Saturday, August 30, 2014

Other Worlds

As August draws to a close, a visit to Thomas Hardy seems appropriate.  In a recent post, I mentioned an encounter with five Canadian geese.  The flock has now increased to twelve, circling the shoreline, calling.  As often happens when the World arcs into autumn, a Hardy mood has begun to steal over me.

              An August Midnight

A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter -- winged, horned, and spined --
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While 'mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands. . . .

Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space.
-- My guests besmear my new-penned line,
Or bang at the lamp and fall supine.
'God's humblest, they!' I muse.  Yet why?
They know Earth-secrets that know not I.

Thomas Hardy, Poems of the Past and the Present (1901).

Gerald Gardiner (1902-1959), "Norfolk Brick Kiln"

The thoughts expressed by Hardy at the close of the poem bring to mind this poem by Michael Longley.

            Out There

Do they ever meet out there,
The dolphins I counted,
The otter I wait for?
I should have spent my life
Listening to the waves.

Michael Longley, The Ghost Orchid (Jonathan Cape 1995).

I do not believe that Hardy and Longley are sentimentalizing our fellow creatures, but simply pointing out the possibility of unknown affinities that we ought to attend to.  This may be accompanied by a dose of humility, which is never a bad thing.

John Haswell (1855-1925), "Whitnash Church"

Perhaps we do not inhabit wholly different worlds after all.  Whether one is a strict evolutionist or a strict creationist, a scientist or a theologian, it matters not: I'd venture to say that a vital current, a common thread, wends its way through all these worlds.  Which is not always an unmixed blessing, some might argue.

                 Important Insects

Important insects clamber to the top
Of stalks; look round with uninquiring eyes
And find the world incomprehensible;
Then totter back to earth and circumscribe
Irregular territories pointlessly.
Some insects narcissistically assume
Patterns of spots or stripes or burnished sheen
For purposes of sex or camouflage,
Some tweet or rasp, though most are without speech
Except a low, subliminal, mindless chatter.
Take heart: those scientists are wrong who find
Elements of the human in their systems,
Despite their busy, devious trafficking
Important insects simply do not matter.

James Reeves, The Questioning Tiger (Heinemann 1964).

I. E. Shaw, "Rhuddlan Castle, Denbighshire" (1988)

The World is reticent, as are the inhabitants of all the worlds that surround us.  But bear in mind that this talking business is overrated.  (Do not get me started on modern devices of "communication.")  To be reticent is not to be inarticulate.

Be the keeper of the grave-yard,
     When I die.

Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 4: Autumn-Winter (Hokuseido 1952), page xxvi.

Thomas Sheard (1866-1921), "After the Service"

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Dream Beneath A Summer Moon

As I have mentioned before, Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) is the Shakespeare of Japan.  Or, to be fair:  Shakespeare is the Basho of England (and the English-speaking world).  Without Basho, haiku likely would not have developed into a serious form of art.  He transformed it from a sort of pleasant diversion -- an element of social gatherings in which sequences of poems were created -- into something else entirely.

This is one of Basho's best-known poems:

     an octopus pot --
inside, a short-lived dream
     under a summer moon.

Basho (translated by Makoto Ueda), in Makoto Ueda, Basho and His Interpreters: Selected Hokku with Commentary (Stanford University Press 1991), page 201.

Some background information.  "An octopus pot is an unglazed earthenware vessel made for trapping an octopus, which has the habit of escaping into a dark hole when it is alarmed.  Fishermen string a number of these pots on a rope, sink them into the sea, and pull them up after octopuses have entered them."  Ibid.  Basho wrote the haiku while visiting Akashi, a seaside town near Kobe.  The poem bears the heading:  "Staying overnight in Akashi."  Ibid.  Thus, as is the case with nearly all haiku, Basho's verse is based on direct personal experience -- a moment in time.

Charles Ginner (1878-1952), "Dahlias and Cornflowers" (1929)

Here is the original in romaji (transliterated Japanese using Romanized spelling):

tako-tsubo ya
hakanaki yume wo
natsu no tsuki

Tako is "octopus."  Tsubo is "pot" or "jar."  Ya is a particle of emphasis, akin to "!".  Hakanaki means "fleeting," "transient," "short-lived," or "ephemeral."  Yume is "dream" (as a noun).  Wo can be described as a "noun-following particle marking the direct object of a clause." Kodansha's Romanized Japanese-English Dictionary (1993), page 375.  Natsu is "summer."  Tsuki is "moon."  No is another "noun-following particle," which, in this case, turns the final line into: "moon of summer" or "summer moon."  It all seems fairly simple, doesn't it?  Deceptively simple, as is the case with all good haiku.

