THE ODYSSEY OF HOMER translated by Alexander Pope




The poem opens within forty eight days of the arrival of Ulysses
in his dominions. He had now remained seven years in the Island of
Calypso, when the gods assembled in council, proposed the method
of his departure from thence and his return to his native country.
For this purpose it is concluded to send Mercury to Calypso, and
Pallas immediately descends to Ithaca. She holds a conference with
Telemachus, in the shape of Mantes, king of Taphians; in which she
advises him to take a journey in quest of his father Ulysses, to
Pylos and Sparta, where Nestor and Menelaus yet reigned; then,
after having visibly displayed her divinity, disappears. The
suitors of Penelope make great entertainments, and riot in her
palace till night. Phemius sings to them the return of the
Grecians, till Penelope puts a stop to the song. Some words arise
between the suitors and Telemachus, who summons the council to
meet the day following.

The man for wisdom’s various arts renown’d,
Long exercised in woes, O Muse! resound;
Who, when his arms had wrought the destined fall
Of sacred Troy, and razed her heaven-built wall,
Wandering from clime to clime, observant stray’d,
Their manners noted, and their states survey’d,
On stormy seas unnumber’d toils he bore,
Safe with his friends to gain his natal shore:
Vain toils! their impious folly dared to prey
On herds devoted to the god of day;
The god vindictive doom’d them never more
(Ah, men unbless’d!) to touch that natal shore.
Oh, snatch some portion of these acts from fate,
Celestial Muse! and to our world relate.

Now at their native realms the Greeks arrived;
All who the wars of ten long years survived;
And ‘scaped the perils of the gulfy main.
Ulysses, sole of all the victor train,
An exile from his dear paternal coast,
Deplored his absent queen and empire lost.
Calypso in her caves constrain’d his stay,
With sweet, reluctant, amorous delay;
In vain-for now the circling years disclose
The day predestined to reward his woes.
At length his Ithaca is given by fate,
Where yet new labours his arrival wait;
At length their rage the hostile powers restrain,
All but the ruthless monarch of the main.
But now the god, remote, a heavenly guest,
In AEthiopia graced the genial feast
(A race divided, whom with sloping rays
The rising and descending sun surveys);
There on the world’s extremest verge revered
With hecatombs and prayer in pomp preferr’d,
Distant he lay: while in the bright abodes
Of high Olympus, Jove convened the gods:
The assembly thus the sire supreme address’d,
AEgysthus’ fate revolving in his breast,
Whom young Orestes to the dreary coast
Of Pluto sent, a blood-polluted ghost.

“Perverse mankind! whose wills, created free,
Charge all their woes on absolute degree;
All to the dooming gods their guilt translate,
And follies are miscall’d the crimes of fate.
When to his lust AEgysthus gave the rein,
Did fate, or we, the adulterous act constrain?
Did fate, or we, when great Atrides died,
Urge the bold traitor to the regicide?
Hermes I sent, while yet his soul remain’d
Sincere from royal blood, and faith profaned;
To warn the wretch, that young Orestes, grown
To manly years, should re-assert the throne.
Yet, impotent of mind, and uncontroll’d,
He plunged into the gulf which Heaven foretold.”

For the full text see


What is Popular Poetry, by W B Yeats

From What is Popular Poetry, by W B Yeats

There is only one kind of good poetry, for the poetry of the coteries, which presupposes the written tradition, does not differ in kind from the true poetry of the people, which presupposes the unwritten tradition. Both are alike strange and obscure, and unreal to all who have not understanding, and both, instead of that manifest logic, that clear rhetoric of the ‘popular poetry,’ glimmer with thoughts and images whose ‘ancestors were stout and wise,’ ‘anigh to Paradise’ ‘ere yet men knew the gift of corn.’ It may be that we know as little of their descent as men knew of ‘the man born to be a king’ when they found him in that cradle marked with the red lion crest, and yet we know somewhere in the heart that they have been sung in temples, in ladies’ chambers, and our nerves quiver with a recognition they were shaped to by a thousand emotions. If men did not remember or half remember impossible things, and, it may be, if the worship of sun and moon had not left a faint reverence behind it, what Aran fisher-girl would sing :


It is late last night the dog was speaking of you; the snipe was speaking of you in her deep marsh. It is you are the lonely bird throughout the woods; and that you may be without a mate until you find me.

You promised me and you said a lie to me, that you would be before me where the sheep are flocked. I gave a whistle and three hundred cries to you; and I found nothing there but a bleating lamb.

You promised me a thing that was hard for you, a ship of gold under a silver mast; twelve towns and a market in all of them, and a fine white court by the side of the sea.

You promised me a thing that is not possible; that you would give me gloves of the skin of a fish; that you would give me shoes of the skin of a bird, and a suit of the dearest silk in Ireland.

My mother said to me not to be talking with you, to-day or to-morrow or on Sunday. It was a bad time she took for telling me that, it was shutting the door after the house was robbed….

You have taken the east from me, you have taken the west from me, you have taken what is before me and what is behind me; you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me, and my fear is great you have taken God from me.

The great unrest of which we are part

The great unrest of which we are part

As I sat today in solitude
         by the rolling river
my thoughts went floating
         on vast and mystic currents

What is Nature but change
         in all its visible and still more
its invisible processes ?
         Or what is humanity – in its faith
in its love its heroism its poetry
         even in its morals –
but emotion ?

Fifty thousand years ago
         the constellation of the Great Bear
or Dipper was a starry cross
         a hundred thousand years hence
the imaginary Dipper will be upside down
         and the stars
which form the bowl and handle
         will have changed places

The misty nebulae are moving
         and besides are whirling around
in great spirals
         some one way some another
Every molecule of matter
         in the whole universe
is swinging to and fro
         every particle of ether
which fills space
         is in jelly-like vibration
Light is one kind of motion
         heat another
electricity another
         magnetism another
sound another

Every human sense
         is the result of motion
every perception every thought
         is but motion of the molecules
of the brain translated by
         that incomprehensible thing
we call mind
         The processes of growth
of existence and of decay
         whether in worlds
or in the minutest organisms
         are but motion

Adapted from Walt Whitman

Adam’s advice to his offspring

Adam’s advice to his offspring

Build a garden of wonder
         with the person you love
and over the years
         fill it with all manner
of flowers and trees

Feed on the fruit
         of apple and cherry
and in summer months
         make the most of the berries

In the hedgerows
         plant hawthorn
that blossoms thickly
         in spring

But give pride of place
         to the subtle wild rose
admire its heavenly beauty
         yet respect its sharp thorns

John Lyons

Whistable reworked

These poems which I post most mornings are not intended as final drafts. They are part of a long work in progress, and this explains why the same themes and images return time and time again. In some cases I have drawn heavily on the work of other poets, but more often than not, my early morning poems are improvisations, some of which work much better than others. My aim is to accumulate material for the larger project, and this material will be edited down, and I suspect that much of it will not make it into the final work. All I can say is that while some people go to the gym for an early morning workout, I prefer to use the exercise of writing a short piece of poetry before I start my day. I do appreciate, however, that the two activities are not mutually exclusive. Occasionally, I find time to take a second look at an earlier post and rework it: this happens particularly when I am not happy with an early draft. Such is the case today!

John Lyons

Whitstable festival

Whitstable festival

The warm body
         that durable fire
that we call life
         Along the sea shore
from Whitstable to Tankerton
         young families and groups of friends
playing on the pebble beach
         gazing out to sea
         what the sea gives back
cockles and rock oysters
         The sun warm on the face
just a light breeze
         enough to fill the white sails
music and laughter
         cementing the bonds
of community
         Sea shanties that hark back
to other times
         and to ways of life
long gone
         A pirate with a squawking parrot
is now an amusement
         almost a coastal cliché
An immense crowd
         but everything understated
all in good measure
         and in good taste
a well-tempered blend
         of humanity

John Lyons

How beautiful is candor !

How beautiful is candor !

