Russell M. Middleton - Favorite Poems
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Favorite Poems

[my comments in square brackets]


by Rudyard Kipling
(Born December 30, 1865, Died January 18, 1936)

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream -- and not make dreams your master;
If you can think -- and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings -- nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run --
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And -- which is more -- you'll be a Man, my son!


Concord Hymn
~ Ralph Waldo Emmerson 1803–1882

"By the rude bridge that arched the flood;
their flag to April's breeze unfurled;
here once the embattled farmers stood,
and fired the shot heard round the world."

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeping

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, or leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Sung at the completion of the Battle Monument, Concord, Massachusetts, USA April 19, 1836.

[A monument to subjects of the British Empire who defied the tyranny of their own government by bearing arms. Something that will never, successfully, happen again in western civilization thanks to all the firearms laws that where enacted in the 20th century. And the curious metamorphosis of Liberalism from the champion of individuals to a promoter of ever increasing government power.]

Year of the Cat
by Al Stewart (1976)

On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime
She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolour in the rain
Dont bother asking for explanations
Shell just tell you that she came
In the year of the cat.

She doesnt give you time for questions
As she locks up your arm in hers
And you follow till your sense of which direction
Completely disappears
By the blue tiled walls near the market stalls
Theres a hidden door she leads you to
These days, she says, I feel my life
Just like a river running through
The year of the cat

She looks at you so cooly
And her eyes shine like the moon in the sea
She comes in incense and patchouli
So you take her, to find whats waiting inside
The year of the cat.

Well morning comes and youre still with her
And the bus and the tourists are gone
And youve thrown away the choice and lost your ticket
So you have to stay on
But the drum-beat strains of the night remain
In the rhythm of the new-born day
You know sometime youre bound to leave her
But for now you're going to stay
In the year of the cat.

When I`m 64
by The Beatles (1969)
words by John Lennon/Paul McCartney

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine

If I`d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door
Will you still need me
Will you still feed me
When I`m sixty-four

You`ll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you

I could be handy mending a fuse
When your lights have gone

You can knit a sweater
By the fireside
Sunday mornings
Go for a ride

Doing the garden
Digging the weeds
Who could ask for more
Will you still need me
Will you still feed me
When I`m sixty-four

Every summer
We can rent a cottage
In the Isle of Wight
If it`s not too dear
We shall scrimp and save

Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck, and Dave

Send me a postcard
Drop me a line
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely
What you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away

Give me your answer
Fill in a form
Mine forever more
Will you still need me
Will you still feed me
When I`m sixty-four

"The Invitation"

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for,
And if you dare to dream of meeting your soul's longing?

It doesn't interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool,
For love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow,
If you have been opened by life's betrayals,
or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain!

I want to know if you can sit with pain,
mine and your own,
without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy,
mine or your own.
If you can dance with the wildness and let the ecstasy fill you.
To the tips of your fingers and toes and without cautioning us
To be careful, or realistic or to remember the limitations of
being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story your telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.

I want to know if you can see beauty
even when it is not pretty everyday.
And if you can source your life from God's presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure,
yours and mine.
And still stand on the edge of a lake and
Shout to the silver of the moon "Yes!"

It doesn't interest me to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief
and despair, weary and bruised to the bone,
and do what needs to be done for the children.

It doesn't interest me who you are,
how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire
with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where,
or what or who you have studied with...
I want to know what sustains you from the inside
when all else fails aways.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself,
And if you truly like the company you keep in empty


A Simple Soldier

He was getting old and paunchy
and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion,
telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he had fought
in and the deeds that he had done.
In his exploits with his buddies;
they were heroes, everyone.

And 'tho sometimes, to his neighbors,
his tales became a joke,
all his buddies listened,
for they knew whereof he spoke.

But we'll hear his tales no longer,
for ol' Buddy has passed away,
and the world's a little poorer,
for a Soldier died today.

No, he won't be mourned by many,
just his children, and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
very quiet sort of life.

He held a job and raised a family,
quietly going on his way;
and the world won't note his passing;
'tho a Soldier died today.

When politicians leave this earth,
their bodies lie in state,
while thousands note their passing
and proclaim that they were great.

Papers publish their life stories,
from the time that they were young,
but the passing of a soldier,
goes unnoticed, and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution,
to the welfare of our land,
some jerk who breaks his promise
and cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow,
who in times of war and strife,
goes off to serve his Country
and offers up his life?

The politician's stipend
and the style in which he lives,
are sometimes disproportionate,
to the service that he gives.

While the ordinary soldier,
who offered up his all,
is paid off with a medal
and perhaps a pension small.

It's so easy to forget them,
for it's oh so long ago,
that our Joe's, Jock's and Johnny's,
went to battle, but ah we know.

It was not the politicians,
with their compromise and ploys,
who won for us the freedom,
that our Country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger,
with your enemies at hand,
would you really want some cop-out,
with his ever waffling stand?

Or would you want a Soldier,
who has sworn to defend,
his home, his kin, and Country,
who will fight until the end?

He was just a common Soldier
and his ranks are growing thin,
but his presence should remind us,
we may need his like again.

For when countries are in conflict,
then we find the Soldier's part,
Is to clean up all the troubles,
that the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor,
while he's here to hear the praise,
then at least let's give him homage,
at the ending of his days.

Maybe just a simple headline,
in the paper that might say:


~~~Written by A. Lawrence Vaincourt 1985~~~


Written by John Pettigrew.
Probable date published: 1880
Sung, with Immense Success, by Hamilton Corbett.

AIR. - " The Standard on the Braes o' Mar."

Let minstrels sing of sparkling wine,
In verses high and skirling ;
Let lovers praise their maidens fine,
I'll sing of ancient Stirling.
Whaur Wallace bold, in days of old,
His faithful band he did command,
And Southern foemen couldna stand
The Scottish steel at Stirling.

King Edward did oor thistle spurn,
An' cam' to Scotland whirling,
But when he cam' to Bannockburn
It jagg'd his thooms near Stirling.
For valiant Bruce, sae slee an' crouse,
The English armies did reduce,
And Scotland's independence gained
That day near ancient Stirling.

When queenly simmer comes to reign,
An' sends king winter birling,
She seems to mak' the place her ain,
Sic braws she gies to Stirling.
When fragrant flowers au' scented thorn,
The bonnie vales an' glens adorn,
Hoo sweet upon a simmer's thorn,
To walk roon' classic Stirling.

But noo a secret I will tell,
Nor roon' the bush gang whirling,
One modest flower that I lo'e well,
Blooms sweet in ancient Stirling.
Her form sae fair, her smile sae rare,
Her daisy face sae fu' o' grace,
Her winning ways my heart ensnare,
And mak' me cling to Stirling.


Roddy MacMillan

(Chorus :
I will go, I will go,
When the fighting is over
To the land o' McLeod
That I left tae be a soldier.
I will go, I will go.)

When the King's son came along
He called us a' thegither,
Saying, 'Brave Highland men,
Will ye fight for my father?'
I will go, I will go.

Chorus :

When we came back to the glen,
The winter was turning,
Our goods lay in the snow,
And our houses were burning.
I will go, I will go.

Chorus :

I've a buckle on my belt
A sword in my scabbard
A red coat on my back
And a shilling in my pocket
I will go, I will go.

Chorus :

When they put us all on board
The lasses were singing
But the tears came tae their
eyes When the bells started ringing
I will go, I will go.

Chorus :

When we landed on the shore
And saw the foreign heather
We knew that some would fall
And would stay there for ever
I will go, I will go.

Footnote : The threat to disband some of the remaining Scottish Regiments in the 'English' army reminded me of this moving song by the late Roddy MacMillan which is now firmly entrenched in the Scottish Folk Tradition. So much so that many people think it is an old traditional song. An outstanding actor, Roddy MacMillan was also an excellent songwriter and playwright. He was from a Highland background and 'I Will Go' sums up the experience of many Scots who whilst risking life and limb in the service of England were being betrayed back home in Scotland as landowners pursued a policy of clearing the Glens of people to make way for sheep.


My Ain Folk

Far frae my hame I wander,
but still my thoughts return
To my ain folk ower yonder,
in the sheiling by the burn.

I see the cosy ingle,
and the mist abune the brae:
And joy and sadness mingle,
as I list some auld-warld lay.

And it's oh! but I'm longing
for my ain folk,
Tho' they be but lowly,
puir and plain folk'

I am far beyond the sea,
but my heart will ever be
At home in dear auld Scotland,
wi' my ain folk.

0' their absent ane they're telling
The auld folk by the fire:
And I mark the swift tears welling
As the ruddy flame leaps high'r.

How the mither wad caress me
were I but by her side:
Now she prays that Heav'n will bless me,
Tho' the stormy seas divide.

And it's oh! but I'm longing
for my ain folk,
Tho' they be but lowly,
puir and plain folk:

I am far beyond the sea,
but my heart will ever be
At home in dear auld Scotland,
wi' my ain folk.

(My Ain Folk)
Few emigrants there were in days gone by
who did not yearn to be with loved ones
left behind in Scotland, without hope
of ever seeing them again.


[I'm waiting for this one to be declared xenophobic.]

Sic A Parcel of Rogues In A Nation

Robert Burns, 1791

Fareweel to a' our Scottish fame,
Fareweel our ancient glory;
Fareweel to e'en our Scottish name
Sae fam'd in sang and story.
Now Sark rins tae th' Solway sands,
An' Tweed runs t' th' ocean..
Tae mark whaur England's Province stands:
Sic a parcel of rogues in a nation!

2. What force or guile could not subdue
Thro' many warlike ages,
Is wrought now by a coward few
For hireling traitor's wages.
The English steel we could disdain,
Secure in valour's station.
But English gold has been our bane:
Sic a parcel of rogues in a nation!

3. Oh, would or had I seen the day
That treason thus could sell us!
My auld grey head had lien in clay,
Wi' Bruce and loyal Wallace!
But, pith and power, till my last hour,
I'll make this declaration:
We were bought and sold for English gold!
Sic a parcel of rogues in a nation!


Traditional Scottish Songs - Farewell to Lochaber

Lochaber, in the north-west of Scotland, is a wild and rugged place of mountain and moorland, running from the Great Glen to Knoydart on the coast. The song was written by Allan Ramsey.

Farewell to Lochaber

Farewell to Lochaber, farewell to my Jean,
Where heartsome wi' her I ha'e mony day been,
For Lochaber no more, Lochaber no more,
We'll maybe return to Lochaber no more.

These tears that I shed they are all for my dear,
And no' for the dangers attending or weir;
Tho' borne on rough seas to a far distant shore.
Maybe to return to Lochaber no more.

Though hurricanes rise, though rise ev'ry wind,
No tempest can equal the storm in my mind;
Tho loudest of thunders or louder waves roar,
There's nothing like leavin' my love on the shore.

To leave thee behind me, my heart is sair pain'd,
But by ease that's inglorious no fame can be gain'd;
And beauty and love's the reward of the brave,
And I maun deserve it before I can crave.

Then glory, my Jeanie, maun plead my excuse,
Since honour commands me, how can I refuse?
Without it I ne'er can have merrit for thee;
And losing thy favour, I'd better not be.

I go then, my lass, to win honour and fame;
And if I should chance to come gloriously hame,
I'll bring a heart to thee, with love running o'er,
And then I'll leave thee an' Lochaber no more.

Meaning of unusual words:
heartsome = cheerful
weir = war
maun = must


[With last two verses in mind, how many young men and women of Scottish descent served in the U.S. military during Vietnam and had the fortune to return home. But return to what? Years of betrayal, misrepresentation and scorn. Freedom to emigrate has, historically been offered as opportunity, but isn't it really just another form of divide (disperse) and conquer. Removing indigenous people from their natural habitat can have dire consequences. (I am thinking of the Highland Clearances.)]

Brown Bess

Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936)

In the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise -
An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes -
At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

Though her sight was not long and her weight was not small,
Yet her actions were winning, her language was clear;
And everyone bowed when she opened the ball
On the arm of some high-gaitered, grim grenadier.
Half Europe admitted the striking success
Of the dances and routs that were given by Brown Bess.

When ruffles were turned into stiff leather stocks,
And people wore pigtails instead of perukes,
Brown Bess never altered her iron-grey locks.
She knew she was valued for more than her looks.
"Oh, powder and patches was always my dress,
And I think I am killing enough," said Brown Bess.

So she followed her red-coats, whatever they did,
From the heights of Quebec to the plains of Assaye,
From Gibraltar to Acre, Cape Town and Madrid,
And nothing about her was changed on the way;
(But most of the Empire which now we possess
Was won through those years by old-fashioned Brown Bess.)

In stubborn retreat or stately advance,
From the Portugal coast to the cork-woods of Spain,
She had puzzled some excellent Marshals of France
Till none of them wanted to meet her again:
But later, near Brussels, Napoleon - no less -
Arranged for a Waterloo ball with Brown Bess.

She had danced till the dawn of that terrible day -
She danced till the dusk of more terrible night,
And before her linked squares his battalions gave way,
And her long fierce quadrilles put his lancers to flight:
And when his gilt carriage drove off in the press,
"I have danced my last dance with the world!" said Brown Bess.

If you go to Museums - there's one in Whitehall -
Where old weapons are shown with their names writ beneath,
You will find her upstanding, her back to the wall,
As stiff as a ramrod, her flint in her teeth.
And if ever we English had reason to bless
Any arm save our mothers', that arm is Brown Bess.


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