What this blog is and how to use it

This blog contains poems that have caught my attention over the years. Many of the poems I've discussed and explored with 16 -19 year old students in my capacity as lecturer in English.

Browse the list of poems by scrolling down the page or read the titles of poems or names of poets in the sidebar 'Poem Titles and Poets'. Then click on the title or poet.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Half a league, half a league,
 Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
 Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
 Rode the six hundred.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
 Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
 Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
 Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
 Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
 All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre stroke
 Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
 Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
 Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
 Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
 All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
 Noble six hundred.

My Last Duchess by Robert Browning


That's my last duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf's hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will't please you sit and look at her? I said
"Frà Pandolf" by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 'twas not
Her husband's presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps
Frà Pandolf chanced to say "Her mantle laps
"Over my lady's wrist too much," or "Paint
"Must never hope to reproduce the faint
"Half-flush that dies along her throat": such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart how shall I say? too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, 'twas all one! My favor at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men good! but thanked
Somehow I know not how as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech which I have not to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, "Just this
"Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
"Or there exceed the mark" and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and make excuse,
E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will't please you rise? We'll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master's known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretense
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay we'll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen edited by John Cale

I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord.
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth.
The minor fall, the major lift.
The baffled king composing Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

Your faith was strong but you needed proof.
You saw her bathing on the roof.
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you.
She tied you to a kitchen chair.
She broke your throne, she cut your hair.
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

Maybe I've been here before.
I know this room, I've walked this floor.
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I've seen your flag on the marble arch.
Love is not a victory march,
It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

There was a time you'd let me know
What's real and going on below.
But now you never show it to me, do you?
Remember when I moved in you?
The Holy Dove was moving too.
And every breath we drew was hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,

Maybe there's a God above.
And all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.
It's not a cry you can hear at night.
It's not somebody who's seen the light.
It's a cold and its a broken hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelu...

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

Here is John Cale's performance of Hallelujah

and Jeff Buckley's version

and Leonard Cohen himself from a live performance

Click here for a recording of a programme about the song from Radio 4's Soul Music broadcast in 2015