Poetry Corner

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Twelve Songs: IX

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W.H. Auden (1907-1973)

None the worse for featuring in 4 Weddings and a Funeral. In fact the film is best viewed as a preamble to the poem.

Bagpipe Music

It's no go the merrygoround, it's no go the rickshaw, 
All we want is a limousine and a ticket for the peepshow. 
Their knickers are made of crepe-de-chine, 
    their shoes are made of python, 
Their halls are lined with tiger rugs 
    and their walls with head of bison.
John MacDonald found a corpse, put it under the sofa, 
Waited till it came to life and hit it with a poker, 
Sold its eyes for souvenirs, sold its blood for whiskey, 
Kept its bones for dumbbells to use when he was fifty. 
It's no go the Yogi-man, it's no go Blavatsky, 
All we want is a bank balance and a bit of skirt in a taxi. 
Annie MacDougall went to milk, caught her foot in the heather, 
Woke to hear a dance record playing of Old Vienna. 
It's no go your maidenheads, it's no go your culture, 
All we want is a Dunlop tire and the devil mend the puncture. 
The Laird o' Phelps spent Hogmanay declaring he was sober, 
Counted his feet to prove the fact and found he had one foot over. 
Mrs. Carmichael had her fifth, looked at the job with repulsion, 
Said to the midwife "Take it away; I'm through with overproduction." 
It's no go the gossip column, it's no go the Ceilidh,
All we want is a mother's help and a sugar-stick for the baby. 
Willie Murray cut his thumb, couldn't count the damage, 
Took the hide of an Ayrshire cow and used it for a bandage. 
His brother caught three hundred cran when the seas were lavish, 
Threw the bleeders back in the sea and went upon the parish. 
It's no go the Herring Board, it's no go the Bible, 
All we want is a packet of fags when our hands are idle. 
It's no go the picture palace, it's no go the stadium, 
It's no go the country cot with a pot of pink geraniums, 
It's no go the Government grants, it's no go the elections, 
Sit on your arse for fifty years and hang your hat on a pension. 
It's no go my honey love, it's no go my poppet; 
Work your hands from day to day, the winds will blow the profit. 
The glass is falling hour by hour, the glass will fall forever, 
But if you break the bloody glass you won't hold up the weather.
Louis McNeice (1907-63)

Another memory from school. Great rhythm and it captures the era in which I grew up. I'm not sure, for example, what the Herring Board was but I'm certain my guess is exactly close enough.

Sir Beelzebub

Beelzebub called for his syllabub in the hotel in Hell
Where Proserpine first fell,
Blue as the gendarmerie were the waves of the sea,
(Rocking and shocking the barmaid).

Nobody comes to give him his rum but the
Rim of the sky hippopotamus-glum
Enhances the chances to bless with a benison
Alfred Lord Tennyson crossing the bar laid
With cold vegetation from pale deputations
Of temperance workers (all signed In Memoriam)
Hoping with glory to trip up the Laureate's feet,
(Moving in classical metres) ...

Like Balaclava, the lava came down from the
Roof, and the sea's blue wooden gendarmerie
Took them in charge while Beelzebub roared for his rum.
... None of them come!

Edith Sitwell

From the Minstrels again, but it took me six months to get around to it. I treasured Walton's Facade from the sixth form onwards (we are talking 1970). This is as good an example as any, but there are many other fine poems featured. My preferred musical version features Dame Peggy Ashcroft and Jeremy Irons. I can't find that on Amazon.


The things about you I appreciate
May seem indelicate.
I'd like to find you in the shower
And chase the soap for half an hour.
I'd like to have you in my power
And see your eyes dilate.
I'd like to have your back to scour
And other parts to lubricate.

Sometimes I feel it is my fate
To chase you screaming up a tower
Or make you cower
By asking you to differentiate
Nietzsche from Schopenhauer.
I'd like successfully to guess your weight
And win you in a fete
I'd like to offer you a flower.

I like the hair upon your shoulders
Falling like water over boulders,
I like the shoulders too
They are essential.
Your collar bones have great potential.
I'd like all your particulars in folders
Marked confidential.

I like your cheeks
I like your nose
I like the way your lips disclose
The neat arrangement of your teeth
Half above and half beneath.
In rows.

