masefield was given £27. He should have insisted on the wine.

Some did refuse despite the wine. Thomas Gray, Walter Scott, Philip Larkin, and Seamus Heaney, have declined the post.

Another reason for the missing names was the tenancy of the position. The post was for life until 1999. Tennyson held the position for an impressive forty-two years. Keats (died at the age of 25), Shelley (died at the age of 29) and Byron (died at the age of 36) simply didn’t live long enough to get a shot at it. However, others baffle me.

Well I have a list of poets to investigate now. And probably some interesting stories.

 

 

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

 

 

Should Old Acquaintance

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and days of long ago?

CHORUS:
For days of long ago, my dear,
for days of long ago,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for days of long ago.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for days of long ago.

CHORUS

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since days of long ago.

CHORUS

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine†;
But seas between us broad have roared
since days of long ago.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for days of long ago.

CHORUS

We can thank the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, for this ode to the passing year. He in his turn started from an old song that he recorded from an old man.  Indeed, a similar ballad “Old Long Syne” was originally printed in 1711 by James Watson.  Here’s that one so you can compare them yourself.

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On Old long syne.

CHORUS:

On Old long syne my Jo,
On Old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
On Old long syne.

 

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

The Land of Poets and Rebels

Eire, Ireland. It has been the land of poets and rebels for more than a thousand years. Perhaps that is the reason that every generation has had its rebel songs. I want to talk about one such song, “My Dark Rosaleen”. You might know the words. It begins:

O MY Dark Rosaleen,
Do not sigh, do not weep!
The priests are on the ocean green,
They march along the deep.
There’s wine from the royal Pope,
Upon the ocean green;
And Spanish ale shall give you hope,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
For the complete text, go here.

http://www.bartleby.com/101/664.html

Or you might remember hearing someone singing it. Here’s John McCormick:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hE04wYivfI0

Like most Irish I know the song. My father would sing it, along with a raft of others. Then I discovered the poem.
James Clarence Mangan wrote the poem which was published in The Nation in 1846. Actually, this was one of three translations of an older poem from Gaelic to English.

1846 was a beginning of the Great Famine that would see the sons and daughters of Erin leave or die in numbers beyond imagining. During the famine approximately one million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland, causing the island’s population to fall by between 20% and 25%.

Although the potato crop failed, the country was still producing and exporting more than enough grain crops to feed the population. Records show during the period Ireland was exporting approximately thirty to fifty shiploads per day of food produce.

The 1690 Penal laws were still in effect. To speak of rebellion would bring death. The memory of the rebellions of 1798 and 1803 remained in the minds of the ruled and the rulers.

Mangan’s poem is a love song, a love song to the country that was not a nation. In this he was tapping into an older Gaelic poem ‘Róisín Dubh’.

Rosaleen translates as little Rose. The song is named after Róisín Dubh, probably one of the daughters of Hugh O’Neill, earl of Tyrone in the late 16th Century. The song is reputed to have originated in the camps of Red Hugh O’Donnell (1572 – 10 September 1602). He led a rebellion against the English from 1593 to 1603 which has been called the Nine Years War.

A more recent translation of this poem was created by Pádraig Pearse. He was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916 and died before a firing squad on May 3, 1916. You can find that translation here:

http://www.omniglot.com/songs/irish/roisindubh.htm

So the song to the little dark Rose spans three hundred years and, two languages. At one end is Red Hugh O’Donnell, and on the other is Pádraig Pearse.

To hear the original in Gaelic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdskdLV4MWY

www.edwardmcdermott.net

The Man who wrote ‘The Man with a Hoe’

I found this fascinating. I knew the poem but not the author until I looked him up in Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_Markham

A Poet  Laureate for the state of Oregon and now most of his work has been forgotten. Do you want to read more of his poetry?

Outwitted

by Edwin Markham (1852-1940)

He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

For further poems go to :

http://www.poemhunter.com/edwin-markham/

 

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

 

 

 

The Man with a Hoe

This is a particular Parlor Poem that my father made me memorize. He  believed in the memorization of poetry and could recite poetry for hours. I lack that capacity.

The poem is as follows

The Man with a Hoe

by Edwin Markham

Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
The emptiness of ages in his face,
And on his back, the burden of the world.
Who made him dead to rapture and despair,
A thing that grieves not and that never hopes,
Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox?
Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw?
Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow?
Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?

Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave
To have dominion over sea and land;
To trace the stars and search the heavens for power;
To feel the passion of Eternity?
Is this the dream He dreamed who shaped the suns
And marked their ways upon the ancient deep?
Down all the caverns of Hell to their last gulf
There is no shape more terrible than this–
More tongued with cries against the world’s blind greed–
More filled with signs and portents for the soul–
More packed with danger to the universe.

What gulfs between him and the seraphim!
Slave of the wheel of labor, what to him
Are Plato and the swing of the Pleiades?
What the long reaches of the peaks of song,
The rift of dawn, the reddening of the rose?
Through this dread shape the suffering ages look;
Time’s tragedy is in that aching stoop;
Through this dread shape humanity betrayed,
Plundered, profaned and disinherited,
Cries protest to the Powers that made the world,
A protest that is also prophecy.

O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
Is this the handiwork you give to God,
This monstrous thing distorted and soul-quenched?
How will you ever straighten up this shape;
Touch it again with immortality;
Give back the upward looking and the light;
Rebuild in it the music and the dream;
Make right the immemorial infamies,
Perfidious wrongs, immedicable woes?

O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
How will the future reckon with this Man?
How answer his brute question in that hour
When whirlwinds of rebellion shake all shores?
How will it be with kingdoms and with kings–
With those who shaped him to the thing he is–
When this dumb Terror shall rise to judge the world,
After the silence of the centuries?

The poem that inspired this poem is current part of the in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

 

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

Parlor Poetry

During the 19th century, most home entertainment was created by people at home. Some sang, others played instruments. However, no matter how lacking in talent, anyone with a voice could recite poetry.

The poems they recited were simple ones, easy to memorize, and ones that conveyed strong emotions. Some were written by the likes of Edgar Alan Poe, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Others were written by poets known only for a single work. If you see such a collection in your library or bookstore, pick it up.

 

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net