tarod45: (pathway)
[personal profile] tarod45
Been busy lately. But I seem to recall that April is National Poetry Month, or some such thing. Figured I'd do something to mark the occasion before the month ends.

I like poetry. I like a lot of poetry. Mostly older stuff. Because, as someone -- I don't know who, but someone who clearly knows what he's talking about -- once said, you can have poetry that doesn't rhyme, but in much the same way that you can play tennis without a net: it's much easier but not nearly as fun.

My favorite poem, much like my favorite song, varies based on my mood; but the one that I've come back to repeatedly for several years now is "Five Smooth Stones," by Stella Benson. It's kind of a deeply cynical poem, and I don't really agree with most of the cynicism, but it's lovely and sad and bleakly hopeful. And it's either that one, or "The Dangerous World" by Naomi Replansky, in which someone watches their lover and is struck by the lover's mortality, or else an excerpt from Shakespeare's "Venus and Adonis," in which Venus curses love.

It's been pointed out to me that I tend to like sorta sad, morbid poetry. Mostly to do with death and love. But mostly not the happy kind of love. Go figure.

It was young David, lord of sheep and cattle,
Pursued his fate, the April fields among,
Singing his song of solitary battle,
A loud, mad song, for he was very young.

Vivid the air -- and something more than vivid, --
Tall clouds were in the sky -- and something more, --
The light horizon of the spring was livid
With a steel smile that showed the teeth of war.

It was young David mocked the Philistine.
It was young David laughed beside the river.
There came his mother -- his and yours and mine--
With five smooth stones, and dropped them in his quiver.

You never saw so green-and-gold a fairy.
You never saw such very April eyes.
She sang him sorrow's song to make him wary,
She gave him five smooth stones to make him wise.

The first stone is love, and that shall fail you.
The second stone is hate, and that shall fail you.
The third stone is knowledge, and that shall fail you.
The fourth stone is prayer, and that shall fail you.
The fifth stone shall not fail you.

For what is love, O lovers of my tribe?
And what is love, O women of my day?
Love is a farthing piece, a bloody bribe,
Pressed in the hand of God -- and thrown away.

And what is hate, O fierce and unforgiving?
And what shall hate achieve when all is said?
A silly joke that cannot reach the living.
A spitting in the faces of the dead.

And what is knowledge, O young men who tasted
The reddest fruit on that forbidden tree?
Knowledge is but a bitter effort wasted,
A bitter drowning in a bitter sea.

And what is prayer, O waiters for the answer?
And what is prayer, O seekers of the cause?
Prayer is the weary soul of Harod's dancer,
Dancing before blind kings without applause.

The fifth stone is a magic stone, my David,
Made up of fear and failure, lies and loss.
Its heart is lead, and on its face is gravèd
A crookèd cross, my son, a crookèd cross.

It has no dignity to lend it value,
No purity -- alas, it bears a stain.
You shall not give it gratitude, nor shall you
Recall it all your life, except with pain.

O, bless your blindness, glory in your groping!
Mock at your betters with an upward chin!
And when the moment has gone by for hoping,
Sling your fifth stone, O son of mine, and win.

Grief do I give you, grief and dreadful laughter;
Sackcloth for banner, ashes in your wine.
Go forth, go forth, nor ask me what comes after;
The fifth stone shall not fail you, son of mine.

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April 2012

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