Poetry

An Orphan’s Obituary


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He died as he was born, with nothing to his name
Except the dwindling will to live a life full of the unknown.

Never did they tell him from whence he came,
But still he smiled at the knowledge of who he wasn’t.

A wandering life was lead, a life full of blame,
And yet through it he continually smiled at his fate.

In death, as in life, there were but two to watch his frail frame
As it was lowered into the grey rain-sodden earth.

They were same two he begat who never felt the pain
Of living a life without a name.

The Moon’s Sigh


The Moon came out and released a sigh from afar.
Bright shone his light through the bare winter trees.
“Why do you sit in darkness and cry,” He asked,
“Under my serene and pellucid sky?”
“I cry for life,” I said, “I cry for death,
I cry for words left by me unsaid.”
“Speak your heart,” replied he, “speak your mind,
Free yourself from those chains that bind.”
“But,” said I, “we have been taught
To bear the pain for all or for naught,
To weather the seasons that life has wrought.”
These words uttered, by his silence were met
And through his light did courage he beget.

© One Writer and His Blog 2013

My love and your path…


Share the path...

Share the path…

I walk in the light of my children,
I breathe the air of their life;
I yearn for the days of yore
When they entered this world of strife.

Bring them happiness I pray,
Bring them joy and love,
Protect them from the pain of age and
Provide them with that for which I strove.

I wish I could but hold your hand
and guide you through life’s path,
But, like time, I must move on without choice
And leave you with your own sweet voice.

Go my child and be your own self,
Go and see what life holds for you.
But tread not in my steps for they
Will only show that yours will be a better way.

© One Writer and His Blog, 2013

Browning’s “Fra Lippo Lippi” gets the creative juices flowing…


I have been led astray by laziness, bamboozled by banter and have become a dilettante to desire  – which is why I haven’t posted or written in, what seems like (and is), a very long time. The most pertinent part of that last sentence was laziness (I was just trying to sound ridiculously pernicious so as to castigate myself but failing miserably in the process) so forgive my transgression – please.

Please also forgive my language as its just that I am a little out of practice and it feels like getting back into your favourite sports car after an age spent cycling or walking: one is always trying to see whether the turbos still work and pushing the boundaries of good driving. In this case they do, I am happy to admit, though they are in need of a good clean!

What got the creative juices flowing again was a request from my 16 year old son, who has just started his A’Level English Literature course, to help him write something on the late, great, Robert Browning of Fra Lippo Lippi fame (also husband to the late, and perhaps greater poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning). Now the key, when helping our young ‘uns, is to get them to do the thinking rather than write the piece for them – well that is my opinion and I am sticking to it. So, I wrote something that was borderline hard, yet, I hope for his sake, held enough depth in it for him to form an opinion of his own and easily “translatable” into his own words. 

Here it is:

Fra_Filippo_Lippi

Is art shackled by moral strictures forced upon us or freed through them?

An analysis of tone in “Fra Lippo Lippi” by Robert Browning and its effect on the verse

 

As is often the case, the tone of one’s life is reflected in one’s art, and Robert Browning is no exception. Born in the year of the war of the same name, 1812, the sacking of Moscow by Napoleon, and Lord Byron’s initiation into the House of Lords, Browning is considered one of the masters of the soliloquy in drama and the dramatic monologue in poetry. His father was grandson to a wealthy slave plantation owner from the West Indies who eschewed wealth gained through such nefarious means and settled back into life in London as a well-to-do clerk in the Bank of England with a generous stipend that allowed Robert, his son, to live a life of leisure and contemplation and writing. Thus, the influence of a liberal family (his father was an abolitionist) and growing up in an era when the Victorian quest for knowledge was reaching its zenith with Darwin’s Evolution of the Species, meant that Browning could contemplate science, changing social strictures and morality with relative freedom.

