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Musée des Beaux Arts

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by W. H. Auden
















About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.



In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy fall…

O What Is That Sound

By W. H. Auden

O what is that sound which so thrills the ear
Down in the valley drumming, drumming?
Only the scarlet soldiers, dear,
The soldiers coming.

O what is that light I see flashing so clear
Over the distance brightly, brightly?
Only the sun on their weapons, dear,
As they step lightly.

O what are they doing with all that gear,
What are they doing this morning, morning?
Only their usual manoeuvres, dear,
Or perhaps a warning.

O why have they left the road down there,
Why are they suddenly wheeling, wheeling?
Perhaps a change in their orders, dear,
Why are you kneeling?

O haven't they stopped for the doctor's care,
Haven't they reined their horses, horses?
Why, they are none of them wounded, dear,
None of these forces.

O is it the parson they want, with white hair,
Is it the parson, is it, is it?
No, they are passing his gateway, dear,
Without a visit.

O it must be the farmer that lives so near.
It must be the farmer so cunning, so cunning?
They have passed the farmyard already, dear,
And now …

Refugee Blues

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Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:
Yet there's no place for us, my dear, yet there's no place for us.

Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you'll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.

In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,
Every spring it blossoms anew:
Old passports can't do that, my dear, old passports can't do that.

The consul banged the table and said,
"If you've got no passport you're officially dead":
But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.

Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;
Asked me politely to return next year:
But where shall we go to-day, my dear, but where shall we go to-day?

Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said;
"If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread":
He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.

Thought I heard the thunder rumbling…

The Shield of Achilles

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by W.H. Auden





She looked over his shoulder
For vines and olive trees,
Marble well-governed cities
And ships upon untamed seas,
But there on the shining metal
His hands had put instead
An artificial wilderness
And a sky like lead.

A plain without a feature, bare and brown,
No blade of grass, no sign of neighborhood,
Nothing to eat and nowhere to sit down,
Yet, congregated on its blankness, stood
An unintelligible multitude,
A million eyes, a million boots in line,
Without expression, waiting for a sign.

Out of the air a voice without a face
Proved by statistics that some cause was just
In tones as dry and level as the place:
No one was cheered and nothing was discussed;
Column by column in a cloud of dust
They marched away enduring a belief
Whose logic brought them, somewhere else, to grief.

She looked over his shoulder
For ritual pieties,
White flower-garlanded heifers,
Libation and sacrifice,
But the…

SCENIC

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by John Updike
for Annette

O when in San Francisco do
As natives do; they sit and stare
Amd smile and stare again. The view
Is visible from anywhere.

Here hills are white with houses whence,
Across a multitude of sills,
The owners, lucky residents,
See other houses, other hills.

The meanest San Franciscan knows,
No matter what his past has been,
There are a thousand patios
Whose view he is included in.

The Golden Gate, the cable cars,
Twin Peaks, the Spreckles habitat.
The local ocean, sun and stars--
When fog falls, one admires that.

Here homes are stacked in such a way
That every picture window has
An unmarred prospect of the Bay
And, in its center, Alcatraz.


1958



Song of a Self

Lew Welch
If this is what life is,
Could one of your Gods do it better? I make what I see, and I make what I hear
with Eye and my animal eye--
with ear and my Auditing Ear... full
full of my gift
I am never left out and afraid And this what the song is
(all of you waking and working and going to bed) I sing what you'd know if you took time to hear,
I know what you'd learn if you had cause to care
Envy my wildness if you will.... full
full of my gift
I am often
left out and afraid And this all my art is
(that stays at the distance the stage is) You turn from my songs into another's arms,
As I, who have taken you all to my heart,
Would sometimes be taken to heart.... full
full of my gift
I am only
left out and afraid ______________________________________________
Commentary by the Red Monk Except for things like the Yaws, there is no suffering
unless we invent someone to suffer the suffering

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

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by GM Hopkins

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves - goes itself; myself it speak and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.

Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is -
Chríst - for Christ play in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.


Waiting for the Barbarians

Originally posted 3/27/2010

When are you at war, and with whom?
What happens when you take sides?
What happens if you don't take a side?*


Waiting for the Barbarians
by C.P. Cavafy


The barbarians are to arrive today.

Why such inaction in the Senate?
Why do the Senators sit and pass no laws?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
What laws can the Senators pass any more?
When the barbarians come they will make the laws.

Why did our emperor wake up so early,
and sits at the greatest gate of the city,
on the throne, solemn, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
And the emperor waits to receive
their chief. Indeed he has prepared
to give him a scroll. Therein he inscribed
many titles and names of honor.

Why have our two consuls and the praetors come out
today in their red, embroidered togas;
why do they wear amethyst-studded bracelets,
and rings with brilliant, glittering emeralds;
why are they carrying costly canes today,
wonderfully carved with silver and …

You Were Brave in that Holy War

by Hafiz for Jihad

You have done well In the contest of madness.

You were brave in that holy war.

You have all the honorable wounds Of one who has tried to find love Where the Beautiful Bird Does not drink.

May I speak to you Like we are close And locked away together?

Once I found a stray kitten And I used to soak my fingers In warm milk;

It came to think I was five mothers On one hand. Wayfarer, Why not rest your tired body? Lean back and close your eyes.

Come morning I will kneel by your side and feed you. I will so gently Spread open your mouth And let you taste something of my

Unfold your own myth

by Jelaluddin Rumi (trans. Coleman Barks)
Who gets up early to discover the moment light begins? Who finds us here circling, bewildered, like atoms? Who comes to a spring thirsty and sees the moon reflected in it? Who, like Jacob, blind with grief and age, smells the shirt of his son and can see again? Who lets a bucket down and brings up a flowing prophet? Or like Moses goes for fire and finds what burns inside the sunrise?
Jesus slips into a house to escape enemies, and opens a door to the other world. Solomon cuts open a fish, and there's a gold ring. Omar storms in to kill the prophet and leaves with blessings. Chase a deer and end up everywhere! An oyster opens his mouth to swallow one drop. Now there's a pearl.
A vagrant wanders empty ruins Suddenly he's wealthy.
But don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth, without complicated explanation,

The Beauty Of Hopelessness

by Rebecca del Rio

You are hanging from a branch by your teeth. No way to save yourself or others who hang, too. Arms that cannot reach any branch, legs stretch but cannot find the smooth safe trunk.

All around, your loved ones, friends, strangers hang-- teeth clamp bony twigs that suspend necessary hopes and plans.

It is hopeless. No rescue will arrive. So you relax, taste the clean, unfamiliar tang of sap, feel the forgiving wind against your waving arms, arms that swim through emptiness.

Without hope, life is focused, fluid, a ledge of fragile earth suspended over the ocean of unknowing, the end of the branch. Life is the glorious moment before the fall when all plans are abandoned, the love you give as you hang, loving those who hang with you.

* I think that the reader might be interested to know about Case 5 of the Mumonkan.

Democracy

by Leonard Cohen

It's coming through a hole in the air, from those nights in Tiananmen Square. It's coming from the feels that it ain't exactly real, or it's real, but it ain't exactly there. From the wars against disorder, from the sirens night and day, from the fires of the homeless, from the ashes of the gay: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. It's coming through a crack in the wall, on a visionary flood of alcohol; from the staggering account of the Sermon on the Mount which I don't pretend to understand at all. It's coming from the silence on the dock of the bay, from the brave, the bold, the battered heart of Chevrolet: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. It's coming from the sorrow on the street the holy places where the races meet; from the homicidal bitchin' that goes down in every kitchen to determine who will serve and who will eat.