September 27: Philip Appleman: “The Persistence of Memory”

Philip Appleman
b. 1926
“The Persistence of Memory”
 

We have been through them now, the silver
anniversaries: VE-Day,
the Bomb, the wreck
of Japan, all
misted in quaintness—and still
they keep coming,
brown women swirling past,
the armies somewhere behind them, burning
the villages: always the same,
the same weary women each year,
muddy skeletons lugging
the brass pots, tugging the delicate children,
camping in culverts, eating grass –
and the rich bombers run
on their shabby targets; kids
in helmets inch
through torn jungles; somewhere at sea,
ships lob shells
at the horizon – it is all a memory
of old men:
the brave planes limping home,
balding heroes sending
their sons to glory, the bleeding
always the same, like father
like son, breastplate
and buckler rusting
in a dream of blood we
move through, open-eyed,
sons of our dreaming
waiting for all the memories to fade.

© Philip Appleman

September 21: E.E. CUMMINGS 1894-1962 “MY SWEET OLD ETCETERA”

E.E. Cummings
1894-1962
“My sweet old
etcetera”

 

my sweet old etcetera
aunt lucy during the recent
war could and what
is more did tell you just
what everybody was fightingfor,
my sisterIsabel created hundreds
(and
hundreds) of socks not to
mention fleaproof earwarmers
etcetera wristers etcetera, my
mother hoped that

i would die etcetera
bravely of course my father used
to become hoarse talking about how it was
a privilege and if only he
could meanwhile my

self etcetera lay quietly
in the deep mud et

cetera
(dreaming,
et
cetera, of
Your smile
eyes knees and of your Etcetera)

September 18: Anna Lætitia Barbauld: “The Caterpillar” (1771)

Anna Lætitia Barbauld
1743-1825

“The Caterpillar”

(1771)
 

No, helpless thing, I cannot harm thee now;
Depart in peace, thy little life is safe,
For I have scanned thy form with curious eye,
Noted the silver line that streaks thy back,
The azure and the orange that divide
Thy velvet sides; thee, houseless wanderer,
My garment has enfolded, and my arm
Felt the light pressure of thy hairy feet;
Thou hast curled round my finger; from its tip,
Precipitous descent! with stretched out neck,
Bending thy head in airy vacancy,
This way and that, inquiring, thou hast seemed
To ask protection; now, I cannot kill thee.
Yet I have sworn perdition to thy race,
And recent from the slaughter am I come
Of tribes and embryo nations: I have sought
With sharpened eye and persecuting zeal,
Where, folded in their silken webs they lay
Thriving and happy; swept them from the tree
And crushed whole families beneath my foot;
Or, sudden, poured on their devoted heads
The vials of destruction. – This I’ve done
Nor felt the touch of pity: but when thou, –
A single wretch, escaped the general doom,
Making me feel and clearly recognise
Thine individual existence, life,
And fellowship of sense with all that breathes, –
Present’st thyself before me, I relent,
And cannot hurt thy weakness. – So the storm
Of horrid war, o’erwhelming cities, fields,
And peaceful villages, rolls dreadful on:
The victor shouts triumphant; he enjoys
The roar of cannon and the clang of arms,
And urges, by no soft relentings stopped,
The work of death and carnage. Yet should one,
A single sufferer from the field escaped,
Panting and pale, and bleeding at his feet,
Lift his imploring eyes, – the hero weeps;
He is grown human, and capricious Pity,
Which would not stir for thousands, melts for one
With sympathy spontaneous: – ‘Tis not Virtue,
Yet ’tis the weakness of a virtuous mind.

September 16: War and Peace

September 16
War and Peace

708.
Wars are not favorable to delicate pleasures.
~J. R. R. Tolkien, “A Secret Vice” (lecture, 1931), published in The Monsters And The Critics And Other Essays (1983), edited by Christopher Tolkien

709.
You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.
~Albert Einstein

710.
War hath no fury like a noncombatant.
~Charles Edward Montague, Disenchantment

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September 16: Walt Whitman: “Beat! Beat! Drums!”

 

Walt Whitman
1819-1892
“Beat! Beat! Drums!”

 

Beat! beat! drums! – blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows – through doors – burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet – no happiness must he have now with his bride,
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums – so shrill you bugles blow.

Beat! beat! drums! – blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities – over the rumble of wheels in the streets;
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses?
no sleepers must sleep in those beds,
No bargainers bargains by day – no brokers or speculators – would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums – you bugles wilder blow.

Beat! beat! drums! – blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley – stop for no expostulation,
Mind not the timid – mind not the weeper or prayer,
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,
Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties,
Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump O terrible drums – so loud you bugles blow.

August 30: Postcard 1 by Miklós Radnóti

Postcard 1
by Miklós Radnóti

written August 30, 1944
translated by Michael R. Burch

Out of Bulgaria, the great wild roar of the artillery thunders,
resounds on the mountain ridges, rebounds, then ebbs into silence
while here men, beasts, wagons and imagination all steadily increase;
the road whinnies and bucks, neighing; the maned sky gallops;
and you are eternally with me, love, constant amid all the chaos,
glowing within my conscience — incandescent, intense.
Somewhere within me, dear, you abide forever —
still, motionless, mute, like an angel stunned to silence by death
or a beetle hiding in the heart of a rotting tree.

July 23: “Drummer Hodge” by Thomas Hardy

They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
Uncoffined – just as found:
His landmark is a kopje-crest
That breaks the veldt around:
And foreign constellations west
Each night above his mound.

Young Hodge the drummer never knew –
Fresh from his Wessex home –
The meaning of the broad Karoo,
The Bush, the dusty loam,
And why uprose to nightly view
Strange stars amid the gloam.

Yet portion of that unknown plain
Will Hodge for ever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
Grow to some Southern tree,
And strange-eyed constellations reign
His stars eternally.