Percy Shelley and the Not-So Dead Margaret Nicholson

“Soft, my dearest angel, stay
Oh! You suck my soul away:
Suck on, suck on, I glow, I glow!
Tides of maddening passion roll,
And streams of rapture drown my soul.
Now give me one more billing kiss,
Let your lips now repeat the bliss,
Endless kisses steal my breath,
No life can equal such a death.”

-Percy Shelley

Well, I do believe the meaning of that poem is quite clear! ūüėČ

This piece appears in The Posthumous Fragments of Margaret Nicholson, a collection of poetry written by Percy Shelley and Jefferson Hogg, and published in 1810.

As a lighthearted hoax, the two men pretended the book had actually been written by Margaret Nicholson, herself, and discovered after her death.

In truth, the former maid to nobility was still quite alive, residing in Bethlem Hospital after attempting to assassinate King George III with a dessert knife.

Ms. Nicholson insisted she was a virgin, and the mother of Lords Mansfield and Loughborough who both happened to be older than herself.

The failed murder attempt caught the attention of the young Shelley who was beginning to espouse his antiwar and antimonarchical views.

“Monarchs of earth ! thine is the baleful deed.
Thine are the crimes for which thy subjects bleed.
Ah ! when will come the sacred fated time,
When man unsullied by his leaders’ crime.
Despising wealth, ambition, pomp, and pride,
Will stretch him fearless by his foemen’s side ?
Ah! when Avill come the time, when o’er the plain
No more shall death and desolation reign ?
When will the sun smile on the bloodless field,
And the stern warrior’s arm the sickle wield ?
Not whilst some King, in cold ambition’s dreams,
Plans for the field of death his plodding schemes ;
Not whilst for private pique the public fall,
And one frail mortal’s mandate governs all.”

The first printing of the book was only 250 copies. While it did sell out, it was not reprinted until 1877.

Percy Shelley drowned on July 8, 1822

A Little Yeats for Valentines Day

There are so many wonderful poems out there, I’m not sure I could ever pick a favorite romantic one.¬† But the one below by Yeats has always touched me ever since I heard the first lines.¬† Note, it begins, “when you are old”.¬†¬† Is the man writing this to the woman he loves as a warning?¬† Telling her to ignore those other men who only love her pretty face while he loves her true soul?¬† If so, perhaps she will listen and end up not¬†an old woman by the fire filled with regret.

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,

And loved your beauty with love false or true,

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,

And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,

Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled

And paced upon the mountains overhead

And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

–W. B. Yeats

What are some of your favorite romantic poems?

Published in: on February 13, 2011 at 7:13 pm  Comments (22)  
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Ingeborg Bachmann’s Stay (a poem)


Ingeborg Bachmann (Austrian poet) 25 June 1926 ‚Äď 17 October 1973


by Ingeborg Bachmann

“Now the journey is ending,
the wind is losing heart.
Into your hands it’s falling,
a rickety house of cards.

The cards are backed with pictures
displaying all the world.
You’ve stacked up all the images
and shuffled them with words.

And how profound the playing
that once again begins!
Stay, the card you’re drawing
is the only world you’ll win.”

I came across this poem by the renowned female poet last night and it struck a chord with me.

Play with whatever hand you are dealt in this life.  It is yours alone.   The good cards are your strength and talents.  The bad cards symbolize where your weaknesses reside.  You can use them all  foolishly or wisely.   You can waste talents.  You can overcome difficulties.

The choice is yours.

Play the game!

What does the poem mean to you?

And the original:  Bleib

“Die Fahrten gehn zu Ende,

der Fahrtenwind bleibt aus.

Es fällt dir in die Hände

ein leichtes Kartenhaus.

Die Karten sind bebildert

und zeigen jeden Ort.

Du hast die Welt geschildert

und mischst sie mit dem Wort.

Profundum der Partien,

die dann im Gange sind!

Bleib, um das Blatt zu ziehen,

mit dem man sie gewinnt.”

Published in: on October 25, 2010 at 3:21 pm  Comments (11)  
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William Butler Yeats and the Golden Dawn

“A line will take us hours maybe; Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought, our stitching and unstinting has been naught. “-¬† Yeats

“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame! “- Yeats

Born with both his Ascendant and Moon in  Aquarius, it is little wonder that William Butler Yeats grew up with both a love for words and a desire to transform  Irish theater and poetry.

