Theme for February is Travelling

At the meeting house at 15:15 and I should be there to offer Zoom if required.















by W.H. Auden

This is the night mail crossing the Border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner, the girl next door.
Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient’s against her, but she’s on time.

Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.

Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from bushes at her blank-faced coaches.
Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.
In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in a bedroom gently shakes.

Dawn freshens, Her climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends,
Towards the steam tugs yelping down a glade of cranes
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In dark glens, beside pale-green lochs
Men long for news.

Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from girl and boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or to visit relations,
And applications for situations,
And timid lovers’ declarations,
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled on the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, the adoring,
The cold and official and the heart’s outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.

Thousands are still asleep,
Dreaming of terrifying monsters
Or of friendly tea beside the band in Cranston’s or Crawford’s:
Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
But shall wake soon and hope for letters,
And none will hear the postman’s knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?


. K P Kavafis (C P Cavafy) translated by Rae Dalven

When you start on your journey to Ithaca,
then pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
Do not fear the Lestrygonians
and the Cyclopes and the angry Poseidon.
You will never meet such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your body and your spirit.
You will never meet the Lestrygonians,
the Cyclopes and the fierce Poseidon,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not raise them up before you.

Then pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many,
that you will enter ports seen for the first time
with such pleasure, with such joy!
Stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and corals, amber and ebony,
and pleasurable perfumes of all kinds,
buy as many pleasurable perfumes as you can;
visit hosts of Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from those who have knowledge.

Always keep Ithaca fixed in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for long years;
and even to anchor at the isle when you are old,
rich with all that you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would never have taken the road.
But she has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not defrauded you.
With the great wisdom you have gained, with so much experience,
you must surely have understood by then what Ithacas mean.




On Pilgrimage.
May the smell of thyme and lavender accompany us on our journey
To a province that does not know how lucky it is
For it was, among all the hidden corners of the earth,
The only one chosen and visited.
We tended toward the Place but no signs led there.
Till it revealed itself in a pastoral valley
Between mountains that look older than memory,
By a narrow river humming at the grotto.
May the taste of wine and roast meat stay with us
As it did when we used to feast in the clearings,
Searching, not finding, gathering rumours,
Always comforted  by the brightness of the day.
May the gentle mountains and the bells of the flocks
Remind us of everything that we have lost,
For we have seen our way and fallen in love
With the world that will pass in a twinkling.
How they brought the good news from Aix to Ghent.
( note the rhythm! ).
I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris and he;
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;
“God speed!” cried the watch, as the gate bolts undrew;
“Speed!” echoed the wall to us galloping through;
Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,
And into the midnight we galloped abreast.
Not a word to each other; we kept the great pace 
Neck by neck, stride by stride, never changing our place;
I turned in my saddle and made its girths tight,
Then shortened each stirrup, and set the pique right,
Rebuckled the cheek - strap, chained slacker the bit,
Nor galloped less steadily Roland a whit.
At Aerschot, up leaped of a sudden the sun,
And against him the cattle stood black every one,
To stare thro’ the mist at us galloping past,
And I saw my stout galloper Roland at last,
With resolute shoulders, each butting away
The haze, as some bluff river headland its spray.
By Hasselt, Dirck groaned; and cried Joris , “Stay spur!
Your Roos galloped bravely, the fault’s not in her,
We’ll remember at Aix’—for one heard the quick wheeze
Of her chest, saw the stretched neck and staggering knees,
And sunk tail, and horrible heave of the flank
As down on her haunches she shuddered and sank.
So we were left galloping, Joris and I,
Past Looz and past Tongres, no cloud in the sky;
“How they’ll greet us!”—and all in a moment his roan
Rolled nick and croup over, lay dead as a stone;
And there was my Roland to bear the whole weight
Of the news that alone could save Aix from her fate.
Then I cast off my buff coat, each holster let fall,
Shook off both my jack-boots, let go belt and all,
Stood up in the stirrup, leaned, patted his ear,
Called Roland his pet namely horse without peer;
Clapped my hands, laughed and sang, any noise, bad or good,
Till at length into Aix Roland galloped and stood.
And all I remember is, friends flocking round
As I sat with his head ‘twixt my knees on the ground;
And no voice but was praising this Roland of mine
As I poured down his throat our last measure of wine,
Which ( the burgesses voted by common consent)
Was no more than his due who brought good news from Ghent.
Robert Browning.



