The Blind Men and the Elephant

We present this work in honor of World Elephant Day.

John Godfrey Saxe
American
1816 – 1887

 

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho, what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ‘tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he:
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

MORAL

So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

 

The Gumsucker’s Dirge

Joseph Furphy
Australian
1843 – 1912

 

Sing the evil days we see, and the worse that are to be,
In such doggerel as dejection will allow,
We are pilgrims, sorrow-led, with no Beulah on ahead,
No elysian Up the Country for us now.

For the settlements extend till they seem to have no end;
Spreading silently, you can’t tell when or how;
And a home-infested land stretches out on every hand,
So there is no Up the Country for us now.

On the six-foot Mountain peak, up and down the dubious creek,
Where the cockatoos alone should make a row,
There the rooster tears his throat, to announce with homely note,
That there is no Up the Country for us now.

Where the dingo should be seen, sounds the Army tambourine,
While the hardest case surrenders with a vow;
And the church-bell, going strong, makes us feel we’ve lived too long,
Since there is no Up the Country for us now.

And along the pine-ridge side, where the mallee-hen should hide,
You will see some children driving home a cow;
Whilst, ballooning on a line, female garniture gives sign,
That there is no Up the Country for us now.

Here, in place of emu’s eggs, you will find surveyors’ pegs,
And the culvert where there ought to be a slough;
There, a mortise in the ground, shows the digger has been round,
And has left no Up the Country for us now.

And across this fenced-in view, like our friend the well-sung Jew,
Goes the swaggy, with a frown upon his brow,
He is cabin’d, cribb’d, confin’d, for the thought is on his mind,
That there is no Up the Country for him now.

And the boy that bolts from home has no decent place to roam,
No region with adventure to endow,
But his ardent spirit cools at the sight of farms and schools,
Hence, there is no Up the Country for him now.

Such a settling, spreading curse must infallibly grow worse,
Till the saltbush disappears before the plough,
But the future, evil-fraught, is forgotten in the thought,
That there is no Up the Country for us now.

We must do a steady shift, and devote our minds to thrift,
Till we reach at length the standard of the Chow,
For we’re crumpled side by side in a world no longer wide,
And there is no Up the Country for us now.

Better we were cold and still, with our famous Jim and Bill,
Beneath the interdicted wattle-bough,
For the angels made our date five-and-twenty years too late,
And there is no Up the Country for us now.

Culloden Moor (Seen in Autumn Rain)

Alice MacDonell
Scots
1854 – 1938

 

Full of grief, the low winds sweep
O’er the sorrow-haunted ground;
Dark the woods where night rains weep,
Dark the hills that watch around.

Tell me, can the joys of spring
Ever make this sadness flee,
Make the woods with music ring,
And the streamlet laugh for glee?

When the summer moor is lit
With the pale fire of the broom,
And through green the shadows flit,
Still shall mirth give place to gloom?

Sad shall it be, though sun be shed
Golden bright on field and flood;
E’en the heather’s crimson red
Holds the memory of blood.

Here that broken, weary band
Met the ruthless foe’s array,
Where those moss-grown boulders stand,
On that dark and fatal day.

Like a phantom hope had fled,
Love to death was all in vain,
Vain, though heroes’ blood was shed,
And though hearts were broke in twain.

Many a voice has cursed the name
Time has into darkness thrust,
Cruelty his only fame
In forgetfulness and dust.

Noble dead that sleep below,
We your valour ne’er forget;
Soft the heroes’ rest who know
Hearts like theirs are beating yet.

Loyal

We present this work in honor of the Canadian holiday, Civic Day.

Sarah Anne Curzon
Canadian
1833 – 1898

 

O Ye, who with your blood and sweat
Watered the furrows of this land,—
See where upon a nation’s brow
In honour’s front, ye proudly stand!

Who for her pride abased your own,
And gladly on her altar laid
All bounty of the older world,
All memories that your glory made.

And to her service bowed your strength,
Took labour for your shield and crest;
See where upon a nation’s brow
Her diadem, ye proudly test!

The Liberation of Moscow

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 265th birthday.

Dmitry Khvostov
Russian
1757 – 1835

 

Inhabitant of hilly Olympus—
Kheraskov! Inspired by Phoebus,
Heralded conversant of the Muses;
The sounds of your immortal lyre
Proclaiming Moscow’s arduous captivity
Yet once again elicit the tears of the Slavs.
They, both loudly and harmoniously,
Depict for us the indomitable spirit
Of our ancestors, dauntless in adversity,
To leaven our recent sorrows’ load.