It was an age of the Industrial Revolution in Britain and Browning was affected by the growth of cities like London and the effect they had on the morality of the day (notwithstanding the Victorian prudish backlash to loosening morals that resulted from mass migration into places like London and the juxtaposition of extreme wealth and shameful poverty). Browning’s use of the famed Renaissance artist, Fra Lippo Lippi, patronised by the Medici and Cosimo in particular, sets the tone of the piece: a monk and self-taught artist who joined the brotherhood, not because of religious conviction but because of hunger, in the most famed city in Italy at the time birth of the Renaissance when art itself metamorphosed and became something more than just a reflection of the power of the Roman Catholic church, but a questioning of form and morality:

While I stood munching my first bread that month:
“So, boy, you’re minded,” quoth the good fat father
Wiping his own mouth, ’twas refection-time, —
“To quit this very miserable world?
Will you renounce” … “the mouthful of bread?” thought I;
By no means! Brief, they made a monk of me; 

It is with this in the background that the poet enters the fray with Fra Lippo Lippi being accosted by Cosimo’s guards one night as he is tempted out of his closed cloisters in the Medici household by the fragrant waft and sound of merriment. Browning, through the diversity of the tone of his language conjures up an imagery that is almost real in the minds’ eye:

 Ouf! I leaned out of window for fresh air.
There came a hurry of feet and little feet,
A sweep of lute-strings, laughs, and whifts of song, —
Flower o’ the broom,
Take away love, and our earth is a tomb!
Flower o’ the quince,
I let Lisa go, and what good in life since?
Flower o’ the thyme — and so on. Round they went.
Scarce had they turned the corner when a titter
Like the skipping of rabbits by moonlight, — three slim shapes,
And a face that looked up … 

An image that tempts the Friar to forsake his “incarceration” and risk the wrath of his Patron and his minions by frequenting the more ribald parts of Florence and enjoying mortal pleasures as opposed to the paintings that he is forced to make. The verse, with its ellipses, trochees, spondees typifies the mood of Friar. At times deadly serious, at times frivolous, holding a discourse with Medici soldiers, and explaining to them, in “plain” language, how his humanism was dislocating itself from his religion, a reflection of the times perhaps:

We Carmelites, like those Camaldolese
And Preaching Friars, to do our church up fine
And put the front on it that ought to be!”
And hereupon he bade me daub away.
Thank you! my head being crammed, the walls a blank,
Never was such prompt disemburdening. 

Thus he induces realism into his paintings and disguises reverence in a normality that is questioning how religion is portrayed; the imposition of thought on mankind, the imposition of shackles on freedom and the imposition of morality on animals (in the Darwinian context):

Quite from the mark of painting, bless us all!
Faces, arms, legs and bodies like the true
As much as pea and pea! it’s devil’s-game!
Your business is not to catch men with show,
With homage to the perishable clay,
But lift them over it, ignore it all,
Make them forget there’s such a thing as flesh.
Your business is to paint the souls of men — 

With this the tone shifts, and he, Browning, through his alter ego, Lippi, denies with vehemence the chains placed upon him and wishes to be free of his bondage. To paint reality with all its warts and carbuncles and imperfections of the flesh as opposed to the ideology that the Church wishes to portray in the disguise of enlightenment and religion. The skipping tonality of the monologue, at times a diatribe on morality, at other times a friendly conversation with the guards, is inherent to getting the point across – across social, moral and religious boundaries that are imposed rather than accepted. It underlines Lippi’s own confusion of the mortal form: confusion between tangible rewards like food, or intangible ideals like religion where confusion is created to explore ideas like self-representation and conformity and mask immoral thoughts and actions in a holy context:

That woman’s like the Prior’s niece who comes
To care about his asthma: it’s the life!” 

Where the Prior’s mistress is now portrayed as his niece, lest the “curse” of immorality enter into Lippi’s art and shock the masses who come to gaze upon his work. Thus, Browning, a master of the tone of blank verse, explores the reaches of his own conscience and uses the language to portray serious themes that have been discussed in detail (the seriousness or flippancy expressed specifically in the tonality of the introspection or spoken word) or in general throughout English Literature from Shakespeare to the later poets and dramatists like TS Eliot and Ezra Pound who were influenced by his work.

