April 2021

In Memoriam Adam Zagajewski 1945-2021

Star, Adam Zagajewski 'I returned to you years later, gray and lovely city, unchanging city buried in the waters of the past.'

This month we feature poems by Shakespeare, born on April 23rd, 1564, alongside poems by Shelley, Carol Ann Duffy and Michael Longley inspired by Shakespeare’s works. 

These are followed by poems in contrasting voices, from Blake to Daljit Nagra, welcoming Spring.

We then move naturally to Love poems by Liz Lochhead, Edna St Vincent Millay and Elizabeth Barrett Browning among others.

We end with European poems in bilingual texts, reflecting on our troubled times and our common hope for change. 

Shakespeare Poems on the Underground

Puck to Oberon, William Shakespeare 'I go, I go, look how I go, Swifter than arrow from the Tartar's bow.'
Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare ' Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments; love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove'
Hour, Carol Ann Duffy ‘Love’s time’s beggar, but even a single hour, bright as a dropped coin, makes love rich. We find an hour together, spend it not on flowers or wine, but the whole of the summer sky and a grass ditch.’
Ariel's Song from The Tempest, William Shakespeare 'Where the bee sucks, there suck I; In a cowslip's bell I lie; There I couch when owls do cry'
With a Guitar To Jane, P.B. Shelley 'Ariel to Miranda:- Take This slave of music for the sake Of him who is the slave of thee; And teach it all the harmony, In which thou canst, and only thou, Make the delighted spirit glow,'
From King Lear, William Shakespeare ' Poor naked wretches, wheresoe'er you are, That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm, How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides, Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you From seasons such as these?'
Sonnet 29, William Shakespeare 'When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself and curse my fate, Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, Featured like him, like him with friends possessed, Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope, With what I most enjoy contented least; Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, Haply I think on thee, and then my state, (Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate; For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings, That then I scorn to change my state with kings.'
The Sonnets, Michael Longley 'The soldier-poet packed into his kitbag His spine-protector, socks, soap, latherbrush (Though he was not then a regular shaver)'

Spring Poems on the Underground

William Blake, Ah-Sunflower 'Ah Sun-flower! weary of time, Who countest the steps of the Sun: Seeking after that sweet golden clime Where the travellers journey is done. Where the Youth pined away with desire, And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow: Arise from their graves and aspire, Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.'
William Wordsworth, The Rainbow comes and goes ' The Rainbow comes and goes, And lovely is the Rose, The Moon doth with delight Look round her when the heavens are bare, Waters on a starry night Are beautiful and fair; The sunshine is a glorious birth; But yet I know, where'er I go, That there hath past away a glory from the earth.'
Jean Binta Breeze, Moonwise Moonwise (for my children, all) sometimes you know the moon is not a perfect circle and the master Painter makes a passing brush touch with a cloud don't worry we've passed the dark side all you children rest easy now we are born moonwise'
I stepped from Plank to Plank, Emily Dickinson 'I stepped from Plank to Plank A slow and cautious way The Stars about my Head I felt About my Feet the Sea. I knew not but the next Would be my final inch — This gave me that precarious Gait Some call Experience.'
Dreams, Robert Herrick 'Here we are all, by day; by night we're hurled By dreams, each one, into a several world.'
Our Town with the Whole of India, Daljit Nagra 'Our town in England with the whole of India sundering out of its temples, mandirs and mosques for the customised streets. Our parade, clad in cloak-orange with banners and tridents, chanting from station to station for Vaisakhi over Easter. Our full-moon madness for Eidh with free pavement tandooris and legless dancing to boostered cars. Our Guy Fawkes’ Diwali – a kingdom of rockets for the Odysseus-trials of Rama who arrowed the jungle foe to re-palace the Penelope-faith of his Sita. '

Love Poems on the Underground

from The Song of Solomon, The King James Bible (1611) ' My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my Love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over, and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. '
Riddle –Me-Ree, Liz Lochead 'My first is in life (not contained within heart) My second's in whole but never in part. My third's in forever but also in vain. My last's in ending, why not in pain?'
Love Without Hope, Robert Graves 'Love without hope, as when the young bird-catcher Swept off his tall hat to the Squire's own daughter, So let the imprisoned larks escape and fly Singing about her head, as she rode by.'
Sir Philip Sidney ,My true love hath my heart and I have his ' My true love hath my heart and I have his, By just exchange one for the other given: I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss; There never was a bargain better driven. My true love hath my heart and I have his. His heart in me keeps me and him in one, My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides: He loves my heart, for once it was his own, I cherish his because in me it bides. My true love hath my heart and I have his'
What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, Edna St Vincent Millay ' What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why, I have forgotten, and what arms have lain. Under my head till morning; but the rain. Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh.Upon the glass and listen for reply, And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain For unremembered lads that not again Will turn to me at midnight with a cry. Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree, Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one, Yet knows its boughs more silent than before: I cannot say what loves have come and gone, I only know that summer sang in me A little while, that in me sings no more.'
Sonnet from the Portuguese, Elizabeth Barrett Browning 'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of being and ideal grace. I love thee to the level of every day’s Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. I love thee freely, as men strive for right; I love thee purely, as they turn from praise. I love thee with the passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith. I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.'

European Poems on the Underground

Peaceful Waters: Variation, Frederico Garcia Lorca (1898 - 1936) translated by Adrian Mitchell 'peaceful waters of the air under echo's branches peaceful waters of a pool under a bough laden with stars peaceful waters of your mouth under a forest of kisses'
Optimistic Little Poem Hans Magnus Enzensberger tr. David Constantine ' Now and then it happens that somebody shouts for help and somebody else jumps in at once and absolutely gratis. Here in the thick of the grossest capitalism round the corner comes the shining fire brigade and extinguishes, or suddenly there's silver in the beggar's hat. Mornings the streets are full of people hurrying here and there without daggers in their hands, quite equably after milk or radishes. As though in a time of deepest peace. A splendid sight.'
25th April 1974, Sophie de Mello Breyner tr.Ruth Fainlight, 'This is the dawn I was waiting for The first day whole and pure When we emerged from night and silence Alive into the substance of time'
25 February 1944 Primo Levi tr. Eleonora Chiavetta ' I wish I could believe in something beyond, Beyond the death that has undone you. I wish I could tell of the strength With which we longed then, Already drowned, To walk together once again Free under the sun.'
Almost without Noticing, Eira Stenberg tr. Herbert Lomas ' Almost without noticing, without thinking, it seems, you've arrived where you see far. Thirty years back, more, the path vanishes, thirty years ahead, more, the path vanishes: and you're forced to sit down in your own shadow to think. Memory mother of truth and myth, tell how the terrain divided the stream.'
A Collector, Erich Fried tr. Stuart Hood 'The things I found But they'll scatter them again to the four winds as soon as I am dead Old gadgets fossilised plants and shells books broken dolls coloured postcards And all the words I have found my incomplete my unsatisfied words '
And suddenly it’s evening, Salvatore Quasimodo Translated by Jack Bevan ‘Everyone is alone on the heart of the earth pierced by a ray of sun: and suddenly it’s evening.’

Poems displayed in March 2021 can be found on our March Poems page