I like your eyes, I like their fringes
The way they focus on me gives me twinges.
Your upper arms drive me berserk,
I like the way your elbows work, on hinges.
I like your wrists, I like your glands
I like the fingers on your hands
I'd like to teach them how to count.
And certain things we might exchange
Something familiar for something strange
I'd like to give you just the right amount
And get some change.

I like it when you tilt your cheek up
I like the way you nod and hold a teacup
I like your legs when you unwind them
Even in trousers I don't mind them.
I like each softly moulded kneecap
I like the little crease behind them
I'd always know without a recap
Where to find them.

I like the sculpture of your ears
I like the way your profile disappears
When you decide to turn and face me.
I'd like to cross two hemispheres
And have you chase me.
I'd like to smuggle you across frontiers
Or sail with you at night into Tangiers
I'd like you to embrace me

I'd like to see you ironing your skirt
And cancelling other dates
I'd like to button up your shirt
I like the way your chest inflates
I'd like to sooth you when you're hurt
Or frightened senseless by invertebrates

You are the end of self-abuse
You are the eternal feminine
I'd like to find a good excuse
To call on you and find you in
I'd like to put my hand beneath your chin
And see you grin
I'd like to taste your ?
    [couldn't make out the phrase, sounded like Charlotte Rousse]
I'd like to feel my lips upon your skin
I'd like to make you reproduce

I'd like you in my confidence
I'd like to be your second look
I'd like to let you try the French Defence
And mate you with my rook
I'd like to be your preference
And hence, I'd like to be around when you unhook
I'd like to be your only audience
The final name in your appointment book
Your future tense.

John Fuller

Thanks for this to Michael Parkinson on BBC Radio 4, With Great Pleasure, Christmas Day 2001. I recorded the repeat in order to transcribe it, while looking for a printed copy to check the words, punctuation, lineage and one phrase which escaped me completely. There was also an excellent offering from Woody Allen which belongs with the Ogden Nash below.
It is a cracking poem from someone I had never heard of. I will return the favour by buying some of his books which should allow me to provide more detail. It is a beautifully crafted work, combining wit and elegance and sauciness. I wonder how long it took him to write.
A hunt around on the net found a version of Valentine with much more convincing layout, but significant changes in the text. It is reproduced here. Turns out it was Charlotte Russe - I'm none the wiser.


My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun; 
Coral is far more red than her lips' red: 
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; 
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. 
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white, 
But no such roses see I in her cheeks; 
And in some perfumes is there more delight 
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. 
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know 
That music hath a far more pleasing sound. 
I grant I never saw a goddess go: 
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground. 
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare 
As any she belied with false compare.

William Shakespeare

You can't deny WS had a way with words, nevertheless a lot of his stuff is over-rated. Not this one. [added July 2001] In my 20s as a Student of Cinema, I was heavily into the concept of demystification - it occurs to me that this is Will demystifying the love poem. See also here.

Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part (Idea: LXI)

Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part,
Nay, I have done: you get no more of me,
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love's latest breath,
When his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies,
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes,
Now, if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou might'st him yet recover. 

Michael Drayton

I have loved this since school days and can't think why I have not included it earlier. Thanks as usual to the WMs for reminding me. Three good things about it:

  1. it is unusually conversational;
  2. if I could act, I could bring the house down with this one;
  3. hope lives eternal.

A Song of a Young Lady to Her Ancient Lover

Ancient Person, for whom I
All the flattering youth defy,
Long be it e'er thou grow old,
Aching, shaking, crazy cold;
But still continue as thou art,
Ancient Person of my heart.

On thy withered lips and dry,
Which like barren furrows lie,
Brooding kisses I will pour,
Shall thy youthful heart restore,
Such kind show'rs in autumn fall,
And a second spring recall;
Nor from thee will ever part,
Ancient Person of my heart.

Thy nobler parts, which but to name
In our sex would be counted shame,
By ages frozen grasp possest,
From their ice shall be released,
And, soothed by my reviving hand,
In former warmth and vigour stand.
All a lover's wish can reach,
For thy joy my love shall teach;
And for thy pleasure shall improve
All that art can add to love.
Yet still I love thee without art,
Ancient Person of my heart.

by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

A third good oldie from my second best source (it's not Minstrels, so it must be BBC's Something Understood). A fine compliment to the Shakespeare and extremely rude. I've got books on complimentary planting and complimentary foods. I can see a book of Complimentary Pomes with pairs of short poems on facing pages.


Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail.
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best intentions do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.

Sheenagh Pugh

Thanks to the Minstrels again. This came up as their daily poem back in August 2001. I liked it at the time, but have only just added it to this site. It is a rather finely crafted, back-handed compliment to life. The author comments extensively on the Minstrels site and says she's "sick of it". I would be quite pleased if I had penned it. I wonder with this, as with many of these poems, how much work was involved - how many verses came and went and how much time and effort went into the polishing. I'm guessing the answer is "a lot". Sheenagh's web site is here.

The Listeners

'Is there anybody there?' said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest's ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller's head
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
'Is there anybody there?' he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller's call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
'Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:-
'Tell them I came, and no one answered,

That I kept my word,' he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

Walter De La Mare (1873-1956)

At its best when read by Harry Worth. In front of a department store. You had to be there.


Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir, 
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine, 
With a cargo of ivory, And apes and peacocks, 
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine. 

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus, 
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores, 
With a cargo of diamonds, Emeralds, amethysts, 
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores. 

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack, 
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days, 
With a cargo of Tyne coal, Road-rails, pig-lead, 
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

John Masefield (1878-1967)

A triumph of sound and rhythm over content.


Where're you be
Let you wind go free
In church or Chapel
Let it rattle. 

Arthur Jeffrey Hodgkinson (1915-1986)

or did this derive from a longer oral tradition?

The boy

The boy stood on the burning deck
His voice was all a-quiver
He gave a cough
His leg fell off
And floated down the river.

the only poem I remember my father quoting as performed by Geoffrey Blackburn (1918-1988)


No sun--no moon!
No morn--no noon!
No dawn--no dusk--no proper time of day--
No sky--no earthly view--
No distance looking blue--
No road--no street--no "t'other side this way"-- 
No end to any Row-- 
No indications where the Crescents go-- 
No top to any steeple-- 
No recognitions of familiar people-- 
No courtesies for showing 'em-- 
No knowing 'em! 
No travelling at all--no locomotion-- 
No inkling of the way--no notion-- 
"No go" by land or ocean-- 
No mail--no post-- 
No news from any foreign coast-- 
No Park, no Ring, no afternoon gentility-- 
No company--no nobility-- 
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease, 
No comfortable feel in any member-- 
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, 
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds-- 

Thomas Hood

Copy pinched from the Wondering Minstrels.
This isn't as good a poem as I remember. The punchline is great, but the rest now seems cluttered and rather poorly crafted. I could probably do better myself (he cast down his gauntlet carelessly).

Poem 42


g can


the m




e. e. cummings

Thanks again to the Minstrels. Now this is great work. A prize for anyone who can provide a genuine EJ Thribb pastiche of ee.

next to of course god america i

"next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn's early my
country 'tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?"

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

e. e. cummings

Another from ee added 23rd July 2002, with my usual thanks to WM.


James James 
Morrison Morrison 
Weatherby George Dupree 
Took great 
Care of his Mother, 
Though he was only three. 
James James 
Said to his Mother, 
"Mother", he said, said he; 
"You must never go down to the end of the town, 
if you don't go down with me." 

James James 
Morrison's Mother 
Put on a golden gown, 
James James Morrison's Mother 
Drove to the end of the town. 
James James 
Morrison's Mother 
Said to herself, said she: 
"I can get right down to the end of the town 
and be back in time for tea" 

King John 
Put up a notice, 

James James 
Morrison Morrison 
(Commonly known as Jim) 
Told his 
Other relations 
Not to go blaming him. 
James James 
Said to his Mother, 
"Mother", he said, said he: 
"You must never go down to the end of the town with- 
out consulting me." 

James James 
Morrison's Mother 
Hasn't been heard of since. 
King John 
Said he was sorry, 
So did the Queen and Prince. 
King John 
(Somebody told me) 
Said to a man he knew: 
"If people go down to the end of the town, well, 
what can anyone do?" 

(Now then, very softly) 
J. J. M. M. W. G. Du P. 
Took great C/o his M***** 
Though he was only 3.
J. J. 
Said to his M***** 
"M*****", he said, said he: 

A. A. Milne

I don't go to many poetry readings, but I remember this from one, a great audience participation number on the last verse.

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