Poems on the Underground May 2023

This Month we welcome spring with poems and songs that celebrate the beauty of the world and the people that live and love and laugh on it.

On May Morning by John Milton

Song: On May Morning, John Milton Now the bright morning star, day's harbinger, Comes dancing from the east, and leads with her The flowery May, who from her green lap throws The yellow cowslip, and the pale primrose. Hail bounteous May that dost inspire Mirth and youth and warm desire! Woods and groves are of thy dressing, Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing. Thus we salute thee with our early song, And welcome thee, and wish thee long.'

The Passionate Shepherd to his Love by Christopher Marlowe

The Passionate Shepherd to his Love by Christopher Marlowe (1564-93) Lute accompaniment by William Corkine Second Booke of Ayres (1612) ' Come live with me, and be my love, And we will all the pleasures prove, That valleys, groves, hills and fields, Woods, or steepy mountain yields. And we will sit upon the rocks, Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks, By shallow rivers, to whose falls, Melodious birds sing madrigals. And I will make thee beds of roses, And a thousand fragrant posies, A cap of flowers, and a kirtle, Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle. A belt of straw, and ivy buds, With coral clasps and amber studs, And if these pleasures may thee move, Then live with me, and be my love.'

from Tell me the Truth About Love by W.H. Auden

lines from "Tell Me the Truth About Love" by W.H. Auden ' When it comes, will it come without warning Just as I'm picking my nose? Will it knock on my door in the morning, Or tread in the bus on my toes? Will it come like a change in the weather? Will its greeting be courteous or rough? Will it alter my life altogether? O tell me the truth about love.' W.H. Auden (1907 -73 By permission of Faber from Collected Poems, revised edition (2007) Music by Benjamin Britten is © Faber Music and the Trustees of the Britten - Pears Foundation and appears by permission

If Bach had been a Beekeeper by Charles Tomlinson

If Bach Had Been a Beekeeper, Charles Tomlinson ' If Bach Had Been a Beekeeper he would have heard all those notes suspended above one another in the air of his ear as the undifferentiated swarm returning to the exact hive to place in the hive, topping up the cells with the honey of C major, food for the listening generations, key to their comfort and solace of their distress as they return and return to those counterpointed levels of hovering wings where movement is dance and the air itself a scented garden'

Maire Macrae’s song by Kathleen Raine

I am the Song by Charles Causley

Charles Causley, I am the Song ' I am the song that sings the bird. I am the leaf that grows the land. I am the tide that moves the moon. I am the stream that halts the sand.'

In the Heart of Hackney by Sebastian Barker

In the Heart of Hackney, for Aidan Andrew Dun by Sebastian Barker Poems on the Underground 2007 poster ' Behold, a swan. Ten houseboats on the Lee. A cyclist on the towpath. Gentle rain. A pigeon in a white apple - blossoming tree. And through the Marsh the rumble of a train. Two courting geese waddle on the bank Croaking. A man unties his boat. Police cars howl and whoop. And vast and blank The rain cloud of the sky is trampled underfoot. Behold, a dove. And in Bomb Crater Pond Fat frogs ignore the rain. Each trembling rush signals like a wand Earthing the magic of London once again. In the heart of Hackney, five miles from Kentish Town, By Lammas Lands the reed beds are glowing rich and brown '.Sebastian Barker Reprinted by permission of Enitharmon Press from Damnatio Memoriae: Erased from Memory (2004)

The Silver Swan, Anon

The Silver Swan, Anon ( c. 1600) Poems on the Underground 1992 'The silver swan, who living had no note, When death approached unlocked her silent throat, Leaning her breast against the reedy shore, Thus sung her first and last ,and sung no more: Farewell all joys, O death come close mine eyes, More goose than swans now live, more fools than wise'

Industrial by Frances Leviston

Industrial by Frances Leviston (b.1982 ) ' From a bridge, the inverted vanitas Of a swan drifting down a black canal Between two corrugated warehouses.' By permission of Pan Macmillan from Public Dream (2007) © Frances Leviston 2007 Poems on the Underground

from The Prelude by William Wordsworth

from The Prelude by William Wordsworth ' Now free, Free as a bird to settle where I will. What dwelling shall receive me? in what vale Shall be my harbour? underneath what grove Shall I take up my home? and what clear stream Shall with its murmur lull me into rest? The earth is all before me. With a heart Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty ,I look about; and should the chosen guide Be nothing better than a wandering cloud, I cannot miss my way. ' I, 8 - 18 William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850)Poems on the Underground

A Prehistoric Camp by Andrew Young

Cuckoo by Fujirawa no Toshinari translated by Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite

Cuckoo, Fujiwara no Toshinari ‘Has it flown away, The cuckoo that called Waking me at midnight?’

The Loch Ness Monster’s Song by Edwin Morgan

The Loch Ness Monster's Song, Edwin Morgan 'Sssnnnwhuffffll? Hnwhuffl hhnnwfl hnflhfl? Gdroblboblhobngbl gbl gl g g g g glbgl'

There Was an Old Man with a Beard by Edward Lear

There was an Old Man with a Beard , Edward Lear Poems on the Underground 1996 poster 'There was an Old Man with a beard, Who said, "It is just as I feared!— Two Owls and a Hen, Four Larks and a Wren, Have all built their nests in my beard." '

A Riddle by John the Giant Killer

A Riddle by John the Giant Killer 'Legs I have got, yet seldom do I walk; I backbite many, yet I never talk: In secret places most I seek to hide me, For he who feeds me never can abide me. '

