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Charlotte Bleh’s Collection of Favourite  Nursery  Rhymes, Poems and Prose Book
I Sing of Thee, My Country


Times and Rhymes for My Country

… for so long as but a hundred of us stand we will never yield to the dominion of England.  For it is not glory, it is not riches, neither is it honour, but it is liberty alone that we fight and contend for, which no honest man will lose but with his life.

(Declaration of Arbroath, 6 April, 1320)

***

Drake he’s in his hammock an’ a thousand mile away,
(Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
Slung atween the round shot in Nombre Dios Bay,
An’ dreamin’ arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
Yarnder lumes the island, yarnder lie the ships,
Wi’ sailor lads a-dancin’ heel-an-toe,
An’ the shore-lights flashin’, and the night-tide dashin’,
He sees et arl so plainly as he saw et long ago.

Drake he was a Devon man, an’ ruled the Devon seas,
(Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
Rovin’ tho’ his death fell, he went wi’ heart at ease,
An’ dreamin’ arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
“Take my drum to England, hang et by the shore,
Strike et when your powder’s runnin’ low;
If the Dons sight Devon, I’ll quit the port o’ Heaven,
An’ drum them up the Channel as we drummed them long ago.”

Drake he’s in his hammock till the great Armadas come,
(Capten, art that sleepin’ there below?)
Slung a’tween the round shot, listenin’ for the drum,
An dreamin’ arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
Call him on the deep sea, call him up the Sound,
Call him when ye sail to meet the foe;
Where the old trade’s plyin’ and the old flag flyin’,
They shall find him, ware an’ wakin’, as they found him long ago.

Henry Newbolt

(This poem is here in memory of my Grandfather, David James Thomas, a submarine pioneer,
killed at sea 1 November 1918, whose name is on the Royal Navy War Memorial in Plymouth,
Devon, England.  This poem refers to the legend that Drake will come back to defend his country in times of war if sailors beat his drum.  This was also a competition poem of mine.)

***

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place;  and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.  Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from falling hands we throw
The torch;  be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders field.
John McCrae

(Old Granny from Scotland taught me this poem by her recitation of it each Armistice Day when she remembered the father she never knew because he was drowned in submarine warfare in the North Sea when she was almost one year old ten days before the end of the Great War.  This is also for my father and his family who came from West Flanders, Belgium, into the United States through Ellis Island as steerage passengers in 1910 and 1916.  Be proud of this heritage of sacrifice and courage.)

War tune – a Dragoon Guard plays his bagpipes in Kuwait ahead of possible military action – (A newspaper clipping during our time in Scotland, March 2003, to bury my mother)

O, Flower of Scotland,
When will we see your like again,
That fought and died for
Your wee bit hill and glen,
And stood against him,
Proud Edward’s army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

The hills are bare now,
And Atumn leaves lie thick and still,
O’er land that is lost now,
Which those so dearly held,
That stood against him,
Proud Edward’s army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

These days are past now.
And in the past they must remain.
But we can still rise now,
And be the nation again,
That stood against him,
Proud Edward’s army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

O, Flower of Scotland,
When will we see your like again,
That fought and died for
Your wee bit hill and glen,
That stood against him,
Proud Edward’s army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.
Roy Williamson, The Corries
Flower of Scotland

***

Poems John marked for me in Chinese Love Poems, a book he sent to me from his tour of duty, USS Oxford, Tonkin Gulf, Viet Nam (1966-67)

You and I
Love each other so
As from the same lump of clay
Is moulded an image of you
And one of me.
In a moment of ecstacy
We dash the images to pieces,
Put them in water,
And with stirring and kneading
Mould again an image of you
And another of me.
There and then
You will find yourself in me,
I myself in you.
You and I (My Love)

Kuam Tao-Sheng
Sung Dynasty

***

Lakka-trees ripen two by two
And mandarin-ducks die side by side.
If a true-hearted girl will love only her husband,
In a life as faithfully lived as theirs,
What troubling wave can arrive to vex
A spirit like water in a timeless well?
A Song of a Pure-Hearted Girl

Meng Chiao
T
Ang Dynasty

***

Time was long before I met her, but is longer since we parted,
And the east wind has arisen and a hundred flowers are gone;
And the silk-worms of spring will weave until they die
And every night the candles will weep their wicks away.
Mornings in her mirror she sees her hair-cloud changing,
Yet she dares the chill of moonlight with her evening song.
. . . It is not so very far to her Enchanted Mountain –
O blue-birds, be listening! – Bring me what she says!
To One Unnamed

Li Shang-Yin
T’Ang Dynasty

***

The mist is thick.  On the wide river, the water-plants float smoothly.
No letters come;  none go.
There is only the moon, shining through the clouds of a hard, jade-green sky,
Looking down at us so far divided, so anxiously apart.
All day, going about my affairs, I suffer and grieve, and press the thought you closely to my heart.
My eyebrows are locked in sorrow, I cannot separate them.
Nightly, nightly, I keep ready half the quilt,
And wait for the return of that divine dream which is my Lord.

Beneath the quilt of the Fire-Bird, on the bed of the Silver-Crested Love-Pheasant,
Nightly, nightly, I drowse alone.
The red candles in the silver candlesticks melt, and the wax runs from them,
As the tears of your so Unworthy One escape and continue constantly to flow.
A flower face endures but a short season,
Yet still he drifts along the river Hsiao and the river Hsiang.
As I toss on my pillow, I hear the cold, nostalgic sound of the water-clock:
Sheng!  Sheng! It drips, cutting my heart in two.

I rise at dawn.  In the Hall of Pictures
They come and tell me that the snow-flowers are falling.
The reed-blind is rolled high, and I gaze at the beautiful, glittering, primeval snow,
Whitening the distance, confusing the stone steps and the courtyard.
The air is filled with its shining, it blows far out like the smoke of a furnace.
The grass-blades are cold and white, like jade girdle pendants.
Surely the Immortals in Heaven must be crazy with wine to cause such disorder,
Seizing the white clouds, crumpling them up, destroying them.

The Lonely Wife
Li Po
T’Ang Dynasty

***

The first line says:
“Cherish thyself for me,”
The second line says:
”Think of me always.”

From Ancient Poem
Anonymous

***

The weather is getting cold.
The wine lies like poison on my heart.
On the window beats the rain.

The fading fragrance, like a little pupil,
Is simulating the feelings of Autumn.

“Cheer up, cheer up!” I said to my heart,
But tears have stolen into my blue gown.

Yearnings for my love keep me sober
In defiance of the wine.
I lie listlessly in my lonely bed.
I remember when I parted from her,
The peach-trees were flowering,
And the willows waving their tender locks.

(My) Yearnings of (your) Love
Nalan Hsinteh
Ch’Ing Dynasty

***

I will love thee and never tire.

From The Chariot Axles

***

Thy vow was clear as the dawn.
I did not dream that thou wouldst change . . .
That thou wouldst change . . . I did not dream . . .

From The Peasant

***

With my wife, what shall I do?

From The Bundles of Firewood

***

. . . I keep yearning for you.

From Wind and Violent Weather

***

My thoughts for John

If duty to your country means
That you must die
And return to our parent earth
On the far-off north frontier,
Know
That my love for you shall be
As strong and imperishable
As that stone
Upon the mountain side.

Soldier’s Wife to Her Husband
Liu Chi
Ming dynasty
(My selection for John)

***

The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; . . .
Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.
And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.
And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. . . .
Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. . . .

Second Epistle of John
Holy Bible, King James Version
(My hope of how John will think of me)

***

Eternal Father, Strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them whereso’er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

O God, protect the women who,
In service, faith in thee renew;
O guide devoted hands of skill
And bless their work within thy will;
Inspire their lives that they may be
Examples fair on land and sea.

Navy Hymn
(Every year my mother would take me to the Cressy,
an old frigate in Dundee harbour, for the Armistice Day
Services (November 11th Sunday) and this song would be
sung each time because these were Navy services.)

***

Lest We Forget

I returned to the fields of glory,
Where the green grasses and flowers grow.
And the wind softly tells the story,
Of the brave lads of long ago.

March no more my soldier laddie,
There is peace where there once was war.
Sleep in peace my soldier laddie,
Sleep in peace, now the battle's over.

In the great glen they lay a sleeping,
Where the cool waters gently flow.
And the gray mist is sadly weeping,
For those brave lads of long ago.

See the tall grass is there awaiting,
As their banners of long ago.
With their heads high forward threading,
Stepping lightly to meet the foe.

***

We have tomorrow
Bright before us
Like a flame.
Yesterday
A night-gone thing,
A sun-down name.
 And dawn-today
Broad arch above the road we came.
We march!

Langston Hughes

***

Oh say, can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose bright stripes and bright stars
Through the perilous night,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen thru the mists of the deep
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream,
‘Tis the star-spangled banner, Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that hand, that so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country shall leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution,
No refuge could save the hireling and slave,
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and home of the brave!

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto:  ”In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


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