As a child he’d been attracted to ghost tales and¬† fairy myths¬†which led him into the esoteric works of Swedenborg, Blake, and Jacob Boehme.¬† At the age of twenty-two, while living in London, he became acquainted with Madame Blavatsky, author of The Secret Doctrine, and founder off the Theosophical Society.¬† While enchanted with the ideas she brought forth, he was disillusioned by the society’s resistance to attempting magic, and quickly withdrew his membership.

In 1889, he met Maud Gonne, a fiery Irish revolutionary worker and member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.¬†¬† While disturbed by her belief that the means justified the end, he was so otherwise taken by her¬† that¬† he declared, “If she she said the world was flat…I would be proud to be of her party.”

Soon thereafter, she introduced him to Moina Bergson Mathers and MacGregor Mathers, the celibate husband and wife who worked together as Priest and Priestess of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.¬† Yeats not only valued their intellectual pursuits, but their willingness to put what they learned to practical use.¬† He said that after attending their rituals, he “formed plans for deeds of all kinds”.¬† Whereas after attending Theosophical meetings, he “had no desire but for more thought, more discussion.”¬†¬† Furthermore, he discovered that the concentration needed for lengthy rituals and prayers influenced his writings, “making it more sensuous and more vivid.”

On March 7, 1890 he became an initiate of the Golden Dawn, assuming the magical name, Demon Est Deus Inversus.¬† Which, although literally meaning, “The Devil is in the inverse of God”, might have been in reference to his personal daimon.

I DREAMED that one had died in a strange place
Near no accustomed hand,
And they had nailed the boards above her face,
The peasants of that land,
Wondering to lay her in that solitude,
And raised above her mound
A cross they had made out of two bits of wood,
And planted cypress round;
And left her to the indifferent stars above
Until I carved these words:
i{She was more beautiful than thy first love,}
i{But now lies under boards.}

-poem written by Yeats for Maud after dreaming of her death


THAT crazed girl improvising her music.
Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,

Her soul in division from itself
Climbing, falling She knew not where,
Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,
Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare
A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing
Heroically lost, heroically found.

No matter what disaster occurred
She stood in desperate music wound,
Wound, wound, and she made in her triumph
Where the bales and the baskets lay
No common intelligible sound
But sang, ‘O sea-starved, hungry sea.’

-poem by Yeats

*article source and for further reading:  Women of the Golden Dawn: Rebels and Priestesses by Mary K. Greer

Charles Baudelaire: The Beautiful and Dark Poet

Charles Baudelaire: French poet.  April 9, 1821- August 31, 1867

“A frenzied passion for art is a canker that devours everything else.”- Charles Baudelaire

¬†¬†¬† When¬† Charles Baudelaire was only six, his father passed away.¬† A year later, his mother¬†wed the future French ambassador, Lieutenant Colonel¬†Jaques¬†Aupick.¬†¬† While¬† the sensitive and artistic¬†child was extremely close to his mother, he found himself constantly at odds with his¬†rigid¬†stepfather.¬†¬† Sent away to a boarding school in¬†Lyons, Charles later described that time as,¬†” the unease of wretched and abandoned childhood, the hatred of tyrannical schoolfellows, and the solitude of the heart.”¬†

Upon finishing his education, while his stepfather wished him to enter law, Charles decided to pursue a literary career and began associating with fellow bohemians.¬† By 1843, he’d become known as a dandy- living off of credit and the goodwill of others.¬†¬† Around this time he began a lifelong¬†romance with the Hatian-born actress and dancer, Jeanne Duval.¬†¬† Born of French and black¬†African ancestry, she became his muse, his¬†¬†“V√©nus Noire”.

One of the poems he dedicated to her was The Balcony, in which he declared:

    “MOTHER of memories, mistress of mistresses,
    O thou, my pleasure, thou, all my desire,
    Thou shalt recall the beauty of caresses,
    The charm of evenings by the gentle fire,
    Mother of memories, mistress of mistresses!
    The eves illumined by the burning coal,
    The balcony where veiled rose-vapour clings–
    How soft your breast was then, how sweet your soul!
    Ah, and we said imperishable things,
    Those eves illumined by the burning coal.
    Lovely the suns were in those twilights warm,
    And space profound, and strong life’s pulsing flood,
    In bending o’er you, queen of every charm,
    I thought I breathed the perfume in your blood.
    The suns were beauteous in those twilights warm.
    The film of night flowed round and over us,
    And my eyes in the dark did your eyes meet;
    I drank your breath, ah! sweet and poisonous,
    And in my hands fraternal slept your feet–
    Night, like a film, flowed round and over us.
    I can recall those happy days forgot,
    And see, with head bowed on your knees, my past.
    Your languid beauties now would move me not
    Did not your gentle heart and body cast
    The old spell of those happy days forgot.
    Can vows and perfumes, kisses infinite,
    Be reborn from the gulf we cannot sound;
    As rise to heaven suns once again made bright
    After being plunged in deep seas and profound?
    Ah, vows and perfumes, kisses infinite!”
     portrait of Jeanne Duval by Manet 

   Although Baudelaire became a highly respected art and literary critic, his own work did not appear until the publication of Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs du mal) in 1857.   While such lofty figures as Flaubert and Victor Hugo praised the book,  the sexual and macabre themes caused much consternation and Charles, his publisher, and the printer,  were fined for offenses against public morals.

