August 21, 2015 – Small celebrations: Stars, Poetry and Roses

This is the Celebrating the Small Things blog hop, run by Lexa Cain and her two wonderful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits.

So, what am I celebrating? 

Just pretty things.  I tend to be very visual, and things that make me look and smile

I thought I’d celebrate some beautiful things that, to me, come together.  The first is the last half of the last stanza of Ralph Hodgson’s The Song of Honour, which is nearly my favorite poem of all time.  The other is an image that somehow fits with it.

I stood and stared; the sky was lit,

The sky was stars all over it,
I stood, I knew not why,
Without a wish, without a will,
I stood upon that silent hill
And stared into the sky until
My eyes were blind with stars and still
I stared into the sky.
Design by Toni Ig
And, of course, Roses, like Paris, are always a good idea.

A bouquet of roses brightens a rainy day at Jardins, Jardin Aux Tuileries, annual Paris garden show. © Sheron Long
Paris Flower show at the Jardins des Tuileries. Photo © Sheron Long

What are you celebrating?  

Humorous Poetry

I have posted poetry from time to time.   Today, I am posting three of my favorite humorous poems.  We can all use a chuckle, I’m sure.  Especially remembering twelve years ago today.

I recite this one regularly, sometimes even in company.  Some of us may remember memorizing poetry for school. The nuns in the school I attended in 8th grade – I was 13 years old – had us memorize poems.  This was not one of them, but thanks to our reading I can identify eight poems whose fragments appear in Robert’s recital. 

They don’t teach elocution any more, but you must imagine someone speaking these lines with extravagant, stylized gestures to show anger, courage, grief, hope, yearning…


“An Overworked Elocutionist.”

Elocution guide

Once there was a little boy whose name was Robert Reese,
And every Friday afternoon he had to speak a piece.
So many poems thus he learned, that soon he had a store
Of recitations in his head and still kept learning more.

And so this is what happened! He was called upon one week,
And totally forgot the piece he was about to speak.
His brain he cudgeled, not a word remained within his head
And so he spoke at random, and this is what he said!

My beautiful, my beautiful, who standeth proudly by…
It was the schooner Hesperus and the breaking waves dashed high?
Why is this forum crowded? What means this stir in Rome?
Under the spreading chestnut tree, there is no place like home.

When freedom from her mountain heights cried “Twinkle little star!
Shoot if you must this old gray head, King Henry of Navarre!
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue-chasmed crag at Drachenfels –
My name is Norwald – On the Grampian hills Ring out Wild Bells!”

If you’re waking call me early.  To be or not to be?
The curfew shall not ring tonight! O woodman spare that tree!
Charge Chester, Charge!  On Stanley, On! And let who will be clever.
The boy stood on the burning deck, but I go on forever!

His elocution was superb, his voice and gestures fine;
His schoolmates all applauded as he finished the last line.
“I see it doesn’t matter,” Robert thought, “what words I say,
So long as I declaim with oratorical display.” 

          by Carolyn Wells 

This gem is said to have been written during pioneer days, perhaps because it referred to preserved (dried) fruit.  Until the advent of refrigeration, many things were preserved in such a way, and that method was not limited to those crossing the Great American Plains in covered wagons.  In any event, it’s a favorite of mine. 

Dried Apple Pies


I loathe, abhor, detest, despise

Abominate dried apple pies!
I like good food, I like good meat –
Or anything that’s fit to eat! –
But of all poor grub beneath the skies,
The poorest is Dried Apple Pies! 

The farmer takes his gnarliest fruit –
T’is wormy, bitter and hard to boot –
He leaves the hulls to make us cough
And don’t take half the peeling off.
Then on a dirty string t’is strung
And in a garret window hung,
Where it serves as roost for flies
Until it’s made up into pies. 

So tread on my corns or tell me lies –
But don’t pass me dried apple pies!



…and then we have Hotspur’s comment (addressed to Owen Glendower in Shakespeare’s Henry IV) on the subject of poetry.  In this speech he is responding to Glendower’s remark that he had set many an English ballad to harp music, a talent that no one had accused Hotspur of having. 

Hotspur replies:

And I am glad of it with all my heart:
I had rather be a kitten and cry mew
Than one of these same metre ballad-mongers;
I had rather hear a brazen canstick turn’d,

Or a dry wheel grate on the axle-tree;
And that would set my teeth nothing on edge,

Nothing so much as mincing poetry:
‘Tis like the forced gait of a shuffling nag.



I hope some of you have enjoyed a chuckle.  I’m going back to jotting notes in notebooks…

Writing Limericks

It’s amazing what pops into your head.   For some reason I’ve been thinking about Limericks. 
What’s a Limerick?  Well, it’s like this:   




A humorous, frequently bawdy, verse of three long and two short lines rhyming aabba, popularized by Edward Lear.