Charles Ginner, "Flask Walk, Skyline" (1934)

Here are a few other English translations of the haiku, for purposes of comparison.

     The octopus trap:
Fleeting dreams
     Under the summer moon.

R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 3: Summer-Autumn (Hokuseido 1952), page 41.  When considering the various translations, bear in mind that, in Japanese, there are no plural forms of nouns:  singular or plural is a matter of context.  Nor is there an equivalent to "a" or "the."

     The jars of octopus --
brief dreams
     under the summer moon.

Robert Hass, The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa (The Ecco Press 1994), page 22.

     An octopus pot:
An ephemeral dream
     Under the summer moon.

Toshiharu Oseko, Basho's Haiku (Maruzen 1990), page 107.

Charles Ginner, "Hartland Point from Boscastle" (1941)

What, then, are we to make of this?  What does it "mean"?  The notion of "explaining" a haiku is one that I resist mightily.  With apologies, I will refer to a recent post:  a haiku is like a moose swimming across a lake and walking off into the deep woods.  Or like the buck emerging from the lake in Robert Frost's "The Most of It."  The moose and the buck are what they are.

Basho is reporting what he saw and felt.  Make no mistake:  there is consummate art in what he does.  But there is no symbolism.  And there are no "tropes" or metaphors or allegories.  Basho's moment is what it is.  But that does not mean that it does not have intimations and implications and depths beyond words.

Misty rain on Mount Ro, the incoming tide at Sekko --
Before you have been there, you have many regrets;
When you have been there and come back,
It is just simply misty rain on Mount Ro, the incoming tide at Sekko.

Su Tung-P'o (also known as Su Shih) (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 1: Eastern Culture (Hokuseido 1949).

Charles Ginner, "Rooftops"

Friday, August 22, 2014


One of my walks takes me along the shore of Puget Sound, past the docks of a marina -- "yachts tinkling and dancing in the bay/like race-horses." (Derek Mahon, "Kinsale.")  At one point, there is a row of a dozen or so maples beside the path.  I noticed this week that, although it is high August, the maples are already in the midst of autumn, their leaves a bright combination of reds and greens, redder in the direction of the rising sun, it seems.

As I walked on, five Canadian geese suddenly flew overhead from behind me, honking, going about their business.  The very sound of autumn.

George Vicat Cole, "Harvest Time" (1860)

As I have noted before, Howard Nemerov is a wonderful poet of autumn -- and of late summer, and the arc into autumn, as well.

                    Summer's Elegy

Day after day, day after still day,
The summer has begun to pass away.
Starlings at twilight fly clustered and call,
And branches bend, and leaves begin to fall.
The meadow and the orchard grass are mown,
And the meadowlark's house is cut down.

The little lantern bugs have doused their fires,
The swallows sit in rows along the wires.
Berry and grape appear among the flowers
Tangled against the wall in secret bowers,
And cricket now begins to hum the hours
Remaining to the passion's slow procession
Down from the high place and the golden session
Wherein the sun was sacrificed for us.
A failing light, no longer numinous,
Now frames the long and solemn afternoons
Where butterflies regret their closed cocoons.
We reach the place unripe, and made to know
As with a sudden knowledge that we go
Away forever, all hope of return
Cut off, hearing the crackle of the burn-
ing blade behind us, and the terminal sound
Of apples dropping on the dry ground.

Howard Nemerov, The Blue Swallows (1967).

This is a lovely poem, but I would respectfully disagree with these lines:  "A failing light, no longer numinous,/Now frames the long and solemn afternoons."  My friendly objection is to this: "no longer numinous."  The OED defines "numinous" as follows:  "Giving rise to a sense of the spiritually transcendent; (esp. of things in art or the natural world) evoking a heightened sense of the mystical or sublime; awe-inspiring."  In my humble opinion, the slanting yellow light of late summer and early autumn is as numinous (and evocative) as light, and the World, get.

