Poetry is honey for the soul (13) – Camille

Poetry is honey for the soul

Today is Sunday and I have chosen the poem of the day.

It was mentioned once in a blog,

I looked for it and found it.

It is, for me, as a foreigner, something very English,

not British, English.

Something I would find with Anthony Trollope, with John Donne,

with John Keats, with Mrs Gaskell, with Barbara Pym.

Something Victorian and Edwardian,

a nostalgia for a past Empire today.

But was it ever idyllic and pastoral,

or is it a nostalgia for something dreamt that never was?

We have the same “faux souvenirs” in France…


by: A.T. Quiller-Couch

PASTORAL heart of England! like a psalm

Of green days telling with a quiet beat–

O wave into the sunset flowing calm!

O tirèd lark descending on the wheat!

Lies it all peace beyond the western fold

Where now the lingering shepherd sees his star

Rise upon Malvern? Paints an Age of Gold

Yon cloud with prophecies of linkèd ease–

Lulling this Land, with hills drawn up like knees,

To drowse beside her implements of war?

Man shall outlast his battles. They have swept

Avon from Naseby Field to Savern Ham;

And Evesham’s dedicated stones have stepp’d

Down to the dust with Montfort’s oriflamme.

Nor the red tear nor the reflected tower

Abides; but yet these elegant grooves remain,

Worn in the sandstone parapet hour by hour

By labouring bargemen where they shifted ropes;

E’en so shall men turn back from violent hopes

To Adam’s cheer, and toil with spade again.

Ay, and his mother Nature, to whose lap

Like a repentant child at length he hies,

Nor in the whirlwind or the thunder-clap

Proclaims her more tremendous mysteries:

But when in winter’s grave, bereft of light,

With still, small voice divinelier whispering

–Lifting the green head of the aconite,

Feeding with sap of hope the hazel-shoot–

She feels God’s finger active at the root,

Turns in her sleep, and murmurs of the Spring.





Poetry is honey for the soul (11) – ML Kappa

Poetry is honey for the soul

Marina gives us regularly news from Greece in her blog:


I follow it with the utmost assiduity: politics, economy, society, refugees, literature, Ancient Greece, Grecian Islands, myths, history, traditions -her blog is always full of information. Its full name is “Letters from Athens – A blog about life and times in Greece”.

Today, she invites us to read or re-read a poem by Constantin Cavafy, which sounds oddly relevant to our times.

unnamed (2)

C.P. Cavafy is widely considered the most distinguished Greek poet of the twentieth century. He was born in 1863 in Alexandria, Egypt, where his Greek parents had settled in the mid-1850s.

During his lifetime Cavafy was an obscure poet, living in relative seclusion and publishing little of his work. A short collection of his poetry was privately printed in the early 1900s and reprinted with new verse a few years later, but that was the extent of his published poetry. Instead, Cavafy chose to circulate his verse among friends.

Cavafy was an avid student of history, particularly ancient civilizations, and in a great number of poems he subjectively rendered life during the Greek and Roman empires.

Among his most acclaimed poems is “Waiting for the Barbarians,” in which leaders in ancient Greece prepare to yield their land to barbarians only to discover that the barbarians, so necessary to political and social change, no longer exist.

Greek and Persian warriors in a duel



What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?


The barbarians are due here today.


Why isn’t anything happening in the senate?

Why do the senators sit there without legislating?


Because the barbarians are coming today.

What laws can the senators make now?

Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.


Why did our emperor get up so early,

and why is he sitting at the city’s main gate

on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?


Because the barbarians are coming today

and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.

He has even prepared a scroll to give him,

replete with titles, with imposing names.


Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today

wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?

Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,

and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?

Why are they carrying elegant canes

beautifully worked in silver and gold?


Because the barbarians are coming today

and things like that dazzle the barbarians.


Why don’t our distinguished orators come forward as usual

to make their speeches, say what they have to say?


Because the barbarians are coming today

and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.


Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?

(How serious people’s faces have become.)

Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,

everyone going home so lost in thought?


Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.

And some who have just returned from the border say

there are no barbarians any longer.


And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?

They were, those people, a kind of solution.


Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)

unnamed (1)
A sample of C. Cavafy’s handwriting
A street of Alexandria  where C. Cavafy was born

Poetry is honey for the soul (10) – Alison Hope

Poetry is honey for the soul

Ali stood at an uncomfortable place last week: 

her poem was published on this blog just before my appeal to help for The Little Family. 

This was awkward and she might not have received the whole attention she deserved. 

Therefore, I post it again.

Ali is a well-known blogger, “specialised” in book reviews. She has her own blog and writes daily about a new book (better than I do and makes me feel lazy…). Here is the address:


for the few of you who would not know her yet. She is connected with books: buying books, lending books, reading groups, reviewing books, participating in book groups, in book events, creating them sometimes. I cannot imagine her without a book near at hand! Which is certainly exaggerated as she loves flowers and many other things.