 I have run into some that aren’t bawdy (most of mine) but the form does lend itself to a certain level of – shall I say? – friskiness.

I had quite a run of limericks for a while.  A number of us cranked them out.  They are rather like knee-jerks.  With the right stimulus, you can put them out quickly.  As an example, a perfectly charming lady named Pat, who was a senior administrator one place I worked, was quite taken by Sunsweet Brand Prunes (they did start calling them ‘dried plums’ some time later) had several small bags of the things.  And I wrote this to commemorate her adventuresome nature: 

Has someone suggested Prunes?
A collection of large, juicy prunes
Was assembled by Pat one fine June.
But she went overboard
And devoured the hoard –
So I don’t think we’ll hear from her soon!


 I seem to remember that Pat was slightly amused, but it was long ago and far away.

We were off to the races with the limericks.  I’ve forgotten most of them (“Good!” my family might say) but a few came back, and I am happy to share:

On myself (NOT biographical):

A hazel-eyed cookie named Wilder
Met a plausible scamp who begilder.
He was nabbed by a Copper
For Conduct Improper –
And posting his bail really rilder

Then, laughing at Elizabeth and Richard Taylor’s flatulent endeavor that barged down the Nile and sank, I came out with these:

Egyptian Queen Cleo saw Caesar –
His face and form didn’t displaesar.
She had her slaves lug
Her, rolled up in a rug,
To seduce that unfortunate gaesar.

And, finally, this:

Queen Cleo laid hold of an asp
Whose sour disposition did rasp.
Her ending was bad,
So remember, my lad –
Never fool with a Snake in the Grasp.

You can breathe now – I don’t recall any more.

At this moment.


Things That Once Were

I wrote poetry, once upon a time.  I still do, actually, when the mood strikes me.  Generally, now, the mood that strikes me is puckish and what I write is humorous.

Grandpa at 90

I was remembering, recently, a time when my grandfather was sitting in my mother’s living room and mulling things over.  He was matter-of-fact.  He always was, with a puckish sense of humor.  I remember him laughing at some hobbling fellow who had told him that when Grandpa reached 60, as he had, he’d like to lean on a cane.  Grandpa was in his late 70s then. 

He was in his nineties that evening, a WWI veteran, a musician, a fly fisherman, gardener – my Grampa.  He was talking about life, and he said that young men think of all the things they want to do in the future, while an old man like him knows that the future contains his departure. 

Grandpa lived to be 100 years old plus a month.  His last words to me, when I hurried to the hospital to see him, were ‘I love you!’.  He died in his sleep.

On the evening I mentioned, I started thinking, and I ultimately wrote a poem.  I like the form of a sonnet, and that is what I wrote.  My grandfather loved it.  And I lost it in the course of many moves.  I didn’t have a computer at that time, just paper.

It was entered in a poetry contest of sorts (the kind where you ‘win’ and get to buy a volume of poetry that contains your effort.  I didn’t bother) and then it was lost.

Recently, I tried to find it.  My mother went through all her papers – no luck.  But she gave me a number of old poems, which I put away.  Last night I was sorting through them – and here it is, not lost forever and regretted, but complete, tying the past to the present.

                                                  Sonnet for my Grandfather 

                                Could I by some chance make you stay with me
                                Beyond the moments given you by time,
                                If I could somehow stay your destiny,
                                            Unravel fate’s thread and unsay life’s rhyme –
                                I’d spend a thousand summers by your side,
                                Distill them to the touch of one clear day
                                Within the stippled shade where brown trout hide,
                                Watching the water skimmers’ silent play
                                            Along the surface; I would stay with you
                                And hold your hand nor would I hurry on
                                As once I did, to matters fierce and new,
                                Whose call to me was brief, whose thrill is gone.
                                            But at your side I’d cheerfully remain,
                                            Knowing those times could never come again. 

                                                                    Diana Wilder  © 1979

Small Celebrations – Old Love

Today I am sitting in my usual seat, looking up the hill after a rainy night. The soil is no doubt soft enough that I can dig up that big Norway Maple in my front yard.  the one that keeps dropping leaves in autumn. 

17 year old BJ on the right

I can reach my teacup, but it is a stretch.  There is a sort of roadblock between me and its brown, hot goodness.

In this photo, large, black, with a face full of white whiskers, he is on the right.  I’m celebrating old love because BJ (‘Black Jack’, a Bombay) will be turning 17 years old on Wednesday.

Dawn love is silver,
Wait for the west.
Old love is gold love –
Old love is best

lifting a cup of tea this morning for old BJ

(Note: Frida, beside him, is nine years old…)

Eternity and Poetry

I was a poet at one time.  Actually, I still am – to a degree.  I spent a college weekend reading six plays by Shakespeare and ended up walking around thinking in Iambic Pentameter.  It isn’t hard.  Conversational English falls into it without a lot of effort.  In fact, it lends itself very readily to blogging –

It tickles me, to think that I may yet
Ape the Bard, and let my verses fly
Through this strange blog thing, there to smite the eye
Of th’unwary visitor come by
To pause and find refreshment in this spot.
But wilt thou find such rest?  – I fear thou’llt not!
But shalt run screaming through the teaming web
(But soft! Dear reader, didst thou notice that
Two rhymes I did cram in that one short line??
Harrow and alack!  The knack is back!!!)

