Thursday, February 24, 2011

Off the Shelf Archive - February #2

Before the month completely slides past, it's time for one more Off the Shelf poem.

This new selection, The City that Does Not Sleep, by Federico Garcia Lorca, came to my attention earlier this week when I rediscovered it after many years posted on twitter. I read it first during the turbulent '60's and perhaps its message of the insanity of our world is even more pertinent today.

It's now up, here on the Off the Shelf page

Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) was a Spanish poet and dramatist associated with the surreal and avante garde movements of the 1920's, a close friend and collaborator of Salvador Dali and a prolific experimental poet and playwright with leftist leanings and strong ties to the Andalusian culture. He is believed to have been among the many executed by rightist death squads during the Spanish Civil War for his political  views, outspoken writing and homosexuality. Thanks to NellaLou for tweeting this great piece and reminding me of it after many years.

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The previous selection, Sailing to Byzantium by W.B.Yeats, is presented one last time here in the Archive for a final read.

As always feel free to comment on either poem here as comments are disabled off the main page, and also to suggest any favorite poet of your own for next time. You can always access the Archive to view prior selections by clicking on the Off the Shelf Archive tag in the sidebar.

So without further ado, Sailing to Byzantium:

Sailing to Byzantium


That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.


An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.


O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.


Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

William Butler Yeats  1928

Image : Returning Home, by Michael Parkes, 1980


  1. All the forms are definitely mind- blowing!

    The image reminds me of Sita Haran from Ramayana.. A lot could be linked with it where the lady was abducted by the demon king Ravana and a bird had given up his life trying to save her!

    Thank you for posting this! Awesome post.. :)

    Hugs xx


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats