Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
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Posts tagged "Poetry"

Look, the world tempts our eye,
And we would know it all!
We map the starry sky,
We mine this earthen ball,
We measure the seasides, we number the seasands;

We scrutinise the dates
Of long-past human things,
The bounds of effaced states,
The lines of deceased kings;
We search out dead men’s words, and works of dead men’s hands;

We shut our eyes, and muse
How our own minds are made,
What springs of thought they use,
How righten’d, how betray’d
And spend our writ to name what most employ unnamed

But still, as we proceed
The mass swells more and more
Of volumes yet to read,
Of secrets yet to explore
Our hair grows grey, our eyes are dimm’d, our heart is tamed

— Matthew Arnold, “Empedocles On Etna”, 1852

"We do not what we ought;
What we ought not, we do;
And lean upon the thought
That chance will bring us through.”

— Matthew Arnold, Empedocles on Etna

"I dreamed I already…
By Yevgeny Yevtushenko, 1967

I dreamed I already loved you.
I dreamed I already killed you.

But you rose again; another form, but you,
a girl on the little ball of the earth,
naive simplicity, curve-necked
on that early canvas of Picasso,
and prayed to me with your ribs:
“Love me,” as though you said, “Don’t push me off.”

I’m that played-out, grown-up acrobat
hunchbacked with senseless muscles
who knows that advice is a lie,
that sooner or later there’s falling.

I’m too scared to say: “I love you,”
because I’d be saying: “I’ll kill you.”

For in the depths of a face I can see through
I see the faces — can’t count them —
that, right on the spot, or maybe
not right away, I tortured to death.

You’re pale from the mortal balance. You say:
“I know everything; I was all of them.
I know you’ve already loved me.
I know you’ve already killed me.
But I won’t spin the globe backwards:
Love again, and then kill again.”

Lord, you’re young. Stop your globe.
I’m tired of killing. I’m not a damn thing but old.

You move the earth beneath your little feet,
you fall, “Love me.”
It’s only in those eyes, so similar, you say:
“This time don’t kill me!”

Asker Anonymous Asks:
is your interest in presidents and popes because you find regular people boring or something? like you're drawn to non ordinary people? love this blog btw
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

If you don’t mind, I’m just going to let the great poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko answer this question:

No people are uninteresting.
Their destinies are like histories of planets.
Nothing in them is not particular,
and no planet is like another.

And if someone lives in obscurity,
befriending that obscurity,
he is interesting to people
by his very obscurity.

Everyone has his own secret, private world.
In that world is a finest moment.
In that world is a tragic hour,
but it all is unknown to us.

And if someone dies
there dies with him his first snow,
and first kiss, and first fight.
He takes it all with him.

Yes, books and bridges remain,
and painted canvas and machinery,
yes, much is sentenced to remain,
but something really departs all the same!

Such is the law of the pitiless game.
It’s not people who die, but worlds.
We remember people, sinful and earthly.
But what did we know, in essence, about them?

What do we know of brothers, of friends?
What do we know of our one and only?
And about our own fathers,
knowing everything, we know nothing.

They perish. They cannot be brought back.
Their secret worlds are not regenerated.
And every time I want again
to cry out against the unretrievableness.

— Yevgeny Yevtushenko, “No people are…”, 1961

Held captive 4 your politics
They wanted 2 break your soul
They ordered the extermination
Of all minds they couldn’t control
4 u the fate was far worse
Than just a brutal homicide
They caged u like an animal
And watched u slowly die inside
As u Breathe your first air of freedom
On the day u become a free man
Raise your Regal brow in Pride
4 now you R in God’s Hands
The life of many were given
So that the day would one day come
That the devils in Power at Pretoria
Would pay for the evil crimes they’ve done

— Tupac Shakur, “Just a Breath of Freedom: 4 Nelson Mandela”, a poem from “The Rose That Grew From Concrete”

The nature of Abraham Lincoln’s relationship with Ann Rutledge is one of history’s questions that can never be fully answered.  Many historians believe that she was Lincoln’s first love.  Lincoln’s law partner, William H. Herndon, believed that she was his only love.  When Rutledge died from typhoid fever in 1835, Lincoln, who was the postmaster of New Salem, Illinois at the time, was said to be inconsolable, deeply depressed, and — his friends feared — suicidal.

On August 25, 1838, an unsigned poem was published in the Sangamo Journal, a local newspaper in Springfield, Illinois connected with Whig Party politics.  While the poem was submitted anonymously, the writing style, the timing of its publication, and the newspaper of choice leads most historians to believe that it was written by Abraham Lincoln who was now living in Springfield, a Whig member of the Illinois State Legislature, and a contributor to the Sangamo Journal.

The Suicide’s Soliloquy
"The following lines were said to have been found near the bones of a man supposed to have committed suicide in a deep forest on the flat branch of the Sangamon some time ago."

Here, where the lonely hooting owl
Sends forth his midnight moans,
Fierce wolves shall o’er my carcass growl,
Or buzzards pick my bones.

No fellow-man shall learn my fate,
Or where my ashes lie;
Unless by beats drawn round their bait,
Or by the ravens cry.

Yes! I resolved the deed to,
And this place to do it;
This heart I’ll rush a dagger through,
Thou I in hell should rue it!