——-   But I digress   ——-  

Alas! What can I do to shake this curse
That turns my maunderings into wretched verse?

The answer is, of course, to take pity on everyone and get back on track.

I started to say that I wrote a lot of villanelles and sonnets, Shakespearean and Spenserian, and I still do, more from a sense of humor.  I wrote a sonnet about the ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award) contest that’s going on right now.  I’ll post it at the bottom of this post if anyone is hardy enough to want to read it.  Look for the asterisks.  ***

The Bard, with beard, wishing he had a laptop

But anyhow, I was looking for one of my poems to put in a blog post about Richard III.  It was published in the spring of my Junior year in college, when I was  on the editorial board of an award-winning literary magazine put out by the University.  No, it did not win any awards during my watch.

I had been fascinated by Richard III.  I thought he had been the victim of a really dirty smear job. The treatment he received – his body and his reputation both – were disgraceful.  From what I could see, he had been an admirable man.  I had written a series of poems about him, told from the points of view of various people – Henry VII, his nephews who died in the Tower, his brother Edward…  I thought they were pretty good, and so did the folks on the magazine.  They were published.

I graduated, lost my copies, didn’t have a computer (no one had a computer then), the poems were lost.  One day a while back I stumbled across the digital archives of my university – and the publication was there. Well!  That was good to know.  I filed that bit of information away.

Statue of Richard III in Leicester

Today I sat down to write about Richard III.  I was planning on opening with the advertisement of the City of York after Richard’s death, in which, in the teeth of the new king, they described Richard’s death as foul murder.  I remembered the first two lines of Richard III’s poem:

It grieves my soul to be maligned thus,
So spurned, so scorned by all who know of me
But know me not…

Potentially harmless, I’d say.  I buckled down, located the digital archive, pulled up the poem – and grabbed my chin as it bounced off the floor.  The poem was terrible.  Dreadful.  So full of posturing and artsiness, I wanted to squirm.  And that monstrosity was out there under my name  for anyone to see until the stars grew cold or computers rose up in revolt.  It would fit right in – it was revolting!

You have to write really good poetry to call yourself a poet, because the bad stuff – like Dame Edith Sitwell’s work – is truly, truly atrocious and stays with you.  I am  not happy to see that garbage of mine out there, but it’s digital and digital is nearly eternal.

Think about it.

…and now my ABNA Shakespearean sonnet:

Facepalm from Trajan’s Column, Rome

***  That I had thought to join this festival
of writers of all sorts, both good and ill
Poetasters, posers – scribblers all
Upon these boards -alas! – our guts to spill!

Exhaustion dims the mem’ries of the pain-
we greet The Knight’s thread: “All about the pitch!”
We throw ourselves into the fray again –
And learn, alas, the striving’s still a —
(hm. Insert a word that rhymes with ‘pitch’ that might be deleted by Amazon)

Two weeks remain, and now the questions come –
What? How? When? Where? Does anybody KNOW???
“Read FAQs?” some cry, “Why, that’s just DUMB!”
But then they do, and shout “Oh no! Oh, WOE!!”

Squeals of outrage – how the feathers fly!
What genre? What word count? What should I choose??
Some shriek ”Tis so unfair to me! O Why??’
While the vet’rans soothe their souls with shots of booze.

The scramble starts, the shrieks at morn’s first light!
The dread day dawns, clock-watchers pitch their books –
While others, red-eyed, snatch a last rewrite –
“Cheats!” “Wretches!” “Fudgers!” “Ay me!” “I’ve been rooked!”

All this takes place – but why? Ah! Who can say?
We chase our stars and even kneel to pray –
That some of us be crown’d by Amazon
And say to all the rest “Get hence! Begone!”

Refreshment for the Soul

Someone sent me a link to this presentation some years ago.  It is a virtual tour of a Chinese landscape scroll ‘Along The River During the Ching-Ming Festival’.  This is a theme and depiction that is considered a classic, and the Imperial Palace Museum has at least six similar scrolls.

This one has been digitized (if that’s a word) and the link will take you to a panorama of the scroll.

Move your mouse to the left and the scroll will unroll before you.  You can control the speed.  From time to time you will encounter an area enclosed by a square.  If you click on it, the scene will open into a three-dimensional, animated vignette.  It is very cleverly done, and too beautiful not to share.

Here is the link:

Along the River during the Ching-Ming Festival

…and here is a snapshot from the scroll: