All men. Or shall we say,
not chauvinistic, all
people, it is all
people? Beasts manure
the ground, nibble to
promote growth; but man,
the consumer, swallows
like the god of mythology
his own kind. Beasts walk
among birds and never
do the birds scare; but the human,
that alienating shadow
with the Bible under the one
arm and under the other
the bomb, as often
drawn as he is repelled
by the stranger waiting for him
in the mirror – how
can he return home
when his gaze forages
beyond the stars? Pity him,
then, this winged god, rupturer
of gravity's control
accelerating on and
outward in the afterglow
of a receding laughter?
by R. S. Thomas
from No Truce With The Furies (1995)
The smell of hay is on the field,
and singing as they go
the women toss the heavy yield
and spread it row by row.
And yonder where the hay is dry
each man his forkful throws,
until the wagon loaded high
is like a house that grows.
The poor old horse who draws the cart
stands rooted in the heat,
with sagging knees and ears apart,
asleep upon his feet.
But little zhuchka speeds away
in barking brave commotion,
to dip and flounder in the hay
as in a grassy ocean.
by Аполлон Николаевич Майков (Apollon Nikolayevich Maikov)
translated by Frances Cornford and Esther Polianowsky Salaman
Fun facts: Zhuchka means ‘Bug’, as in a small insect using diminutive terminology as жучка (zhuchka) is a diminutive of жук (Zhuk). In Russian, perhaps even more so than in English even due to it’s various tonal aspects and gendered form (which if you look at the original version below clearly has alternating hard and soft line endings (though only in the first and last stanzas does it have what might be considered Pushkin verse i.e. alternating masculine and feminine lines), diminutives are used within children’s works to create a gentler tone.
This used to be the first poem that Russian children would learn due to it’s simple words and easy rhyme scheme (when in the original Russian obviously though the above translation gives a good translation of it with a little necessary artistic license due to the differences in the language). Here is a recital of the poem in Russian.
Maikov was best known for his lyric verse showcasing images of Russian villages, nature, and history. His love for ancient Greece and Rome, which he studied for much of his life, is also reflected in his works. Maikov spent four years translating the epic The Tale of Igor’s Campaign (1870) into modern Russian. He translated the folklore of Belarus, Greece, Serbia and Spain, as well as works by Heine, Adam Mickiewicz and Goethe, among others. Several of Maykov’s poems were set to music by Russian composers, among them Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky.
Innokenty Annensky once wrote:
“a poet usually chooses their own, particular method of communication with nature, and often this sis sport. Poets of the future may be cyclists or aeronauts. Byron was a swimmer, Goethe a skater, Lermontov a rider, many others of our poets (Turgenev, both Tolstoys, Nekrasov, Fet, Yazykov) were hunters. Maikov was a passionate fisherman and this occupation was in perfect harmony with his contemplative nature, with his love for a fair, sunny day, all of which is so vividly expressed in his poetry.”
Here is the poem in it’s original form:
Пахнет сеном над лугами…
В песне душу веселя,
Бабы с граблями рядами
Ходят, сено шевеля.
Там – сухое убирают;
Мужички его кругом
На воз вилами кидают…
Воз растет, растет, как дом.
В ожиданьи конь убогий
Точно вкопанный стоит…
Уши врозь, дугою ноги
И как будто стоя спит…
Только жучка удалая
В рыхлом сене, как в волнах,
То взлетая, то ныряя,
Скачет, лая впопыхах.
It is a gesture against the wild,
The ungovernable sea of grass;
A place to remember love in,
To be lonely for a while;
To forget the voices of children
Calling from a locked room;
To substitute for the care
Of one querulous human
Hundreds of dumb needs.
It is the old kingdom of man.
Answering to their names,
Out of the soil the buds come,
The silent detonations
Of power weilded without sin.
by R. S. Thomas
from The Bread of Truth (1963)
We remember wartime
The leaves were red
And skies were tight.
Singers in uniform
Cracked burst buckled
The living the key workers
The throats of loyal trumpets
The minds of washed out cockpits
Our prayers were pistons
Our leaders in bunkers
As indestructable as rats
The tongues and necks
Of true survivors
In one cold wood
A headless boy
A thin man prays
In his own blood
On every side
Wait to be counted
In old blood
Are not doors
They are the walls
Of empty tombs
At stated times
By true survivors
by Emyr Humphreys
Fun fact: He registered as a conscientious objector in the Second World War, working on a farm, and later doing relief work in Egypt and Italy. After the war he worked as a teacher, as a radio producer at the BBC and later became a lecturer in drama at Bangor University.
Land of my mothers, how shall my brothers praise you?
With timbrels or rattles or tins?
How shall we praise you on the banks of the rhymneying waters,
On the smokey shores and the glittering shores of Glamorgan,
On wet mornings in the bare fields behind the Newport docks,
On fine evenings when lovers walk by Bedwellty Church,
When the cuckoo calles to miners coming home to Rhymney Bridge,
When the wild rose defies the Industrial Revolution
And when the dear old drunken lady sings of Jesus and a little shilling.
Come down, O girls of song, to the bank of the coal canal
At twilight, at twilight
When mongrels fight
And long rats bite
Under the shadows of pit-head light,
And dance, you daughters of Gwenllian,
Dance in the dust in the lust of delight.
And you who have prayed in the golden pastures
And oiled the wheels of the Western Tradition
And trod where bards have danced to church,
Pay a penny for this fragment of a burning torch.