Hell! What is hell to one like me
Who pleasures never knew
By friends consigned to misery,
By hope deserted too?

To ease me of this power to think,
That through my bosom raves,
I’ll headlong leap from hell’s high brink
And wallow in the waves.

Though devils yell, and burning chains
May waken long regret;
Their frightful screams, and piercing pains,
Will help me to forget.

Yes! I’m prepared, through endless night,
To take this fiery berth!
Think not with tales of hell to fright
Me, who am damn’d on earth!

Sweet steel! Come forth from out of your sheath,
And glist’nin, speak your powers;
Rip up the organs of my breath,
And draw my blood in showers.

I strike! It quivers in that heart
Which drives me to this end;
I draw and kiss the bloody dart,
My last — my only friend! 

The way a shark can’t stop moving or he’ll die
That’s you on the floor
Sleep swimming on your back
Spitting out your teeth
Sliding like a puck
I can’t do nothin’ for you ‘less you stand up
What you need is a pocket full of crickets
To bring you back to earth 

Sam Shepard, “Shark Move”
Hawk Moon: Short Stories, Poems, Monologues

stay
and watch the next set of possibilities
arise
and fall away
what have you got to lose
but everything
piece by piece
everything
day by day

Sam Shepard: “Should He Head North”
Day out of Days (BOOKKINDLE

No people are uninteresting.
Their destinies are like histories of planets.
Nothing in them is not particular,
and no planet is like another.

And if someone lives in obscurity,
befriending that obscurity,
he is interesting to people
by his very obscurity.

Everyone has his own secret, private world.
In that world is a finest moment.
In that world is a tragic hour,
but it all is unknown to us.

And if someone dies
there dies with him his first snow,
and first kiss, and first fight.
He takes it all with him.

Yes, books and bridges remain,
and painted canvas and machinery,
yes, much is sentenced to remain,
but something really departs all the same!

Such is the law of the pitiless game.
It’s not people who die, but worlds.
We remember people, sinful and earthly.
But what did we know, in essence, about them?

What do we know of brothers, of friends?
What do we know of our one and only?
And about our own fathers,
knowing everything, we know nothing.

They perish.  They cannot be brought back.
Their secret worlds are not regenerated.
And every time I want again
to cry out against the unretrievableness.

— Yevgeny Yevtushenko, "No people are…", 1961 
(Translated by Albert C. Todd)
Yevtushenko: The Collected Poems, 1952-1990 

363 plays
Don McLean

anthonybergen:

Don McLean: Vincent

For Tupac Shakur, on the 16th anniversary of his death.  Many are surprised to find that this was Tupac’s favorite song, but it’s the perfect illustration of that poetic soul I mentioned he possessed in my earlier post.  Tupac had a deep admiration for Vincent van Gogh, which he expressed in a poem of his own, published in his book of poetry The Rose That Grew From Concrete:

Starry Night
Dedicated in Memory of Vincent van Gogh

a creative heart, obsessed with satisfying
This dormant and uncaring society
u have given them the stars at night
and u have given them Bountiful Bouquets of Sunflowers
But 4 u there is only contempt
and though u pour yourself into that frame
and present it so proudly
this world could not accept your masterpieces
from the heart

So on that starry night
u gave 2 us and
u took away from us
The only thing we never acknowledged
    your life

March 4, 1865

All dreaded it
All sought to avert it
Both parties deprecated war
One would make war
Rather than let the nation survive
One would accept war
Rather than let it perish

And the war came
Neither party anticipated
That the cause of the conflict might cease
With or even before
The conflict itself should cease

Both read the same Bible
Pray to the same God
Each invokes
His aid against the other

It may seem strange
That any men should dare to ask
A just God’s assistance
In wringing their bread from the sweat
Of other men’s faces
Let us judge not
That we be not judged

Woe unto the world because of offenses!
For it must needs be that offenses come
Woe to that man by whom the offense cometh
American slavery is one of the offenses
Which must needs come

Fondly do we hope
Fervently do we pray
That this mighty scourge of war
May speedily pass away

If two hundred fifty years of unrequited toil
Shall be sunk
Until every drop of blood drawn with the lash
Shall be paid
By another drawn with the sword
It must be said:
The judgments are true and righteous

With malice toward none
With charity for all
With firmness in the right
As God gives us to see the right

Let us strive
Finish the work we are in
Let us strive
Bind up the nation’s wounds
Let us strive
Care for him who born the battle
For his widow
For his orphan

Let us strive to do all
Let us strive to achieve
Let us cherish
A just and lasting peace
Among ourselves and with all nations.

So, I was reading about Found Poetry — taking ordinary prose and spotlighting or modifying the words in order create a type of poem.  It sounded interesting, so I spent five minutes trying to put together a found poem with Lincoln’s second Inaugural Address.  I’m going to post it next.  Poetry is not one of my weapons in my arsenal, though, so let me know what you think and don’t hesitate to say that it’s garbage.  It’s kind of fun to do.  I recommend playing around with the device.  I guess you can use just about anything to put something together.

If there is something to desire,
There will be something to regret.
If there is something to regret,
There will be something to recall.
If there is something to recall,
There was nothing to regret.
If there was nothing to regret,
There was nothing to desire.

Vera Pavlova, If There Is Something To Desire: One Hundred Poems