George Vicat Cole, "A Surrey Cornfield" (1864)

Here, Nemerov captures the essence of this time of year in four lines, providing further confirmation that less is often more.


When in still air and still in summertime
A leaf has had enough of this, it seems
To make up its mind to go; fine as a sage
Its drifting in detachment down the road.

Howard Nemerov, Gnomes & Occasions (1973).

The emotions evoked by the first falling leaf of incipient autumn transcend time and place.  This was written in Japan nearly three centuries before Nemerov's poem:

     The leaf of the paulownia,
With not a breath of wind,

Boncho (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 4: Autumn-Winter (Hokuseido 1952), page 130.

George Vicat Cole, "Harvesting in the Thames Valley" (1888)

Monday, August 18, 2014

"Yon Far Country"

I would like to stay in "the land of lost content" for a moment longer.

Into my heart an air that kills
     From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
     What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
     I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
     And cannot come again.

A. E. Housman, Poem XL, A Shropshire Lad (1896).

In my previous post, I placed this poem in apposition to the phrase "the past is a foreign country."  The "far country" referred to by Housman is the lost, irredeemable past.  In Housman's case, the defining feature of that irrecoverable past is the boundless prospect of love, a love that proved to be unrequited.

George Rose (1882-1955), "Fyfield, Essex" (c. 1951)

The "far country" of the past can be found in another poem by Housman.

Alas, the country whence I fare,
     It is where I would stay;
And where I would not, it is there
     That I shall be for aye.

A. E. Housman, More Poems (1936).  "Aye" is used in the sense of "ever, always, continually."  OED.

Housman's two poems bring to mind this:


Is Memory most of miseries miserable,
Or the one flower of ease in bitterest hell?

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, in William Rossetti (editor), The Poetical Works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1903).

Although Housman was at pains to point out that he was not a Stoic in the Greek and Roman philosophical sense, I would suggest that he was nevertheless a lower-case stoic in terms of the expression of his emotions. He would likely find Rossetti's poem to be a bit florid.  But I think it fits.

George Rose, "Breaking the Clod"

I am also drawn back to J. L. Carr's novel A Month in the Country, which, as I have noted before, contains echoes of Housman's poetry.  Some brief background:  the story is centered on Tom Birkin, a veteran of the First World War who has received a commission to restore a Medieval wall-painting in a small church in "Oxgodby."  Here are the novel's concluding paragraphs (for those of you who have not read the book, and may wish to, there are no "spoilers" in the following passage):

"And, standing before the great spread of colour, I felt the old tingling excitement and a sureness that the time would come when some stranger would stand there too and understand.

It would be like someone coming to Malvern, bland Malvern, who is halted by the thought that Edward Elgar walked this road on his way to give music lessons or, looking over to the Clee Hills, reflects that Housman had stood in that place, regretting his land of lost content.  And, at such a time, for a few of us there will always be a tugging at the heart -- knowing a precious moment gone and we not there.

We can ask and ask but we can't have again what once seemed ours for ever -- the way things looked, that church alone in the fields, a bed on a belfry floor, a remembered voice, the touch of a hand, a loved face.  They've gone and you can only wait for the pain to pass.

All this happened so long ago.  And I never returned, never wrote, never met anyone who might have given me news of Oxgodby.  So, in memory, it stays as I left it, a sealed room furnished by the past, airless, still, ink long dry on a put-down pen.

But this was something I knew nothing of as I closed the gate and set off across the meadow."

J. L. Carr, A Month in the Country (1980; revised 1990).

George Rose, "The Usurper's Field"

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sixteen Lines

Over the past few days I have been preoccupied with sixteen lines of poetry. The lines are straightforward and simple.  Apart from two words (of three syllables each), the words in the lines consist of only one or two syllables. The syntax is not convoluted.  The emotions expressed are ones that we have all felt.

The lines are found in two of the best-known poems in the English language.  I suspect that many of us know the poems by heart, perhaps inadvertently:  a single reading of them is sufficient to embed them in your memory.

I revisit the poems often (and they have appeared here before), but it was not until recently (I am slow on the uptake when it comes to these matters) that I began to think about how the two of them play off of one another. Another instance of failing to pay attention.  Another reason to be thankful for the gift of tiny revelations.

Bertram Priestman, "Wareham Channel, Dorset" (1910)

Here is the first eight-line poem, which is untitled.

