Saturday, December 21, 2013

Poems about Christmas:Playlist for December 20, 2013

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Messiah (Christmas Portions)

By Mark Doty b. 1953

A little heat caught

in gleaming rags,

in shrouds of veil,

   torn and sun-shot swaddlings: 

   over the Methodist roof,

two clouds propose a Zion

of their own, blazing

   (colors of tarnish on copper

   against the steely close

of a coastal afternoon, December,

while under the steeple

   the Choral Society 

   prepares to perform

Messiah, pouring, in their best

blacks and whites, onto the raked stage.

   Not steep, really,   

   but from here,

the first pew, they’re a looming

cloudbank of familiar angels:

   that neighbor who 

   fights operatically

with her girlfriend, for one,

and the friendly bearded clerk

   from the post office 

   —tenor trapped

in the body of a baritone? Altos

from the A&P, soprano

   from the T-shirt shop: 


   today they’re all poise,

costume and purpose

conveying the right note

   of distance and formality. 


   Silence in the hall,

anticipatory, as if we’re all

about to open a gift we’re not sure

   we’ll like; 


   how could they

compete with sunset’s burnished

oratorio? Thoughts which vanish,

   when the violins begin. 

   Who’d have thought

they’d be so good? Every valley,

proclaims the solo tenor,

   (a sleek blonde  


   I’ve seen somewhere before

—the liquor store?) shall be exalted,

and in his handsome mouth the word

   is lifted and opened 


   into more syllables

than we could count, central ah

dilated in a baroque melisma,

   liquefied; the pour

   of voice seems

to make the unplaned landscape

the text predicts the Lord

   will heighten and tame. 


   This music

demonstrates what it claims:

glory shall be revealed. If art’s

   acceptable evidence, 


   mustn’t what lies

behind the world be at least

as beautiful as the human voice?

   The tenors lack confidence, 


   and the soloists,

half of them anyway, don’t

have the strength to found

   the mighty kingdoms  


   these passages propose

—but the chorus, all together,

equals my burning clouds,

   and seems itself to burn,  


   commingled powers

deeded to a larger, centering claim.

These aren’t anyone we know;

   choiring dissolves 


   familiarity in an up-

pouring rush which will not

rest, will not, for a moment,

   be still. 


   Aren’t we enlarged

by the scale of what we’re able

to desire? Everything,

   the choir insists, 


   might flame;

inside these wrappings

burns another, brighter life,

   quickened, now, 


   by song: hear how

it cascades, in overlapping,

lapidary waves of praise? Still time.

   Still time to change.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Every Valley, from Messiah by G.F. Handel




Christmas Night

By Conrad Hilberry b. 1928


Let midnight gather up the wind  

and the cry of tires on bitter snow.  

Let midnight call the cold dogs home,  

sleet in their fur—last one can blow   


the streetlights out.   If children sleep  

after the day’s unfoldings, the wheel  

of gifts and griefs, may their breathing  

ease the strange hollowness we feel.   


Let midnight draw whoever’s left  

to the grate where a burnt-out log unrolls  

low mutterings of smoke until  

a small fire wakes in its crib of coals.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Machet die Tore weit by Andreas Hammerschmidt


The Oxen

By Thomas Hardy 1840–1928  

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.

“Now they are all on their knees,”

An elder said as we sat in a flock

By the embers in hearthside ease.


We pictured the meek mild creatures where

They dwelt in their strawy pen,

Nor did it occur to one of us there

To doubt they were kneeling then. 


So fair a fancy few would weave

In these years! Yet, I feel,

If someone said on Christmas Eve,

“Come; see the oxen kneel,


“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb

Our childhood used to know,”

I should go with him in the gloom,

Hoping it might be so.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: The Nativity Carol by John Rutter



THE TRUE CHRISTMAS.
by Henry Vaughan


SO, stick up ivy and the bays,
And then restore the heathen ways.
Green will remind you of the spring,
Though this great day denies the thing ;
And mortifies the earth, and all
But your wild revels, and loose hall.
Could you wear flow'rs, and roses strow
Blushing upon your breasts' warm snow,
That very dress your lightness will
Rebuke, and wither at the ill.
The brightness of this day we owe
Not unto music, masque, nor show,
Nor gallant furniture, nor plate,
But to the manger's mean estate.
His life while here, as well as birth,
Was but a check to pomp and mirth ;
And all man's greatness you may see
Condemned by His humility.

