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As I walked under the African moon,
I heard the piper play;
And the last place ever I heard that tune
Was a thousand miles away.

Far to the west, in a deep-cut bay
By the ceaseless sound of the sea,
We lived and laughed in a happier day,
Archie and Johnnie and me.

For they'd be piping half of the night
At every ceilidh by,
And I'd be dancing with all my might
As long as they played, would I.

Many a time we were at the Games,
And many a prize had we;
And never a one but called our names,
Archie and Johnnie and me.

But Archie's dead on the Libyan sand.
And Johnnie was left in Crete,
And I'm alone in a distant land
With the music gone from my feet.

I heard him under the African moon,
That piper I could not see;
Yet certain I am he played that tune
For Archie and Johnnie and me.

-Lt-Colonel Lord of Poltalloch DL JP
Duntroon Castle, Lochgilphead, Argyll
Died March 1976. "Lament"

(George Ian Malcolm?)
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The Hearth of Rheged

Many a lively hound and spirited hawk
were fed on its floor
before this place was in ruins.

This hearth-
It was more accustomed on its floor
to mead and drinkers petitioning.

This hearth- nettles hide it.

(from Marwnad Urien Rheged, The Red Book of Hergest, written down c. 1382)
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You are so beautiful in winter!
The field stretched on its back, near the horizon,
and the trees stopped running from the winter wind ...
My nostrils tremble
and no scent
and no breeze
only the distant, icy smell
of the suns.
How transparent your hands are in winter!
And no one passes -
only the white suns revolve in quiet worship.
and the thought spreads in circles
ringing the trees
in twos
in fours.

[English translation by Thomas Carlson and Vasile Poenaru.]
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I met a man the other day—
A kindly man, and serious—
Who viewed me in a thoughtful way,
And spoke me so, and spoke me thus:

“Oh, dallying’s a sad mistake;
’Tis craven to survey the morrow!
Go give your heart, and if it break—
A wise companion is Sorrow.

“Oh, live, my child, nor keep your soul
To crowd your coffin when you’re dead….”
I asked his work; he dealt in coal,
And shipped it up the Tyne, he said.
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The piers are pummelled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.

Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.

Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.

Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extol the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.

Caesar's double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
Writes I DO NOT LIKE MY WORK
On a pink official form.

Unendowed with wealth or pity,
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-infected city.

Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.
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The Persian Version

Truth-loving Persians do not dwell upon
The trivial skirmish fought near Marathon.
As for the Greek theatrical tradition
Which represents that summer's expedition
Not as a mere reconnaisance in force
By three brigades of foot and one of horse
(Their left flank covered by some obsolete
Light craft detached from the main Persian fleet)
But as a grandiose, ill-starred attempt
To conquer Greece - they treat it with contempt;
And only incidentally refute
Major Greek claims, by stressing what repute
The Persian monarch and the Persian nation
Won by this salutary demonstration:
Despite a strong defence and adverse weather
All arms combined magnificently together.

-- Robert Graves
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He is more than a hero
he is a god in my eyes--
the man who is allowed
to sit beside you -- he

who listens intimately
to the sweet murmur of
your voice, the enticing

laughter that makes my own
heart beat fast. If I meet
you suddenly, I can't

speak -- my tongue is broken;
a thin flame runs under
my skin; seeing nothing,

hearing only my own ears
drumming, I drip with sweat;
trembling shakes my body

and I turn paler than
dry grass. At such times
death isn't far from me
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Mortal Combat

It is because you were my friend.
I fought you as the devil fights.
Whatever fortune God may send,
For once I set the world to rights.

And that was when I thrust you down,
And stabbed you twice and twice again,
Because you dared take off your crown,
And be a man like other men.
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Since the majority of me
Rejects the majority of you,
Debating ends forwith, and we
Divide. And sure of what to do

We disinfect new blocks of days
For our majorities to rent
With unshared friends and unwalked ways,
But silence too is eloquent:

A silence of minorities
That, unopposed at last, return
Each night with cancelled promises
They want renewed. They never learn.
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Como un ala negra tendí mis cabellos sobre tus rodillas.
Cerrando los ojos su olor aspiraste diciéndome luego:
-¿Duermes sobre piedras cubiertas de musgos?
¿Con ramas de sauces te atas las trenzas?
¿Tu almohada es de trébol? ¿Las tienes tan negras
porque acaso en ellas exprimiste un zumo
retinto y espeso de moras silvestres?

¡Qué fresca y extraña fragancia te envuelve!
Hueles a arroyuelos, a tierra y a selvas.
¿Qué perfume usas? Y riendo le dije:
-¡Ninguno, ninguno!
Te amo y soy joven, huelo a primavera.

Este olor que sientes es de carne firme,
de mejillas claras y de sangre nueva.
¡Te quiero y soy joven, por eso es que tengo
las mismas fragancias de la primavera!


Like a black wing I laid my hair across your knees.
Closing my eyes your scent aspired to say to me then:
Do you sleep on moss-covered rocks?
Have you braided it with willow branches?
Is the clover your pillow? Is your hair is so dark
Because perhaps in it you have squeezed out
the dark, thick juice of wild blackberries?

What a fresh and strange fragrance surrounds you!
You smell like brooks, like the earth and the jungle.
What perfume do you use? And laughing I tell you:
None, none!
I love you and I am young, I smell of the spring.

This smell that you feel is of firm flesh,
Of clear cheeks and of new blood.
I love you and I am young, and that is why I have
The same smells as the spring!
bardachd: (Default)
This is not a love poem.
Love cannot be so deliberate,
plotting itself into a sky-
scraper, sharp valley, clean
comet. It should have no grid
in the bold and lonely atlas
of everybody's alphabet.

