Joshua's Poetry Megathread

  • Hexameter


    I shall not tuck a poem into the recesses of the temple of

    Artemis, nor like wheat stuff it into the sarcophagus of a king—

    In hope, to germinate by a strange alchemy the seed of common thought

    Into revelation. Why, Heraclitus, this ploy? The seed of a thing

    Is so much mystery in itself! All things change; leave to the oracles

    These frivolous wasting hare-brained schemes. Time is our sooth-sayer, and nature

    The only genuine article—and as for wheat, I should much prefer

    To see her trembling, age after age, in the elements—there is hope.

    Look there.

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    ¹Heraclitus is said to have hidden a poem there so it would be passed off as divine revelation.

    ²In spite of the myths, no grain has ever been successfully germinated from "mummy wheat"


    I've tried writing in Hexameter before, but it's rather difficult in English. I'd say this is my best attempt at the meter so far.

  • And I might as well post this one, too. I wrote it while surveying on a golf course last week. All of my poems are Epicurean in a way, though not explicitly.


    The Cypress Stump


    This broken nib, standing perfectly erect

    Within this inky pond, seems to speak of

    One more thought unsaid or line

    Unwritten. The heron senses it, too,

    If I do not mistake.

    The old marsh has not done speaking.

    The fairway and the green lie all around,

    But between these courses of the

    Linksman's paradise, the older Eden

    Whispers in palimpsest, as faintly

    As the faintest ripple on the placid

    Wine-dark water.

  • This is wonderful work! It is excellent to see new compositions in hexameter. I have only tried forming a few lines— it takes a lot of work and goes far to gain even more appreciation of the rather fun 7,400 lines Lucretius wrote. Thank you!


    Mελετᾶν οὖν χρὴ τὰ ποιοῦντα τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν.

    It is necessary to study what produces wellbeing.

  • Thank you, Bryan! It doesn't seem to come naturally in English at all, and it must have taken enormous dedication in Latin as well. This is one reason I won't believe St. Jerome's story about the insanity of Lucretius. A difficult and elegant poem cannot have been written in odd hours by the semi-lucid. It was the dedicated, painstaking labour of months and years.

  • The Hessian Monk


    The Hessian monk was a lad of eighteen,

    And his cowl and psalter were black

    The Hessian maid wore 'er hair in cascade

    Like a river of gold down her back


    The Hessian monk would sigh as he prayed

    Pater Noster and Ave Marie

    While the Hessian maid piled books at the stall

    With her father on Old Market Street


    The Hessian monk was trained by a scribe

    In the parchment and language of Rome

    The Hessian maid saw him coming one day

    And she blushed and lost hold of a tome


    The Hessian monk was cloistered in stone

    As cold as the vows that he'd sworn

    But the Hessian maid breathed a vow of her own

    On the bloom of a rose that he'd born


    He copied Lucretius by day, and by night

    Gazed on Venus of foam and of shell

    When at last he had finished, he folded his robes

    With a note on the cot in his cell


    Brothers o Brothers you'll tell me I've sinned,

    And there is a price to be paid

    But nearer than heaven, and better by far

    Is the hand of a Hessian maid

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    I've been wanting to write an Epicurean drinking song for some time now. Best not take it too seriously ;)


    "Hessian" is in reference to the region in Germany (probably Fulda) where Poggio rediscovered Lucretius' poem. Sometimes pronounced 'Hesh-in', but here 'Hess-ee-uhn' for the sake of the meter.


    Set to the tune of "The Dornishman's Wife", for any Game of Thrones fans here!

  • Chrysalis

    To my Grandfather


    A fortnight past you went to rest

    In blankets soft as vermes-silk,

    And lingered hopeful of the milk

    That brims the flowers sweetly blest


    And nursed you there a further hope–

    Unfolding wings, an end to strife–

    Dim visions of a second life

    With nothing left to lose but hope


    Of all this I was scarce aware

    Until I saw this very morn

    The butterfly–what it had worn

    In hue and color richly fair


    And as I watched it float and dance

    A friend was near, and gave report

    That he had seen it just before

    Emerging from those silken strands


    Thoughtfully I watched it dive

    And grace a petal then, and rise

    And wondered at my own surprise–

    The echo of a nick in time


    For how could I have missed a tale

    So plainly writ in yellow gold

    Where lighted wing so boldly told

    Of empty casing, rended veil?


    He gestured, and I found it ripped

    And hanging fruitless on a vine–

    That very night you took some wine

    And gently in your sleep you slipped


    A fortnight hence the chrysalis

    That changed into a butterfly

    Shall change again, for it shall die–

    Another metamorphosis


    The ancient echo ripples on

    A nick in time will come for each

    But as I peer into the breach

    Its sound is lovelier than song

  • Incidentally, the story in this poem is completely true. My coworker saw the butterfly break free as we were surveying. I had already been mulling over the idea of a poem when I heard that night that my grandfather had died.

  • I'm experimenting with short, evocative prose passages as a way to outline and explain certain aspects of the philosophy, á la Marcus Aurelius or "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones". Here is an early effort.

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    When the tyrant Polycrates desired to bring water to his city, the geometer Eupalinos excavated a tunnel through the heart of a mountain, instructing his crews to dig from both ends at once. The tunnel was finished many years later when the workmen met in the middle.


    If it is springwater that will slake your thirst–if the end of life is buried under a mountain–summon the geometers. But if you seek instead a sound mind, soothed by pleasure and untroubled by fear, go to the garden of Epicurus. Leave geometry at the gate, and enter. Does death frighten you? He will teach you to smile at it. Do the gods disturb you? He will instruct you in the blessings of real peace.


    Enter, friend, and be healed.

  • If thy mute verse is evermore to speak,

    Then I must learn its Latin, and some Greek.


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    The last two lines of a Shakesperian sonnet...if I ever write the sonnet!