“Eight O’Clock” -Poem by A.E.Housman

He stood, and heard the steeple
Sprinkle the quarters on the morning town.
One, two, three, four, to market-place and people
It tossed them down.

Strapped, noosed, nighing his hour,
He stood and counted them and cursed his luck;
And then the clock collected in the tower
Its strength, and struck
.

The entire poem is in just 55 words, a lot of sound and meaning (not fury). The sound emanates from meaning and also the other way round. In one moment the steeple tosses quarters down on marketplace and people, making meaning of sound. The poem words are sound like the quarters sprinkled on the morning town by the steeple clock.And that is how the subject hears them.

Sprinking is gentle and soft on the morning town . But tossing them down on people and marketplace is a violent mixture of sound and meaning. There is speed in the words as if they are leading up to the death of the convict-an inexorable time ticking one,two, three..

The interesting thing is how the passage of time affects each :

He heard the steeple sprinkle the quarters on the morning town.

Time affects the morning town as it has always. Soft and sibilant. This moment has no special meaning for the morning town.

One ,two, three,four,to marketplace and people
It tossed them down.

People and marketplace go about their business as usual and the passage of time at this moment is just like what it has always been. Normally the sound of the quarters at this moment should not have meaning for them but there is anticipation in the town about the hanging to take place at eight o’clock . It is likely people have either no empathy with the person to be hanged or are plain indifferent. May be they are looking at the hanging as just punishment for the crime alleged against him. That is perhaps why the quarters are tossed down to an expectant crowd .

...he stood and counted them and cursed his luck

The only one that is concerned about the quarters of time is the man about to be hanged – he who counts them and curses his luck. He curses his luck perhaps because he had committed the crime and had the misfortune of being caught.Till he was strapped and noosed,the hour was far away. There was an outside chance of escaping the hanging, either by way of a pardon or by some last minute intervention. Now that he is already on the scaffold the hour is neighing and the count begins. Every sound of the clock has meaning for him.

And then the clock collected in the tower
Its strength and struck
.

Now this is where the clock assumes a personality to become a part of the hanging scene.The clock tower has a role in the inevitability of death . It almost assumes a sinister role in the hanging. It collects all the strength in the clock tower and strikes the hour of death.

Why such a massive gathering of strength? Because there is a hesitancy in the process , caused by inherent possibility of error, a miscarriage of justice. A polemic about the place for capital punishment in a modern civil society.

Let us gather all the sounds flowing from meaning:

Sprinkle the quarters on the morning town‘ is a soft aural sound containing the early morning ticks of the steeple clock.

It tossed them down” .No more sprinkling but a quicker ,an almost violent act of throwing. There is ruthlessness about it and inevitabilty. From the sound of the word “tossed” emerges meaning.

Strapped ,noosed,neighing his hour” The sounds of three long vowels coming one after the other convey a hopeless situation.

and then the clock collected in the tower
All its strength and struck.

The clock becomes sinister , the way it gathers up its strength and strikes. “Struck” is onamatopaeic and after it , everything comes to the end.

“Iris”-A poem by William Carlos Williams

William Carlos Williams

Cover of William Carlos Williams

A burst of Iris so that
come down for
breakfast

we searched through the
rooms for
that

sweetest odor and at
first could not
find its

source then a blue as
of the sea
struck

Irises

Irises (Photo credit: dottieg2007)

startling us from among
those trumpeting
petals

I like the enjambments and the doing away with the syntax. Word after word builds up the expectation of the burst of Iris , its fragrance taking the reader through the rooms,(from the upstairs:come down for breakfast), trying to trace its source.The lines have no break and spill into the next, throwing grammar and punctuation to the winds. Iris is a blue flower between the color of blue and violet, of sword-shaped leaves.It has energy that bursts on your conscious like the blue sea that suddenly emerges from behind the trees, startling the wayfarer who is not prepared for its emerging.

The deliberate syntactical awkwardness mystifies the existence of the flower, which is first felt only through the odor and by the time we come to the last but one stanza we come upon the flower visually:

1) We began with the expectation of a “burst” of Iris, an explosion of color and energy, a violence associated with the color between purple and blue
2) We come down for breakfast and search through the rooms for the source ,tracing the sweetest odor to its source
3)Then, a blue as of the sea “struck”.Notice the violence of the words ‘struck”,”startling”,”trumpeting“(associated with war)
4)The “trumpeting” petals are a visual metaphor invoking the likeness of the petals to the shape of a trumpet.At the same time the trumpet is an auditory experience from a war scene ,in which the victor trumpets his glory.

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“Dreams”- By Langston Hughes

DREAMS

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967 / Missouri/The United States)

I love the simplicity and beauty of this pretty poem. So much like a song. “Hold fast to dreams”(occurs twice in the poem) so they do not go away and life becomes a barren field frozen with snow. Holding fast is a deliberate clinging to hope, notwithstanding the pain of reality. The images are from the early days of aviation, when man’s dreams of flying culminated in the development of the airplane that substituted for a bird in his imagination.

“April”- A short poem by Sara Teasdale

The roofs are shining from the rain.
The sparrows tritter as they fly,
And with a windy April grace
The little clouds go by.

Yet the back-yards are bare and brown
With only one unchanging tree–
I could not be so sure of Spring
Save that it sings in me.

Love this simple poem for the music of the lines:

Yet the backyards are bare and brown

The sparrows twitter as they fly
……………………………………
The little clouds go by

Wonder if it is April and spring is around,why is there only one unchanging tree?

“Between going and coming”- A poem by Octavio Paz

 

Between going and staying
the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.

All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can’t be touched.

Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.

I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause.

The moment wavers first between day and night .There is then stillness, a pause. Then the moment scatters- a visual -dynamic image.The visual elements in the poem warrant a close look :”transparency” ,”circular afternoon”,”All is visible “, “shade”,”throbbing” “ghostly theatre of reflections”, “stare” ,”scatters”. A certain wistfulnes is in the air,a lightness of being.Still life with occasional dynamic images.”paper,book,pencil,glass/rest in the shades of their names” .Mark the light turns the indifferent wall into a theatre of reflections.