The accusations meant little to Charles.¬† He wrote to his mother:¬† “You know that I have always considered that literature and the arts pursue an aim independent of morality. Beauty of conception and style is enough for me. But this book, whose title (Fleurs du mal) says everything, is clad, as you will see, in a cold and sinister beauty. It was created with rage and patience. Besides, the proof of its positive worth is in all the ill that they speak of it. The book enrages people. Moreover, since I was terrified myself of the horror that I should inspire, I cut out a third from the proofs. They deny me everything, the spirit of invention and even the knowledge of the French language. I don’t care a rap about all these imbeciles, and I know that this book, with its virtues and its faults, will make its way in the memory of the lettered public, beside the best poems of V. Hugo, Th. Gautier and even Byron.”¬†¬†



¬†“One should always be drunk.¬† That’s all that matters… But with what?¬† With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose.¬†¬† But get drunk.”

“Always be a poet, even in prose.”

“There is a word, in a verb, something sacred which forbids us from using it recklessly.¬† To handle a language cunningly is to practice a kind of evocative sorcery.”

Emily Dickinson: An Astrological Look

Emily Dickinson- Poetess.  Born December 10, 1830.  Amherst, Massachusetts

1. Rising Sign: Scorpio

One’s Rising Sign (or ascendant) is the sign that was rising when a¬† person was born and reflects their persona, or how they present themselves to the world.

“I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us ‚ÄĒ don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!”- Emily Dickinson

Rising Scorpios exist in a world of black and white.¬† An intensity seethes under the surface and their will is indomitable.¬† Often quiet, they prefer to work behind the scenes where nothing goes unnoticed by them.¬† Very perceptive, they always see through pretense.¬† A cool facade hides a deeply passionate nature.¬† When they love, they love fully; and when angered they can be surprisingly cruel for they easily see their victim’s soft spot.¬† Strongly loyal, they never forget a kindness or an insult.¬† Intuitive, sensitive, and suspicious- they have a deep-rooted need for privacy, and are loners at heart.¬† Possessing remarkable recuperative powers, and being very patient, they continue going after most have faltered.¬† Creative and clever, they often embrace the dark side of life and explore it in artistic ways.

2. Sun Sign: Sagittarius:

One’s sun sign denotes their outer, general personality

“Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
’T is the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur,‚ÄĒyou ‚Äôre straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.” – Emily Dickinson

Sun Sagittariuns are restless and independent.  They cannot be held down to routine or to the will of another.  They have a thirst for knowledge and their life is spent in the pursuit of mental exploration.  Straight forward and seekers of truth, they are frank and honest in their dealings with people.  At times their bluntness may accidently offend which is not their intention.  They are open-minded and endlessly fascinated about the world around them.  Optimistic and cheerful, there is a sense of childlike play about them.

3. Moon in Libra

The Moon sign denotes one’s inner, hidden personality

“I died for beauty but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed?
“For beauty,” I replied.
“And I for truth, the two are one;
We brethren are,” he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.” – Emily Dickinson

Those with Moon in Libra possess a charming quality.  Graceful and elegant, they have high aesthetic standards.  Fair-minded, they have an inherent need to be in peaceful surroundings and will use their strong diplomatic abilities to accomplish such an ideal.  Artistic, they have a natural eye and ear for harmony.  Caring and affectionate, they often form life-long friendships. Deeply romantic, they see themselves reflected in the person they love.  An inherent need to be in a relationship may cause clinginess and jealousy at times. 

emily dickinson

How To Get Professionals to Read Your Work- The Emily Dickinson Way

Step One:  Find someone to send your submissions to.

 Emily Dickinson chose to send a few of her poems to social reformer and writer, Mr. Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

Step Two:¬†¬†Sit down to write query.¬†¬† When addressing it, be blunt.¬†¬† Emily simply wrote, “Mr. Higginson,”

Step Three:  Begin query with rhetorical question. 

Emily decided upon, “Are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive?”

Step Four:   Compose letter.   

MR. HIGGINSON,–Are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive?

The mind is so near itself it cannot see distinctly, and I have none to ask.

Should you think it breathed, and had you the leisure to tell me, I should feel quick gratitude.

If I make the mistake, that you dared to tell me would give me sincerer honor toward you.

I inclose my name, asking you, if you please, sir, to tell me what is true?

That you will not betray me it is needless to ask, since honor is its own pawn.

Step Five:  Compose this letter in a large, looping penmanship that is difficult for anyone to decipher. 

“It was in a handwriting so peculiar that it seemed as if the writer might have taken her first lessons by studying the famous fossil bird-tracks in the museum of that college town.” (Amherst). – Mr. Wentworth Higginson

Step Six:¬† Decide¬†this difficult to¬†read, ¬†rhetorical-begun query¬†is so brilliant that you don’t even bother signing your name.

Mr. Higginson later said, “The most curious thing about the letter was the total absence of a signature”

Step Seven:¬†¬† Decide you’d better include your name somewhere.¬† Just in case.¬†¬†So scribble it on a card using the the same large, loopy handwriting.

Step Eight:  Stick your work inside the card.  Emily enclosed four poems.  Send whatever you wish.

Step Nine:¬† Seal envelope.¬† Address it to person’s home address.¬† Emily mailed her poems to Mr.¬†Higginson’s house in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Step Ten:   Put on sneakers, prepare to head out to the Post Office, when a creeping thought enters your mind: 

Perhaps times have changed.


Published in: on September 19, 2009 at 4:35 pm  Comments (22)  
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Emily Bronte-Through Her Poetry


“Often rebuked, yet always back returning

To those first feelings that were born with me,

And leaving busy chase of wealth and learning

For idle dreams of things which cannot be:


To-day, I will seek not the shadowy region;

Its unsustaining vastness waxes drear;

And visions rising, legion after legion,

Bring the unreal world too strangely near.


I’ll walk, but not in old heroic traces,

And not in paths of high morality,

And not among the half-distinguished faces,

The clouded forms of long-past history.


I’ll walk where my own nature would be leading:

It vexes me to choose another guide:

Where the grey flocks in ferny glens are feeding;

where the wild wind blows on the mountain side.


What have these lonely mountains worth revealing?

More glory and more grief than I can tell:

The earth that wakes one human heart to feeling

Can centre both the worlds of Heaven and Hell.”


¬†Emily Bronte was too sensitve to allow others into her private¬†recesses.¬†¬†Like mystics before- she was not comfortable with the¬†outside world.¬†¬†Yet it is erroneous to label her a misanthrope or even unkind.¬†¬†¬†¬†Ellen Nussey (best friend of sister, Charlotte Bronte)¬†stated, “Her extreme reserve seemed imprenetrable, yet she was intensely lovable; she invited confidence by her moral power.¬† Few people have the gift of smiling as she could look and smile.¬† One of her rare expressive looks was something to remember through life, there was such a depth of soul and feeling, and yet a shyness of revealing herself.”

Victorian society¬†was of no interest to Emily.¬† Having taken a fancy to the romantic, gigot sleeves of the 1830s- she wore them long after they’d gone out of style.¬†¬† On the other hand, she had no use for false embellishment.¬† While¬†attending Madame Heger’s school in Brussels, she was teased by the fashionable girls for not wearing a corset.¬†¬† Fellow pupil, Laetitia Wheelwright,¬†recollected that¬†Emily always answered their jokes with,¬† “I wish to be as God made me.”¬†¬†

Around this time, she stated:

“Strong I stand, though I have borne

                                         Anger, hate, and bitter scorn;

                                         Strong I stand, and laugh to see

                                         How mankind have fought with me


Shade of mast’ry, I contemn

All the puny ways of men;

Free my heart, my spirit free;

Beckon, and I’ll follow thee.


False and foolish mortal know,

If you scorn the world’s disdain,

Your mean soul is far below

Other worms, however vain.


Think of Dust- with boundless pride,

Dare you take  me for a guide?

With the humble I will be;

Haughty men are naught to me.”


¬†¬†¬†¬†Although Emily’s father was a clergyman,¬†she rarely attended¬†church.¬† When¬†Emily did, she sat facing away from the pulpit. ¬†Surprisingly, her father never insisted she conform.¬† He understood¬†Emily found God within Nature.¬†¬†¬†¬†

¬†The usually somber-looking girl transformed while roaming alone on her beloved Moors.¬†¬† When neighbor, John Greenwood chanced upon her once, he said, “Her countenance was lit up with a divine light.¬†¬† Had she been holding converse with Angels, it would not have shone brighter.¬† It appeared to me, holy, heavenly.”


