Saturday, April 10, 2021

If by Rudyard Kipling - Poetry: The Best Words in the Best Order - #BlogchatterA2ZChallenge2021


Rudyard Kipling

Legends Report

    If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on  you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or being hated, don't give way to hating,

And yet, don't look too good, not talk too wise:

If you can dream, and not make dreams your master,

If you can think, and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

                                                                      Tom McCallum

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your nerve and heart and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone, 

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will that says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the earth and everything that's in it,

And - which is more -  you'll be a Man, my son!


The Poet: Rudyard Kipling: (1865 -1936)

Rudyard Kipling was born in India, and much of his work was inspired by his association with the sub continent. 'The Jungle Book' was one of his most popular novels, and the movies broke all records in viewership. Other works like 'Kim', and poems like 'Gunga Din', 'Mandalay' and 'The White Man's Burden' have their admirers as well.

In 1907, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and was considered one of the most renowned writers in the UK in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His short stories are also considered rather remarkable.

The poem 'If' is replete with sound advice and inspiration on how to live life and face its challenges. Khushwant Singh called the poem "the essence of the message of the Gita in English".

In a nutshell, the poem starts with a father giving his son an outline of good behaviour so that he can fit into society. He tells him to keep his cool, and to not respond to lies or hatred. He needs to live life with equanimity, and treat triumph and disaster with ease, and not respond to flattery. He should have the strength of mind to pick up the pieces of a broken life, when required, and rebuild it.

It is equally vital to keep his nerve when he risks his winnings on one toss, and stay calm, no matter what. Finally, he needs to treat all men, whether common or blue-blooded with courtesy and never get too close to friends or foes.

If he can do all this gracefully, he will 'be a Man'.

This poem has kindled the imagination of people across the world, and is oft-quoted by those wanting to emphasize on how to live a good and dignified life. 

                                                                        High Existence

                                                                          The New Yorker

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Friday, April 9, 2021

Human Nature by Eugene Field - Poetry: The Best Words in the Best Order - #BlogchatterA2ZChallenge2021

 Human Nature

Eugene Field


A beggar-man crept to my side

One bitter, wintry time;

"I want to buy a drink," he cried;

"Please give me, Sir, a dime."

If he had craved this boon forlorn 

To buy his family meat,

I would have passed him by in scorn,

And left him in the street.

I tossed a dollar in his hand,

And quoth, "As o'er your wine

Within the tippling-room you stand

Drink thou to me and mine."

He let an earnest "Thank ye" drop -

Then up the street he sped,

And rushed into a baker's shop,

And bought a loaf of bread!

I know not why it was, and yet,

So sudden was the blow,

I felt emotions of regret

That he had duped me so.

Yet, had the hungry beggar said

That he was sore in need

Of that necessity called "bread",

What man would pay him heed?

                                                                 Getty Images

The Poet: Eugene Field (1850 - 1895)

Eugene Field was a poet, popular for his children's poems and humorous essays. For this reason, he was known as the 'poet of childhood'. He also worked in a newspaper, the St. Louis Journal, where his column titled 'Funny Fancies' garnered many chuckles. He was an amazing mimic as well. Next, he moved to Denver to work at the Denver Tribune where he was known to play pranks on unsuspecting visitors. His most loved poem was 'Wynken, Blynken and Nod'. 


'Human Nature' talks of how contrary human nature is. On a cold wintry day, the poet was once accosted by a beggar who asked him for a dime to buy a drink. If he had asked him for money to buy meat for his family, the poet might have passed by him scornfully.

The poet tossed him a dime and asked him to drink a toast to him (the poet) and his own. The man thanked him and hurried away onto a baker's shop where he bought himself a loaf of bread instead.

Strange it was that the poet felt a sense of regret at having been duped. Had the man told him that he was in need of bread, a necessity, would any man, including the poet, have heeded him and given him the money?

The poem brings out the simple truth that human nature is so very contrary!  

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Thursday, April 8, 2021

God's Acre by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - Poetry: The Best Words in the Best Order - #BlogchatterA2ZChallenge2021


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

                                                                    word histories

I like that ancient Saxon phrase, which calls 

The burial-ground God's-Acre! It is just;

It consecrates each grave within its walls,

And breathes a benison o'er the sleeping dust.

Gods-Acre! Yes, that blessed name imports

Comfort to those, who in the grave have sown

The seed that they had garnered in their hearts,

Their bread of life, alas! no more their own.

Into its furrow shall we all be cast,

In the sure faith, that we shall rise again

At the great harvest, when the archangel's blast

Shall winnow like a fan the chaff and grain.

Then shall the good stand in immortal bloom,

In the fair gardens of that second birth;

And each bright blossom mingle its perfume

With that of flowers. which never bloomed on earth.

With thy rude ploughshare, Death, turn up the sod,

And spread the furrow for the seed we sow;

This is the field and Acre of our God,

This is the place where human harvests grow!


The Poet: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - (1807 - 1882)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a 19th century American poet who captured the imagination of the world with his poems that were lyrical in tone, often comprising themes that revolved around mythology and legend. He was one of the few American writers to be honoured in England, proof of which lies in the installation of his bust in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. His fame grew over time and some of his most popular poems like 'Evangeline', 'Paul Revere's Ride' and his iconic 'A Psalm of Life' are even today taught in schools across the world. Who can forget the wonderful lines from the latter poem that come instantly to people's lips?                                                            

                                             Lives of great men all remind us

  We can make our lives sublime,

 And departing, leave behind us

 Footprints on the sands of time;

 Footprints, that perhaps another

Sailing o'er life's solemn main,

      A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,

Seeing shall take heart again.

                                                                 A Psalm of Life                                                     


                                  Longfellow Winter Ale 1995 ( A Scene from Evangeline)

Slated to follow a career in law, Longfellow veered to a year of study in literature and modern languages, and instead turned into a professor. Thereafter, he continued to teach and write, writing wonderful poems like 'The Wreck of the Hesperus', 'My Lost Youth' and 'My Day is Done'. His gentle poetic nature attracted many admirers, and at his funeral, his friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, eulogized him as 'a sweet and beautiful soul'.


'God's Acre' is an Anglo-Saxon term that means 'God's Fields' and refers to the grounds under which people have buried their dead. The German word is similar - 'Gottesacker'.

The poet likes the name because he feels it gives a sanctity to each grave, almost as though God were breathing a blessing over it. He goes on to say that every human being will be cast into the same furrow, and rise again on the Day of Judgment when the Archangel will distinguish between the good and the evil. 

The good will receive their rewards as they enter the immortal gardens where their perfume will mingle with the perfume of the flowers that bloom in Heaven above.

The poet tells Death to turn up the soil and spread the furrow in God's-Acre where human harvests thrive and, if found worthy, are taken to Heaven.

'God's-Acre' is a poem that reveals the deceptive simplicity of Longfellow's writing, in which numerous truths are hidden.

                                         Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - Biography

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Faces by Sara Teasdale - Poetry: The Best Words in the Best Order - #BlogchatterA2ZChallenge2021


      Sara Teasdale  

                                                                      Rakuten Kobo


People that I meet and pass

In the city's broken roar

Faces that I lose so soon

And have never found before.

Do you know how much you tell 

In the meeting of our eyes,

How ashamed I am, and sad

To have pierced your poor disguise?

Secrets rushing without sound

Crying from your hiding places -

Let me go, I cannot bear

The sorrow of the passing faces.

-People in the restless street

Can it be, oh can it be

In the meeting of our eyes

That you know as much of me?

                                                                             Poem Hunter

The Poet: Sara Teasdale (1884 - 1933)

Sara Teasdale was an American poet born to a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri. Her poetry echoed the developments in her own life, as she grew from a sheltered young woman who wrote lyrical poems on love, beauty and death, to a more fragile and restless stage which affected her poetic sensibilities accordingly. She was not accorded much recognition during her lifetime, even though she won the first Columbia Prize for Poetry in 1918, a prize which is now known as the Pulitzer. Critics dismissed her poetry as unsophisticated, but musical.

In 1933, legend goes that, depressed and disillusioned, Sara wrote a poem titled 'I Shall Not Care', a poem that featured her issues with frustration, abandonment and thoughts about death, and one that preceded her tragic suicide in 1933.


                                                        Timothy Hughes Rare Newspapers

'Faces' is a poem that is outwardly simple, but hides thoughts "often too deep for tears' (Wordsworth). As she walks along the street, she notices the people passing by "in the city's broken roar'. The word 'roar' points to the outward appearance of the city that exudes strength and robustness. However, the adjective 'broken' negates this image, as it refers to the weariness and the challenges faced by the people living in the city.

The poet finds herself sorrowful that she is able to pierce through the facades and disguises that passers-by hide beneath as they walk by her. They hide silent secrets that come rushing out from sanctuaries, laying themselves bare to the eyes of the world.

The poet's melancholy grows at the sight of the sorrow on the countenances of the people. The restless streets actually mean the restless lives of the people who walk hurriedly on them. The poem ends with the poet asking a rhetoric question.   

                                                   "Can it be, oh can it be

                                                     In the meeting of our eyes

                                                    That you know as much of me?"     

Are her secrets as easily apparent to others as well?     

"How ashamed I am, and sad

To have pierced your poor disguise?"

How strange it is to read these lines which talk of a 'poor disguise' at a time like this when people across the world are walking around with masks on their faces to guard themselves against the Corona virus!                                                                         


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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Earthly Pride by Ella Wheeler Wilcox - Poetry: The Best Words in the Best Order - #BlogchatterA2ZChallenge2021


How baseless is the mightiest earthly pride

The diamond is but charcoal purified,

The lordliest pearl that decks a monarch's breast

Is but an insect's sepulchre at best.

The Poet: Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850 -1919)


American poet, Ella Wheeler Wilcox was born in Wisconsin to a family that believed in encouraging literary pursuits. Hence, she turned into an avid reader at a young age, devouring newspapers and books. She published her first poem at the age of fourteen and was acknowledged as a poet by the time she completed high school. Later in life, she turned to writing fiction as well. 


Ella is best known for another poem titled 'Solitude' from which the following lines are oft-quoted, with most people not knowing their source.

"Laugh, and the world laughs with you,

Weep, and you weep alone."

'Solitude' was written after a certain train journey where Ella found a woman clad in black, weeping in distress. She spent time with her, offering her words of consolation, However, the experience affected her so deeply that it resulted in the poem which shone because of the above lines.

'Earthly Pride' is a short poem, consisting of only four lines, but it conveys a wealth of meaning. The poet talks of the futility of pride, even the mightiest version of it on earth.

She goes on to say that the diamond, priceless as it seems, is only a purified version of carbon that transforms itself under high temperatures and pressure.


Likewise, the most elegant and stately pearl that adorns the chest of a king also comes from an oyster, an insect's sepulchre or tomb.

                                                                          Live Science

The poet uses succinct language and evocative imagery to express her views against harbouring the sin of pride, or arrogance, which is a higher degree of pride. What is fascinating is how she says this in few words, proving the adage that poetry is the best words in the best order, echoing the theme of my challenge.



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Monday, April 5, 2021

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas - Poetry: The Best Words in the Best Order - #BlogchatterA2ZChallenge 2021


Dylan Thomas

Rob Osborne

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

Haiku Deck

The Poet: Dylan Thomas (1914 - 1953)

Dylan Thomas is considered as one of the greatest Welsh poets of all times. His poetry was different from that of the works of writers like WH Auden and Stephen Spender, who were more socialistic in their ideas. He was more a Romantic, and his poems shone for their lyricism and their emotional content. Words fascinated him with their sound, rhythm and layers of meanings. Imagination, intuition and emotion played a significant role both in his life and in his writings.

‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ is a poem with powerful imagery that intersperses light and darkness. In the poem, a son exhorts his aged father to fight against death and not fade away gently into the night. “Old age should burn and rave” and not grow dim and die away. The word ‘Night’ refers to Death and ‘Go Gentle’ means to give up without a fight. It is tragic when a man loses his vitality and vigour as he becomes older and faces death at close quarters.

The poem is significant in that different men are being addressed in the six stanzas… the ‘wise’ man, the ‘good’ man, the ‘wild’ man, the ‘grave’ man and finally, the poet’s father. Each of these men rue that they had not reached their full potential, or fulfillment in life.

The Christopher Nolan movie ‘Interstellar’ used the poem as its #OfficialSoundtrack. 

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night - a track by John Lithgow, Ellen Burstyn, Casey Affleck, Jessica Chastain, Matthew McConaughey, Mackenzie Foy from the #OfficialSoundtrack of Interstellar. 

                                                                           Dylan Thomas

A reading of the poem by the poet, Dylan Thomas, himself.

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Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Little Coffee House of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez - Book Review

 The Little Coffee House of Kabul

Deborah Rodriguez


The little coffee shop in Kabul is always brimming over with customers – men in Western suits, in shalwar kameezes and turbans and a handful of women, mainly foreigners.

Sunny, its proprietor, has made the shop her own by instituting her own traditions like Christmas and Easter, and the people of Kabul discover a warm space there. Halajan, the sixty-year-old lady, full of ancient Afghan wisdom, who helps Sunny, and her surly traditionalist son, Ahmet, form part and parcel of the shop, along with Bashir Hadi, the chef who also doubles up as Sunny’s advisor and protector.

When the beautiful Yazmina arrives in Kabul, traumatized and trembling, Sunny takes her in and gave her a job at the coffee shop.

Candace, a wealthy American, and Isabel, an intrepid journalist, meet at the coffeeshop and strike up an unlikely friendship, plagued by unhappy love affairs and unsavoury partners. Amidst the blasts and the unease that hang over Kabul, these five women forge a bond that keeps them together through thick and thin.

Halajan is the mother figure, but there is more to her than meets the eye as she strives to keep her past life and her love a secret. Ahmet, her son, refuses to leave her and go to America because he feels that he has an obligation towards his family and his heritage.

Jack, Rashif, Wakil and Tommy have their parts to play in a saga that needs to be kept under wraps in a place as dangerous as Kabul. When bomb blasts go off in the city, the lives of the women teeter on the brink of danger, but it is also the time for relationships to be broken, rejuvenated and celebrated.

The book talks about Afghan traditions and the mindset of the Afghan men towards their women, the rivalry between different cultures and the unforgettable fact that it is always the men who make the decisions. As Bashir Hadi puts it bitterly, “The only thing that makes the Afghan cry is war and hunger and losing an arm in a blast, and… people who only think about themselves.” 

Sunny is the driving force behind the story which follows her timeline. She is the catalyst who brings all the others together, in moments of loss and sorrow, happiness and fulfilment. She loves Kabul, and her little coffeehouse. She remains optimistic “Because each of her friends in Kabul was a seventh dove, the one with the spirit that rose to the heavens.”

This is a heartwarming tale of sisterhood, of bonding and of survival. The style is simple, allowing the story to progress at an even pace. The cover is especially attractive in pleasing hues and makes the reader want to pick it up, always a good ploy. Besides, there are recipes, an author interview and questions at the end of the book that add to its appeal. The blurb on the cover says it all.

‘As if Maeve Binchy had written The Kite Runner’ -  Kirkus Reviews

There couldn’t be a more compelling endorsement than that!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

                                              Random House                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  


If by Rudyard Kipling - Poetry: The Best Words in the Best Order - #BlogchatterA2ZChallenge2021

 IF Rudyard Kipling   Legends Report      If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on  you, If you can ...