Shall gods be said to thump the clouds

In this poem, Dylan Thomas dramatises the rainy stormy weather that so often sweeps across his native Wales (and of course the whole of Britain). Such weather is so intense that it must indeed be the work of the gods, according to Thomas’s lines here. Or is he mocking the natural human tendency to ascribe supernatural causes to natural phenomena? Either way, this poem immerses us in the experience of a wet and windy day in Wales.


Shall gods be said to thump the clouds
When clouds are cursed by thunder,
Be said to weep when weather howls?
Shall rainbows be their tunics’ colour?

When it is rain where are the gods?
Shall it be said they sprinkle water
From garden cans, or free the floods?

Shall it be said that, venuswise,
An old god’s dugs are pressed and pricked,
The wet night scolds me like a nurse?

It shall be said that gods are stone.
Shall a dropped stone drum on he the ground,
Flung gravel chime? Let the stones speak
With tongues that talk all tongues.

From <;

Hold me back, before I jump on the next plane to Aberystwyth….

The Poetry Dude


Escrito está en mi alma vuestro gesto,

This is a love sonnet from Garcilaso de la Vega, perhaps based on a real love, but just as likely an exercise in the expression of a theme, a vehicle to bring to bear the range of the poet’s technical skills and inspire admiration from the reader, rather than empathy or emotion. Many poems of this era tend to be designed to appeal to the intellect or to a sense of aesthetics, rather than touch our hearts, but I like to think there is at least a smidgeon of real feeling in poems such as this. For this poem, at least speaks of a love so deep that the poet feels totally imbued with the presence of his loved one.

Soneto V

Escrito está en mi alma vuestro gesto,
y cuanto yo escribir de vos deseo;
vos sola lo escribisteis, yo lo leo
tan solo, que aun de vos me guardo en esto.

En esto estoy y estaré siempre puesto;
que aunque no cabe en mí cuanto en vos veo,
de tanto bien lo que no entiendo creo,
tomando ya la fe por presupuesto.

Yo no nací sino para quereros;
mi alma os ha cortado a su medida;
por hábito del alma mismo os quiero.

Cuanto tengo confieso yo deberos;
por vos nací, por vos tengo la vida,
por vos he de morir, y por vos muero.

From <;

The momentum of the poem builds up from a fairly gentle beginning, setting out the premise that the poet’s lover’s every gesture is written into his soul, gaining in intensity with every line, every example of the lover’s effect on him, until the last two lines are a crescendo of deep feeling. The repetition of “por vos” four times in the final two lines deepens the expression of the poet’s feeling of connection with his lover. The reader will truly feel that this love is so special, almost unreally noble compared to the flawed and volatile love affairs that exist in real life. But isn’t that a valid use of poetry – to express the ideal, the aspiration, rather than mundane reality. Such poetry has the capacity to lift us up.

The Poetry Dude

It’s Susan I talk to not Tracey,

This is for anyone who has teenage or pre-teen daughters… I assume the oet Adrian Henri must have been observing his own daughter or daughters, probably with a mixture of exasperation and wry amusement. As for myself, I have a 15 year-old daughter and I think she has just about passed this phase by now, but I recognize it completely.

I guess if this poem were written today, it could be called BFF…

‘Best Friends’ by Adrian Henri

It’s Susan I talk to not Tracey,
Before that I sat next to Jane;
I used to be best friends with Lydia
But these days I think she’s a pain.

Natasha’s alright in small doses,
I meet Mandy sometimes in town;
I’m jealous of Annabel’s pony
And I don’t like Nicola’s frown.

I used to go skating with Catherine,
Before that I went there with Ruth;
And Kate’s so much better at trampoline
She’s a showoff to tell you the truth.

I think I’m going off Susan,
She borrowed my comb yesterday;
I think I might sit next to Tracey,
She’s nearly my best friend: she’s OK.

