“My Castles in Spain” by George William Curtis

This says everything that ever needed to be said.
-The Voice before the Void

“My Castles in Spain”

from Prue and I

George William Curtis

adapted by anonymous for The Ontario Readers: Fourth Book

I am the owner of great estates. Many of them lie in the west, but the greater part in Spain.

You may see my western possessions any evening at sunset when their spires and battlements flash against the horizon. But my finest castles are in Spain. It is a country famously romantic, and my castles are all of perfect proportions and appropriately set in the most picturesque situations.

I have never been in Spain myself, but I have naturally conversed much with travellers to that country; although, I must allow, without deriving from them much substantial information about my property there. Continue reading

“Oft, In the Stilly Night” by Thomas Moore

“Oft, In the Stilly Night”

Thomas Moore

Oft, in the stilly night,
Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Fond Memory brings the light
Of other days around me;
The smiles, the tears,
Of boyhood’s years,
The words of love then spoken;
The eyes that shone,
Now dimmed and gone, Continue reading

“The Moon-Slave” by Barry Pain

Walpurgisnacht. Springtime Halloween.
A famous tale… of the danger of dance.
-The Voice before the Void

“The Moon-Slave”

Barry Pain

The Princess Viola had, even in her childhood, an inevitable submission to the dance; Continue reading

“Oh, For a Home of Rest!” by Eliza Paul Kirkbride Gurney

The contemplation of suicide in the aftermath of loss.
-The Voice before the Void

“Oh, For a Home of Rest!”

Eliza Paul Kirkbride Gurney

Oh, for a home of rest!
Time lags alone so slow, so wearily;
Couldst thou but smile on me, I should be blest.
Alas, alas! that never more may be.
Oh, for the sky-lark’s wing to soar to thee!

This earth I would forsake
For starry realms whose sky’s forever fair;
There, tears are shed not, hearts will cease to ache,
And sorrow’s plaintive voice shall never break
The heavenly stillness that is reigning there.

Life’s every charm has fled,
The world is all a wilderness to me;
“For thou art numbered with the silent dead.”
Oh, how my heart o’er this dark thought has bled!
How I have longed for wings to follow thee!

In visions of the night
With angel smile thou beckon’st me away,
Pointing to worlds where hope is free from blight;
And then a cloud comes o’er that brow of light,
Seeming to chide me for my long delay.

“At the Piano” by Anna Katharine Green

As all is unknown.
-The Voice before the Void

“At the Piano”

Anna Katharine Green

Play on! Play on! As softly glides
The low refrain, I seem, I seem
To float, to float on golden tides,
By sunlit isles, where life and dream
Are one, are one; and hope and bliss
Move hand in hand, and thrilling, kiss
‘Neath bowery blooms,
In twilight glooms,
And love is life, and life is love. Continue reading

Money for the Machinery of Human Slaughter by Charles Edward Jefferson

U.S. Inauguration Day:
The portentousness can be petrifying.
As the First World War was obliterating millions of lives in Europe, before the United States entered that war, military “preparedness” was a key political topic in the U.S.: Should a nation presently at peace prepare for potential future war?
Clergyman Jefferson argues here that to refuse to arm yourself against your fellow humans is an act of pure strength; to arm yourself, an act of pure fear; and, Clergyman Jefferson writes, “Christians” ought have nobler emotions than fear to motivate their actions.
Genuine “Christian” morality of uncompromising pacifism and self-sacrificing charity – pacifism even when your enemies murder you; charity even when you starve – is as powerful and as impressive and as deserving of veneration as it is rare to find publicly expressed, either eloquently or vulgarly; and, where expressed, it can be expected to be popularly ignored if not outright derided.
Clergyman Jefferson also writes that if you “create a war machine,” you cannot know who will use it, nor whether the next U.S. president will be a “megalomaniac… who, when he wants a thing, takes it.”
-The Voice before the Void

Money for the Machinery of Human Slaughter

from “Military Preparedness a Danger to Democracy”

Charles Edward Jefferson

published in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1916 July

edited by William Dudley and The Voice before the Void

“A Late Good Night” by Robert Fuller Murray

What a great poem.
-The Voice before the Void

“A Late Good Night”

Robert Fuller Murray

My lamp is out, my task is done,
And up the stair with lingering feet
I climb. The staircase clock strikes one.
Good night, my love! good night, my sweet!

My solitary room I gain.
A single star makes incomplete
The blackness of the window pane.
Good night, my love! good night, my sweet!

Dim and more dim its sparkle grows,
And ere my head the pillows meet,
My lids are fain themselves to close.
Good night, my love! good night, my sweet!

My lips no other words can say,
But still they murmur and repeat
To you, who slumber far away,
Good night, my love! good night, my sweet!

“Ronald Skirth” from Wikipedia

Armistice Day:
The only type of war hero worthy of veneration.
-The Voice before the Void

“Ronald Skirth”

Wikipedia

John Ronald Skirth (11 December 1897 – 1977) served in the Royal Garrison Artillery during the First World War. His experiences during the Battle of Messines and the Battle of Passchendaele led him to resolve not to take human life, and for the rest of his army service he made deliberate errors in targeting calculations to try to ensure the guns of his battery missed their aiming point on the first attempt, giving the enemy a chance to evacuate. Many years later, after retiring from a career as a teacher, he wrote a memoir of his years in the army, describing his disillusionment with the conduct of the war and his conversion to pacifism. In 2010 the memoir was published as The Reluctant Tommy, edited by Duncan Barrett.

1. Early life and war service

Skirth was born in Chelmsford and grew up in Bexhill-on-Sea. In the First World War, having volunteered for the British Army under the Derby Scheme, and having requested that the process be expedited, he was called up in October 1916, two months before his 19th birthday. Continue reading

“Patterns” by Amy Lowell

Armistice Day:
A celebrated poem about the Flanders Campaign of the British army during the War of the First Coalition, written and published during the First World War as the British army was fighting in Flanders.
-The Voice before the Void

“Patterns”

Amy Lowell

I walk down the garden paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
With my powdered hair and jewelled fan,
I too am a rare
Pattern. As I wander down Continue reading

“What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

All lost, all forgotten.
-The Voice before the Void

“What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why”

Edna St. Vincent Millay

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

“Gavon’s Eve” by E.F. Benson

Halloween:
Legend and mystery and scandal, a witch and a ghost, and a blasphemous ritual in a castle ruin in the autumnal midnight.
-The Voice before the Void

“Gavon’s Eve”

E.F. Benson

It is only the largest kind of ordnance map that records the existence of the village of Gavon, in the shire of Sutherland, and it is perhaps surprising that any map on whatever scale should mark so small and huddled a group of huts, set on a bare, bleak headland between moor and sea, and, so one would have thought, of no import at all to any who did not happen to live there. But the river Gavon, on the right bank of which stand this half-dozen of chimneyless and wind-swept habitations, is a geographical fact of far greater interest to outsiders, Continue reading

“Lemon Wedges” by Tracy Lindquist Price

Love is a tremendous thing. I love this poem.
Read Price’s work at The Cherry Window and Plains Prose.
-The Voice before the Void

“Lemon Wedges”

Tracy Lindquist Price

Today I chewed on lemon wedges to kill the sweet taste of you
in my mouth but still the water came and the acid stung my cheeks
as the pulp tears slid down my face they leapt off my chin
hit the ground and beneath my feet a lemon tree grew

I watched as it emerged, the trunk was crusted in sugar
the leaves were glossy and crystallized, the fruit had begun to bear
from the yellow cracked bits of flowers that perched upon the edges
of candied sticks and there is where the hard rock lemon drops formed

by the thousands; and to shake the hung tree was tempting
so I did just that in my sapphire dress with a wedge between my teeth
it poured over me like rain in a storm, landing quiet as cotton balls
and a mountain of stones built around me, I was pushed atop the peak.

I took a step, grabbed the highest branch and sat quiet on a limb.
I listened when the dropped mountain began to tremble, gazed
as it all started falling upwards from the bottom to the top until nothing remained
on the grass, but me, the empty tree and the last of my lemon rinds.

Through the sky the drops flew higher, beyond the clouds and the moon
and I could not tell what twinkled more, the sugar or the stars
each stopped in time to find its place and I fixated on Cepheus when into
his crown did a handful slip as Cassiopeia sighed; love within reach forever.

http://cherrywindow.blogspot.com/2012/03/lemon-wedges.html

“Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen

U.S. Independence Day:
A popular poet subverts patriotism.
-The Voice before the Void

“Born in the U.S.A.”

Bruce Springsteen

Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up

Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.

Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hands
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man Continue reading

“The Glory of the Day was in her Face” by James Weldon Johnson

St. Valentine’s Day Special

“The Glory of the Day was in her Face”

James Weldon Johnson

The glory of the day was in her face,
The beauty of the night was in her eyes.
And over all her loveliness, the grace
Of Morning blushing in the early skies. Continue reading

“One Morning” by Ambrose Bierce

St. Valentine’s Day Special:
How to apologize for running late.

“One Morning”

Ambrose Bierce

Because that I am weak, my love, and ill,
I cannot follow the impatient feet
Of my desire, but sit and watch the beat
Of the unpitying pendulum fulfill
The hour appointed for the air to thrill
And brighten at your coming. O my sweet,
The tale of moments is at last complete—
The tryst is broken on the gusty hill!
O lady, faithful-footed, loyal-eyed,
The long leagues silence me; yet doubt me not;
Think rather that the clock and sun have lied
And all too early, you have sought the spot.
For lo! despair has darkened all the light,
And till I see your face it still is night.

“The Lovers” by Rumi

St. Valentine’s Day Special:
Become this. Become this.

“The Lovers”

Rumi

from Hush, Don’t Say Anything to God: Passionate Poems of Rumi

translated from Persian by Shahram Shiva

The lovers
will drink wine night and day.
They will drink until they can
tear away the veils of intellect and
melt away the layers of shame and modesty.
When in Love,
body, mind, heart and soul don’t even exist.
Become this,
fall in Love, and you will not be separated again.

“The Canal” by Everil Worrell

Vampire romance – vintage, and done properly… that is: with horror.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Canal”

Everil Worrell

Past the sleeping city the river sweeps; along its left bank the old canal creeps.

I did not intend that to be poetry, although the scene is poetic—somberly, gruesomely poetic, like the poems of Poe. I know it too well—I have walked too often over the grass-grown path beside the reflections of black trees and tumble-down shacks and distant factory chimneys in the sluggish waters that moved so slowly, and ceased to move at all.

I have always had a taste for nocturnal prowling. Continue reading

“I Have a Rendezvous with Death” by Alan Seeger

World War I:
Soldier’s war poetry.

“I Have a Rendezvous with Death”

Alan Seeger

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air–
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath–
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ’twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear…
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

“At the Home of Poe” by Frank Belknap Long

Edgar Allan Poe’s Birthday:
A lilting story of a life.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“At the Home of Poe: A Poem in Prose”

Frank Belknap Long

To H. P. Lovecraft

The home of Poe! It is like a fairy dwelling, a gnomic palace built of the aether of dreams. It is tiny and delicate and lovely, and replete with memories of sere leaves in November and of lilies in April. It is a castle of vanished hopes, of dimly-remembered dreams, of sad memories Continue reading

“The Hill” by Edgar Lee Masters

The vastnesses of life (death), the paltriness, the irony. A great poem.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Hill”

from Spoon River Anthology

Edgar Lee Masters

Where are Elmer, Herman, Bert, Tom and Charley,
The weak of will, the strong of arm, the clown, the boozer, the fighter?
All, all are sleeping on the hill.

One passed in a fever,
One was burned in a mine,
One was killed in a brawl,
One died in a jail,
One fell from a bridge toiling for children and wife —
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill. Continue reading

“From the Deck of a Transport (A Returning Soldier Speaks)” by Margaret Elizabeth Sangster

Armistice Day Special:
War is a crime committed against soldiers.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“From the Deck of a Transport (A Returning Soldier Speaks)”

Margaret Elizabeth Sangster

I am coming back with a singing soul through the surge of the splendid sea,
Coming back to the land called home, and the love that used to be—
I am coming back through a flash of spray, through a conquered tempest’s hum,
I am coming back, I am coming back…. But, God, do I want to come?

I have heard the shriek of the great shells speak to the dawn of a flaming day; Continue reading

Octavia E. Butler, Part 1: Biography and Themes

Octavia E. Butler’s Birthday Special:
An extraordinary writer.
⁓The Voice before the Void

Octavia E. Butler, Part 1: Biography and Themes

compiled from Wikipedia

Octavia Estelle Butler (1947 June 22 – 2006 February 24) was an American science fiction writer. A multiple-recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, Butler was one of the best-known women in the field. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship.

Biography

“I began writing about power because I had so little.”
-Octavia E. Butler, in Carolyn S. Davidson’s “The Science Fiction of Octavia Butler”

Early life

Octavia Estelle Butler was born in 1947 in Pasadena, California, the only child of Octavia Margaret Guy, a housemaid, and Laurice James Butler, a shoeshine man. Continue reading

“Ashes of Soldiers” by Walt Whitman

U.S. Memorial Day Special:
Whitman’s love is unbearable.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Ashes of Soldiers”

Walt Whitman

Ashes of soldiers South or North,
As I muse retrospective murmuring a chant in thought,
The war resumes, again to my sense your shapes,
And again the advance of the armies.

Noiseless as mists and vapors,
From their graves in the trenches ascending,
From cemeteries all through Virginia and Tennessee,
From every point of the compass out of the countless graves,
In wafted clouds, in myriads large, or squads of twos or threes or
single ones they come,
And silently gather round me. Continue reading

“And the Greatest of These is War” by James Weldon Johnson

Johnson makes the point well by depicting the Pride of Hell.
O War. O War.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“And the Greatest of These is War”

James Weldon Johnson

Around the council-board of Hell, with Satan at their head,
The Three Great Scourges of humanity sat.

Gaunt Famine, with hollow cheek and voice, arose and spoke,—
“O, Prince, I have stalked the earth,
And my victims by ten thousands I have slain,
I have smitten old and young.
Mouths of the helpless old moaning for bread, I have filled with dust;
And I have laughed to see a crying babe tug at the shriveling breast
Of its mother, dead and cold. Continue reading

“The Star” by H.G. Wells

A vision of a world in apocalypse.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Star”

H.G. Wells

It was on the first day of the New Year that the announcement was made, almost simultaneously from three observatories, that the motion of the planet Neptune, the outermost of all the planets that wheel about the sun, had become very erratic. Ogilvy had already called attention to a suspected retardation in its velocity in December. Such a piece of news was scarcely calculated to interest a world the greater portion of whose inhabitants were unaware of the existence of the planet Neptune, nor outside the astronomical profession did the subsequent discovery of a faint remote speck of light in the region of the perturbed planet cause any very great excitement. Scientific people, however, found the intelligence remarkable enough, even before it became known that the new body was rapidly growing larger and brighter, that its motion was quite different from the orderly progress of the planets, and that the deflection of Neptune and its satellite was becoming now of an unprecedented kind.

Few people without a training in science can realise the huge isolation of the solar system. The sun with its specks of planets, its dust of planetoids, and its impalpable comets, swims in a vacant immensity that almost defeats the imagination. Beyond the orbit of Neptune there is space, vacant so far as human observation has penetrated, without warmth or light or sound, blank emptiness, for twenty million times a million miles. Continue reading