    Then leave your open house and noise,
To welcome Him with holy joys,
And the poor shepherds' watchfulness,
Whom light and hymns from Heav'n did bless.
What you abound with, cast abroad
To those that want, and ease your load.
Who empties thus, will bring more in ;
But riot is both loss and sin.
Dress finely what comes not in sight,
And then you keep your Christmas right.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Dies natalis by Gerald Finzi



Revels


Moon upon the swarth

cut fresh

and horsemen, thundering silhouettes

not heard, like swarthy ghosts.

Air rippled by their passing,

ripped--open:

the play revealed.

Courtiers and courtesans,

mothers and their children, dancing,

firefly lanthorns,

music faint, far distant,

off-stage laughter.

Low-bellied creatures wet with dew

run this way, back,

blink.

A meadowlark, out of time,

sings counter to the pantomime. 


The meadowlark in time calls from its post;

"gather up your joy," bids garter'd host. 

Viol, recorder, sackbut, sound their chord;

the players grin, their hands joined in accord:

Our scripts thus done, we have no more to say,

so take our bows, and by your leave--good day. 


Rob Stuart


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Allemande (16th century), Anonymous.




Saturday, December 14, 2013

Poems about Winter: Playlist for December 13, 2013


The Snow Is Deep on the Ground

By Kenneth Patchen 1911–1972

The snow is deep on the ground.  

Always the light falls

Softly down on the hair of my belov├Ęd. 
 

This is a good world.

The war has failed.

God shall not forget us.

Who made the snow waits where love is. 
 

Only a few go mad.

The sky moves in its whiteness

Like the withered hand of an old king.  

God shall not forget us.

Who made the sky knows of our love. 

 

The snow is beautiful on the ground.  

And always the lights of heaven glow  

Softly down on the hair of my beloved.



REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Nocturne in B-flat minor, Op. 9/1 by Frederic Chopin

 

 

 

Sonnet XCVII: How like a Winter hath my Absence been

By William Shakespeare 1564–1616 e been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year! What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen! What old December's bareness everywhere! And yet this time remov'd was summer's time, The teeming autumn, big with rich increase, Bearing the wanton burthen of the prime, Like widow'd wombs after their lords' decease: Yet this abundant issue seem'd to me But hope of orphans and unfather'd fruit; For summer and his pleasures wait on thee, And thou away, the very birds are mute; Or if they sing, 'tis with so dull a cheer That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near.

How like a winter hath my absence been

From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!

What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!

What old December's bareness everywhere!

And yet this time remov'd was summer's time,

The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,

Bearing the wanton burthen of the prime,

Like widow'd wombs after their lords' decease:

Yet this abundant issue seem'd to me

But hope of orphans and unfather'd fruit;

For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,

And thou away, the very birds are mute;

Or if they sing, 'tis with so dull a cheer

That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Sonata for Cello and Piano in G Minor (3rd mvt.) by Frederic Chopin

way, the very birds are mute;
Or if they sing, 'tis with so dull a cheer That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near. And thou away, the very birds are mute; Or if they sing, 'tis with so dull a cheer That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near.  

 

White-Eyes

By Mary Oliver b. 1935

And thou away, the very birds are mute;

Or if they sing, 'tis with so dull a cheer

That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near.
 

In winter

    all the singing is in

         the tops of the trees

             where the wind-bird  

 

with its white eyes

    shoves and pushes

         among the branches.

             Like any of us  

 

he wants to go to sleep,

    but he's restless—

         he has an idea,

             and slowly it unfolds  

 

from under his beating wings

    as long as he stays awake.

         But his big, round music, after all,

             is too breathy to last.  

 

So, it's over.

    In the pine-crown

         he makes his nest,

             he's done all he can.  