We are of the earth
         gathered in a mass
subject to the same
         first principles
our inner and outer
         selves with the same
restlessness of the ever
         expanding cosmos
beauty that derives
         from sharp definition
so that things are
         as they are and not
as they might seem to be
         —after all there are
no approximate roses

The world is in our nature
         as much as in the badger
or the fox or the lilies in the field
         which is to say
we are the necessary
         agents of creation
here to use our dexterities
         and our imagination
to embellish the soul’s

We are the physiology
         of love expressed
in our kisses
         and in our tender words
in the portraits we paint
         and in the songs with which
we lull the heart
         We are waves of energy
turned to good purpose
         atoms bound by the bonds
of deep romance
         What beauty there is
in her candour
         in her smile
in the eagerness of her eyes
         what beauty in her posture
and in her poise
         in the elegance of her hands
and in the firmness of voice
         with which she nominates
the world around her
         Honesty emanates
from the soul
         and beauty is its own
ornament it requires
          no other !

John Lyons

A continuation from yesterday

A continuation from yesterday

The dank air
in this stretch of woodland
by the slow silent river

A blue tit sits immobile on a branch
staring straight into the distance
without making a sound

A moorhen wades in the shallow waters
and I’m struck by its green twig-like legs

Six or seven fish of different sizes
are swimming against the current
—perhaps a family at play

They head upriver just a few yards
then allow the current to carry them back
and for a moment they hold their ground
before repeating the sequence

And along the gravel path that leads
away from the river
a number of elderly couples are sitting
on wooden benches passing the time of day

Numerous faceless sunflowers face them

A woman in her late fifties
is pushing her mother in a wheelchair
along the same path and points out the sunflowers

A young boy perhaps three years old
is gingerly walking on the narrow concrete curb
to the pathway step by step testing his balance
His mother who is ahead of him waits patiently

What are we to learn
from the breathtaking beauty of the rose garden
in full bloom
or from the silent song bird
or from the school of fish that in themselves
have nothing to say ?

What are we to learn from the day-to-day
lessons of love
from the abiding ageing beauty of love ?

John Lyons

Hiding down by the River Cray

Hiding down by the river Cray

Here beneath the broadleaf canopy
gentle ripples of sunlight move across

the surface of the crystal clear stream
On the edge of the far bank a tiny sparrow

sits in a hollow dry earth bath throwing up
clouds of dust as its preens its feathers

while on the nearside a young coot cavorts
splashing up and down in the waters

quite oblivious to the world around it
A young carp drifts lazily into view

hugging the bank before it slips away
I hear the buzz of the dragonfly’s wings

but see only its shadow trailing behind it
On this hot mid-afternoon I wait in the hope

of catching a glimpse of the proud kingfisher
that on my last visit I saw with a tiny fish

freshly snatched dangling from its beak
But today watching and listening from the hide  

I have no such luck—and to myself I wonder
what eyes are upon me unknown and unseen

John Lyons


In the realm of fact

In the realm of fact

In the realm of fact
         the poet utters
syllables of faith
         dream cancels dream
A new breed of towers
         in the golden city :
here is no empire
         but labyrinth
into which life strays
          Here he in her arms
lived the blind
         ecstasy of love and read
the prophetic script
         of the stars that dangled
above the bridge

Each day is a new universe
         the past trashed in time
Behold a fresh panorama
         arises out of the debris
of unbridled tides
         the low song of the cormorant
that devours space
         with every beat of its wings
A thousand ships or more
         in days long gone
and destinies beyond
         the circumference of hope

These are words
         lines from a canto
rife with doom
         sad infinities
taken to task
         A poet on patrol
records the strength and path 
          of the prevailing wind
Eden and Hesperus
         for the cultivation
of beauty and truth
         Beware of the slow
cancellation of ambition
         we are but clouds of atoms
the loose association
         of minerals born of the earth :
even the rose
         has greater definition
than our sluggish shadows
         It is a windswept stage
upon which we wake
         into the dream of act
our words fly up
         dust within a shroud
of dust and
         O how our sinews ache
how love’s great muscle
         dilates and contracts
sending pulses
         of pleasure

through our veins
         unknotting the hours
of unrepentant attrition :
         a coil or contraption
that fires and then reloads
         and fires again
until every hope is finally
         finally spent

John Lyons