It will never go out.
It will gather unto itself all the fires
That blaze between the heavens above and the earth beneath
Until the flame shall frighten each mud-hearted hypocrite
And scatter the beetles fattened on the cream of corruption,
The beetles that riddle the ramparts of Man.
Pay a penny for my singing torch,
O my sisters, my brothers of the land of my mothers,
The land of our fathers, our troubles, our dreams,
The land of Llewellyn and Shoni bach Shinkin,
The land of the sermons that peddle the streams,
The land of the englyn and Crawshay’s old engine,
The land that is sometimes as proud as she seems.
And the sons of the mountains and sons of the valleys
O lift up your hearts, and then
lift up your feet.
by Idris Davies
Scorched, by searing rays of sun, bleached white;
Exposed, to elements of wind and rain, stood firm;
Forgotten, by generations of man and beast, eerily lonely;
Await, fateful destiny for restoration and use, obediently silent;
Forever beckoning to the heaven’s universe,
through merciful abeyance;
Disturbed, spirits of ancestors long gone, wailing on the breeze;
Groaning, amongst debris of machinery derelict, voices unclear;
Mesmerized, by haunting moonlit shaded, in peaceful bliss;
Carefree, days bygone on forefathers’ land, in reminiscence;
Witness, the ultimate destruction of Naoero land, for gains;
Leaving only birds afraid, hunted by man with aid;
To forever linger, undisturbed, until rehabilitation proper.
by His Excellency Ludwig Derangadage Scotty, former president of Nauru
In a book titled ‘World Leaders’ Favourite Poems’ he chose one he wrote himself…
‘Brother Square-Toes’ – Rewards and Fairies
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
by Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936)
Written in 1895
First published in Rewards and Fairies 1910
A man walks into the room looking for help with something. He leaves without anything being said save that there can be no help for him here. Then, without missing a beat, one person turns to another and a conversation begins about the departed man.
Mademoiselle Blancmange: “You know that guy?”
An intruding Yorkshire man: “I’ve seen him about. Why?”
Mademoiselle Blancmange: “He’s weird.”
An intruding Yorkshire man: “Is he?”
Mademoiselle Blancmange: “Every day, at exactly 12 o’ clock he has his lunch. He’s really weird. He always eats at the exact same time every day no matter what.”
She continues this way until it is revealed a few moments later that the man has diabetes and has to eat at regular intervals during the day to avoid the inevitable repercussions.
Apparently this strict routine alone was enough to consider him ‘weird’ in her eyes. I then reflect does this make people with any kind of maintained routine strange? Do we not all have a morning routine at the very least? It is no irony that these same people on a later day complain of someone ‘stinking’ implying that a regular bathing had been missed for whatever reason thus routine is both ‘weird’ but a necessary evil to them then I assume. The mindset of the lazy armchair critic who has the answers but takes no action to better the world they find themselves in.
Certainly, I believe we can all agree someone with OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder) has developed a routine of actions which interfere with their lives, and there is no questioning this. However at what point does a routine become ‘weird’? Using the toilet regularly? Are regular bowel movements therefore ‘weird’ – certainly I imagine there any number of ill or elderly people who would envy such a display of routine? I remember reading in Primo Levi’s ‘If This Is Man’ that one WW2 prison camp inmate who could evacuate his bowels on command was the envy of all the others there it was such an extrodinary skill. Is having a regular job ‘weird’ when it provides a reliable source of income? What would be achieved without routine when it can be put off until tomorrow?
Maybe we should look at what that word ‘weird’ means then:
Weird (wɪəd/): adjective weird; comparative adjective: weirder; superlative adjective: weirdest
1. Suggesting something supernatural; unearthly.
synonyms: uncanny, eerie, unnatural, preternatural, supernatural, unearthly, other-worldly, unreal, ghostly, mysterious, mystifying, strange, abnormal, unusual; eldritch;
Informal: creepy, spooky, freaky;
Antonyms: normal, ordinary
Informal: very strange; bizarre.
synonyms: bizarre, offbeat, quirky, outlandish, eccentric, unconventional, unorthodox, idiosyncratic, surreal, crazy, absurd, grotesque, peculiar, odd, curious, strange, queer, cranky, freakish, insane, zany, madcap, off-centre, far out, alternative; outré;
Informal: wacky, freaky, way-out, rum;
Informal: wacko, off the wall, in left field, bizarro
2. Archaic: connected with fate.
So we come to the following conclusions:
- Not normal – Well he had diabetes not that it was anyone else’s business. Diabetes is more common than it should be but he shouldn’t be judged for that.
- Connected to a person’s destiny – Yes I can imagine the critical person developing diabetes. That person is far too judgemental of others. As it says in the Bible in Matthew 7:3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” The same lesson exists in many other forms too in other places. Put simply: Don’t criticise others for their minor failings when you yourself have far more obvious ones.
People are people. Some are cruel. Some are odd. Some just want to live a life without needless cruelty. Sadly some people thrive on cruelty when they know there will be no repercussions. There are bad people in the world but there are also good people. You just have to find the good ones and ignore the bad ones who only seek harm to others through whatever means they have to hand. It is the only way they themselves can feel ‘normal’ in whatever way they believe that is achieved.
The world is a better place for people with weird routines. Nothing would get done without routines and everything would be the same without the ‘weird’ ones contributing towards a more diverse world.
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