 

I don't know the name of this bird,

    I only imagine his glittering beak

         tucked in a white wing

             while the clouds—


 

which he has summoned

    from the north—

         which he has taught

             to be mild, and silent—  

 

thicken, and begin to fall

    into the world below

         like stars, or the feathers

               of some unimaginable bird  

 

that loves us,

    that is asleep now, and silent—

         that has turned itself

             into snow.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op. posth. by Frederic Chopin

 

 

Mailboxes in Late Winter

By Jeffrey Harrison b. 1957

It’s a motley lot. A few still stand

at attention like sentries at the ends

of their driveways, but more lean

askance as if they’d just received a blow

to the head, and in fact they’ve received

many, all winter, from jets of wet snow

shooting off the curved, tapered blade

of the plow. Some look wobbly, cocked

at oddball angles or slumping forlornly

on precariously listing posts. One box

bows steeply forward, as if in disgrace, its door

lolling sideways, unhinged. Others are dented,

battered, streaked with rust, bandaged in duct tape,

crisscrossed with clothesline or bungee cords.

A few lie abashed in remnants of the very snow

that knocked them from their perches.

Another is wedged in the crook of a tree

like a birdhouse, its post shattered nearby.

I almost feel sorry for them, worn out

by the long winter, off-kilter, not knowing

what hit them, trying to hold themselves

together, as they wait for news from spring.



REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Etude in G-flat major Op. 10/5   by Frederic Chopin

 

 

Snow-flakes

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807–1882Out of the bosom of the Air,

      Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,

Over the woodlands brown and bare,

      Over the harvest-fields forsaken,

            Silent, and soft, and slow

            Descends the snow.  

 

Even as our cloudy fancies take

      Suddenly shape in some divine expression,

Even as the troubled heart doth make

      In the white countenance confession,

            The troubled sky reveals

            The grief it feels.


 

This is the poem of the air,

      Slowly in silent syllables recorded;

This is the secret of despair,

      Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,

            Now whispered and revealed

            To wood and field.


REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Piano Concerto No. 2 (Larghetto) by Frederic Chopin

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Poems about Thanksgiving: Playlist for November 29, 2013

Family Reunion
By Maxine W. Kumin b. 1925

The week in August you come home,
adult, professional, aloof,
we roast and carve the fatted calf
—in our case home-grown pig, the chine
garlicked and crisped, the applesauce
hand-pressed. Hand-pressed the greengage wine.


Nothing is cost-effective here.
The peas, the beets, the lettuces
hand sown, are raised to stand apart.
The electric fence ticks like the slow heart
of something we fed and bedded for a year,
then killed with kindness’s one bullet
and paid Jake Mott to do the butchering.


In winter we lure the birds with suet,
thaw lungs and kidneys for the cat.
Darlings, it’s all a circle from the ring
of wire that keeps the raccoons from the corn
to the gouged pine table that we lounge around,
distressed before any of you was born.


Benign and dozy from our gluttonies,
the candles down to stubs, defenses down,
love leaking out unguarded the way
juice dribbles from the fence when grounded
by grass stalks or a forgotten hoe,
how eloquent, how beautiful you seem!


Wearing our gestures, how wise you grow,
ballooning to overfill our space,
the almost-parents of your parents now.
So briefly having you back to measure us
is harder than having let you go.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: To A Wild Rose by Edward MacDowell


Perhaps the World Ends Here
By Joy Harjo b. 1951

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.


The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.


We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.


It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.


At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.


Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.


This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.


Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.


We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.


At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.


Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Appalachia Waltz by Mark O'Connor



My Triumph
By John Greenleaf Whittier 1807–1892

The autumn-time has come;
On woods that dream of bloom,
And over purpling vines,
The low sun fainter shines.


The aster-flower is failing,
The hazel’s gold is paling;
Yet overhead more near
The eternal stars appear!


And present gratitude
Insures the future’s good,
And for the things I see
I trust the things to be;


That in the paths untrod,
And the long days of God,
My feet shall still be led,
My heart be comforted.


