The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimneypots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.
Apart from the “atmosphere” created here,what I have liked about this poem is the exquisite imagery used to create the atmosphere. especially ,the image of “the burnt out ends of smoky days” .The day is unending and one long uneventful dreary passage of smoke-filled time .There is nothing much to do all the time.Nothing really happens,nothing ever happens. The cigarette butts are slowly burning out leaving the ashes smoldering in the ash-tray .The day ,like the cigarette,burns out leaving only the smoky end. Another day,another empty passage of time-a prelude to nothing .
“Some people say we should not trust our eyes,
That there is nothing, just a seeming,
These are the ones who have no hope.
They think that the moment we turn away,
The world, behind our backs, ceases to exist,
As if snatched up by the hands of thieves.”
~ Czeslaw Milosz
Excerpted from the poem Hope (Rescue)
Just the thing I had always felt in my childhood and till I grew up to be an adult.I have ,even now, a sneaking suspicion that the world just fizzles down the moment I turn away as though it has been stolen by some thieves. This thief thing I had not thought of but my own fear was of the Second Man who had always accompanied me and created everything of this world just to spite me or in order to teach me a lesson .Sometimes I think I exist in his dream and if he wakes up I disappear or cease to exist.
“Ah, Faustus, now hast thou but one bare hour to live
And then thou must be damn’d perpetually!
Stand still, you ever moving spheres of heaven.
That time may cease, and midnight never come;
Fair nature’s eye, rise, rise again and make
Perpetual day; or let this hour be but
A year, a month, a week, a natural day,
That Faustus may repent and save his soul!
‘O lente, lente currite, noctis equi!’
The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,
The devil will come and Faustus must be damn’d'”
“Dr.Faust”–Play by Christopher Marlowe ,Shakespeare’s contemporary playwright
Faustus who has entered into an irrevocable pact with the devil for exchange of his soul for all the black magic powers of the devil suddenly realizes he has just an hour to live, after which he will burn in hell for eternity.”The clock quote” here is a favorite quote of University Professors. The lines do not boast of rich imagery such as you will find in Shakespeare’s plays. But the lines are a powerful piece of dramatic speech such as one would expect in the Elizabethan drama and when spoken on the stage they truly touch your heart and strike a chord of sympathy for the chief protagonist who has by his vaulting ambition brought upon himself all this suffering .The doctor is asking that time be frozen and the sun not rise and give him time to repent and save his soul. If a tragedy is expected to bring about catharsis in the viewer, Faust’s tragedy eminently qualifies to do this.
Cloths of heaven
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Pretty sentimental and syrupy and full of hyperbole,isn’t it ? But I love the last line :
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams
The line is worth its weight in gold.
Of men’s passing
So rare in this arid land
That it is cherished like a refrain
Until the return
Of the jealous wind
And of the bird, so rare,
Whose fleeting shadow
Soothes the wounds made by the sun”
Excerpt from“Landscapes” – A poem by John Burnside
The desert is a throwback to the gloom of the post-war much like the poetry of Eliot .The passing of men is so rare that it is cherished like a refrain-I love this image.The second one in the quote is equally beautiful-“of the bird,so rare/Whose fleeting shadow/Soothes the wounds made by the sun”.The bird’s fleeting shadow smooths the wounds made by the sun-a graphic image just like Eliot’s imagery in The Waste Land:
“What are the roots that clutch
What branches grow in this stony rubbish?
Son of Man ,you cannot say or know
For you know only a heap of broken images
Where the sun beats or
the dead tree gives no shelter…”
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
In our college days we used to look upon the Rubaiyat as a mere book of verse with fine illustrations ,especially containing figures of beautiful nubile girls intertwined with the branches of the tree .The poetry appeared exotic at the most but without much appeal to a young reader.Now, at this age the girls no longer interest me but the poetry now does.
The Rubaiyat is beautiful verse with outstanding imagery.Some of the finest imagery is to be found in these verses ,known for their haunting lyrical quality as well.
“….The hunter of the east has caught
The Sultan’s turret in a noose of light “
A fascinating image referring to the hunting practice of throwing a knotted rope around an animal to catch it while fleeing. A highly visual imagery.
“…in the fire of spring
the winter garment of repentance fling”
Another amazing image-mark the words fire ,spring ,winter garment,fling -as the winter goes the spring arrives and into its fire the winter garment of repentance is thrown and burnt to ashes.
This very famous verse
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread – and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness-
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
has rich lines which have always fascinated me. Even when we were merely looking for pictures of nubile girls .The music of the lines makes you recite them as though they were to be a song on your lips. They do not have pretty imagery like the other Rubaiyat but the simplicity of the lines together with the rich resonances is striking.
“with an Apple Macintosh
you can’t run Radio Shack programs
in its disc drive.
nor can a Commodore 64
drive read a file
you have created on an
IBM Personal Computer.
both Kaypro and Osborne computers use
the CP/M operating system
but can’t read each other’s
for they format (write
on) discs in different
the Tandy 2000 runs MS-DOS but
can’t use most programs produced for
the IBM Personal Computer
bits and bytes are
but the wind still blows over
and in the Spring
the turkey buzzard struts and
flounces before his
By Charles Bukowski
The discs format in different ways but the wind blows over the Savanna just like always and the buzzard struts before the hens just like always .The consistency in nature contrasts with the failure of technlogy and incompatibility of hardware and software.