Moscow! Vicious Napoleon,
Hungrier than Attila, came to embody
For the world an epitome of brutality;
All the hayfields covered with corpses,
Death, fire, looting proceed unimpeded,
A shrine in the woods our only guidance;
Rattled and shaken by Hell’s own breath,
Kremlin itself is severed from the earth
And racing through the expanse of air,
Strikes the appearance of a fiery fortress.

The chronicler will document
The dastardly deeds of these latter days;
Progeny will give no credence to the bard,
Believing his tale a work of imagination.
Both the one and the other will represent
That the Grand Caesar of the white lands,
Having shifted the North after himself,
Routing, trammeled the treacherous enemy,
And the Russian is erasing with his mighty hand
All trace of indecency from the face of the earth.

Translation by Alex Cigale

To the Rainbow

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 245th birthday.

Thomas Campbell
Scots
1777 – 1844

 

Triumphal arch, that fill’st the sky
When storms prepare to part,
I ask not proud Philosophy
To teach me what thou art; –

Still seem; as to my childhood’s sight,
A midway station given
For happy spirits to alight
Betwixt the earth and heaven.

Can all that Optics teach unfold
Thy form to please me so,
As when I dreamt of gems and gold
Hid in thy radiant bow?

When Science from Creation’s face
Enchantment’s veil withdraws,
What lovely visions yield their place
To cold material laws!

And yet, fair bow, no fabling dreams,
But words of the Most High,
Have told why first thy robe of beams
Was woven in the sky.

When o’er the green, undeluged earth
Heaven’s covenant thou didst shine,
How came the world’s gray fathers forth
To watch thy sacred sign!

And when its yellow luster smiled
O’er mountains yet untrod,
Each mother held aloft her child
To bless the bow of God.

Methinks, thy jubilee to keep,
The first-made anthem rang
On earth, delivered from the deep,
And the first poet sang.

Nor ever shall the Muse’s eye
Unraptured greet thy beam;
Theme of primeval prophecy,
Be still the prophet’s theme!

The earth to thee her incense yields,
The lark thy welcome sings,
When, glittering in the freshened fields,
The snowy mushroom springs.

How glorious is thy girdle, cast
O’er mountain, tower, and town,
Or mirrored in the ocean vast,
A thousand fathoms down!

As fresh in yon horizon dark,
As young thy beauties seem,
As when the eagle from the ark
First sported in thy beam:

For, faithful to its sacred page,
Heaven still rebuilds thy span;
Nor lets the type grow pale with age,
That first spoke peace to man.

from A Double Life

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 215th birthday.

Karolina Pavlova
Russian
1807 – 1893

 

The stars shine menacingly above her,
The night is infinite, the valley barely visible;
She is alone… perhaps it is too late,
Perhaps the time of encounter has passed.

The midnight bird has taken wing…
The earth is silent like the grave;
From time to time the angry summer lightning
Flashes in the dusky distance.

And suddenly he stands beside her,
Lowering his gloomy brow,
Unmoving, with a hopeless look,
In heavy, silent meditation.

“You have come again!… and are we not in a dream?…
Why was our path so separate?…
Why are your lips so silent?…
Why is terror descending on my heart?…”

And he bent over, pale and grieving,
And he offered words of sadness:
“Let us say farewell today, my poor friend:
Let life claim its rights!

Go back to the realm of Earth,
Go to your earthly triumph—
I yield you over to the world,
With an anxious prayer to the Creator.

Sorrow has He given to all of us equally,
To all a measure of sad days;
Submit to His laws
The murmur of your pride.

Learn to live in outward agitation,
Forgetting the Eden of youthful dreams,
Share no more with anyone
The secret of inconsolable meditation.

Not in vain did your heart’s fantasies
Strive so eagerly toward existence,
Life will mercilessly fulfill
Your passionate request.

And the bright glow
Of enchanted mist will dissipate;
Too late, too soon,
You will know the gift you have awaited.

And fate will more than carry out
Its sentence over you:
But you will not lie down in cruel torment,
You will not fall in battle.

You will find amid the struggles
Of years illusionless and hard,
Many pure distractions,
Many joyful victories.

You will bear the insults of your friends,
The evil lies of angry words—
And you will raise the veil
From the mysterious goddess Isis.

You will understand earthly reality
With a maturing soul:
You will buy a dear blessing
At a dear price.

