The Ballad of John Barleycorn and Annabel Lee

                              The Ballad of John Barleycorn and Annabel Lee

Ah, John Barleycorn, when will your harvest be done?
So long at work, even for a good countryman.
Ah, John Barleycorn, when will your harvest be done?
So late in the fields, far from me, my countryman.

Our daughter, Mary, sleeps in her cradle,
and our son, Jonathan, drinks ale with the shepherd men
in the market village inn.
Ah, John Barleycorn, when are you coming home again?

I was a quiet, homely maid when we met.
You’re the harvest man who came to court me,
silent even then.
Ah, John Barleycorn, when are you coming home again?

So called the countryman’s wife, Annabel Lee,
her long hair and her shawl blowing in the sun
and the harvest breeze.
Then to her, he turned to see.
O, John Barleycorn, come walking home beneath the trees.

Ah, Annabel Lee, my harvest work is now done.
Under the silver moon, come and make love with me.
Ah, Annabel Lee, as when Eden had begun,
let’s be naked in love beneath the apple tree.

Ah, Annabel Lee, you are a good wife to me,
now here I am beside you, come walk home with me.
Ah, Annabel Lee, you wore a hood round your heart,
you lived in a cottage in a coomb by the sea.

Ah, Annabel Lee, help me remember first days,
ballads I sang for you while you made apple pie.
Ah, Annabel Lee, I know your holy wife ways,
we make love in our bed until with tears we cry.

Ah, Annabel Lee, only you truly talk with me.
In my harvest work, I write true love songs for thee.
Ah, Annabel Lee, now unbutton your dress for me,
your hair long and starry under the apple tree.

Ah, Annabel Lee, with you beside me,
summer will never leave the sky.
My mouth is warm and dry, like the cider you gave me.
Ah, Annabel Lee, when dawn wakes the birds,
they will sing for you and I.
I left my hoe and my plough in the fields, far behind me.

Ah, John Barleycorn, when will your harvest be done?
So long at work, even for a good countryman.
Ah, John Barleycorn, when will your harvest be done?
So late in the fields, far from me, my countryman.

O, John Barleycorn,
John Barley, John Barleycorn.
At the end of the road a golden tree,
and the golden woman you waited to marry.
O, John Barleycorn,
John Barley, John Barleycorn.

 

 

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The Tyranny of I

                              The Tyranny of I

Late summer afternoon, July,
Sabastian Sprott mused
on the tyranny of I,
how often lines he wrote and read
were egged on by ego,
the pain suffered by I,
the joy felt by I,
his meditations moved him so,
he thought, only to write
in the third person
was the way to go.
Yes, maybe, in his lines,
he could identify he as I,
but other times,
he was most definitely a character,
one removed from him,
strangely free of him,
and most certainly not him,
one he could watch,
subtly, help him move
in his own way,
his own world occupy,
a character in a novel
who was not the author’s I.
First person narratives,
he noted, from literary opinions
that he pondered with his eye,
some readers frowned upon,
partly because of
the constant use of I.
Word flow, guided by ego,
some resented, were repelled by,
a truth he wanted to untie.
What about verse, he wondered.
Do readers like it so
when poets only write of I,
their word flow guided by ego?
Some eastern faiths, he knew,
advised freedom from I,
even the death of I,
to reach a clearer, higher state,
but he never wished to go that far,
be that close to death,
while still his body breathed.
No, that state, if so like death, could wait.
But he did not want his I
to be his ruler absolute.
In his next essay, perhaps,
would advise poets to try
to write in the third person,
at least, sometimes,
and to consider what it means,
the tyranny of I.
To save himself from his own
tyranny of I,
he often wrote in third person he,
but he also knew that I
a goodly, kindly ruler could be.
Freedom from I, serenity,
cleansed of I, single eye
open to eternity.
Grand words. Still, he knew
he could write as a fictional he.
Detachment from I, tranquillity.
Extinguishment of I, peace within,
not being, one open eye
seeing space, within, without, peace.
Shakespearean soliloquy,
where would that be
without thoughts on I?
But who speaks,
the playwright or the player?
Descartesean reductionism
came to I think, therefore I am.
A satisfying conclusion.
Frankenstein’s fiend
had no name, no soul, no I,
friendless, he blundered to his death,
under the vast, unpitying sky.
Frankenstein only thought of I
when his fiend he stitched together,
not of his fellow humans,
but of making his mark
to outlast the weather.
I this, I that, I in pain, I not in pain,
I in hate, I in love,
I nowhere, I with wish elsewhere.
Outside his windows,
watched cumulus clouds
accumulate in the sky,
and felt the friendly force,
not the tyranny of I.

