Verse from the Diary of Lady Murasaki

A couple of verses from the Diary of Lady Murasaki, which I have just finished reading, and a review to follow.  I’ve included a footnote from the book.

“I was in the midst of composing a reply to a note sent by Lady Koshosho, when all of a sudden it became dark and started to rain.  As the messenger was in a hurry, I finished it off with: ‘and the sky too seems unsettled.’ I must have included a rather lame verse, for that evening the messenger returned with a poem written on dark purple cloud-patterned paper:

The skies at which I gaze and gaze are overcast;
How is it that they too rain down tears of longing?

Unable to remember what I had written, I replied:

It is the season for such rainy skies;
Clouds may break, but these watching sleeves will never dry.”

“In particular I missed Lady Dainagon, who would often talk to me as we lay close by Her Majesty in the evenings.  Had I then succumbed to life at court?
I sent her the following:

How I long for those waters on which we lay,
A longing keener than the frost on a duck’s wing, 

To which she replied:

Awakening to find no friend to brush away the frost,
The Mandarin duck longs for her mate at night.*”

*Mandarin ducks were supposed to always go around in inseparable pairs

Percy Bysshe Shelley – Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

Emily Dickinson – After Great Pain

After great pain a formal feeling comes–
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions–was it He that bore?
And yesterday–or centuries before?

The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow–
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

Alfred Lord Tennyson – I stood on a tower

I stood on a tower in the wet,
And New Year and Old Year met,
And winds were roaring and blowing;
And I said, ‘O years, that meet in tears,
Have you all that is worth the knowing?

Science enough and exploring,
Wanderers coming and going,
Matter enough for deploring,
But aught that is worth the knowing?

Seas at my feet were flowing,
Waves on the shingle pouring,
Old year roaring and blowing,
And New Year blowing and roaring.

William Makepeace Thackery – The Mahogany Tree

Christmas is here;
Winds whistle shrill,
Icy and chill,
Little care we:
Little we fear
Weather without,
Sheltered about
The Mahogany Tree.

Commoner greens,
Ivy and oaks,
Poets, in jokes,
Sing, do you see?
Good fellows’ shins
Here, boys, are found,
Twisting around
The Mahogany Tree.

Once on the boughs
Birds of rare plume
Sang, in its bloom;
Night birds are we:
Here we carouse,
Singing like them,
Perched round the stem
Of the jolly old tree.

Here let us sport,
Boys, as we sit;
Laughter and wit
Flashing so free.

Sorrows, begone!
Life and its ills,
Duns and their bills,
Bid we to flee.

Life is but short —
When we are gone,
Let them sing on,
Round the old tree.

Evenings we knew,
Happy as this;
Faces we miss,
Pleasant to see.
Kind hearts and true,
Gentle and just,
Peace to your dust!
We sing round the tree.

Care, like a dun,
Lurks at the gate:
Let the dog wait;
Happy we’ll be!
Drink every one;
Pile up the coals,
Fill the red bowls,
Round the old tree.

Drain we the cup. —
Friend, art afraid?
Spirits are laid
In the Red Sea.
Mantle it up;
Empty it yet;
Let us forget,
Round the old tree.

Come with the dawn,
Blue-devil sprite;
Leave us to-night,
Round the old tree.

Dollie Radford – December

December

No gardener need go far to find
The Christmas rose,
The fairest of the flowers that mark
The sweet Year’s close:
Nor be in quest of places where
The hollies grow,
Nor seek for sacred trees that hold
The mistletoe.
All kindly tended gardens love
December days,
And spread their latest riches out
In winter’s praise.
But every gardener’s work this month
Must surely be
To choose a very beautiful
Big Christmas tree,
And see it through the open door
In triumph ride,
To reign a glorious reign within
At Christmas-tide.