Saturday, May 31, 2014

The octopus

We can't mistake the octopus;
For one, he doesn't look like us,
And plus, he has no skeleton
To put a brand new suit upon.

The octopus eats whelks and clams,
We start our day with toast and jams,
And if he grabs something to chew,
He has eight arms, not two, like you.

His home is in the seven seas,
Our home's near mountains, fields, and trees,
And when a villain's threats are grim,
He shoots a stream of ink at him.

We're called men (what two of us is),
They, if two, are octopuses,
But, if they live in Greece, don't sneeze,
You'd call a pair, octopedes!

(Some people call them octopi.
(It's Latin, but don't ask me why).
Or, call them Immanuel Kant,
If that is what you think you want.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Now that I'm old

Now that I'm old, I can do what I wish,
Eat steak for breakfast, or left-over fish;
Get rid of my duds, I don't need a lot,
Wear sweats when it's cold, and shorts when it's hot;

Stop shaving my face; clean-shavings a pain,
Leave my umbrella, and stroll in the rain;
Stay in the house if the roads are a mess,
And drive when I choose, no more, and no less;

Sleep in when I like, or stay up all night,
Watch TV all day, or go fly a kite;
Answer the phone, if I'm willing to talk,
Or just let it ring, and go for a walk;

Read a new book, if it meets with my taste,
Or toss it away, if I think it's a waste;
Watch Casa Blanca, a film that is fun,
Eat gobs of ice cream, or groan at a pun;

Make doctors' visits, but refuse to wait,
And give him "what for!" if he turns up late;
Tell off the waiters and clerks who are rude,
Give them a rant on their bad attitude.

Old age ain't easy; I won't deny it,
But parts can still make life a laugh-riot.
I followed the rules, and I toed the line;
But that was before, now this time's all mine.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The snake

The snake regrets his hasty action,
And hopes to gain a little traction
To clear his character, proceedin'
From what he said to Eve in Eden.
Someday, he hopes that he can grapple
With that business of the apple.
He's sad for Adam, and craves pardon,
For their eviction from the Garden.
He claims he only intended good;
To clue them in on the neighborhood.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Two languages mixed after 1066

"Old English," we call it, a West-Germanic speech,
Spoken in the lands of the Anglo-Saxon reach.
Today, that tongue sounds foreign to our modern ear,
Yet that was what they spoke, before a fateful year.

When Normans swooped to conquer, in ten-sixty-six,
They thought the English language only good for hicks;
The victors wouldn't speak it, using only French,
But people's thirst for English, wasn't to be quenched.

With French officially what everyone should speak,
The Normans thought English, quite soon would be antique,
A fossil, in a land where Norman lords would dwell,
But English was a tongue no conqueror could quell.

It pilfered words from French, a most ingenious act;
The language changed, by adding terms Old English lacked,
And from that blend there grew the current verbal mix,
By spackling French cement, on top of English bricks.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sleeping in

I always did appreciate
The days when I could sleep in late.
You have to push and pull and prod,
To make me leave the Land of Nod.

The Army rose at reveille,
Too early for the likes of me!
When I'd awake, of slumber shorn,
I'd rise, ill-willed, to greet the morn.

My duty done, civilian work
Made clock alarm bells hard to shirk.
My job began at nine each day,
And wide awake, I had to stay.

When I retired, I could foresee
Great scads of sleep in store for me.
No early morning rush ahead,
I'd snooze, and dream away in bed.

But life is full of little jokes,
Seems sleeping late's for other folks;
I seldom sleep beyond the dawn,
I'm out of bed, with one last yawn.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Archaeopteryx

One of nature's clever tricks,
Was the Archaeopteryx.
Birds were new, without a doubt,
Dinosaurs were in a pout.
Birds flew fast in all weathers,
And they dressed in bright feathers.
This was very far, far back,
When dinosaurs got the sack.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Happy the man

Happy the man, who, like Ulysses,
Or, bold Jason of the Golden Fleece,
Can boast of a successful journey,
Full of tales, and end his days at home.
Ah, when will I return, where smoke drifts
From the chimney of my modest home?
In what sweet season will I go back
To see my home, my only kingdom?
I treasure it much, this slate-roofed house,
More than soaring, marble palaces;
My land, more than the Seven Hills;
My Loire, more than Tiber's flood at Rome.
Anjou's gentle hills, its countryside,
Are worth more to me than all Rome's gold.

Joachim du Bellay
Translated from the French

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Let's bring thou back

Let's bring back thou and thee and thine,
For personal use, both yours and mine;
They'd add both depth and clarity
To where you stand with they and we.

And what of you, how would you know,
If sole or plural, where you'd  go?
You would be left for public use,
For matters simple or abstruse.

Ideas like this should not provoke
An urge to laugh, much less, to joke;
If we could wake it from its slumber,
We might invoke the dual number!

Friday, May 9, 2014

The old king

In days gone by, a tired old king,
Though weary, worn, and grey of hair,
Still believed that his heart could sing,
And wed a girl, a maiden fair.

One day, a callow youth came by;
He wooed her well, this winsome boy,
With ardent glance and wistful sigh,
And stole the old man's greatest joy.

The king, a bitter lesson learned;
Farewell to youth, and cheating wives!
With honest love so coldly spurned,
The king took from them both, their lives.

- Heinrich Heine
  Translated from the German

If the Auk could talk

The other day, I heard a talk
About a bird they called the Auk.
The fellow (also known as great),
Extinct by eighteen forty-eight,
Knew how to swim, but couldn't fly;
He thought of it, but wouldn't try.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

What's the rhyme?

When I looked up some rhymes for botch,
I found a few, from blotch to watch
(The next-to-last, I saw was swatch.)
Then the level dropped a notch;
My downward glance came up with crotch.
If I drank booze, I'd have a Scotch.

Monday, May 5, 2014

There's no guarantee

It was fun while it lasted, enjoying nice things,
The new autos and houses, vacations, gold rings,
Fancy dinners and drinks, Broadway shows, front-row seats,
Dressed in well-tailored clothes, your game-plan seemed so sweet.

Recall the excitement, when your flame burned so bright?
But no thing's guaranteed, and day changes to night.
When they bring you the bill at the end of it all,
Will you sign with a flourish, or just with a scrawl?

Was the food very tasty, well-worth what it cost?
Did it equal the best, was the entree well-sauced?
Was it less than you liked from the very first taste?
Did you make a mistake, did you choose it in haste?

No one owes you success in the choices you make,
No one watches your steps on the path that you take;
The direction you choose for your wanderings through life,
Is your own choice to make; Lady Luck's not your wife.

The joining

The faithful surf gives out a steady roar,
And makes his urgent pleas unceasingly.
The lover's song, voiced low, sometimes will soar
To trumpet loudly of his constancy.
The surf retreats, returns in endless flow,
To press abundant kisses on the beach,
While gliding gulls ignore the scene below,
As surf and shore keep teasing, each with each.
The land and sea are one beneath the tide,
Controlled by orders from the ruling moon;
No human intervention will divide
Their ordained merging, late or soon.
The swarming surf recites an ancient poem,
And joins the land beneath the heavens' dome.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Not set in stone

I used to think that Strunk and White
On grammar, had the rules just right;
In fact, The Elements of Style
Has been like gold, for quite a while.

The book tells you the "what" and "how"
Good language usage should allow,
But living language has a way
Of changing almost every day.

New forms are born, and do their part;
Old forms decline, when new ones start,
And sometimes, we may even see
Old forms regain their currency.

I think that Messieurs Strunk and White
Worked hard to try to do it right.
Like weather, language, rain or shine,
Insists on changing all the time.