A poem for Summer’s end.

Brecon

Sun Setting over Wales from Brecons

XXXIX (from Last Poems); by A.E. Houseman

When summer’s end is nighing
and skies at evening cloud,
I muse on change and fortune
and all the feats I vowed
when I was young and proud.

The weathercock at sunset
would lose the slanted ray,
and I would climb the beacon
that looked to Wales away
and saw the last of day.

From hill and cloud and heaven
the hues of evening died;
Night welled through lane and hollow
and hushed the countryside,
but I had youth and pride.

And I with earth and nightfall
in converse high would stand,
late, till the west was ashen
and darkness hard at hand,
and the eye lost the land.

The year might age, and cloudy
the lessening day might close,
but air of other summers
breathed from beyond the snows,
and I had hope of those.

They came and were and are not
and come no more anew;
And all the years and seasons
that ever can ensue
must now be worse and few.

So here’s an end of roaming
on eves when autumn nighs:
The ear too fondly listens
for summer’s parting sighs,
and then the heart replies.

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Happy Birthday Thom Gunn

Thom Gunn

I could write a lot about the biggest show in the USA down in Texas.  The American media should get an Oscar and a handful of Pulitzers for turning a storm into a thousand stories of human suffering.  They managed this disaster much better than Hurricane Katrina.  What you want is a low body count but powerful images of uprooted lives caused by homes being flooded or slabbed.  Plenty of affirming narratives of ordinary folk helping each other out, instead of those awful stories that were made up about the murders and rapes in the Louisiana Superdome.

Yes indeed cynic that I am I believe the US media organs learned good lessons about reporting from Louisiana.  At the same time we see a federal government that responded correctly, support without interference, Trump got this one right.

Also in the news Kim Jong Un just upped the ante by straddling Japan with a Missile.  That cannot sit.  Watch this space.

More importantly this is the birthday of a great poet.  He is the only person I have come across to date where cause of death was given as “Acute polysubstance abuse”.  Usually you just hear of “drug overdose”, but that’s for heavy metal rock stars, a poet demands something more…elegant, subtle, sophisticated?

Tamer and Hawk; by Thom Gunn

I thought I was so tough,
but gentled at your hands,
cannot be quick enough
to fly for you and show
that when I go I go
at your commands.

Even in flight above
I am no longer free:
You seeled me with your love,
I am blind to other birds—
the habit of your words
has hooded me.

As formerly, I wheel
I hover and I twist,
but only want the feel,
in my possessive thought,
Of catcher and of caught
upon your wrist.

You but half civilize,
taming me in this way.
through having only eyes
for you I fear to lose,
I lose to keep, and choose
tamer as prey.

Happy Birthday Paddy Clancy

Paddy

My dad passed away in October 2006.  That is significant because it predated the smartphone.  In those days cameras on phones were a new and expensive add on.  As a result most of the photos of Paddy are old style paper photographs, and there are not many digital ones.  I never got around to scanning all my old paper photos, but I managed to find this one in my archives.

Paddy and Maura were preparing for a trip.  It may have been the holiday they took in Dubrovnik.  I know this because my dad was doing up his cabin bag when I took the photo.  Paddy was the ultimate boy-scout, being prepared for every eventuality.  It was a product of his upbringing in a military household.  On camping holidays when anything broke Paddy had a spare in his “magic box”.  His in-flight bag was a treasure trove of travel “must-haves”.

My parents grew up during WW2, or “the emergency” as it was called in Ireland.  Born in 1927 they were 12 when the war began.  Ireland suffered a similar rationing regime to Great Britain, which meant frugality and food discipline was central to their lives from age 12 to around age 20 when rationing eventually tailed off.  They never lost their discipline in relation to waste.

Here is a story that illustrates their mindset.  When they were newly married my father bought a good coat for his wedding.  It was a fine heavy wool tweed coat.  Good Donegal tweed is tough stuff and lasts many years.

Over time the coat began to wear and my mother had to turn the cuffs and put in some repairs.  Eventually Paddy said it looked too shabby to wear.

Maura agreed, so she took the coat apart, panel by panel, and reversed the material and made up the coat again.  She put in new lining and the whole garment looked brand new.

When you turn the fabric it looks fine for a while, but it is worn thin and within a short few years the coat looked beat again.  Paddy said “Maura, this coat is finished, I need to buy a new one.”  Maura looked it over and sadly agreed.  “Yes” she said, “it’s finished, you can’t wear that any more…….I’ll cut it down to make clothes for the children”.

Were he still with us Paddy would be 90 today.  My dad shares his birthday with William Ernest Henley (b. 1849), the Victorian poet made famous all over again by Nelson Mandela.  Mandela would read “Invictus” to his cellmates in their darkest days.  He gave the poem to the South African Rugby Union team in 1995 to spur them on to win the Rugby World Cup for the new South African Nation.  Clint Eastwood directed Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, the Springboks captain, and Morgan Freeman as Mandela in the 2009 movie centred on that poem.  Here is another from Henley more along the theme of “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may”.

Oh gather me the rose; by William Ernest Henley

O gather me the rose, the rose,
while yet in flower we find it,
for summer smiles, but summer goes,
and winter waits behind it.