Into my heart an air that kills
     From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
     What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
     I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
     And cannot come again.

A. E. Housman, Poem XL, A Shropshire Lad (1896).

"The past is a foreign country."  (Until I looked it up today, I didn't know that this phrase comes from the first sentence of L. P. Hartley's novel The Go-Between (1953):  "The past is a foreign country:  they do things differently there.")

"Blue remembered hills" and "the land of lost content":  don't you get the feeling that those once well-known phrases are disappearing from cultural consciousness?  But I suppose that, even in Housman's own day, there were those who found the words too "sentimental" for the Modern Age. Imagine their chances of survival in our ironic world.

Should anyone ever ask you for a definition of poetry (an unlikely possibility, I concede), I recommend directing them to these three words: "blue remembered hills."  What if Housman had given us "green remembered hills" or "dark remembered hills"?  There you have it: poetry.

Bertram Priestman, "The Sun-Veiled Hills of Wharfedale" (1917)

I was sitting in my chair, musing over Housman's poem, when the following eight lines (again, untitled) made an appearance.

A slumber did my spirit seal;
     I had no human fears:
She seemed a thing that could not feel
     The touch of earthly years.

No motion has she now, no force;
     She neither hears nor sees;
Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
     With rocks, and stones, and trees.

William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads, with Other Poems (1800).

I realized that I had never thought about the two poems together.  What first caught my attention were the surface similarities:  two four-line quatrains rhyming A-B-A-B (common metre or common measure, to be technical about it) -- the standard form for traditional ballads.  The ancient heart of English poetry.  Then I thought about the words themselves:  all of them consisting of one or two syllables, save for two:  "remembered" and "diurnal."  Think of the weight each of those words bears in its respective poem.

And, of course, there is the human link between the two.  What shall we call it?  The pain of irrevocable loss?  The sudden awareness of mortality? The keen yearning for time gone for ever?  But enough of that.  As I have observed on more than one occasion:  explanation and explication are the death of poetry.  The sixteen lines speak for themselves.

Bertram Priestman, "Kilnsey Crag, Wharfedale" (1929)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

"And August The Most Peaceful Month"

As long-time (and much-appreciated!) readers of this blog may recall, I, being a creature of habit, have previously identified my "April poem" (Patrick Kavanagh's "Wet Evening in April"), my "May poem" (Philip Larkin's "The Trees"), and my "November poem" (Wallace Stevens' "The Region November").  At the risk of trying your patience, gentle readers, here is my August poem.

           A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts

The difficulty to think at the end of day,
When the shapeless shadow covers the sun
And nothing is left except light on your fur --

There was the cat slopping its milk all day,
Fat cat, red tongue, green mind, white milk
And August the most peaceful month.

To be, in the grass, in the peacefullest time,
Without that monument of cat,
The cat forgotten in the moon;

And to feel that the light is a rabbit-light,
In which everything is meant for you
And nothing need be explained;

Then there is nothing to think of.  It comes of itself;
And east rushes west and west rushes down,
No matter.  The grass is full

And full of yourself.  The trees around are for you,
The whole of the wideness of night is for you,
A self that touches all edges,

You become a self that fills the four corners of night.
The red cat hides away in the fur-light
And there you are humped high, humped up,

You are humped higher and higher, black as stone --
You sit with your head like a carving in space
And the little green cat is a bug in the grass.

Wallace Stevens, Parts of a World (1942).

Is August "the most peaceful month"?  There is a sense of fullness, of culmination, isn't there?  Yet, in about a week or so, an ever-so-slight slant of yellow light will become noticeable, accompanied by an ever-so-slight lengthening of shadows.  Something will be announcing its approach . . .

Norman Rowe, "Span" (1985)

On a previous occasion, I made a feeble attempt to explain what this poem may "mean," but ended up suggesting that it may simply be about a rabbit that was eating the bulbs in Stevens' garden at night, beneath the bedroom window.  This seems perfectly acceptable to me.

But let's put "meaning" aside for a moment and consider only the sound of the poem.  Notice the lovely repetitions (something at which Stevens is a master) -- unobtrusive, but with a cumulative effect:  "And August the most peaceful month.//To be, in the grass, in the peacefullest time"; "The grass is full/And full of yourself"; "The trees around are for you,/The whole of the wideness of night is for you"; "A self that touches all edges,//You become a self that fills the four corners of night."