When I asked her if she wanted to contribute, she asked for some days of thought, then sent me the following poem, comment and illustrations. I was surprised to see “Stopping by woods on a snowy evening” by Robert Frost that Phillip had already chosen. For the foreigner that I am it seems one of these poems that haunt you all your life long – and I begin to fall under its spell myself.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village, though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer  

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake. 

The only other sounds the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep, 

And miles to go before I sleep.


There were lots of poems I could (nearly did) choose for this, many deeper, seemingly more complex pieces than this. Yet I kept coming back to this poem, one I first heard probably as a child. I love the deceptive simplicity of the poem, yet the images it evokes remain, and tell a story – albeit a simple one. The reader is left wondering about where the traveller might be going – what are those promises – and to whom were they made?

The poem reminds me -always of my dad – he died eight years ago. I can remember him quoting – on several occasions, though what those occasions were I can’t recall – that final haunting stanza – so it is a poem I always associate with him.









Poetry is honey for the soul (9) – Ellen Moody

           Poetry is honey for the soul

Ellen Moody is … Well, I could write a classic introductory note telling you all about the academic career of Professor Moody, her achievements, diplomas, curriculum vitae. But you will find all this on the net (http://www.jimandellen.org/ellen/emmorlif.htm).  Ellen is someone “from the family” for me, in a way, although we have never met. My God-mother “met” her while discussing in one of Ellen’s numerous reading groups on the net, and I sort of went on discussing in the same groups some years later. In this indirect way, I have been taught a lot.

But Ellen is closer than that. She writes me off line emails, talks about her family, her life, her daughter Isobel, sends recommendations about what to read, photos of her garden and her two cats, Ian and Clary, ceases to be Professor Moody to be simply (what a reductive word !) Ellen.

Links to her various blogs are given at the end of this post.

When I asked her if she would contribute and give us a poem, this is what Ellen wrote: 

“It’s common for women to write of small creatures — and to identify. Women especially have written bird poems.  Here are two of my favorite poets and two bird poems by them for your blog: both are 20th century poets, Judith Wright, Australian, Fleur Adcock, originally a New Zealander.”

I chose Judith Wright poem (this time).

I love Australian literature, art, history, the landscape, and am persuaded the angle on reality that Wright’s background gave her is part of why I love her poetry. And the tone of her mind. Her typical imagery. The rhythms of the lines.”

Extinct Birds

Charles Harpur in his journals long ago

(written in hope and love, and never printed)

recorded the birds of his time’s forest —

birds long vanished with the fallen forest —

described in copperplate on unread pages.

The scarlet satin-bird, swung like a lamp in berries,

he watched in love, and then in hope described it,

There was a bird, blue, small, spangled like dew.

All now are vanished with the fallen forest.

And he, unloved, past hope, was buried,

who helped with proud stained hands to fell the forest,

and set those birds in love on unread pages;

yet thought himself immortal, being a poet.

And is he not immortal, where I found him,

in love and hope along his careful pages? —

the poet vanished, in the vanished forest,

among his brightly tincted extinct birds? 



This a blog written by Ellen about Judith Wright

with references to other material

Poetry is honey for the soul (7) – Dylan Thomas (and Jodie)

     Poetry is honey for the soul

I first “met”Jodie Roberts on Facebook as “Geranium Cat”; I loved the name and she was kind to the young beginner I was then. I discovered later that she was deeply committed to the life of her family, her region, her job, writing, reading, reviewing books, blogging, belonging to various orgnisations , her pets – cats and dogs – and “her girls” – her hens!

I feel very happy that she has reciprocated friendship with me. She has even been so confident in some of my capacities that she has allowed me to help her in one of her functions, concerning literature. Can you imagine a French girl working for a British organisation, under the wing of a British lady, about British literature? Well, Jodie made it!

For the occasion of “a poem a day”, she has chosen the following broadcast of Anthony Hopkins saying the famous villanelle “Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan Thomas.

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.





I hope readers and readers-bloggers will not be angry with me if I choose a poem today with illustrations, and generally take back the helm of these “Sketches and Vignettes”.

There are still several contributors and contributions to come: I am both surprised by and happy of their numbers. They will be back tomorrow but today is a special day in France and at The Little Family’s. The last Sunday in May is Mother’s (or Mothering) Day. And The Girls and I wish to send our flowers to Mothers who are no more.

Tastes have always been simple: roses. But not your elaborate roses to be seen in flower shows. No. The flowers of brambles and blackberries, eglantines, briar roses, slightly more sophisticated climbing roses.

Silhouettes in the afternoon, bended, pushing back a  lock of hair escaped from the bun, wet and curling tendrils in the neck, back of a gloved hand on forehead, slight squint against the light and the sun when straightening up from a corner in the shade, a sigh, a straw hat sliding crazily.

Silhouettes in the morning, wicker baskets on arm, secateurs in the other hand, choosing the flower, the length of the stem, thinking about colour scheme, height of vases, width of flower dishes, lifting a face towards the early sun before the coming of the heat, dew on the grass and in the paths.

Silhouettes in the falling night, half lost, half indistinct, caressing the climbing roses while listening to the chatter of sister, husband, daughter, son, nephew, vaguely smiling surely, blue time of the dying evening, trailing with them a light but heading scent.


Then, home. Windows wide open over the June night. Books taken down from the shelves and discussions under the gentle but always professorial rule of Grand-Father, about old botanical plates. Waves of warm wind and white gauze-like curtains billowing as veils of a ship ready to leave. Last cup of tea. “No, not for me, thank you. I would prefer a lime infusion, or a lavender one. Sleep eludes me and I need to feel calm.” Nod. Smile.


Fading silhouettes. Faded silhouettes. There shall be no involuntarily brushing or caress anymore. There will be no kiss, no look, no smile, no laugh anymore. There shall be imagined silhouettes guessed in the shimmering light or the gathering dusk, by the corner of the eye. There shall be the illusion of a scent, of a gesture against the cheek, of a move, of a warmth around the shoulders..

Only silhouettes.

Do you remember these days in Arles? The end of August under a biting sun and more biting bugs? Do you remember the woman who was selling essential oils of lavender and lemon grass, geranium as well, against mosquitoes and bugs? And the long way among the sarcophagi towards Saint-Honorat church, with the trees that had not changed much since the time of Paul and Vincent? And the voice. The voice that was saying the words of the poem, slowly, as we were walking slowly. Sowly. Softly.

In Arle, where rest the Alyscams,

When shadows are red, under roses,

And the weather clear,

Beware the sweetness of things,

When you feel your too heavy heart

Beat without cause;

And silent are the doves;

Wisper, if it be love,

Besides the graves.



The poem is by Paul-Jean Toulet

and as no translation seems to exist in English

(at least available to me)

I have made a very free and awkward translation.

Les Alyscams

Dans Arle, où sont les Alyscams,

Quand l’ombre est rouge, sous les roses,

Et clair le temps,

Prends garde à la douceur des choses

Quand tu sens battre sans cause 

Ton coeur trop lourd;

Et que se taisent les colombes;

Parle tout bas, si c’est d’amour,

Au bord des tombes.

Poetry is honey for the soul (5) – Federica Galetto, Federica Nightingale … and Federica!

     Poetry is honey for the soul



Federica invites us to come into her world today, as Federica Galetto with her poem that she has translated from Italian into English, and as Federica Nightingale with the digital collage that introduces the text.

More at the end of the post.



I am like a stone under your tongue

 I am the bride’s veil

and the drop of salt  into an ocean

 I am an empty jug and the lost water

your arm and your wrist in a land of sounds

 I am the hole you have filled

and the coat that you need



gold and soul

 I am the descent you walk right through

And the desert you’ll obey

 I am everything

And now I am gone

 (ghost in your mind)

(I am)


Io sono come pietra sotto la tua lingua

 Io sono il velo della sposa

E la goccia di sale in un oceano

 Io sono una brocca vuota e l’acqua persa

Il tuo braccio e il tuo polso in una terra di suoni

 Io sono il buco che hai riempito

e il cappotto di cui hai bisogno



Oro e anima

 Io sono la discesa nella quale ti addentri

e il deserto  a cui ubbidisci

 Io sono tutto

E ora me ne sono andata

 (spettro nella tua mente)

(Io sono)


Testi di Federica Galetto

Federica Galetto is a contemporary Italian poet, writer, and artist who has already published part of her work. As an artist, she makes digital collages under the name of Federica Nightingale. She also uses photos as medium for her art. This is the link to her blog (at the page she gives me the authorization to cite today):


She also has a Facebook page (mostly in English):

Federica Nightingale

As she says of herself and her work:

Sono una poetessa, una scrittrice, una traduttrice, un’artista collagista. Sono ciò che ho sempre voluto essere. (“I am a poet, a writer, a translator, an artist who makes collages. I am the one I have always wanted to be”)

“La Poesia va diffusa. I mezzi che si utilizzano per farlo non sono importanti, ma importante è che cresca una coscienza poetica dalle radici umane al Cielo. Allora, come diceva un grande giardiniere inglese di nome Geoff Hamilton : “Il Cielo è il limite.” (“Poetry shoud be spread. The means that are used to make it are not important. What is important is that a poetical conscience be born from the human roots up to the Heavens. Then, as a great British gardener, named Geoff Hamilton, used to say: ‘Sky is the limit'”).

(All work by Federica Galetto / Federica Nightingale protected by the laws of copyright). Hazardous translation of her words is mine and she may well correct me!