This is not a love poem.
I want to bury you in houses,
bearings, constellations:
concentric paths that
hover about you like
a minor illness, cartoon
phantom. I want to distil
trite silence into a stone-
cold something so needed
and so new, you gulp it down
and it actually warms you.

This is not a love poem.
I'm just trying to chart a
stupid ailment. Symptom:
how my foolscap heart folds
itself into a plane and at
a mere mention, takes off
and will not stop leaving. Stops
or will not. But these are short
flights. Often, the harsh landing
crumples and shocks.
Backbone broken, wind-
tossed, love is somewhere
too far off. It doesn't matter.
What a state. Surely this
is the best kind of lost.
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I made a house of houselessness,
A garden of your going:
And seven trees of seven wounds
You gave me, all unknowing:
I made a feast of golden grief
That you so lordly left me,
I made a bed of all the smiles
Whereof your lip bereft me:
I made a sun of your delay,
Your daily loss, his setting:
I made a wall of all your words
And a lock of your forgetting.
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"Oh where ha'e ye been, Lord Randall my son?
O where ha'e ye been, my handsome young man?"
"I ha'e been to the wild wood: mother make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain wald lie down."

"Where gat ye your dinner, Lord Randall my son?"
Where gat ye your dinner, my handsome young man?"
"I dined wi' my true love; mother make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain wald lie down."

"What gat ye to your dinner, Lord Randall my son?
What gat ye to your dinner, my handsome young man?"
"I gat eels boiled in broo: mother make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain wald lie down."

"What became of your bloodhounds, Lord Randall my son?
What became of your bloodhounds, my handsome young man?"
"O they swelled and they died: mother make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain wald lie down."

"O I fear ye are poisoned, Lord Randall my son!
O I fear ye are poisoned, my handsome young man?"
"O yes I am poisoned: mother make my bed soon,
For I'm sick at the heart, and I fain wald lie down."
bardachd: (Default)
What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the
streets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.

In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit
supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles
full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes! --- and you,
Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?
I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the
meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price
bananas? Are you my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and
followed in my imagination by the store detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting
artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.
Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in an hour. Which way does
your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel
absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to
shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in
driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you
have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and
stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?
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Ind ráith i comair in dairfedo,
ba Bruidgi, ba Cathail,
ba hÁedo, ba hAilello,
ba Conaing, ba Cuilíni,
ocus ba Máele Dúin.
Ind ráith d’éis cach ríg ar úair,
ocus int slúaig foait i n-úir.


The fort over against the oakwood,
It was Bruidge’s, it was Cathal’s,
It was Áed’s, it was Ailill’s,
It was Conaing’s, it was Cuilíne’s
and it was Máel Dúin’s.
The fort remains after each king in turn,
and the hosts sleep in the ground.
bardachd: (Default)
Glen Ramadale;
my love in the dew of twilight
a morning glory in her hair,
setting it alight;
the hidden cuckoo's call
encircling her.

I heard the cuckoo yesterday;
a shadow fell across the evening;
beauty tearing apart memory's harp
in Glen Ramadale:
Darling! where did you go?
bardachd: (Default)
Chan fhaca mi Lannes aig Ratasbon
no MacFill-Fhinnein aig Allt Eire
no Gill-Iosa aig Cuil-Lodair,
ach chunnaic mi Sassanach 'san Eiphit.

Fear beag le gruaidhean pluiceach
is gluinean a'bleith a cheile,
aodann guireanach gun tlachd ann-
comhdach an spioraid bu treine.

Cha robh buaidh air''san tigh-osda
'n am nan dorn a bhith 'gan dunadh',
ach leoghann e ri uchd a'chatha,
anns na frasan guineach mugach.

Thainig uair-sin lis na sligean
leis na spealgan-iaruinn bearnach,
anns an toit is anns an lasair,
ann an crith is maoim na h-araich.

Thainig fios dha 'san fhrois pheileir
e bhith gu spreigearra 'na dhiulnach:
is b' e sin fhad 's a mhair e,
ach cha b'fhada fhuair e dh'uine )
bardachd: (Default)
since you’ve gone, all i can do is sit at home and sing the great
love songs.

i don’t want to set the world on fire.

i just want to start a small


                         conflagration in your apartment that quickly
grows into a five-alarm blaze and you grab the cat and your
laptop and run out the door and i, having crawled down the
fire escape, come strolling down the street and you’re coming
towards me, running panicked and tears streaking through the
soot on your face, you’ve never been so beautiful in your life
as this moment when you run smack into a firefighter who is
assessing the flames coming out the window and the ladder
and the firefighters going inside and you run smack into him
and your eyes lock and the world spins around you and he
kisses you and says he’ll be right back for you after he puts
out that little inferno and he strides up the stairs and you turn
to me and you’re glowing as you say my life has been reduced to
ashes but i feel like i finally found out what’s really important.
my eyes brim with tears. after all the years and all the failed
love, i finally did it. i finally found a way to make you happy.
bardachd: (Default)
I will tell you how it was. I slipped
into the hare like a nude foot
into a glorious slipper. Pushing her bones
to one side to make room for my shape
so I could settle myself like a child within her.
In the dark I groped for her freedom, gently teasing
it apart across my fingers to web across my palm.
Here is where our separation ends:
I tensed her legs with my arms, pushed my rhythm
down the stepping-stones of spine. An odd feeling this,
to hold another's soul in the mouth like an egg;
the aching jaw around her delicate self. Her mind
was simple, full of open space and weather.
I warmed myself on her frantic pulse and felt the draw
of gorse and grass, the distant slate line
at the edge of the moor. The air span diamonds
our of sea fret to catch across my tawny coat
as I began to fold te earth beneath my feet
and fly across the heath, the heather.
bardachd: (Default)
Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss--we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

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