13 examples of my favourite poetry

“Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks,” said the Roman historian Plutarch, while for Voltaire, “One merit of poetry few persons will deny: it says more and in fewer words than prose”.

But then, poetry is an an immensely personal choice. There was a time – till some years ago when I myself preferred prose. Even though my exposure to the rich tradition of Urdu ghazal caused some change, I still retained some scepticism and even tried to chicken out of writing some verses when told to do so by My Ustaad – well it is a different matter, the Ustaad cannot be gainsaid, and I had to submit. But the experience was epiphanic, convincing me that I was not “imbued with the soul of a steam boiler” – as someone very poetically put it once and while I was advised the remark could be interpreted several ways, it was unwise to use it in my resume – and had the capacity to write verse – as most of you can too.

Poetry can evoke as well as express some powerful feelings such as anguish, loss and longing (to say some of those I am beset with) in a way the more or less practical prose cannot…..

However, that is enough yakking. The purpose of this post is to introduce you to an eclectic range of poetry that is among my favourites and has inspired me. It is from a wide range of traditions, languages and ages – perhaps some might strike a chord with you. Some have earlier been featured here in part or whole. And don’t worry – translations will be provided with non-English examples.

As far as I remember, the first poems that struck my fancy was one by the English poet Walter de la Mare in that old rexine bound copy of Panorama – a collection of poems used as a textbook in several schools including mine. This was of an older relative and by the time, it was my turn to use it, a newer edition had come. This one was not as good as the older one, in which I had found a de la Mare poem with this splendidly evocative lines….

~~And in the evening lamps would shine,
Yellow as honey, red as wine,…….

I have written a lot about this poem earlier. I suggest you visit  https://vahshatedil.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/tartary-an-old-old-memory-recalled-ii/ if you are interested in reading the full verse.

Here I will share another work of the poet, titled the “Listeners”. It was in our language textbook some 30 years ago, but I still get a frisson when I recall it and the splendidly evocative illustrations that accompanied it…..It lets your imagination run riot and that is the benchmark of a memorable literary work. But see for yourself.

Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
‘Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:-
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

To be continued….


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