You will calm your heart’s hostility,
You will not avert your eyes from misfortune,
Neither moments of deception nor of hope
Will trouble you.

All that is today unconscious
Alien to all, will flower in you—
The burning agony of life
Will turn into rich fruit.

So, go as you’ve been sentenced,
Strong in faith only,
Not hoping for support,
Defenseless and alone.

Don’t disturb the heavens, transgressing,
Silence your own dreams.
And dare to ask of God
Only your daily bread.”

Translation by Barbara Heldt

A Highly Valuable Chain of Thoughts

We present this work in honor of the 110th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Andrew Lang
Scots
1844 – 1912

 

Had cigarettes no ashes,
And roses ne’er a thorn,
No man would be a funker
Of whin, or burn, or bunker.
There were no need for mashies,
The turf would ne’er be torn,
Had cigarettes no ashes,
And roses ne’er a thorn.

Had cigarettes no ashes,
And roses ne’er a thorn,
The big trout would not ever
Escape into the river.
No gut the salmon smashes
Would leave us all forlorn,
Had cigarettes no ashes,
And roses ne’er a thorn.

But ‘tis an unideal
Sad world in which we’re born,
And things will ‘go contrairy’
With Martin and with Mary:
And every day the real
Comes bleakly in with morn,
And cigarettes have ashes,
And every rose a thorn.

The Plains of Abraham

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 200th birthday.

Charles Sangster
Canadian
1822 – 1893

 

I stood upon the Plain,
That had trembled when the slain,
Hurled their proud defiant curses at the battle-hearted foe,
When the steed dashed right and left
Through the bloody gaps he cleft,
When the bridle-rein was broken, and the rider was laid low.

What busy feet had trod
Upon the very sod
Where I marshalled the battalions of my fancy to my aid!
And I saw the combat dire,
Heard the quick, incessant fire,
And the cannons’ echoes startling the reverberating glade.

I saw them one and all,
The banners of the Gaul
In the thickest of the contest, round the resolute Montcalm;
The well-attended Wolfe,
Emerging from the gulf
Of the battle’s fiery furnace, like the swelling of a psalm.

I head the chorus dire,
That jarred along the lyre
On which the hymn of battle rung, like surgings of the wave
When the storm, at blackest night,

Wakes the ocean in affright,
As it shouts its mighty pibroch o’er some shipwrecked vessel’s grave.

I saw the broad claymore
Flash from its scabbard, o’er
The ranks that quailed and shuddered at the close and fierce attack;
When Victory gave the word,
Then Scotland drew the sword,
And with arm that never faltered drove the brave defenders back.

I saw two great chiefs die,
Their last breaths like the sigh
Of the zepher-sprite that wantons on the rosy lips of morn;
No envy-poisoned darts,
No rancour in their hearts,
To unfit them for their triumph over death’s impending scorn.

And as I thought and gazed,
My soul, exultant, praised
The Power to whom each mighty act and victory are due,
For the saint-like Peace that smiled
Like a heaven-gifted child,
And for the air of quietude that steeped the distant view.

The sun looked down with pride,
And scattered far and wide
His beams of whitest glory till they flooded all the Plain;
The hills their veils withdrew,
Of white, and purplish blue,
And reposed all green and smiling ‘neath the shower of golden rain.

Oh, rare, divinest life
Of Peace, compared with Strife!
Yours is the truest splendour, and the most enduring fame;
All the glory ever reaped
Where the fiends of battle leaped,
Is harsh discord to the music of your undertoned acclaim.

Secret Ode

In honor of Bastille Day, we present this work by one of France’s brightest poets.

Paul Valery
French
1871 – 1945

 

The fall so splendid, the end sweet,
The struggle forgotten, what bliss
To stretch the glistening body out
Against the moss, after the dance!

Never has such a glow
Shone out in victory
As these bright sparks of summer
Across a forehead sown with sweat!

But touched at last by the Dusk’s light,
This body that achieved so much,
That danced, that bested Hercules,
Dissolves among the clumps of roses!

So sleep, beneath sidereal steps,
Conqueror slowly come undone,
For now the Hydra in the hero
Unfurls its endless rows of heads…

Behold what Dog, what Bull, what Bear,
What signs of sweeping victory,
The soul imposes, entering time
Without resort, on formless space!

Supreme end, sparkling light
That by these monsters and these gods
Universally proclaim
The glorious acts that are in the Skies!

Translation by Nathaniel Rudavsky-Brody