  Here, she depicts a mystical experience:

“On a sunny brae alone I lay

One summer afternoon…

Methought the very breath I breathed

Was full of sparks divine,

And all my heather-couch was wreathed

By that celestial shine.

And while the wide Earth echoing rang

To their strange minstrelsy,

The little glittering spirits sang,

Or seemed to sing to me…”


       Yet it was only during the still hours of night that Emily felt truly free. She lay upon her bed gazing out at the stars. 

“I’m happiest when most away

I can bear my soul from its home of clay

On a windy night when the moon is bright

And the eye can wander through worlds of light-“


    During these quiet hours, Emily communed with a male personified Muse.   In this poem, He speaks to her: 

“I’ll come when thou art saddest,

Laid alone in the darkened room;

When the mad day’s mirth has vanished,

And the smile of joy is banished

From the evening’s chilly gloom.

I’ll come when the heart’s real feeling

Has entire, unbiased sway,

And my influence o’er thee stealing,

Grief deepening, joy congealing,

Shall bear thy soul away.

Listen, ’tis just the hour,

The awful time for thee;

Dost thou not feel upon thy soul,

A flood of strange sensations roll,

Forerunners of a sterner power,

Heralds of me?”

In “The Night Wind”- He asks:

“Have we not been from childhood friends?

Have I not loved thee long?

As long as thou hast loved the night

Whose silence wakes my song

And when thy heart is laid at rest

Beneath the churchyard stone

I shall have time enough to mourn,

And thou to be alone.”

When Emily found her creative powers waning, she awaited her Muse like a lover:

“What I love shall come like visitant of air,

Safe in secret power from lurking human snare;

Who loves me, no word of mine shall e’er betray,

Though for faith unstained my life must forfeit pay.

Burn then, little lamp; glimmer straight and clear-

Hush! a rustling wing stirs, methinks, the air;

He for whom I wait, thus ever comes to me;

Strange Power! I trust thy might; trust thou my constancy.”


The sun herald the return to the drudgery of housework and other banal reality.

“All through the night, your glorious eyes

Were gazing down in mine,

And with a full heart’s thankful sighs

I blessed that watch divine!


I was at peace, and drank your beams

As they were life to me

And revelled in my changeful dreams

Like petrel on the sea.


Thought followed thought- star followed star

Through boundless regions on,

While sweet influence, near and far,

Thrilled and proved us one.


Why did morning rise to break

So great, so pure a spell,

And scorch with fire the tranquil cheek

Where your cool radiance fell?


Blood red he rose, and arrow-straight

His fierce beams struck my brow;

The soul of Nature sprang elate,

But mine sank sad and low….


I turned me to the pillow then

To call back Night, and see

Your worlds of solemn light, again

Throb within my heart and me!…


O Stars and Dreams and Gentle Night;

O Night and Stars Return!

And hide me from hostile light

That does not warm- but burn-“


¬†Emily struggled between¬†love of¬†home and her soul’s desire to free itself¬† from its hated clay.¬† In May 1841 she wrote:

“Few hearts to mortals given

On Earth so wildly pine;

Yet none would ask a Heaven

More like this Earth than thine…”


She wondered:

“Glad comforter, will I not brave

Unawed the darkness of the grave?

Nay, smile to hear Death’s billows rave,

My Guide, sustained by thee?

The more unjust seems present fate

The more my Spirit springs elate

Strong in thy strength, to anticipate

Rewarding Destiny!

Emily must have found peace within.  For in her last known poem, written before her untimely death at the age of thirty, she declared:

¬†¬†¬†¬†“No coward soul is mine

No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere

I see Heaven’s glories shine

And faith shines equal arming me from Fear


O God within my breast

Almighty ever-present Deity

Life, that in me has rest

As I undying Life, have power in Thee


Vain are the thousand creeds

That move men’s hearts, unutterably vain,

Worthless as withered weeds

Or idlest froth amid the boundless main

To waken doubt in one

Holding so fast by thy infinity

So surely anchored on

The steadfast rock of Immorality


With wide-embracing love

Thy spirit animates eternal years

Pervades and broods above,

Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears


Though Earth and moon were gone

And suns and universe ceased to be

And thou wert left alone

Every Existence would exist in thee


There is not room for Death

Nor atom that his might could render void

Since thou art Being and Breath

And what thou art may never be destroyed.”


Published in: on August 28, 2008 at 3:14 am  Comments (4)  
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