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.


    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


    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.


    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.


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

  • Note; On the Translator

    Good friend beware

    this slack apparel;

    It once wore well

    But no more does;

    The wine is old,

    But not the bottle–

    T'will serve, but is

    Not what it was.

    There's use within

    A cooper's barrel,

    But beauty more

    In oak and ash–

    The poet's verse

    Was fine and subtle—

    But lost now in

    A leaking cask.


    With help from Don

  • Reflections on Venus

    O, To the baking heat of day

    Admit an end,

    And consecrate my ambling frame

    With dark of night

    I'll find me by a quiet way

    A clear sky sight,

    And stalk the still and silent game

    At twilight's rend

    She lingers there, and would not yield,

    But she is led—

    Sweet, cloying clouds coax her to swoon

    And sink to rest

    I watch her go—a burnished shield,

    One might've guessed,

    Glassing the Sun to seize a boon—

    His Gorgon head

    More sense another poet has,

    Or so I think,

    Venus; thy armour has no chink—

    It's swirling gas

  • That one doesn't do what I thought it was going to do when I started writing, but I may turn out to like it. Four stanzas of over-wrought metaphor shaken back to reality by a Lucretian fact-punch. :D

  • I found this, which I wrote several years ago, tucked away in the leaves of an old book. It was my copy of A Few Days in Athens.

    Even ignorance, and doubt, and the slow decay of centuries do not destroy that which above all is green and good; pleasure, beyond reproach and above infamy.

    For the flowers of the myrtle, sacred to Venus, may yet bloom even in unlikely places--and the philosophy of Epicurus, though forgotten, is not lost--not while we few remember.

  • Do Well to Tarry

    Seek for the twin-gated passage:

    From Athênai it led;

    There shall be wisdom spoken,

    Stronger than mortal dread.

    There shall be carved a message,

    That peace is near at hand,

    For the garden of pleasure shall open:

    And the Samian forth shall stand.


    Structure borrowed from Tolkien, of course! I cannot think of a good title.

  • I.

    Long have I journeyed, and by many roads,

    O Mercury! But you, I have not met;

    What darkly hidden Words or ancient rite

    Are there to summon you? Lay down thy load,

    Friend wayfarer! Come, see that what I write

    Shall nothing add to toil or regret.

    The shade is sweet beneath thy father's oak;

    The stream shall soothe thy feet, and on the shelf

    Are scrolls of lore, thy weary soul to sate.

    Put by the wide-brimmed hat, the rod and cloak;

    Come, leave those dusty sandals by the gate--

    This note I bid thee send is to thyself!

    Commerce, roads and boundaries were my trades

    As they are yours, O Mercury! Flotsam

    From the wreckage, you and I, of time,

    And life--and floating, tossed upon the spray,

    I made safe harbour here! And here, my rhymes

    Extol the vine, and fruit, and myrtle-blossom--

    And never shall complain of what it took

    To find, by slow degrees, this hallowed place!

    Nor should you mourn, fleet-footed god, the years

    Of mortal life spent wasted as I looked

    For lasting peace. But say at least that here

    Is crowned the glory of the mortal race!

    Ah! Son of Jupiter, how shall I tell

    What pleasure and what joy this Garden bears?

    For that is her secret; in other parts

    Are choicer olives, grapes, and sweeter pears--

    But here, are cultivated higher arts--

    Of wisdom, friendship, and of living well.