Anglo-Saxon Riddle Anon translated by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Anglo Saxon Riddle translated by Kevin Crossley-Holland 'I'm a strange creature, for I satisfy women, a service to the neighbours! No one suffers at my hands except for my slayer. I grow very tall, erect in a bed, I'm hairy underneath. From time to time a good-looking girl, the doughty daughter of some churl dares to hold me, grips my russet skin, robs me of my head and puts me in the pantry. At once that girl with plaited hair who has confined me remembers our meeting. Her eye moistens. (suggested answer: 'Onion')'

Old English Riddle Anon translated by Gerard Benson

Old English Riddle, Anon, Tr. Gerard Benson 'A moth, I thought, munching a word. How marvellously weird! a worm Digesting a man's sayings - A sneakthief nibbling in the shadows At the shape of a poet`s thunderous phrases - How unutterably strange! And the pilfering parasite none the wiser For the words he has swallowed.'

The Leader by Roger McGough

The Leader, Roger McGough Poems on the Underground 1995 Poster 'I wanna be the leader I wanna be the leader Can I be the leader? Can I? I can? Promise? Promise? Yippee. I'm the leader I'm the leader OK what shall we do?'

The Uncertainty of the Poet by Wendy Cope

The Uncertainty of the Poet, Wendy Cope 'I am a poet. I am very fond of bananas. I am bananas. I am very fond of a poet. I am a poet of bananas. I am very fond. A fond poet of 'I am, I am'- Very bananas. Fond of 'Am I bananas? Am I?'-a very poet. Bananas of a poet! Am I fond? Am I very? Poet bananas! I am. I am fond of a 'very.' I am of very fond bananas. Am I a poet?'

Ecclesiastes 1 iii-vii

King James Bible Ecclesiastes 1 iii-vii 'What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.'

Song in Space by Adrian Mitchell

Song in Space, Adrian Mitchell ' When man first flew beyond the sky He looked back into the world's blue eye. Man said: What makes your eye so blue? Earth said: The tears in the oceans do'

For the Life of this Planet by Grace Nichols

For the Life of This Planet, Grace Nichols ‘ The way the red sun surrenders its wholeness to curving ocean bit by bit. The way curving ocean gives birth to the birth of stars in the growing darkness, wearing everything in its path to cosmic smoothness’

Bowl by Elizabeth Cook

Bowl by Elizabeth Cook Give me a bowl, wide and shallow. Patient to light as a landscape open to the whole weight of a deepening sky. Give me a bowl which turns for ever on a curve so gentle a child could bear it and beasts lap fearless at its low rim.' Poems on the Underground Reprinted by permission of Worple Press from Bowl (2006)

The Tyger by William Blake

The Tyger, William Blake 'Tyger Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night; What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry? In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes! On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand, dare seize the fire? And what shoulder, & what art, Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? & what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain, In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread grasp, Dare its deadly terrors clasp? When the stars threw down their spears And water'd heaven with their tears: Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee? Tyger Tyger burning bright, In the forests of the night: What immortal hand or eye, Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?'

Moonwise by Jean Binta Breeze

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'

from Inferno by Dante Alighieri translated by Seamus Heaney

Inferno Canto I, 1-3 Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) Translated by Seamus Heaney 'Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, che la diritta via era smarrita... In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself astray in a dark wood where the right road had been lost sight of.'

from An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope

from An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope (1688 - 1744) 'Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of Mankind is Man. Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state, A being darkly wise, and rudely great: With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side, With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride, He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest, In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast; In doubt his Mind or Body to prefer, Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err... Created half to rise, and half to fall; Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all; Sole judge of Truth, in endless Error hurl'd: The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!'

They are Not Long by Ernest Dowson

They Are Not Long Ernest DowsonVitae summa brevis spem nos vetat Incohare Longam The shortness of life prevents us from entertaining far-off hopes (Horace) 'They are not long, the weeping and the laughter, Love and desire and hate: I think they have no portion in us after We pass the gate. They are not long, the days of wine and roses: Out of a misty dream Our path emerges for a while, then closes Within a dream. '

Homage to the British Museum by William Empson

Homage to the British Museum by William Empson 'There is a supreme God in the ethnological section; A hollow toad shape, faced with a blank shield. He needs his belly to include the Pantheon, Which is inserted through a hole behind. At the navel, at the points formally stressed, at the organs of sense, Lice glue themselves, dolls, local deities, His smooth wood creeps with all the creeds of the world. Attending there let us absorb the cultures of nations And dissolve into our judgement all their codes. Then, being clogged with a natural hesitation (People are continually asking one the way out), Let us stand here and admit that we have no road. Being everything, let us admit that is to be something, Or give ourselves the benefit of the doubt; Let us offer our pinch of dust all to this God, And grant his reign over the entire building. '

Greek Antiquities by Lauris Edmond

Greek Antiquities: First Floor by Lauris Edmond ' Little sculptured animals, young deer still stiffy running, still with bright and frightened eyes, my fingers touch the tiny perforations that mark the spots upon your coats of clay and find them rough and hard. Will any dream of mine so run, wakeful through more than twenty centuries? Lauris Edmond (1924-2000) New Zealand Reprinted by permission of OUP (New Zealand) from Selected Poems 1984 Commonwealth Poems on the Underground

The Faun (Le Faune) by Paul Verlaine tr. John Montague

Le Faune Faun by Paul Verlaine translation by John Montague 'In this middle of the sporting green Taunts an old terra-cotta faun; Predicting, no doubt, a sour outcome To those idylls, so serene, Which lured us, melancholy pilgrims, To this meeting, already fleeting, To the skirl of a tambourines.'

You can see our poems from April 2023 here