For with the dream foregone, foregone,
the deed foreborn forever,
the worm Regret will canker on,
and time will turn him never.

So were it well to love, my love,
and cheat of any laughter
the fate beneath us, and above,
the dark before and after.

The myrtle and the rose, the rose,
the sunshine and the swallow,
the dream that comes, the wish that goes
the memories that follow!

Excuse my dust

MrsParker

Born on this day in 1893 Dorothy Parker, writer & poet is possibly best known for her famous wit.  Her one liners are sharp as a knife.  Lines like “A girls best friend is her mutter” or “The cure for boredom is curiosity, there is no cure for curiosity”.  Her wit developed at an early age when she lost her mother and her father remarried.  She refused to call her stepmother anything civil and referred to her as the housekeeper.

She joked that she married to cover up her Jewish background and avoid anti-Semitism.  She was an avid anti-fascist and became aligned with left leaning politics in the 1930s. She was blacklisted in Hollywood in the 1950s McCarthy era as a communist.

“Excuse my dust” was her suggestion for her epitaph.  When she died in 1967 she bequeathed her estate to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After his death her estate passed on to the NCAAP.  In 1988 they claimed her ashes and erected a memorial garden to her in their Baltimore headquarters.

One Perfect Rose : by Dorothy Parker

A single flow’r he sent me, since we met.
All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet –
One perfect rose.

I knew the language of the floweret;
‘My fragile leaves,’ it said, ‘his heart enclose.’
Love long has taken for his amulet
One perfect rose.

Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get
One perfect rose.

 

Happy Birthday William Henry Ogilvie

Ogilvie1

A Scotsman who spent 10 years ranching in Australia, Ogilvie was a friend of Harry (Breaker) Morant and another great horseman.  A bush poet; he is best remembered for his outback poems like the one below.   I have a special room in my heart for bush poets like Breaker Morant, Ogilvie, Banjo Patterson, Robert Service and Rudyard Kipling.  I love their songs of the wild road, open spaces, skies that go on forever and hearts set on adventure.

My Hat! ;by William Henry Ogilvie

The hats of a man may be many
in the course of a varied career,
and some have been worth not a penny
and some have been devilish dear;
But there’s one hat I always remember
when sitting alone by the fire,
in the depth of a Northern November,
because it fulfilled my desire.

It was old, it was ragged and rotten
and many years out of mode,
like a thing that a tramp had forgotten
and left at the side of a road.
The boughs of the mulga had torn it,
it’s ribbon was naught but lace,
an old swaggie would not have worn it
without a sad smile on his face.

When I took off the hat to the ladies
it was rather with sorrow than swank,
and often I wished it in Hades
when the gesture drew only a blank;
But for swatting a fly on the tucker
or lifting a quart from the fire
or belting the ribs of a bucker
it was all that a man could desire.

When it ought to have gone to the cleaners
(and stayed there, as somebody said!)
it was handy for flogging the weaners
from the drafting-yard into the shed.
And oft it has served as a dish for
a kelpie in need of a drink;
It was all that a fellow could wish for
in many more ways than you’d think.

It was spotted and stained by the weather,
there was more than one hole in the crown,
and it made little difference whether
the rim was turned up or turned down.
It kept out the rain (in a fashion)
and kept off the sun (more or less),
but it merely comanded compassion
considered as part of one’s dress.

Though it wasn’t a hat you would bolt with
or be anxious to borrow or hire,
it was useful to blindfold a colt with
or handle a bit of barbed wire.
Though the world may have thought it improper
to wear such old rubbish as that,
I’d have scorned the best London-made topper
in exchange for my old battered hat.

 

Cats

BomDem

Bombalurina (Esha Hourihane Clancy) Demeter (Naomi Ryan)

 

Just a quick post to capture a moment from last week when Phoenix productions in Thurles staged Cats.  An amazing performance that took many weeks of hard graft.  Thorough professionals.  This is not a youth musical society, this is Phoenix!

First and foremost this is a dancing show and the cast really stepped up to the plate.  The choreography was first class and would give Broadway a run for its money.  Of course I am a sucker for any show based on great poetry.

All the cats were great but Bombalurina (Esha Hourihane Clancy) was magnificent.  She and her partner in crime, Demeter (Naomi Ryan) were the pillar and post to every set piece in the show. But then I am biased.

 

Catnames

Cats

 

 

Happy Birthday Mark Knopfler

Knopfler

Back in 1977 Mark Knopfler and his brother David founded one of the iconic bands of my experience. Their eponymous first album, Dire Straits, is one of my favourites.  Mark was born on this day in 1949.

Mark went on to work in the film industry.  A lot of people I know have great nostalgia for “The Princess Bride”.  I wonder how many of them know that Knopfler was behind the score?

One of the top 100 guitarists in Rolling Stone Magazines list he is probably most famous for his use of the National Guitar in the “Making Movies” and “Love over Gold” albums.  I saw them in Punchestown during the Love Over Gold tour in July 1983.

A fingerpicking guitarist; Knopfler developed his playing style because when staying with some friends the only guitar he could get his hands on was a wreck with a warped neck.  He had to tune it slack and could only play by fingerpicking.

I will never forget the impact when they came on stage in Punchestown and opened with this one: