Category Archives: history

Friday Poem: Puck’s Song

See you the ferny ride that steals
Into the oak-woods far?
Oh that was whence they hewed the keels
That rolled to Trafalgar.

And mark you where the ivy clings
To Bayharn’s mouldering walls?
Oh there we cast the stout railings
That stand around St. Paul’s.

See you the dimpled track that runs
All hollow through the wheat?
Oh that was where they hauled the guns
That smote King Philip’s fleet.

(Out of the Weald, the secret Weald,
Men sent in ancient years,
The horse-shoes red at Flodden Field,
The arrows at Poitiers!)

See you our little mill that clacks,
So busy by the brook?
She has ground her corn and paid her tax
Ever since Domesday Book.

See you our stilly woods of oak,
And the dread ditch beside?
Oh that was where the Saxons broke
On the day that Harold died.

See you the windy levels spread
About the gates of Rye?
Oh that was where the Northmen fled,
When Alfred’s ships came by.

See you our pastures wide and lone,
Where the red oxen browse?
Oh there was a City thronged and known,
Ere London boasted a house.

And see you, after rain, the trace
Of mound and ditch and wall?
Oh that was a Legion’s camping-place,
When Caesar sailed from Gaul.

And see you marks that show and fade,
Like shadows on the Downs?
Oh they are the lines the Flint Men made,
To guard their wondrous towns.

Trackway and Camp and City lost,
Salt Marsh where now is corn-
Old Wars, old Peace, old Arts that cease,
And so was England born.

She is not any common Earth,
Water or wood or air,
But Merlin’s Isle of Gramarye,
Where you and I will fare.

By Rudyard Kipling

If I were Midas

If I were Midas
I would not touch you of course
But I would touch everything around you
Fill your life with golden splendour

If I were Homer
My next epic would have you as hero
Magnificent in your helmet and breastplate
Fighting on the shores by a walled city

If I were Leonidas
I would come back on my Shield
Having died defending you
And all we hold dear

If I were Clytemnestra
I would forgive you your war absences
And even Cassandra
I would stand by your side

Copyright © 2020 Kim Whysall-Hammond

 

For Tony on his Birthday

Friday Poem: I am listening to Istanbul

I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed
First a breeze is blowing
And leaves swaying
Slowly on the trees;
Far far away the bells of the
Water carriers ringing,
I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed.

I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed
A bird is passing by,
Birds are passing by, screaming, screaming,
Fish nets being withdrawn in fishing weirs,
A woman’s toe dabbling in water,
I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed.

I am listening,
The cool Grand Bazaar,
Mahmutpasha twittering
Full of pigeons,
Its vast courtyard,
Sounds of hammering from the docks,
In the summer breeze far, far away the odor of sweat,
I am listening.

I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed
The drunkenness of old times
In the wooden seaside villa with its deserted boat house
The roaring southwestern wind is trapped,
My thoughts are trapped
Listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed.

I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed
A coquette is passing by on the sidewalk,
Curses, sings, sings, passes;
Something is falling from your hand
To the ground,
It must be a rose.
I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed.

I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed
A bird is flying round your skirt;
I know if your forehead is hot or cold
Or your lips are wet or dry;
Or if a white moon is rising above the pistachio tree
My heart’s fluttering tells me. . .
I am listening to Istanbul with my eyes closed.

by Orhan Veli Kanik

translated by the poet Murat Nemet-Nejat

…and I admit, this time the poem comes not from my poetry bookshelf, but from Leonard Durso’s glorious website leonarddurso.com

Also, we should have been in Istanbul last week, but Corona got in the way.  :(

The letter

His last letter home
is now 120 years old
frail, wafer thin paper
copperplate writing in blue ink
words faded and lost at the creases
tear drops have blurred others

His last letter home
was written from Africa
tells of the fury and terror of local thunderstorms
talks of photos and chocolate received
dreams of trips to the seaside
when he gets back
for he will board ship in three weeks

His last letter home
says how he reckons
that the Boers have no fight left
but it seems they did
a few days later they attacked his column
shot him from his horse
killed him

His last letter home
ended with fifteen kisses

Copyright © 2020 Kim Whysall-Hammond

The letter is in my possession, and was from Charles Stephen Coughtry Wellsted, my Great Grandfather.   Charles was killed on 10th May 1900 at Vredes Verdag in South Africa, three months before his only daughter (my maternal Grandmother) was born. He was 34 years old, a Private in the Royal Scots Greys 2nd Dragoons. The photo is of a Royal Scots Greys  dragoon in Boer War kit.

I do not, as yet, know Charles’ birthday, but he was christened at Snargate Church in Romney Marsh on 17th February 1866.

The letter

His last letter home
is now 120 years old
frail, wafer thin paper
copperplate writing in blue ink
words faded and lost at the creases
tear drops have blurred others

His last letter home
was written from Africa
tells of the fury and terror of local thunderstorms
talks of photos and chocolate received
dreams of trips to the seaside
when he gets back
for he will board ship in three weeks

His last letter home
says how he reckons
that the Boers have no fight left
but it seems they did
a few days later they attacked his column
shot him from his horse
killed him

His last letter home
ended with fifteen kisses

Copyright © 2020 Kim Whysall-Hammond

The letter is in my possession, and was from Charles Stephen Coughtry Wellsted, my Great Grandfather.   Charles was killed on 10th May 1900 at Vredes Verdag in South Africa, three months before his only daughter (my maternal Grandmother) was born. He was 34 years old, a Private in the Royal Scots Greys 2nd Dragoons. The photo is of a Royal Scots Greys  dragoon in Boer War kit.

I do not, as yet, know Charles’ birthday, but he was christened at Snargate Church in Romney Marsh on 17th February 1866.

YOU TALK OF SHAKESPEARE

A brilliant poem from Damian Garside (who blogs at ‘ best poetry blog in the cosmos ~ 4 out of 5 dentists recommend ‘) :-

best poetry blog in the cosmos

YOU TALK OF SHAKESPEARE

you talk of Shakespeare
as if you
know him

and you do
from flowery
pageants of history
and your coffee table
(or maybe that
is too much of an assumption)

you talk of Shakespeare
as if he were so
consonant with
your ideology
(I admit, so much
in common there,
down that
Lancastrian line

the greatest at-pain-
of-death trick
ever pulled

and true Tudor
beginning of British propaganda
those heavenly lies without
which Empire
a true miscarriage,
an abortion

no new world born
Cape to Cairo
sun
never setting
on its shade of pink)

yes
Shakespeare is
one part bedrock and
one part
shadow, pure
disavowal, anarchic subversion

he had the bravery to
flaunt before your faces
the life and energy of his characters

telling a truth you
would not believe

Mr Politician, most recent in that line
of hucksters and usurpers, connivers
and
men with…

View original post 61 more words

Winter Dance

The long dance of winter
starts slow as starlight
children stamping hard cold ground
cracking ice over peat

Slipping through fog’s silence
the women have donned heavy antlers
to creep around the trees
circle the swamp
clasp hands and spin
as the sun spins and turns
so do they

Men spurt from the longhouse
Pelts moist with sweat
Leap and cry out

Songs build to a crescendo again and again
until the true sun reveals herself
and we put out our puny fires
sit
eat
laugh

Copyright © 2019 Kim Whysall-Hammond

 

I haven’t written a poem imagining our pre-historic ancestors for a long while. Others on this blog can be found at:

https://thecheesesellerswife.wordpress.com/2019/01/30/crafty-eyes-see-the-deer-2/

https://thecheesesellerswife.wordpress.com/2019/06/22/the-aurochs-and-the-pink/

https://thecheesesellerswife.wordpress.com/2019/08/07/we-live-on-the-high-ground-2/

 

Bosworth Field

A gentle breeze billows the green barley
Sending waves shimmering from hedge to hedge
Elder and Herb Robert sparkle the field edge
Above the oak leaves do not stir

Near here a crown once hung on a thorn bush
Men struggled for cause, battle cries rang out
A King died alone fighting amid the foe
Violated in death, lost
Naked and broken the victors took him to town for display
Traitor they called him, an anointed King of England
Hunchback, wicked, perfidious
Name calling by the new regime
Murderer of children they whispered into the stream of history

A gentle breeze billows the green barley
Above the oak leaves do not stir

Copyright © 2017 Kim Whysall-Hammond