We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Saturday, August 15. 2020
The Building of the Ship (c 1850). Yes, about boat-building, skill and craft, but also a metaphor about the American nation.
"Build me straight, O worthy Master!
The merchant's word
The rest of the delightful saga is below the fold -
Continue reading "Saturday Verse: Longfellow"
Saturday, August 1. 2020
You want to know how I spend my time?
Saturday, June 27. 2020
The Summer (1991)
After we come to see it and
know we scarcely live without it
we begin trying to describe
what art is and it seems to be
something we believe is human
whatever that is something that
says what we are but then the same
beam of recognition stops at
one penguin choosing a pebble
to offer to the penguin he
hopes to love and later the dance
of awkwardness holding an egg
on one foot away from the snow
of summer the balancing on
one foot in the flash of summer
Saturday, March 28. 2020
Lots of people feeling snowbound these days, housebound. Get outside!
A short excerpt from Snowbound: A Winter Idyl (1866):
Yet, haply, in some lull of life,
Ahhh, the benediction of the air. Read the entire wonderful but old-fashioned-sounding 1865 poem by the great north of Boston newspaper editor and abolitionist here.
He made a lot of money from that poem. Whittier's home, to which the poem refers, stands in Haverhill, MA. It's a sentimental poem you can read to the kids - with feeling! Especially on a snowbound day.
Saturday, February 29. 2020
Two Tramps in Mud Time
Out of the mud two strangers came
Good blocks of oak it was I split,
The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
The water for which we may have to look
The time when most I loved my task
Out of the wood two hulking tramps
Nothing on either side was said.
But yield who will to their separation,
Saturday, February 15. 2020
Saturday, January 18. 2020
From The Preface to the 1855 Edition of Leaves of Grass. h/t American Digest
When the memories of the old martyrs are faded utterly away . . . .
When the large names of patriots are laughed at in the public halls from the lips of the orators . . . .
When the boys are no more christened after the same but christened after tyrants and traitors instead . . . .
When the laws of the free are grudgingly permitted and laws for informers and bloodmoney are sweet to the taste of the people . . . .
When I and you walk abroad upon the earth stung with compassion at the sight of numberless brothers answering our equal friendship and calling no man master…
When we are elated with noble joy at the sight of slaves . . . .
When the soul retires in the cool communion of the night and surveys its experience and has much extasy over the word and deed that put back a helpless innocent person into the gripe of the gripers or into any cruel inferiority . . . .
When those in all parts of these states who could easier realize the true American character but do not yet—
When the swarms of cringers, suckers, doughfaces, lice of politics, planners of sly involutions for their own preferment to city offices or state legislatures or the judiciary or congress or the presidency, obtain a response of love and natural deference from the people whether they get the offices or no . . . .
When it is better to be a bound booby and rogue in office at a high salary than the poorest free mechanic or farmer with his hat unmoved from his head and firm eyes and a candid and generous heart . . . .
And when servility by town or state or the federal government or any oppression on a large scale or small scale can be tried on without its own punishment following duly after in exact proportion against the smallest chance of escape . . . .
Or rather when all life and all the souls of men and women are discharged from any part of the earth—
Then only shall the instinct of liberty be discharged from that part of the earth.
Saturday, January 4. 2020
Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.
Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul.
Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
She says, “I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?”
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote on heaven’s hill, that has endured
As April’s green endures; or will endure
Like her remembrance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow’s wings.
She says, “But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss.”
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness,
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate. The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.
Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.
Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.
She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.”
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.
Saturday, December 28. 2019
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
You are a child of the universe,
Therefore be at peace with God,
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.
Saturday, December 21. 2019
Saturday, November 30. 2019
The Village Blacksmith
UNDER a spreading chestnut tree
His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
Week in, week out, from morn till night,
And children coming home from school
He goes on Sunday to the church,
It sounds to him like her mother's voice,
Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
Saturday, November 9. 2019
My father worked with a horse-plough,
An expert. He would set the wing
Of reins, the sweating team turned round
I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake,
I wanted to grow up and plough,
I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
Saturday, October 19. 2019
When you sit in the blind awaiting the flight
Then you curse yourself for a fool greenhorn,
And so, through life, a poor wretch tries
Still, I think that the God who sits in His sky,
Saturday, September 14. 2019
It little profits that an idle king,
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
And drunk delight of battle with my peers;
Were all too little, and of one to me
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and though
Saturday, July 6. 2019
To a Mouse, On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785, Robert Burns
Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble
But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
(Obviously my bolds)
Saturday, June 22. 2019
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,
From the New England Primer, via American Digest's Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep
Saturday, May 4. 2019
The House by the Side of the Road
There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
I see from my house by the side of the road,
I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911) wrote plain verse for the "common man". Homey, corny, comfortably instructive stuff. In fact, for many years Foss turned out a poem a day for his local Somerville, MA newspaper. We recently saw a graveyard monument (1936) with "Let me live by the side of the road and be a friend to man." inscribed upon it.
Saturday, December 1. 2018
Shakespeare probably wrote this sonnet in his late 30s, making it, I suppose, a creation of sentimental imagination. It seems to be addressed to a younger man. Here are some thoughts, etc about Sonnet 73. Interesting to me that John Berryman believed it to be the best poem written in English, despite its flaws.
That time of year thou may'st in me behold
Saturday, November 3. 2018
Out of the night that covers me,
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
It matters not how strait the gate,
Saturday, October 13. 2018
Afternoon on a Hill
I will be the gladdest thing
I will look at cliffs and clouds
And when lights begin to show
Saturday, September 22. 2018
The Foggy, Foggy Dew (by Anon)
When I was a bachelor I lived all alone
I wooed her in the wintertime
One night she came to my bedside
She wept, she cried, she damn near died,
O I am a bachelor, I live with my son
He reminds me of the wintertime
Saturday, September 15. 2018
Gypsies in the Wood
My mother said that I never should
I went to the sea - no ship to get across;
Saturday, July 14. 2018
It's meadow mowing season in New England. Haying season too.
There was never a sound beside the wood but one,
Saturday, May 12. 2018
There is a sacred, secret line in loving
Friendship is weak and useless here,
Those who try to come near it are insane
Saturday, April 21. 2018
I wander'd lonely as a cloud
A poet could not but be gay,
For oft, when on my couch I lie
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