True Poems, with a Morrissey flavour

Musée des Beaux Arts​

BY W. H. AUDEN (1938)

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along

How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Brueghel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
Sentiment(White Feathers)

Feathers burn so easily, the cat is blinded in the garden
Last vision the lark is flame
The cattle shed gives off the smell of Sunday kitchen
The gentle eye, the dispensable perfection
Before the flash takes two weeks food
Pile the sacks of earth and hide
All of us here know it, we grew it
Fighting amongst ourselves, leaving bits of flesh on barbed wire
A little blood on the floor
Locks and bars across the door
Well versed in violation
Our children beat each other in the garden
Our failure to accept the earth, we talk of love but push it to the edge
Push it to the edge
This is no natural aggression composing death
I am afraid for beauty when I see the fist
The perfect hand that turns against itself
The perfect hand that holds a gun or wields a butcher's blade
Or leads to death
Leads to death the used-up bull or incarcerates the hopeless fool
Or takes the forest with a single flame
Leaves the next an empty shell
Human kind condemns the hunting beast
Yet their own choice leaves behind such ragged meat
The military dream of blood
Their sweet wine flowing in the veins of men
Who work towards our bloody end
They fly Enola gaily, give birth to this waiting... waiting
Give us the reality of our hatred, give the earth nothing
Melting, goats dead on the green, dying lambs bleating by the wire
Three last days on the earth, I lay down to die in the grass.

Joy Muriel Elizabeth Haney, 1981
Last edited:
Taedium Vitae
By Oscar Wilde

To stab my youth with desperate knives, to wear
This paltry age's gaudy livery,
To let each base hand filch my treasury,
To mesh my soul within a woman's hair,
And be mere Fortune's lackeyed groom, - I swear
I love it not! these things are less to me
Than the thin foam that frets upon the sea,
Less than the thistledown of summer air
Which hath no seed: better to stand aloof
Far from these slanderous fools who mock my life
Knowing me not, better the lowliest roof
Fit for the meanest hind to sojourn in,
Than to go back to that hoarse cave of strife
Where my white soul first kissed the mouth of sin.

Throwing Children​

Ross Gay

It is really something when a kid who has a hard time becomes a
kid who’s having a good time in no small part thanks to you
throwing that kid in the air again and again on a mile long walk
home from the Indian joint as her mom looks sideways at you
like you don’t need to keep doing this because you’re pouring
with sweat and breathing a little bit now you’re getting a good
workout but because the kid laughs like a horse up there laughs
like a kangaroo beating her wings against the light because she
laughs like a happy little kid and when coming down and
grabbing your forearm to brace herself for the time when you will
drop her which you don’t and slides her hand into yours as she
says for the fortieth time the fiftieth time inexhaustible her
delight again again again and again and you say give me til the
redbud tree
or give me til the persimmon tree because she knows
the trees and so quiet you almost can’t hear through her giggles
she says ok til the next tree when she explodes howling yanking
your arm from the socket again again all the wolves and
mourning doves flying from her tiny throat and you throw her so
high she lives up there in the tree for a minute she notices the
ants organizing on the bark and a bumblebee carousing the little
unripe persimmon in its beret she laughs and laughs as she hovers
up there like a bumblebee like a hummingbird up there giggling
in the light like a giddy little girl up there the world knows how
to love.​

For the Bird Singing before Dawn​

Kim Stafford

Some people presume to be hopeful
when there is no evidence for hope,
to be happy when there is no cause.
Let me say now, I’m with them.

In deep darkness on a cold twig
in a dangerous world, one first
little fluff lets out a peep, a warble,
a song—and in a little while, behold:

the first glimmer comes, then a glow
filters through the misty trees,
then the bold sun rises, then
everyone starts bustling about.

And that first crazy optimist, can we
forgive her for thinking, dawn by dawn,
“Hey, I made that happen!
And oh, life is so fine.”

All Souls’ Day in a German Town​

by Margaret Fairless Barber

The leaves fall softly: a wind of sighs
Whispers the world’s infirmities,
Whispers the tale of the waning years,
While slow mists gather in shrouding tears
On All Souls’ Day; and the bells are slow
In steeple and tower. Sad folk go
Away from the township, past the mill,
And mount the slope of a grassy hill
Carved into terraces broad and steep,
To the inn where wearied travellers sleep,
Where the sleepers lie in ordered rows,
And no man stirs in his long repose.
They wend their way past the haunts of life,
Father and daughter, grandmother, wife,
To deck with candle and deathless cross,
The house which holds their dearest loss.
I, who stand on the crest of the hill,
Watch how beneath me, busied still,
The sad folk wreathe each grave with flowers.
Awhile the veil of the twilight hours
Falls softly, softly, over the hill,
Shadows the cross:—creeps on until
Swiftly upon us is flung the dark.
Then, as if lit by a sudden spark,
Each grave is vivid with points of light,
Earth is as Heaven’s mirror to-night;
The air is still as a spirit’s breath,
The lights burn bright in the realm of Death.
Then silent the mourners mourning go,
Wending their way to the church below;
While the bells toll out to bid them speed,
With eager Pater and prayerful bead,
The souls of the dead, whose bodies still
Lie in the churchyard under the hill;
While they wait and wonder in Paradise,
And gaze on the dawning mysteries,
Praying for us in our hours of need;
For us, who with Pater and prayerful bead
Have bidden those waiting spirits speed.

