Minstrel's Tales

Stories From a Guitar Case

Poem for the Day - At the Fishhouses by Elizabeth Bishop

Posted: 21 March 2018

Poem for the Day
The imagery in this poem is just wondeful. You can almost smell the sea and taste the salt on your lips.

Down at the water’s edge, at the place
where they haul up the boats, up the long ramp...
descending into the water, thin silver
tree trunks are laid horizontally
across the gray stones, down and down
at intervals of four or five feet.

Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
element bearable to no mortal,
to fish and to seals . . . One seal particularly
I have seen here evening after evening.
He was curious about me. He was interested in music;
like me a believer in total immersion,
so I used to sing him Baptist hymns.
I also sang “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
He stood up in the water and regarded me
steadily, moving his head a little.
Then he would disappear, then suddenly emerge
almost in the same spot, with a sort of shrug
as if it were against his better judgment.
Cold dark deep and absolutely clear,
the clear gray icy water . . . Back, behind us,
the dignified tall firs begin.
Bluish, associating with their shadows,
a million Christmas trees stand
waiting for Christmas. The water seems suspended
above the rounded gray and blue-gray stones.
I have seen it over and over, the same sea, the same,
slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones,
icily free above the stones,
above the stones and then the world.
If you should dip your hand in,
your wrist would ache immediately,
your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn
as if the water were a transmutation of fire
that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame.
If you tasted it, it would first taste bitter,
then briny, then surely burn your tongue.
It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn, and since
our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.

from At the Fishhouses
Elizabeth Bishop

Poem for the Day by H. Nimmo

Posted: 20 March 2018

Poem for the Day 
Today would have been my grandmother's birthday.  Born in the reign of Queen Victoria, she was a lady of great faith, gracious and kind and who always seemed to know just when to give me a sweet but who would never give me two!  Her philosophy was quite simple; you are better than no-one, and no-one is better than you.  This is a poem I heard her recite many times and, this morning, from somewhere far away, I can see us both, sitting at her fireside, and beside me is a plate of her 'just-made-and-still-warm' girdle scones, oozing with butter and tasting of home.

Ca canny through this weary world
And pick your steps wi care,
And never dae your neebour wrang,
But aye dae what is fair.
Men fa and never rise again
Wha never fell afore,
There's aye a wee bit slippy stane
At ilka body's door.

An' gin your neebour chance to fa
Ye maunna let him lie,
But gie a haun to help him up
As ye are passin by.
Your neebour's case may be your ain,
Though ye hae wealth in store,
There's aye a wee bit slippy stane
At ilka body's door.

There's slippy stanes where'er ye gang
By cottage, hut, or hall.
An ye maun pick your steps wi care
Lest ower them ye may fall.
For emperors and kings hae faen,
Forby there's many a score,
There's aye a wee bit slippy stane
At ilka body's door.

The Slippy Stane
H. Nimmo

Poem for the Day - The Song of Shadows by Walter de la Mare

Posted: 19 March 2018

Poem for the Day

Sweep thy faint strings, Musician,
With thy long, lean hand;
Downward the starry tapers burn,
Sinks soft the waning sand;
The old hound whimpers couched in sleep,
The embers smoulder low;
Across the wall the shadows
Come, and go.

Sweep softly thy strings, Musician,
The minutes mount to hours;
Frost on the windless casement weaves
A labyrinth of flowers;
Ghosts linger in the darkening air,
Hearken at the opening door;
Music hath called them, dreaming,
Home once more.  

The Song of Shadows 
Walter de la Mare 1873 - 1956

Poem for the Day - Recycled by Bill Adair

Posted: 18 March 2018

Poem for the Day

The stately tree falls
To the woodcutter’s axe
And all nature mourns.

From death comes new life.
A perfect shape emerges
From the plain, gnarled wood.

In his skilful hands
The carpenter produces
A thing of beauty.

But all things must pass.
Crushed wood re-born as paper.

The woodcutter dies
And rests in the tree re-made.
Seeking forgiveness?

He enters the earth.
The soft forest floor opens
And bids him welcome.

An oak marks his place.
Its roots at one with his bones.
The slow turn of life.

And beneath the soil
His decomposing body
Gives the young tree life.

Bill Adair

Poem for the Day - Raglan Road by Patrick Kavanagh

Posted: 17 March 2018

Poem for the Day
For St Patrick's Day one of my favourite Irish poems.

On Raglan Road on an Autumn day I saw her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I would someday rue....
I saw the danger yet I walked along the enchanted way.
And I said, “Let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.”

On Grafton Street in November we walked lightly along the ledge
Of a deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion’s pledge.
The Queen of Hearts, still making tarts, and I not making hay;
Oh, I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away.

I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that’s known
To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone.
And word and tint I ne’er did stint, for I gave her poems to say,
With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds o’er fields of May.

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now,
And away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had wooed, not as I should, a creature made of clay,
When the angel woos the clay, he’ll lose his wings at the dawn of day.

Raglan Road
Patrick Kavanagh

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