From <;

Note how from the beginning to the end of the poem, the identity of the best friend shifts from Susan to Tracey, while everything in between consists of vignettes of other girls and why they are or are not suitable to be best friends, mostly not. The best way to describe this condition is probably transitory intensity, thank goodness they grow out of it…

The Poetry Dude

Vivo sin vivir en mí 

Here is a mystical religious poem, befitting a Catholic saint, but which is just as remarkable for its mastery of Baroque poetic techniques as it is for the expression of religious searching which is at the heart of this poem. The title refers to verses of a soul which is yearning to see God, and hence the poem sets out the paradox of living physically without spiritual fulfillment, and being in a state like death because death has not come to the poet. The first three lines, placed between the title and the first numbered stanza, establish this theme; the eight stanzas which follow deepen the exploration of this paradox of the journey of faith.

Coplas del alma que pena por ver a Dios.

Vivo sin vivir en mí
y de tal manera espero,
que muero porque no muero.

1. En mí yo no vivo ya,
y sin Dios vivir no puedo;
pues sin él y sin mí quedo,
este vivir ¿qué será?
Mil muertes se me hará,
pues mi misma vida espero,
muriendo porque no muero.

2. Esta vida que yo vivo
es privación de vivir;
y así, es continuo morir
hasta que viva contigo.
Oye, mi Dios, lo que digo:
que esta vida no la quiero,
que muero porque no muero.

3. Estando ausente de ti
¿qué vida puedo tener,
sino muerte padecer
la mayor que nunca vi?
Lástima tengo de mí,
pues de suerte persevero,
que muero, porque no muero.

4. El pez que del agua sale
aun de alivio no carece,
que en la muerte que padece
al fin la muerte le vale.
¿Qué muerte habrá que se iguale
a mi vivir lastimero,
pues si más vivo más muero?

5. Cuando me pienso aliviar
de verte en el Sacramento,
háceme más sentimiento
el no te poder gozar;
todo es para más penar
por no verte como quiero,
y muero porque no muero.

6. Y si me gozo, Señor,
con esperanza de verte,
en ver que puedo perderte
se me dobla mi dolor;
viviendo en tanto pavor
y esperando como espero,
muérome porque no muero.

7. ¡Sácame de aquesta muerte
mi Dios, y dame la vida;
no me tengas impedida
en este lazo tan fuerte;
mira que peno por verte,
y mi mal es tan entero,
que muero porque no muero.

8. Lloraré mi muerte ya
y lamentaré mi vida,
en tanto que detenida
por mis pecados está.
¡Oh mi Dios!, ¿cuándo será
cuando yo diga de vero:
vivo ya porque no muero?

From < Coplas del alma que pena por ver a Dios.>

It is almost a dizzying sequence of illustrations that the poet’s life is like death as long as he does not find the constant presence of God, in which case death would be like the coming of life. The impression is of a hall of mirrors in which no image is fixed, nothing is certain, and there is danger and despair on every side. The tour de force of the repeated imagery of paradox has a cumulative effect, each illustration building on the previous ones, with the repetition of the last line of each stanza, not always in a completely identical form, holds the poem together, bringing it back constantly to the core idea. It is only at the end of the final stanza that the end game is revealed, the poet’s ultimate wish – when will he be able to truly proclaim that he is alive because he is not dead – and because of all that has gone before we, the readers can provide the answer – when his soul is suffused with the presence of God even in the midst of life.

An exceptional poem, by a deeply religious man who is not afraid to explore faith, to wrestle with doubt and despair and make beauty from it. A saint indeed.