The Skeleton​

by GK Chesterton

Chattering finch and water-fly
Are not merrier than I;
Here among the flowers I lie
Laughing everlastingly.
No: I may not tell the best;
Surely, friends, I might have guessed
Death was but the good King's jest,
It was hid so carefully.


The Skeleton​

by GK Chesterton

Chattering finch and water-fly
Are not merrier than I;

Confucius says:
all will follow one who is personally upright, even though he does not give orders, but if he is not personally upright, they will not follow, even though he gives orders.

Two videos about Alan Watts' life, each with a different emphasis


This interview with his daughter Anne Watts verifies both accounts

If death is jest, many of us apparently don't get the joke, which has led some to the conclusion that this is at the root of our biggest problems? -

I'll post a little story in the next few days in the animal thread relating to this poem

The Magpies​

by Denis Glover

When Tom and Elizabeth took the farm
The bracken made their bed
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

Tom's hand was strong to the plough
and Elizabeth's lips were red
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

Year in year out they worked
while the pines grew overhead
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

But all the beautiful crops soon went
to the mortgage man instead
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

Elizabeth is dead now (it's long ago)
Old Tom's gone light in the head
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

The farm's still there. Mortgage corporations
couldn't give it away
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies say. 😢
This sonnet, written by Lord Alfred Douglas in 1902 during a visit to the United States, has the "steely blue eyes with no love in them" flavor of America Is Not the World.

The New World
Is this the new world? Nay all this is old;​
The love of self and kindliness denied,​
Malice and Envy and vain boasting pride,​
The hate of beauty and the greed for gold.​
Heads have been emptier still and hearts as cold​
In older worlds than this, and men have lied​
And worms have eaten them, and gods have died​
When this Columbia was a tale untold.​
O youngest daughter of Democracy,​
The old sins nestle kindly in thy breast.​
Take these old virtues, too (who runs may read),​
Kindness and Courtesy, and let them be​
Lamps that in all thy lights outshine the rest;​
Then would thy country be New World indeed.​

And because I don't know where else to put this, I'll put it here that my favorite slice of trivia learned from Douglas Murray's magnificent biography of Alfred Douglas is that a teenaged John Betjeman loved his work and considered him a better sonneteer than Shakespeare, and wrote him fan letters. Bosie wrote back and they corresponded, until Betjeman's parents found out and put an end to it. His recollection is amusing:

My father took me for a long walk up a lane. You know that he was deaf and could only hear through a speaking tube. And if he didn't want to hear you, he would roll it up and put it in his pocket and he couldn't lip-read very well ... He said: 'You've been having letters from Lord Alfred Douglas.' I couldn't deny it. 'Do you know what that man is?' I said: 'No.' 'He's a bugger. Do you know what buggers are? Buggers are two men who work themselves up into such a state of mutual admiration that one puts his piss-pipe up the other one's arse. What do you think of that?' And of course I felt absolutely sick, and shattered. And then I thought of this beautiful sonneteer, going to The Immortal Hour and writing all those lovely sonnets:​
I have been profligate of happiness​
And reckless of the world's hostility,​
The blessed part had not been given to me​
Gladly to suffer fools. I do confess​
I have enticed and merited distress,​
By this, that I never bowed the knee​
Before the shrine of wise Hypocrisy,​
Nor worn self-righteous anger like a dress.​
My father said: 'You're not to write another letter to that man.' And I didn't. And more and more letters came—'If I don't hear from you again, I shan't write.' My father did not let me see the further letters that arrived. He put them in his safe.​
Last edited:


by U. A. Fanthorpe

There is a kind of love called maintenance
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;

Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes; which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living, which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.
A Moment of Silence in a Forest of White Crosses.

by Gregory Ross, for a massive 1971 anti-war rally at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Dead
do not require our silence to be honored
do not require our silence to be remembered.
do not accept our silence as remembrance, as honor.
do not expect our silence to end
the carnage of war
the child starved
the woman raped
the virulence of intolerance
the Earth desecrated

It is the living who require our silence
in a lifetime of fear and complicity

The Dead
do require our courage to defy the powerful and the greedy.
do require our lives to be loud, compassionate, courageous.
do require our anger at the continuance of war in their name.
do require our shock at the maiming of the Earth in their name.
do require our outrage to be honored, to be remembered.

The Dead
have no use for our silence.
The Assignation
by Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany

Fame singing in the highways, and trifling as she sang, with sordid adventurers, passed the poet by.

And still the poet made for her little chaplets of song, to deck her forehead in the courts of Time: and still she wore instead the worthless garlands, that boisterous citizens flung to her in the ways, made out of perishable things.

And after a while whenever these garlands died the poet came to her with his chaplets of song; and still she laughed at him and wore the worthless wreaths, though they always died at evening.

And one day in his bitterness the poet rebuked her, and said to her: “Lovely Fame, even in the highways and the byways you have not foreborne to laugh and shout and jest with worthless men, and I have toiled for you and dreamed of you and you mock me and pass me by.”

And Fame turned her back on him and walked away, but in departing she looked over her shoulder and smiled at him as she had not smiled before, and, almost speaking in a whisper, said:

“I will meet you in the graveyard at the back of the Workhouse in a hundred years.”

Top Bottom