 

 

 

 

A Preliminary Portrait of Raymond El Longstride

                  A Preliminary Portrait of Raymond El Longstride

Raymond El Longstride
stood on the kitchen floor, stone hard,
stiff, straight, like a sentry, on guard,
waited for the kettle to boil,
the water to make black coffee,
his tongue and innards to warm and oil.
He wore black ballistic trousers,
high, black boots with silver spurs,
a tall, white plumed silver helmet,
a long coat, rough with black bear hairs.
Satisfied, his life well marshalled, drilled,
his steady betrothed, Brunhilda Battlemaiden,
he thought on, in amorous arts, most skilled.
Her breasts blossomed, enlarged before his eyes,
her passion enough to melt a waste of ice,
out shine the spectacles of northern skies.
Whose side he was on, what war he fought in,
he never considered,
those he knew, too polite to ask,
his white plumed silver helmet,
he wore not for protection,
nor was it a mask.
To him even the boiling of an egg
was a well precisioned, military task.
Everyone he knew thought he was a foreigner,
who came from somewhere else,
certainly not from their land.
Often he was referred to in company
as that foreign chap,
from some obscure dukedom,
no longer on the map.
Of his solitary uniqueness,
Raymond seemed unaware.
Of his background and parentage,
he was not one to share.
Seldom spoke of his sister,
Maeve Minerva Strom,
a sculptress, he informed,
who made stone owls and toads,
and protested that the government
did naught for bicycles on roads.
What singled him out most
was when others heard him speak.
No one could place his accent.
It lay outside philology,
perhaps he was a freak.
The only person like him
was Brunhilda, his betrothed,
who seemed to come from the same land.
Some strands of her hair, raven black,
others, white sand blond.
She would not hear a word, she said,
against her gallant friend, Raymond.
And that was enough to silence them,
with her none would debate,
as they eyed her motor up in her black jeep
from some other where beyond.
At last, the kettle whistled,
the water had now boiled.
Raymond poured just enough to fill his cup,
to make black coffee,
sweetened by four sugar lumps.
The warm liquid he drank, divinely,
knew the pleasure that nothing ever stumps.

The Peregrinations of the Penniless Poet

               The Peregrinations of the Penniless Poet

Often he thought on
the peregrinations of the penniless poet,
the pauper of writ lines,
of how he can perambulate
with no valid ticket, safety parachute,
the ever peril of fare fines.
Considered starving in a garret,
in some Paris shadowed slum street,
but alas, alack, no longer an option,
romantic no more, now stale, been done.
Besides, he liked clean socks on clean feet.
Yet the quest remained the same,
the pursuit of perfect form,
to be faithful to the true tale,
like Percival, Galahad,
continue the journey over the waste,
to pass on paths to paradise,
to achieve the Grail.
So he let the percussion of his fear drum,
percolate, softly, down to a bee hum,
still grew glum,
to ponder the power of the pendulum,
the patchy paucity of poem praise
that added up to no sum.
Peradventure, in decades,
even centuries that would come,
a verse of his in an anthology might appear,
in someone’s biography
something of him may be said.
Yes, there it was, a glimpse of fame eternal.
A clear tear made his eye shine, smart,
saw his name on a stone scroll etched,
among those who lived and died for art,
even if he were long and safely dead.

