November usually brings with it my melancholia.  This year in my part of the world the weather is not cooperating and remains pleasant which, of course, makes me even grumpier.  I know that the weather will eventually turn and I will start counting the days until the winter solstice.  After that, the miniscule increases in daylight, throughout the winter, prepare me for the arrival of early spring.

For now, I offer:



by Thomas Hood (1789 – 1845)

No sun – no moon!

No morn – no noon –

No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,

No comfortable feel in any member –

No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,

No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –




In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself

 I have always liked this poem by poet Wislawa Szymborska.

In feeling bad1

Wisława Szymborska-Włodek (2 July 1923 – 1 February 2012) was a Polish poet, essayist, and translator.  She was described as a “Mozart of Poetry.”  She was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.”


In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself

By Wislawa Szymborska

The buzzard never says it is to blame.

The panther wouldn’t know what scruples mean.

When the piranha strikes, it feels no shame.

If snakes had hands, they’d claim their hands were clean.

A jackal doesn’t understand remorse.

Lions and lice don’t waver in their course.

Why should they, when they know they’re right?

Though hearts of killer whales may weigh a ton,

In every other way they’re light.

On this third planet of the sun

Among the signs of bestiality

A clear conscience is Number One.


Preferring regret to bestiality, I will accept the moments that my conscience is not always clear and that it is okay, from time to time, to feel bad about yourself.

[As long as you don’t make a habit of it.]

Cast a Cold Eye

In responding to a post by Invisible Mikey, I quoted the epitaph of Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865 to 1939).  Yeats is buried in Drumcliff churchyard, Sligo, Ireland and the inscription is engraved on his simple tombstone.  It is taken from the last lines of his poem Under Ben Bulben.

Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago, a church stands near,
By the road an ancient cross.
No marble, no conventional phrase;
On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut:

Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!


[Tombstone of W. B. Yeats]

I’ve read numerous explanations of the interpretive meaning of these words – you can read more, for example, at – but what interests me is the literal derivation.  The only explanation that I remember – and it may be apocryphal – of this brief ending to Yeats’ poem came from William F. Buckley.  I am now paraphrasing from faulty memory.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, at the entry to fortifications, everyone who was not among the landed class was stopped and questioned by the gatekeeper.  It was also the time of the bubonic plague that claimed lives of all ages suddenly and indifferently.  The gatekeeper, who determined whether or not a person gained entry, was suspicious of anyone who did not belong or who was ill.

Hence “Cast a cold eye/On life, on death.”

Anyone on horseback was considered a member of the gentry – knights, priests and noblemen – and did not need to be questioned.  They were allowed to pass without stopping.

Thus “Horseman, pass by!”

The interpretive meanings I leave to others.


[Drumcliff churchyard courtesy of 2c..’sphotostream ]

Higgs Boson Limerick

I recently read an article in Freshly Pressed entitled “Whatever Color”: A Poem About Higgs Boson from SayKNOWtoTrivia.  It is a poem about the elusive Higgs boson particle for which you have been sitting on the edge of your seats.

[From The Telegraph on July 24, 2012]

Higgs boson: scientists 99.999% sure “God Particle” has been found.  Scientists believe they have captured the elusive “God particle” that gives matter mass and holds the physical fabric of the universe together.

[From Scientific American;  The Higgs boson and the Future of Science by Ashutosh Jogalekar, July 23, 2012]

The discovery of the Higgs boson (or the “Higgs-like particle” if you prefer) is without a doubt one of the signal scientific achievements of our time. It illustrates what sheer thought – aided by data of course – can reveal about the workings of the universe and it continues a trend that lists Descartes, Hume, Galileo and Newton among its illustrious forebears.

[From ABC News; Higgs boson: Physicists See Best Proof Yet of “The God Particle” by Ned Potter, July 2, 2012]

After decades of careful experiment, physicists say they have found the “strongest indication to date” to prove the existence of the Higgs boson — a subatomic particle so important to the understanding of space, time and matter that the physicist Leon Lederman nicknamed it “the God particle.”  The announcement today … comes just before a major meeting this week in Australia, where more findings will be announced from the giant underground particle accelerator at CERN, the great physics lab in the Alps on the French-Swiss border.

You may find all this information overwhelming but fear not.  It’s easily (and poetically) explained:

There is a particle called Higgs boson
Which the universe seems to grow on
It’s elusive and small
Hardly there at all
It likes to keep its cloak on.
To find this “Ultimate Provider”
CERN built the Hadron Collider
It’s big and it’s round
Sunk deep in the ground
A super-sonic, sub-atomic glider.
The scientists from the lab at CERN
Seem totally unconcerned
“If we destroy the earth
While seeking its birth,
Well, that’s the price of knowledge,” they discerned.
Forget your quarks and your leptons
That’s yesterday’s news that you’ve slept on
What we’re after today
Gives mass away
The weight-gaining particle – Higgs boson.
So finding this particle is a riot
It’s not something that we could keep quiet
If it gives things their mass
We could really be crass
And say that the universe should go on a diet!

Ode to Spring

In the spring a young man’s fancy turns lightly to thoughts of love.

In the spring an old man’s fancy turns lightly to thoughts of …    gardening.

Every spring I do battle with my garden and every spring the garden wins.  The garden holds beautiful, splendid and rare examples of hydrangeas, azaleas, rhododendron, forsythia, roses, magnolias, honeysuckle and fothergill.  Amazingly, just like pets and children, they do not take care of themselves.

There are weeds in the garden that are so strong and so resistant that no weed killer can kill them and no pair of gloves able to prevent them from giving you significant injury.  I have given serious consideration to napalm but I would only injure neighbors and pets, face jail time and the weeds would just laugh.  I have a rule:  If it’s green and growing without effort, then it’s a weed.  Those of you who live in apartments, condominiums or have zero lot sizes are far smarter than I am.  I recently saw a house that had nothing between the front door and the sidewalk except asphalt.  Smart person.  The only need is an occasional leaf blowing.

In dedication to my futile annual efforts, I have composed a poem in boring, lame (and bad) iambic pentameter:

Ode to Spring

I plant a flower with delicate care
And place it into the ground
With hope I see it pop up green
Then quickly turn to brown.

My azalea plants, their delicate buds
I carefully prune and prune,
No limit is my despair
As I watch them go to ruin and ruin.

The gnats, mosquitoes, hornets and moths
Assault my hands, my neck, my face
The flying insects of the earth
Have chosen me as their final resting place.

The vicious weeds, the devil’s plants,
With hostile intent I attack,
No fume nor spray nor killing mist
Keeps them from coming back.

Each day I search from dawn to dusk
And all hours in between,
For just one hope that I might sight
That sparkling patch of green.

And then one day, my hopes fulfilled
I see verdant leafing seeds,
And realize, with all hopes dashed
I’ve grown a garden of … weeds!

Each month I count the lengthening hours
And warming of the day,
O wonderful, joyous spring
Can winter be far away?