And then there are the lines that are simply marvelous in their own right as perfect combinations of words, regardless of what they mean:  "Fat cat, red tongue, green mind, white milk"; "And east rushes west and west rushes down"; "The whole of the wideness of night is for you"; "the four corners of night"; "And the little green cat is a bug in the grass."  Not to mention the title.  (As I have noted before, reading the table of contents or the index of titles in Stevens' Collected Poems is a delight in itself.)

In one sense, the poem is a humorous nursery rhyme.  In another sense, it is a deeply serious meditation on how we ought to live our life, and what it means to be truly human.

Norman Rowe, "Garden with Chairs" (1978)

Turning back to "meaning" for a moment, perhaps a good way to approach "A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts" is to compare it with another poem by Stevens.  The two of them play off one another quite well.

       The Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain

There it was, word for word,
The poem that took the place of a mountain.

He breathed its oxygen,
Even when the book lay turned in the dust of his table.

It reminded him how he had needed
A place to go to in his own direction,

How he had recomposed the pines,
Shifted the rocks and picked his way among clouds,

For the outlook that would be right,
Where he would be complete in an unexplained completion:

The exact rock where his inexactnesses
Would discover, at last, the view toward which they had edged,

Where he could lie and, gazing down at the sea,
Recognize his unique and solitary home.

Wallace Stevens, The Rock (1954), in Collected Poetry and Prose (Library of America 1997).

I would suggest that, in both poems, Stevens is describing the same unique and fundamental human activity.  The activity that, he would say, makes us human.

Norman Rowe, "Water Lilies" (1979)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Poetry: A Coda

I must ask for your forbearance today.  As a follow-up to my previous post, I hope to offer a humble instance of the mysterious way in which poetry may unfold in our lives when we least expect it.  The request for forbearance relates, first, to my need to provide a personal anecdote, which I am customarily loath to do.  It relates, second, to what could be perceived as an attempt to place myself in the company of Robert Frost -- believe me, nothing could be further from my intentions.  My personal experience only serves as a necessary prelude to Frost's poetry.

In the summer of 1977, I lived in a cabin on the south shore of a small mountain lake in the panhandle of Idaho, up near the Canadian border.  By some quirk of long-ago governmental land title issuance, the cabin was the only dwelling on the lake.  The lake was roughly circular, about three-quarters of a mile in diameter.  I spent a great deal of time reading in a deck chair on the lawn beside the water or out on the dock.  An odd detail that I recall:  I was reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's August 1914 much of that summer.

Every week or so, a moose would swim across the lake from the north shore at a steady, leisurely pace.  Each time this occurred, he or she would swim in a straight line towards the dock.  It emerged slowly out of the water and stepped into the reeds and cat-tails along the shore, only a few yards from the cabin.  It then walked calmly off into the trackless woods, paying me no mind.

Stanley Spencer, "Garden at Whitehouse, Northern Ireland" (1952)

Twenty years later, thinking about the moose, I felt prompted to write this:

                    Watching the Lake

One summer, day after day, I watched a lake.
Nothing of that time remains in my hands.
Even then, I knew it would soon be gone.
None of it was, of course, mine to hold on to --
I'd watch the wind ripple from shore to shore
Till the rushes whispered in the shallows;
Once a week, a moose swam across the lake,
Stepped ashore, and walked off into the woods.
None of this, I knew, would pass my way again.

sip (October, 1997).

I offer this not for its negligible poetic merit, but solely as a record of the persistence of the moose in my memory.

Stanley Spencer, "The Ferry Hotel Lawn, Cookham" (1936)

I am ashamed to say that I did not begin to go deeply into the poetry of Robert Frost until about 15 years ago, when I decided to move beyond the old chestnuts.  Six or seven years ago, I came across this  poem for the first time.

                     The Most of It

He thought he kept the universe alone;
For all the voice in answer he could wake
Was but the mocking echo of his own
From some tree-hidden cliff across the lake.
Some morning from the boulder-broken beach
He would cry out on life, that what it wants
Is not its own love back in copy speech,
But counter-love, original response.
And nothing ever came of what he cried
Unless it was the embodiment that crashed
In the cliff's talus on the other side,
And then in the far distant water splashed,
But after a time allowed for it to swim,
Instead of proving human when it neared
And someone else additional to him,
As a great buck it powerfully appeared,
Pushing the crumpled water up ahead,
And landed pouring like a waterfall,
And stumbled through the rocks with horny tread,
And forced the underbrush -- and that was all.