Valiant Vagrant, Willy Wart

                                       Valiant Vagrant, Willy Wart

( Author’s Note: Herewith be the fourth verse tale concerned with the previously unrecorded life of Willy Wart. The first three formed a trilogy, which is no longer valid, as there are now four of them. To read the first three in the right order is to begin with Willy Wart Wandered W Way, followed by The Earlier and Later Adventures of Willy Wart, to terminate with The Continuous and Further Wanderings of Willy Wart. You may, of course, prefer to read them in the wrong order, just one of them or none of them at all. Now they are no longer a trilogy, for with this added, there is a fourth, you do not need to read this one to understand the others or the others to understand this one. Indeed, you do not have to read any of them. It is up to you, as a canary may chirp clearly in a cage. )

Willy Wart set further furlongs, forked woody tree forests,
mounted rock stone mountains, forded wet water rivers.
Often wondered awakened why others, who were not him,
fellowship sought, happy alone naught,
he frankly fearsome in his own company caught,
pick bone on his lone fishy way to swim
with wild seeds sown, toenails blunted, yellowed, in grown.
Came upon banyan canyons, stuck sticks in bear dens,
picked poet pens, to write scribble,
scramble scram at right angle amble,
berry bunched from bright bramble,
fenced swords to self battle,
whittled wood shadow play puppet,
mock Medieval rattle,
clash cloud in thunder strike,
never was content to ride bike,
build sand castle from sand,
blow bugle brass band,
rather palace built of shark jowl,
filled with raucous wolf howl.
Farmer warned would be caught,
but not he, valiant vagrant, Willy Wart.

Betsy Burkjem Willy Wart bought
chocolate chimney stack,
munched it, melted on his tongue,
to his teeth clung,
stomach swelled with sweet bung,
washed it down with dandelion dew drink,
made Betsy think at her he would wink,
but in squelchy mud, felt her toes sink,
knew her hope would topple no good
when she understood
when Willy Wart, up front frank,
said he drove an iron fast tank,
and preferred Melinda Jorpbean,
who kept her step and ledge clean,
but Melinda told him she would only smile,
if he tickled the chin of a cracked scaled crocodile.

Rork Bugrug, village vacant brain,
fledged grin when Willy Wart
asked him what train
he must catch snatch to find
the fabled land of crocodile.
Rork suggested river named Nile,
if not, another called Amazon
where swamped close cousin of crocodile
called alligator, mentioned after see you later.

Willy Wart saw worldly wide trap,
saw need to become salty sailor chap,
a barnacle billed mariner,
to find such hot lands of glistening grapes,
jungly miasmas of jabbering apes,
so forced Rork in soot sack
with sown on scraps of lino,
to disguise himself as crocodile,
but more like hornless rhino.
Nevertheless, Willy Wart photographed himself
as he tickled Rork’s false reptile chin.
Now, he thought, Melinda he would win.
But, back home, enraged,
to find her engaged
to Bruce Borgenbonce, athlete complete,
two feet fleet foot race pace,
silver trophy lit his face grace.
At his photograph, she did laugh,
thought he must be infantile,
to think he tickled the chin
of a true, fearsome crocodile.
So Willy Wart built hermit home,
let beard grow to look gnome.
Deep in twiggy trees and bushy briars,
woke dawn wakened bright birdy choirs,
high in Morky Mountains,
he walked with giant Fingal Fangjaw,
who taught him to hog honk and crow caw.

 

 

The Song Of Our Longing

The Song Of Our Longing

The world is my oyster,
my castle, my cloister,
and the flower of the heather’s in bloom.
The world is my garden,
my mansion, my prison,
and the flower of the heather’s in bloom.
The world is my stone tomb,
my cold death, my warm womb,
and the flower of the heather’s in bloom.
And there’s only one song,
and there is no other,
and the flower of the heather’s in bloom.
The song of our longing,
the song of the lover,
and the flower of the heather’s in bloom.

A Canary May Chirp

                                  A Canary May Chirp

A canary may chirp clearly in a cage,
a poet may procrastinate to turn a page,
a choir master may mutter to contain his rage,
an actor may stutter his exit from the stage,
but all earthly things can do naught but age and age,
so may wise words say the fool as may mouth the mage.