The Poetry Dude

Adieu la cour, adieu les dames,

In this poem, Clement Marot, the court jester, the life and soul of the party, the incorrigible ladies man, goes off to war and so says goodbye to the fun and frivolity, the courting and joking of his life at court. It is a bit poignant for sure, but it also celebrates the poet’s vitality and life-force. It’s a nice balance…

Clément MAROT   (1497-1544)

Adieu aux Dames de la Cour

Adieu la cour, adieu les dames,
Adieu les filles et les femmes,
Adieu vous dis pour quelques temps,
Adieu vos plaisants passetemps ;
Adieu le bal, adieu la danse,
Adieu mesure, adieu cadence,
Tambourin, haubois et violons,
Puisqu’à la guerre nous allons.
Adieu les regards gracieux,
Messagers des coeurs soucieux ;
Adieu les profondes pensées,
Satisfaites ou offensées ;
Adieu les harmonieux sons
De rondeaux, dizains et chansons ;
Adieu piteux département,
Adieu regrets, adieu tourment,
Adieu la lettre, adieu le page,
Adieu la cour et l’équipage,
Adieu l’amitié si loyale,
Qu’on la pourrait dire royale,
Etant gardée en ferme foi
Par ferme coeur digne de roi.
Adieu ma mie la dernière,
En vertus et beauté première ;
Je vous prie me rendre à présent
Le coeur dont je vous fis présent,
Pour, en la guerre où il faut être,
En faire service à mon maître.
Or quand de vous se souviendra,
L’aiguillon d’honneur l’époindra
Aux armes et vertueux faits :
Et s’il en sortait quelque effet
Digne d’une louange entière,
Vous en seriez seule héritière.
De votre coeur donc se souvienne,
Car si dieu veut que je revienne,
Je le rendrai en ce beau lieu.

Or je fais fin à mon adieu.

From <;

It is clearly the women, the music, the dancing and the gallantry which the poet will miss the most as he leaves the court to go to war. And in particular, as we learn just past the halfway point in the poem, there is a particular lover to whome the poet is attached, and who he asks to remember him and to wait for him if he comes back.

The poem is very easy on the eyes and ears, simple language, short lines, rhyming couplets, it carries the reader on, with the frequent repetition of “Adieu”, goodbye, being the glue that binds the poem together as a whole, from the first word of the first line, to the last word of the last line.

The genius of Marot is to combine lightness of tone, with very effective poetic technique, as we have also seen in several other of his poems posted on this blog.

The Poetry Dude

Recap of top poets featured on this blog

Here is another recap from the posts on this blog from September 2014 to September 2015, when I met my  objective of posting a poem every day, mainly from my own collection and personal tastes.I have featured a variety of poets, from either the English/American, French or Hispanic cultures. They span from the 9th century to the 20th. There has been one king (Richard 1 of England); one President (Leopold Senghor of Senegal); several soldier-poets (Charles d’Orleans, Boscan, Garcilaso, Sassoon, Apollinaire, John Cornford); at least one criminal (Francois Villon) and two saints (San Juan de la Cruz and Santa Teresa de Avila); and of course a great assortment of other poets of diverse backgrounds and styles.


A couple of days ago I posted a recap of the top 12 poems, in terms of the number of hits they have received (assuming that is some measure of their popularity). So now I will similarly post the top 12 poets, assessed by the number of hits they received for all their poems featured here. Again, make of it what you will. I found it interesting.


1.Anonymous Spanish ballads – of course, this is not one poet, but a series of poems from the oral and written tradition of Spain from the 13th to the 15th centuries, many of which deal with events and personalities from the long conflict between Moorish Spain and Christian Spain, a conflict which lasted almost 800 years. These are fascinating poems, and I could easily have featured many more of them.

2. Pierre de Ronsard – the French poet of nature and contemplation from the 16th century, his poems are delicate, gently joyful and wonderfully well-written. A real pleasure to read.

=3. WB Yeats – the great Irish poet from early in the 20th century, covering many themes of love, war, nature and humanity.

=3. Rosalia de Castro – Writing in the late 19th century in both Castilian Spanish and Galician, her poetry reveals a love of her homeland and its people, and a great sense of social justice

5. Gerard de Nerval – the French dandy and flaneur, he wrote both extravagantly obscure poetry and also some more simple, accessible and beautiful pieces

6. Antonio Machado – the poet of Castille, who was actually born in Andalucia, humble, observant and quite prolific, gives a great sense of Spanish life in the first third of the 20th century

7. TS Eliot – brilliant, poignant, funny and versatile, I always find something fresh and interesting in Eliot’s work. I also like the fact that he could easily switch from writing in English to French.

