Poetry of the past and present

vanitas by Edwart Collier

I’ve read rather a lot of poetry lately.  Mostly off some excellent blogs that I have discovered.  I used to write quite a bit myself.  I still do occasionally (usually if I’m a bit squiffy).  Unfortunately, when I come to read it the writing is very scrawling and almost ilegible.  This seems to be a quirk peculiar to my handwriting in general.  I start, nice and neat, then the more carried away I get, the more erratic the writing gets.

The pied Piper of Hamlin by Robert Browning illustrated by Kate Greenaway

But I digress, as usual.   I won’t bore you with my latest poem here (you can go over to my Bookstains blog for that lol).  Since the poem here on Bookstains, I’ve since written another one in a humourous vain (at least I hope its humourous…).  One of the proper poems we had to learn in school was ‘The Pied Piper of Hamlin’ by Robert Browning.  How I love that poem with all it’s mystical fantastic imagery!  I love the rat a tat tat of the metre:-


They fought the dogs and killed the cats,

And bit the babies in the cradles

And ate the cheeses out of the vats,

And licked the soup from the Cook’s own ladles,

Split open the kegs of salted sprats

Made nests inside mens Sunday hats

And even spoilt the women’s chats

By drowning their speaking

With shrieking and squeaking

In fifty different sharps and flats……..

The piper who was promised a thousand guilders, rid the town of the rats.  But the Mayor reneigned on the deal and offered a mere fifty.  Of course, this did not go down well with the piper who got his revenge in luring all the children (except one) away into a magical mountain – never to return.  I think the moral of this story is to keep your promise or the piper, sooner or later must be paid.  If not, he will take payment in kind…

Read the whole poem here

Walter de la mare a wonderful childrens writer and poet

Another rat poem which we had to learn in school was ‘Five Eyes’ by Walter De La Mare.  This time cats are featured:-

Five Eyes

In Hans’ old Mill his three black cats
Watch the bins for the thieving rats.
Whisker and claw, they crouch in the night,
Their five eyes smouldering green and bright:
Squeaks from the flour sacks, squeaks from where
The cold wind stirs on the empty stair,
Squeaking and scampering, everywhere.
Then down they pounce, now in, now out,
At whisking tail, and sniffing snout;
While lean old Hans he snores away
Till peep of light at break of day;
Then up he climbs to his creaking mill,
Out come his cats all grey with meal —
Jekkel, and Jessup, and one-eyed Jill

Read the whole poem here

Pre Raphaelite Holman Hunt Lady of Shalott

Besides the famous ‘Daffodils by Ullswater’ by Wordsworth, I also had quite a liking for the romantic poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson ‘The Lady of Shalott’  I had a tiny leather-bound book of this poem.  The illustrations were beautiful.  I was very much into the tales of King Arthur and his knights of the round table (Lancelot being my favorite knight)

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell’d shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn’d like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro’ the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;
On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash’d into the crystal mirror,
“Tirra lirra,” by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro’ the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look’d down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott…………….


The-lady-of-shalott by fellow Pre Raphaelite waterhouse

‘Out flew the web and floated wide; The mirror crack’d from side to side;  The curse is come upon me’ cried the Lady of Shalott….  What evocative words eh.   The quality of this poetry is stunning. It does come from another age though –  a lost romantic age……

The whole beautiful poem here


4 thoughts on “Poetry of the past and present

  1. Thanks for reminding me of the Pied Piper. I must read it again to the grandchildren. One of my favourites growing up was Goblin Market by Christina Rosetti.

  2. I can’t believe you read my mind Ann! I was going to feature that one – lots of imagery from the Pre Raphaelite’s sister! Another one I used to love was ‘The Fairies’ (up the airy mountains and down the rushy glen) by William Allingham (born in Donnegal) – though it used to terrify me, especially the ‘stealing’ of little Bridget………..

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