by Ogden Nash (1902-1972)
Once upon a time there was an Italian, 
And some people thought he was a rapscallion, 
But he wasn't offended, 
Because other people thought he was splendid, 
And he said the world was round, 
And everybody made an uncomplimentary sound, 
But he went and tried to borrow some money from Ferdinand 
But Ferdinand said America was a bird in the bush and he'd rather have a berdinand, 
But Columbus' brain was fertile, it wasn't arid, 
And he remembered that Ferdinand was married, 
And he thought, there is no wife like a misunderstood one, 
Because if her husband thinks something is a terrible idea she is bound to think it a good one, 
So he perfumed his handkerchief with bay rum and citronella, 
And he went to see Isabella, 
And he looked wonderful but he had never felt sillier, 
And she said, I can't place the face but the aroma is familiar, 
And Columbus didn't say a word, 
All he said was, I am Columbus, the fifteenth-century Admiral Byrd, 
And, just as he thought, her disposition was very malleable, 
And she said, Here are my jewels, and she wasn't penurious like Cornelia the mother of the Gracchi,
she wasn't referring to her children, no, she was referring to her jewels, which were very very valuable, 
So Columbus said, Somebody show me the sunset and somebody did and he set sail for it, 
And he discovered America and they put him in jail for it, 
And the fetters gave him welts, 
And they named America after somebody else, 
So the sad fate of Columbus ought to be pointed out to every child and every voter, 
Because it has a very important moral, which is, Don't be a discoverer, be a promoter.
Accidents of Birth
by William Meredith (1919 - 2007)
Spared by a car or airplane crash or
cured of malignancy, people look
around with new eyes at a newly
praiseworthy world, blinking eyes like these.
For I’ve been brought back again from the
fine silt, the mud where our atoms lie
down for long naps. And I’ve also been
pardoned miraculously for years
by the lava of chance which runs down
the world’s gullies, silting us back.
Here I am, brought back, set up, not yet
happened away.
But it’s not this random
life only, throwing its sensual
astonishments upside down on
the bloody membranes behind my eyeballs,
not just me being here again, old
needer, looking for someone to need,
but you, up from the clay yourself,
as luck would have it, and inching
over the same little segment of earth-
ball, in the same little eon, to
meet in a room, alive in our skins,
and the whole galaxy gaping there
and the centuries whining like gnats—
you, to teach me to see it, to see
it with you, and to offer somebody
uncomprehending, impudent thanks.



Johns Poems
The Figure in the Doorway, by Robert Frost

The grade surmounted, we were riding high
Through level mountains nothing to the eye
But scrub oak, scrub oak and the lack of earth
Thar kept the oaks from getting any girth.
But as through the monotony we ran,
We came to where there was a living man.
His great gaunt figure filled his cabin door,
And had he fallen inward on the floor,
He must have measured to the further wall.
But we who passed were not to see him fall.
The miles and miles he lived from anywhere
Were evidently something he could bear.
He stood unshaken, and if grim and gaunt,
It was not necessarily from want.
He had the oaks for heating and for light.
He had a hen, he had a pig in sight.
He had a well, he had the rain to catch.
He had a ten-by-twenty garden patch.
Nor did he lack for common entertainment.
That I assume was what our passing train meant
He could look ar us in our diner eating,
And if so moved uncurl a hand in greeting.