Creation is a drug and I am high on it


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We revisit another morning in the life of One Writer and his Blog.

As is commonplace in their household, they are bickering about writing another post to keep Blog alive and fulfil his role in Writer’s existence. However, roles such as they are, seem to have reversed. Whereas Writer should be doing the writing, Blog has now taken on the demi-god role of the Muse and Writer is but the parched poet who, despite life around him, cannot find a drop of inspiration anywhere. Facing a dry spell of Saharan proportions, he is forced to look to Blog, his alter-ego, for inspiration. Blog, an erudite and whimsical creation is a tough nut to crack.

Or so it seems.

Blog: It’s a hot day isn’t it? Shouldn’t we go out and have a beer or something – my mouth is parched and my eyeballs feel like prunes.

Writer: Sounds like a good plan… though I can’t decide where…

Blog: Here we go again, decisions, decisions, decisions. What is it with you and decisions?

Writer: There is nothing with me and decisions… nothing wrong at all. What is it with you and criticizing me?

Blog: Listen. We are one and the same right?

Writer: Hmmmmm. Are we?

Blog: Oh God – here we go again with the existential theories. Look, we have this conversation every day and every day, my answer is the exactly same. We are one and the same!

Writer: You are not doing a great job of convincing me… talking down to me is not going to make me submit to your reasoning. Nor is it going to achieve anything mildly positive. You know what your problem is?

Blog:    What?

Writer: Your problem is that you are a lazy so and so. Look at that writer’s recent post – ah! I can’t remember his name. He has forty thousand followers and words come out of his Blog like there’s no tomorrow. And you? You are a just lazy so and so.

Blog: I know. But why are you blaming me for your failings? You are the writer, remember?

Writer: Is that all you have to say for yourself? Oh listen… I completely forgot to tell you something.

Blog: What?

Writer: You know I wrote those two poems yesterday…

Blog: No I didn’t, but carry on…

Writer: Well I came back from a coffee with a friend and wrote a couple of poems.

Blog: Was she cute?

Writer: Look… just concentrate on what I am saying and stop going off onto another subject.

Blog: So she was cute then.

Writer: Yes. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. I wrote those two poems because I wanted to write something. I think she inspired me. But when I read them back, they were too trite, too contrived. It was as if I was writing poetry to a prescribed format. Rhyme and meter were there, the thoughts were juxtaposed…

Blog: That’s a big word.

Writer: I am ignoring that – juxtaposed in a martial, cavalry charge-like way, but it was like I had been rehearsing writing. The ingredients were there, organic, fresh and beautiful but making the dish was too hard to do. Do you know what I mean?

Blog: I like the metaphor. By ingredients, I assume you are referring to words?

Writer: Well yes and no.

Blog: Look my confused friend, what’s really the matter? You are all over the place. First the indecision, then the beginnings of a rant about followers and now some tripe about writing poems that are martial-like in their word order combined with making a recipe book or something. I know you are being artful, but wouldn’t it just be a whole lot easier if we were to stick to the basics?

Writer: Basics in what sense?

Blog: Okay, this is writing 101, my style. Call it free form, call it whatever you want. It is not as contrived as one finds these days – this is writing for your soul. Are you in?

Writer: When was I never?

Blog: See, that’s what I mean. There is nothing simple with you and your thought processes. Even a clear yes and no answer has to be a drawn out question that sounds wrong but is actually right when spoken with your particular brand of nasal intonation.

Anyway, let me begin:

Writing is picturing a thought and

Letting it move on the Wind of Words. 

Writing is smiling at the sun knowing it will set

And admiring the moon, knowing it will wane.

Writing is the look on a lover’s face

Basking in the glow of her emotions.

Writing is finding the shade on a searing day,

Dark and cool on muslin covered skin.

It is love and it is jealousy

And it is all the colours between the two.

It is formed of thought and 

Like thought holds no form.

Writer: I am flabbergasted at your fluidity… did you just come up with that?

Blog: Yes. And it feels good, creation is a drug and I am high on it.