Friday, November 18, 2011

Off the Shelf Archive~November

Yes, the month is well over half gone and I'm just now getting down to thinking about replacing my October All Hallows Special. It's not because of a lack of material, however. I've been introduced to several new (to me) poets this month, some by friends and some by reading, so it's a hard choice. I decided to go with a poem from a 20th Century American poet named Louise Bogan (1897-1970,) whom I discovered while flipping idly through my Norton Anthology. 

Here's her biography at for those interested : Louise Bogan   

I was really struck by her poem Song for the Last Act, so that's my share this waning month.

You'll find it here, in the Off the Shelf Archives.

And to make room for Ms. Bogan's piece, the two for one All Hallows special of Poe and Crane will go into the archives, appearing here for a final nostalgic Halloween revisit:

Halloween Special Two for One

In the Desert

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter - bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."

by Stephen Crane


The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere-
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year;
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir-
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

Here once, through an alley Titanic,
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul-
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
These were days when my heart was volcanic
As the scoriac rivers that roll-
As the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
In the ultimate climes of the pole-
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
In the realms of the boreal pole.

Our talk had been serious and sober,
But our thoughts they were palsied and sere-
Our memories were treacherous and sere-
For we knew not the month was October,
And we marked not the night of the year-
(Ah, night of all nights in the year!)
We noted not the dim lake of Auber-
(Though once we had journeyed down here),
Remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

And now, as the night was senescent,
And star-dials pointed to morn-
As the star-dials hinted of morn-
At the end of our path a liquescent
And nebulous lustre was born,
Out of which a miraculous crescent
Arose with a duplicate horn-
Astarte's bediamonded crescent
Distinct with its duplicate horn.

And I said- "She is warmer than Dian:
She rolls through an ether of sighs-
She revels in a region of sighs:
She has seen that the tears are not dry on
These cheeks, where the worm never dies,
And has come past the stars of the Lion,
To point us the path to the skies-
To the Lethean peace of the skies-
Come up, in despite of the Lion,
To shine on us with her bright eyes-
Come up through the lair of the Lion,
With love in her luminous eyes."

But Psyche, uplifting her finger,
Said- "Sadly this star I mistrust-
Her pallor I strangely mistrust:-
Oh, hasten!- oh, let us not linger!
Oh, fly!- let us fly!- for we must."
In terror she spoke, letting sink her
Wings until they trailed in the dust-
In agony sobbed, letting sink her
Plumes till they trailed in the dust-
Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.

I replied- "This is nothing but dreaming:
Let us on by this tremulous light!
Let us bathe in this crystalline light!
Its Sybilic splendor is beaming
With Hope and in Beauty to-night:-
See!- it flickers up the sky through the night!
Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,
And be sure it will lead us aright-
We safely may trust to a gleaming
That cannot but guide us aright,
Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night."

Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,
And tempted her out of her gloom-
And conquered her scruples and gloom;
And we passed to the end of the vista,
But were stopped by the door of a tomb-
By the door of a legended tomb;
And I said- "What is written, sweet sister,
On the door of this legended tomb?"
She replied- "Ulalume- Ulalume-
'Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!"

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
As the leaves that were crisped and sere-
As the leaves that were withering and sere-
And I cried- "It was surely October
On this very night of last year
That I journeyed- I journeyed down here-
That I brought a dread burden down here-
On this night of all nights in the year,
Ah, what demon has tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber-
This misty mid region of Weir-
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber,
This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir."

by Edgar Allan Poe


  1. That Crane poem is one of my half dozen all time favorite poems. I love Crane's poetry, and have read all I could lay my hands on.

  2. ah, nice...thanks for the parting shot on poe and crane...really enjoyed that...Poe will be in my poem tomorrow actually...

  3. Bogan's poem left me nearly speechless. I love it. Thank you so much for introducing her/it here.
    O not departure, but a voyage done!.....I would like this poem read at my funeral!

    Of the twofer special it is difficult to decide which I prefer. I think Crane's appeals to me more than Poe's, but Poe's was great to read out loud (cats looking on like oh yeah, she's lost it.

  4. I had a roommate/bass player who would sit on his haunches and recite that Crane poem like a troll or frog. The theater was buffoonery but it always gave us dopeheads pause. The Poe poem is like eating one's own black heart to save Psyche the grief - hallows or Tartarus it was a miracle Poe could get back out of (wrapped in Dante's meters, I guess). Or did he? Great rack, Hedge -- of poems, I mean, black nerps and all. - Brendan

  5. Thanks for reading, all. The Crane poem is a piece of work, I agree--it's a dark hallows all it's own.

    @Brian--off to look in a moment at your Poe on the road special.

    @Lydia: I'm laughing at the cats--they always are there when we get silly, just giving you that look. That poem does beg to be read out loud though--it just rolls off the tongue in all it's luxurious alliteration and repetition.

    @B: Gah! Not sure whether I would like the Crane poem as much in that context. Though I suppose, that's no more than its due, the ritual chant poetry is all about. The Poe piece, I've just always loved the way he used his sorrow, loss, unbearable grief, and made beauty out of it--apart even from content, that poem is structurally, and syntactically just a dazzling display of triumphant beauty of language used to perfection. Though it's long and repetitive, there's not really a word that doesn't enhance, even 'scoriac' and 'Yanuck' fit and reflect the intent, and the antique styling, so over the top today with our stripped down, compressed vision of a simple bare use of words, actually makes the whole piece give off an aura of a glitteringly civilized past, affected, but oh how effective as well.
    Of course, I could be a little biased. ;_) Like one's favorite music, sometimes there's no explaining just why it does what it does to anyone for whom it doesn't. Glad you could take a sip of this fine distillate of melancholy.

  6. Ah, the blessings of pain that create poems like these. It's nice to read, hear and see some of your kinsmen. :-)

  7. The poetry is first rate and I like the Ulalume picture, it makes me think of a firm, taught women's leg. Muscles flexed much like they would be if she was wearing an uncomfortably high heel (uncomfortable maybe, but maybe it's worth it as her legs would look like she lived at the gym in heels that tall because that what it takes to stay standing anything above six or seven inches)


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

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