Category Archives: Poems, prose & song

It’s Talk Like Shakespeare Day!

It’s National Talk Like Shakespeare Day!* Please teachest me to speaketh like Shakespeare, I heareth thee cry. You probably do already: if you say things like “send him packing”, “as good luck would have it”, “more fool you”, “neither here nor there”,  “mum’s the word”, or “the be-all and end-all”, then you’re doing pretty well in the Shakespearean language department: he was responsible for either coining or popularizing all those phrases.  Anyway, has’t no fear: Glossophilia cometh to the rescue, and we’re about to guide you through your online toolkit of Shakespearean-speak gadgets. Among Glossophilia’s favorites is Shmoop’s own Shakespearean Translator, which is just like Google Translate: Type anything into the box and “see it translated into super-authentic Shakespearean English”. Then there’s the Shakespeare Insult Kit, whose author Jerry Maguire (sic) was or is an English teacher at Center Grove High School in Greenwood Indiana. You’ll sound like a true Shakespearean villain when you hurl those concoctions out there. Another Glosso favorite is Shakespeare’s Words Thesaurus: “This is the opposite of the Glossary. When consulting the Glossary, you know the word and you want to find out what it means. When consulting the Thesaurus, you know the meaning and you want to find out which Shakespearean words express it. How would he say ‘arrogant’ or ‘companion’?'” Did you know that there’s a William Shakespeare Glossary on CliffNotes? And one on SparkNotes too? There’s a plethora of Shakespeare glossaries and dictionaries out there — and I mean plethora in its truest sense – to help you on your talk-like-Shakespeare quest. Here are just some of them … Continue reading

Pandemic poetry 5: A rhyme and a slogan from the Spanish flu

 

A cartoon published in “New York World” during the 1918 pandemic

During National Poetry Month, Glossophilia is posting poetry inspired by pandemics and virus outbreaks of yore. Today we bring you a public service slogan and a children’s rhyme.

During the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic, the Red Cross distributed gauze masks and enjoined the public to:

Obey the laws
And wear the gauze!
Protect your jaws
From septic paws!

And this children’s jump-rope rhyme was heard throughout the US during the height of the pandemic:

I had a little bird and its name was Enza
I opened the window and
in-flu-enza…

***

 

Pandemic poems 4: “Fever 103°”

Fever 103° by Sylvia Plath

Pure? What does it mean?
The tongues of hell
Are dull, dull as the triple

Tongues of dull, fat Cerberus
Who wheezes at the gate. Incapable
Of licking clean

The aguey Tendon, the sin, the sin.
The tinder cries.
The indelible smell

Of a snuffed candle!
Love, love, the low smokes roll
From me like Isadora’s scarves, I’m in a fright

One scarf will catch and anchor in the wheel,
Such yellow sullen smokes
Make their own element. They will not rise,

But trundle round the globe
Choking the aged and the meek,
The weak

Hothouse baby in its crib,
The ghastly orchid
Hanging its hanging garden in the air,

Devilish leopard!
Radiation turned it white
And killed it in an hour.

Greasing the bodies of adulterers
Like Hiroshima ash and eating in.
The sin. The sin.

Darling, all night
I have been flickering, off, on, off, on.
The sheets grow heavy as a lecher’s kiss.

Three days. Three nights.
Lemon water, chicken
Water, water make me retch.

I am too pure for you or anyone.
Your body
Hurts me as the world hurts God. I am a lantern——

My head a moon
Of Japanese paper, my gold beaten skin
Infinitely delicate and infinitely expensive.

Does not my heat astound you! And my light!
All by myself I am a huge camellia
Glowing and coming and going, flush on flush.

I think I am going up,
I think I may rise——
The beads of hot metal fly, and I love, I

Am a pure acetylene
Virgin
Attended by roses,

By kisses, by cherubim,
By whatever these pink things mean!
Not you, nor him

Nor him, nor him
(My selves dissolving, old whore petticoats)——
To Paradise.

***

Pandemic poetry 3: “The Influenza”, 1890

Winston Churchill in 1895

The Influenza (excerpt)

Yet Father Neptune strove right well
To moderate this plague of Hell,
And thwart it in its course;
And though it passed the streak of brine [the English Channel]
And penetrated this thin line,
It came with broken force.
For though it ravaged far and wide
Both village, town and countryside,
Its power to kill was o’er;
And with the favouring winds of Spring
(Blest is the time of which I sing)
It left our native shore.

    — by Winston Churchill, aged 15, affected by the pandemic known then as the Russian Flu in 1890

Pandemic poetry 2: “The Influenza”

The Influenza 

Influenza, labeled Spanish, came and beat me to my knees;
even doctors couldn’t banish from my form that punk disease;
for it’s not among the quitters;
vainly doctors pour their bitters into ailing human critters;
they just sneeze and swear and sneeze.

Said my doctor, “I have tackled every sort of ill there is
(I have cured up people shackled) by the gout and rheumatiz;
with the itch and mumps I’ve battled,
in my triumphs have been tattled,
but this ‘flu’ stuff has me rattled,
so I pause to say G. Whiz.”

I am burning, I am freezing, in my little truckle bed;
I am cussing, I am sneezing, with a poultice on my head;
and the doctors and the nurses say the patient growing worse is,
And they hint’ around of hearses, and of folks who should be dead.

Doom has often held the cleaver pretty near my swanlike neck;
I have had the chills and fever till my system was a wreck;
I have had the yaller janders, foot and mouth disease and glanders,
and a plague they brought from Flanders on an old windjammer’s deck.

But this measly influenzy has all other ills outclassed;
it has put me in a frenzy, like a soldier who’s been gassed;
if the villainous inventor this my lodge of pain should enter
I would Use the voice of Stentor till he had been roundly sassed.

May the ‘influenza vanish!
Of all ailments it’s the worst;
but I don’t believe it’s Spanish – haven’t thought so from the first;
on my couch of anguish squirmin’,
I’ve had leisure to determine that the blamed disease is German,
which is why it is accurst.

– by Walt Mason, a survivor of the Spanish flu, 1918

***

Pandemic poetry 1: “You’ve got the Flu, boy, You’ve got the Flu.” (1919)

When your back is broke and your eyes are blurred.
And your shin-bones knock and your tongue is furred,
And your tonsils squeak and your hair gets dry,
And you’re doggone sure that you’re going to die,
But you’re skeered you won’t and afraid you will,
Just drag to bed and have your chill;
And pray the Lord to see you through
For you’ve got the Flu, boy,
You’ve got the Flu.

When your toes curl up and your belt goes flat,
And you’re twice as mean as a Thomas cat,
And life is a long and dismal curse,
And your food all tastes like a hard-boiled hearse,
When your lattice aches and your head’s abuzz
And nothing is as it ever was,
Here are my sad regrets to you,
You’ve got the Flu, boy,
You’ve got the Flu.

What is it like, this Spanish Flu?
Ask me, brother, for I’ve been through,
It is by Misery out of Despair,
It pulls your teeth and curls your hair,
It thins your blood and brays your bones
And fills your craw with moans and groans,
And sometimes, maybe, you get well —
Some call it Flu — I call it hell!

By  J.P. McEvoy, published in The Arizona Republic, 1919

On National Poetry Day: Truth … (and a golden shovel)

    

Today is National Poetry Day in the UK, and the national day’s theme this year is “Truth”. To celebrate, Glosso presents two poems by British poet Marc Woodward — both of which address this year’s theme with searing and witty relevance. The first poem is a “golden shovel” — a poetry form invented by the US poet Terrance Hayes in which all the poem’s line-ending words, put together in order, form the line of another existing poem. Woodward’s poem An Egret In Jerusalem speaks for itself, but by way of a brief introduction: historically egrets used to migrate to England from the continent, but since the 1970s they have gradually become residents of the island nation. The second poem, also relevant in today’s Great Britain, plays on King Henry II’s infamous line “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”, which he is said to have uttered over Christmas in 1170 with dramatic consequences. Enjoy both poems: we’ll be hearing more from Marc on Glosso’s pages in the future. Continue reading