 South West Train Blues     by John Souter  (October 2004)

Travelling from London on a slam-door train
dirty windows slashed by slanting rain.
In a carriage full of tired commuters
some busy on their laptop computers;
some dozing over the Evening News
or puzzling over crossword clues;
some selfishly hogging a double seat
wired to a Walkman's heavy beat;
some weary after a long shopping day
or returning from a West End matinee.

Jolted by rotation of elliptical wheels,
molested by the smell of takeaway meals,
surrounded by phones that twitter and bleep,
unable to settle either to read or to sleep,
I sit and study my fellow travellers.

A collection of town and country dwellers,
rolling out our lives between stations
on lines leading to unknown destinations.
We ride in a shuttle, tired and weary,
each of us making an individual journey
from what is past to what's to come;
perhaps looking forward to reaching home,
worrying if we'll be soon or late,
each sharing a common existential fate;
for whether the track is slow or fast
we all reach the same terminus at last.
Peggy's Poems
 The Naughty Boy    by John Keats

There was a naughty Boy
A naughty Boy was he
He would not stop at home
He would not quiet be -
He took
In his Knapsack
A Book
Full of vowels
And a shirt
With some towels -
A slight cap
For night cap -
A hair brush
A comb ditto
New Stockings
For old ones
Would split O!
This Knapsack
Tight at's back
He rivetted close
And follow'd his Nose
To the North
To the North
And follow'd his nose
To the North.

There was a naughty Boy
And a naughty Boy was he
He ran away to Scotland
The people for to see -
There he found
That the ground
Was as hard
That a yard
Was as long,
That a song
Was as merry
That a cherry
Was as red -
That lead
Was as weighty
That fourscore
Was as eighty
That a door
Was as wooden
As in England -
So he stood in
His shoes
And he wonder'd
He stood in his
Shoes and he wonder'd.

    Sailing Homeward     by Chan Fang-Sheng   translated by Arthur Waley

Cliffs that rise a thousand feet
Without a break,
Lake that stretches a hundred miles
Without a wave,
Sands that are white throughout all the year
Without a stain,
Pine-tree woods, winter and summer
Streams that forever flow and flow
Without a pause,
Trees that for twenty thousand years
Your vows have kept,
You have suddenly healed the pain of a traveller's heart,
And moved his brush to write a new song.




The Pilgrim

Who would true Valour see
Let him come hither;
One here will Constant be,
Come Wind, come Weather.
There's no Discouragement,
Shall make him once Relent,
His first avow'd Intent,
To be a Pilgrim.
Who so beset him round,
With dismal Storys,
Do but themselves Confound;
His Strength the more is.
No Lyon can him fright,
He'l with a Gyant Fight,
But he will have a right,
To be a Pilgrim.
Hobgoblin, nor foul Fiend,
Can daunt his Spirit:
He knows, he at the end,
Shall Life Inherit.
Then Fancies fly away,
He'l fear not what men say,
He'l labour Night and Day,
To be a Pilgrim.
By J.R.R. Tolkien

The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.






FREEDOM by Olive Runner

Give me the long, straight road before me, 

A clear, cold day with a nipping air, 

Tall, bare trees to run on beside me, 

A heart that is light and free from care. 

Then let me go! – I care not whither 

My feet may lead, for my spirit shall be 

Free as the brook that flows to the river, 

Free as the river that flows to the sea. 


Midnight on the Great Western 

In the third-class sat the journeying boy, 

And the roof-lamp’s oily flame 

Played down on his listless form and face, 

Bewrapt past knowing to what he was going, 

Or whence he came. 


In the band of his hat the journeying boy 

Had a ticket stuck; and a string 

Around his neck bore the key of his box, 

That twinkled gleams of the lamp’s sad beams 

Like a living thing. 


What past can be yours, O journeying boy,

Towards a world unknown, 

Who calmly, as if incurious quite

 On all at stake, can undertake 

This plunge alone?


Knows your soul a sphere, O journeying boy, 

Our rude realms far above, 

Whence with spacious vision you mark and mete 

This region of sin that you find you in

 But are not of?  

Thomas Hardy (1840–1928)