O living friends who love me!
O dear ones gone above me!
Careless of other fame,
I leave to you my name.


Hide it from idle praises,
Save it from evil phrases:
Why, when dear lips that spake it
Are dumb, should strangers wake it?


Let the thick curtain fall;
I better know than all
How little I have gained,
How vast the unattained.


Not by the page word-painted
Let life be banned or sainted:
Deeper than written scroll
The colors of the soul.


Sweeter than any sung
My songs that found no tongue;
Nobler than any fact
My wish that failed of act.


Others shall sing the song,
Others shall right the wrong,—
Finish what I begin,
And all I fail of win.


What matter, I or they?
Mine or another’s day,
So the right word be said
And life the sweeter made?


Hail to the coming singers!
Hail to the brave light-bringers!
Forward I reach and share
All that they sing and dare.


The airs of heaven blow o’er me;
A glory shines before me
Of what mankind shall be,—
Pure, generous, brave, and free.


A dream of man and woman
Diviner but still human,
Solving the riddle old,
Shaping the Age of Gold!


The love of God and neighbor;
An equal-handed labor;
The richer life, where beauty
Walks hand in hand with duty.


Ring, bells in unreared steeples,
The joy of unborn peoples!
Sound, trumpets far off blown,
Your triumph is my own!


Parcel and part of all,
I keep the festival,
Fore-reach the good to be,
And share the victory.


I feel the earth move sunward,
I join the great march onward,
And take, by faith, while living,
My freehold of thanksgiving.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: A Song of Thanksgiving by Ralph Vaughan Williams



The Gift Outright
By Robert Frost 1874–1963 

The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Hymn of Thanksgiving by William Billings



47. To Autumn by John Keats



1.

S
EASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;

To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
        5
  And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells

With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,

  And still more, later flowers for the bees,

  Until they think warm days will never cease,
        10
    For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.



2.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?

  Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find

Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,

  Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
        15
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,

  Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook

    Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:

And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep

  Steady thy laden head across a brook;
        20
  Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,

    Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.



3.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

  Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—

While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
        25
  And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn

  Among the river sallows, borne aloft

    Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
        30
  Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft

  The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;

    And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Clarinet Quintet (1st movement) by Johannes Brahms







Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
ConspiringConspiring Working together; literally, to conspire is “to breathe together” (OED) with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-evesthatch-eves Thatch-eaves, the edge of thatched roofs run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
      For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowingwinnowing Separating the wheat from the chaff, the heavy from the light wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
   Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hookhook Scythe
      Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleanergleaner One who gathers the remaining food after the reaper has harvested the field thou dost keep
   Steady thy ladenladen Loaded down head across a brook;
   Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?Where are they? Rhetorical convention known as ubi sunt, often appearing in poems that meditate on the transitory nature of life and the inevitability of death.
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloombloom “to colour with a soft warm tint or glow” (OED) the soft-dying day,
   And touch the stubble-plainsstubble-plains Fields made up of stubble, the remaining stumps of grain left after reaping with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
   Among the river sallowssallows Willow trees, borne aloft
      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
   The red-breast whistles from a garden-croftgarden-croft A croft is a small enclosed field;
      And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
ConspiringConspiring Working together; literally, to conspire is “to breathe together” (OED) with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-evesthatch-eves Thatch-eaves, the edge of thatched roofs run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
      For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowingwinnowing Separating the wheat from the chaff, the heavy from the light wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
   Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hookhook Scythe
      Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleanergleaner One who gathers the remaining food after the reaper has harvested the field thou dost keep
   Steady thy ladenladen Loaded down head across a brook;
   Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?Where are they? Rhetorical convention known as ubi sunt, often appearing in poems that meditate on the transitory nature of life and the inevitability of death.
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloombloom “to colour with a soft warm tint or glow” (OED) the soft-dying day,
   And touch the stubble-plainsstubble-plains Fields made up of stubble, the remaining stumps of grain left after reaping with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
   Among the river sallowssallows Willow trees, borne aloft
      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
   The red-breast whistles from a garden-croftgarden-croft A croft is a small enclosed field;
      And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.