Robert Frost, A Witness Tree (1942).

So that's it.  End of story.  Nothing earth-shattering.  A simple anecdote about life and poetry 30 years in the making.  You can imagine my emotions as I came to the end of "The Most of It."  Surprise and joy, of course.  And then a kind of serenity.  All serenity being short-lived.

I do not propose to draw some sort of all-purpose, all-encompassing moral to the story.  Poetry is not life.  Life is not poetry.  But, still . . .

Stanley Spencer, "Scarecrow, Cookham" (1934)

Sunday, August 3, 2014


I have suggested on more than one occasion that it is the individual poem that matters, not the poet.  Yes, there are poets who stand apart from others, the so-called "major poets":  Wordsworth, Keats, Yeats, and the like.  But individual poems written by "minor," little-known, or largely-forgotten poets are every bit as valuable as any poem written by the eminences who attract much of the attention.

Part of what I attempt (humbly) to do here is save these wayside poems (and the poets who wrote them) from neglect, for each of them is a potential stepping stone as we cross the stream or the moor, not quite knowing which direction we are headed.

Yes, we should by all means read Yeats and Keats and Wordsworth.  And long-time (and much-appreciated!) readers of this blog are aware of my affection for, say, Thomas Hardy, Edward Thomas, and Philip Larkin.  But I do not for a moment forget:  "Listen; a clumsy knight who rode alone/Upon a stumbling jade in a great wood/Belated" or "Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake."  Nor would life be the same without: "I long ago/As a child thought the tree sighed 'Do I know/Whether my motion makes the wind that moves me?'" or "Happy were he could finish forth his fate/In some unhaunted desert."  The treasures are endless.

Walter Bayes, "A Mill at Braintree" (c. 1940)

       The Songs I Had

The songs I had are withered
Or vanished clean,
Yet there are bright tracks
Where I have been,

And there grow flowers
For other's delight.
Think well, O singer,
Soon comes night.

Ivor Gurney, Selected Poems (edited by George Walter) (J. M. Dent 1996). "Other's" (line 6) appears as such in Gurney's manuscript.  It has sometimes been emended (rightly or wrongly, I do not know) to "others'" in later printings.

Walter Bayes, "Colchester from the North Station" (c. 1940)

We live in an age in which one can obtain an academic degree in the writing of poetry.  Imagine that!  Card-carrying poetasters, and their poems, proliferate like bluebell meadows in Spring.  Or something like that.  As to what this says about the current state of poetry, I will keep my mouth shut.  Besides, I am still working my way through the poems of the T'ang Dynasty and The Greek Anthology.  I shall not be within hailing distance of contemporary poetry any time soon.

                                 The Poem on the Wall

My clumsy poem on the inn-wall none cared to see;
With bird-droppings and moss's growth the letters were blotched away.
There came a guest with heart so full, that though a page to the Throne,
He did not grudge with his broidered coat to wipe off the dust, and read.

Po Chu-i (translated by Arthur Waley), in Arthur Waley, More Translations from the Chinese (1919).

Waley provides this note to the poem:  "Yuan Chen wrote that on his way to exile he had discovered a poem inscribed by Po Chu-i on the wall of the Lo-k'ou Inn."  Yuan Chen was a poet, and one of Po Chu-i's closest friends. Waley dates the poem A.D. 810.

Walter Bayes, "Middle Mill, Colchester" (c. 1940)

It's odd to hear or read the word "truth" nowadays, isn't it?  Especially in the media or in public discourse.  In those spheres, the word has no content whatsoever.

In this untitled poem by Ivor Gurney, "truth" retains meaning.

Soft rain beats upon my windows
Hardly hammering.
But by the great gusts guessed further off
Up by the bare moor and brambly headland
Heaven and earth make war.

That savage toss of the pine boughs past music
And the roar of the elms. . . .
Here come, in the candle light, soft reminder
Of poetry's truth, while rain beats as softly here
As sleep, or shelter of farms.

Ivor Gurney, Selected Poems (edited by George Walter) (J. M. Dent 1996).

Walter Bayes, "The Abbey, Little Coggeshall" (c. 1940)