8. Charles Baudelaire – the master of post Romantic French verse, one of my all-time favourites for sensual imagery and language of all types

9. Paul Verlaine – often known as being the older lover of the teenage prodigy Arthur Rimbaud, Verlaine was actually a much more serious poet, and well worth exploring his work, of which I have two volumes on my bookshelf.

10. Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz – from Mexico, a female poet from the seventeenth century, probably the last great poet in Spanish from the Golden Age, one of the essentials.

=11. Francisco de Quevedo – From the height of the Spanish Golden Age, dealing with love, politics, satire, money, power – one of the true greats.

=11. Siegfried Sassoon – mainly represented here as a First World War poet, of which he was one of the leading exponents, using poetry to expose the folly and suffering of that war and the terrible fate of the ordinary soldiers. Although of its time, his poetry has resonance wherever there is war and conflict.


Perhaps this will inspire readers to go back and revisit some of the poems by these or other poets.




The Poetry Dude



Recap: Top poems posted on this blog

Having completed my objective of posting a poem a day for a year, this is the first of several recaps on the selections I made. Today, I list the top 12 poems from the year, determined by the number of hits recorded. It makes for interesting reading, because they are not necessarily the poems I would have thought might rise to the top. The wisdom of crowds I guess…

Here they are:

1. “The General” by Siegfried Sassoon, posted October 5th, 2014
This first world war poem is Sassoon’s contribution to the “lions led by donkeys” theory of World War 1 leadership, under which the poet himself sufferred as an infantry captain in France. Poignant.
2. “Romance de Abenamar”, an Anonymous mediaeval Spanish ballad, posted on May 5th, 2015
A ballad of the centuries-long struggle between Moors and Christians in Spain, evoking the places and divided loyalties of those turbulent times. A true window on history
3. “A une damoyselle malade” by Clement Marot, posted on October 12th 2014
Marot’s great poem to a sick young girl to cheer her up on her sickbed. Funny, empathetic, witty, poetically skilled, what better pick me up could anyone ask for
=4. “Mon reve familier” by Paul Verlaine, posted on December 2 2014
Verlaine describing his dream woman, a fantasy, and why not?
=4. ” The definition of love” by Andrew Marvell, posted on November 30th 2014
Under the promise of a poem on the meaning of love, we get mathematics, geography and cosmology all rolled in – science and poetry wrapped up together
=6 ” An Irish Airman foresees his death” by WB Yeats, posted on November 27, 2014
Another World War 1 poem from Yeats, mixing fatalism, nostalgia and patriotism in a heady and poignant mix.
=6 ” Une allee du Luxembourg” by Gerard de Nerval, posted on March 2nd, 2015
Older man likes watching the young ladies walk in the park on Sunday.
8 ” A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas, posted on December 25th, 2014
Maybe this is prose rather than poetry, but Thomas’s language is always poetic. A wonderful description of Christmasses past.
9 ” Song” by Christina Rossetti, posted on January 6th, 2015
Christina Rossetti on death and being forgotten. No longing for immortality here…
=10 ” A la Fontaine Bellerie”, by Pierre de Ronsard, posted on November 22nd, 2014
Ronsard’s beautiful celebration of the countryside in the region of his birth around the Loire valley, a great description of the beauties of nature.
=10 ” Soneto 29: Pasando el mar, Leandro el animoso”, by Garcilaso de la Vega posted on December 24th, 2014
Garcilaso’s sonnet on the classical tale of Hero and Leander, well worth revisiting
12 ” Bel aubepin, florissant”, by Pierre de Ronsard, posted on December 5th, 2014
Another great nature poem from Ronsard. Enjoy.

In the next day or so I will recap the top poets featured on this blog.

The Poetry Dude