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The Forum > General Discussion > What's Your Favourite Poem --- And, Why?

What's Your Favourite Poem --- And, Why?

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I thought I'd try something a bit different
from the normal run of topics this time...

"What's Your Favourite Poem - And, Why?"

I'll go first:

"Madame Butterfly at Nagasaki."

"Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton bought a house
On a hill above the Bay of Nagasaki
For Madam Butterfly to die in.
Before fifty years had gone
There were thousands of dead butterflies
All over a dead town,
and the marriage brokers were out of a job.
Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton still believes
That only American wives are real.

Madame Butterfly stood at the window all night long
Waiting for Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton to climb the hill.
Like any plumber or electrician since his day
He failed to come,
Human beings, it is said,
Spend a third of their lives in bed.
Women must have spent another third
Waiting for men to turn up. If all those hours
Were laid end to end,
We could have another life
Of our own.

Even in 1900, Madame Butterfly was out of date.
Fidelity, acceptance, death or dishonour -
What quaint anachronisms!
Lieutenant Pinkerton showed the way
The world willingly followed,
Deaf to the final, questioning chord.
No penalties-only consequences,
Which Pinkertons cannot evade
Any more than butterflies."

Dorothy Auchterlonie (or Green), in this poem takes
Puccini's opera - "Madame Butterfly," and places the
characters at Nagasaki, the second site for the atomic
bomb drop by the US, on August 9, 1945, against Japan.
The first being - Hiroshima, on August 6, 1945.

The result is an extremely powerful expression of
living with the consequences of our actions, and the
moral choices we are faced with in life. That's the
reason this poem still resonates with me today.
Posted by Foxy, Saturday, 8 May 2010 4:45:14 PM
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Foxy,
I like this part:
"Human beings, it is said,
Spend a third of their lives in bed."
The rest of it is not a poem;
It doesn't rhyme.
Posted by Proxy, Saturday, 8 May 2010 7:29:19 PM
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Favourite short poem since childhood:

The man may last but never lives
who much receives but little gives.

I have accumulated a lot of favourite poetry in adulthood and it's hard to choose a single fave because it depends a bit on my mood,
but Dylan Thomas' famous villanelle remains most fascinating:

DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I love the rhythm of it; the technical accomplishment (boy has anyone here ever tried to write a villanelle? The form is really tricky), the imagery and I really enjoy turning it over to extract different, possible interpretations. For example, is the father Dylan's father, can it work if I think of my father, how about if the poem refers to God the father ... and so on.

Do song lyrics count btw?
Posted by Pynchme, Saturday, 8 May 2010 7:51:31 PM
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÷zymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1817)

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near to them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stampt on these lifeless things,
The hand that mockt them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My names is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

I always thought this was a powerful testament to the folly of human vanity and the power of time and the elements.
Posted by Poirot, Saturday, 8 May 2010 9:15:49 PM
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Title and author unknown. Perhaps readers can help.

How near his sireís careering fires
Must Mercury the planet run;
What wave of heat must lave and beat
That shining suburb of the sun

Whose burning flings supernal things
Like spindrift from his stormy crown;
He throws and shakes in rosy flakes
Intelligible virtues down,

And landing there, the candent air
A transformation on them brings,
Makes each a god of speech with rod
Enwreathed and sandals fledged with wings.

Due west (the Sunís behest so runs)
They seek the wood where flames are trees;
In crimson shade their limbs are laid
Besides the pure quicksilver seas,

Where thick with notes of liquid throats
The forest melody leaps and runs
Till night lets robe the lightless globe
With darkness and with distant suns.

Awake they spring and shake the wing;
And on the trees whose trunk are flames
They find like fruit (with rind and root
And fronds of fire) their proper names.

They taste. They burn with haste. They churn
With upright plumes the skyís abyss;
Far, far below, the arbours glow
Where once they felt mercurial bliss.

They ache and freeze through vacant seas
Of night. Their nimbleness and youth
Turns lean and frore; their meaning more,
Their being less. Fact shrinks to truth.

They reach this Earth. There each has birth
Miraculous, a word made breath,
Lucid and small for use in all,
Manís daily needs; but dry like death.

So dim below these symbols show,
Bony and abstract every one.
Yet if true verse but lift the curse,
They feel in dreams their native Sun.
Posted by Proxy, Saturday, 8 May 2010 10:03:03 PM
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I studied the poems of Robert Frost at school, but did not really appreciate them then.
This one struck me as a very wise poem, and one that we can all learn from.
I would like to think I did take the road less traveled sometimes.

'The Road Not Taken' by Robert Frost.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Posted by suzeonline, Sunday, 9 May 2010 12:21:23 AM
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