Where are the snows of yesteryear?

Ballade des Dames du Temps Jadis
par François Villon (for info & translation, see Wikipedia entry )

Dictes-moy où, n'en quel pays,
Est Flora, la belle Romaine;
Archipiada, ne Thaïs,
Qui fut sa cousine germaine;
Echo, parlant quand bruyt on maine
Dessus rivière ou sus estan,
Qui beauté eut trop plus qu'humaine?
Mais où sont les neiges d'antan!

 Où est la très sage Heloïs,
Pour qui fut chastré et puis moyne
Pierre Esbaillart a Sainct-Denys?
Pour son amour eut cest essoyne.
Semblablement, où est la royne
Qui commanda que Buridan
Fust gecté en ung sac en Seine?
Mais où sont les neiges d'antan!

 La royne Blanche comme ung lys,
Qui chantoit à voix de sereine,
Berthe au grand pied, Bietris, Allys;
Harembourgis, qui tint le Mayne,
Et Jehanne, la bonne Lorraine,
Qu'Anglois bruslèrent à Rouen;
Où sont-ils, Vierge souveraine?...
Mais où sont les neiges d'antan!

 Prince, n'enquerez de sepmaine
Où elles sont, ne de cest an,
Que ce refrain ne vous remaine:
Mais où sont les neiges d'antan!


Snow-Globe gets a shake

Some follow-up commentary to the poem "Sans Net" (in previous post).  This is from a reply on Facebook to Chris Kraemer :

ChrisSecond reading and and I hear a definite lilt. Go ahead, wear out your dancing shoes this year.

Me:  Thanks for reading this mighty obscure poem, Chris. I guess this could be considered Symbolist in the murkiest way. I'm following up the image of the snowstorm in Prov. seen from the cozy library window. Thinking of the pun on "divine Providence" & the challenge to glib intellectualizing presented by the many homeless people, out there in the freezing snow-globe ("sans avocat" - without an advocate" - "sans (safety) net" - echo of K. Lear "sans.. sans... everything"). The "stone man on the hill" - statue of Rog Williams, who founded & named this town - kind of a surreal otherness image, meant to imply a perhaps unseen human/divine dimension - the eschatology of Hope, which is providential ("Hope" is the RI state motto). This little hope leads to the "frothy lens" of the New Year, the "yea" of the bubbly wine. & this "lens" leads obscurely to an image of the mandorla, the "almond", by way of the bending (yew/you) of Apollinaire's/Apollo's bow... Apollinaire linking (in MY mind, anyway!) - & in related poems in this series - with the Great War & the medicine of poetry - that wounded healer/veteran (Apollinaire) with his hopeful poems... & leading also to the background of the mosaics in Ravenna (Church of St. Apollinaris) with their images of transfiguration... & inevitably also to Mandelstam (the "almond branch") in alluding to his poem written in cold snowy exile in Voronezh, as he imagines Dante's "all-human hills" in Tuscany (M. carried around a copy of the Divine Comedy into exile).

p.s. while I was writing this I was listening for the 1st time to a great cosmic album by Wayne Shorter - titled "Without a Net". So from the image of the sky & the dancing snowflake come these galaxies - "Pegasus", the poetry horse, is a title of one of the Shorter pieces. The "short Wain" or (fore)shortened Wain would be the Little Dipper, galactic home of the North Star... & the dancing snowflake is also bringing to mind King (& Psalmist) David dancing before the ark (by way of the hexagonal snowflake-Star of David, the star of Redemption...). So your reference to dancing shoes is very apropos!

 I guess this is a pretty good illustration of how I make poems. I take what shows up in my mental library & try to turn it into music.


Sans Net



Providence through library windows
like a snow-globe, from inside.
Out there, nowhere to hide,
sans avocat (nobody knows

the trouble) shiver-racked shades
flaked from sleek sound
systems... fine-ground,
filtered grit-roles (nice blades).

The stone man on the hill
stands for our good Will,
we ghosts – here, still
until yon Cain-&-Abel tale’s

fulfilled.  & by the New Year’s
bubbly lens (our frothy
yea all ears attend) we
spy, at last, Apollinaire’s

yew bend, en camouflage – a pine
amid the armèd greens,
a thorn among has-beens –
aiming toward you : like a sign

in the sky... like a snowflake
stand-in for Solomon,
dancing (all-human,
now).  She be your wordless music,

harmless bairn – your New Year’s
resolution, justified... your
mangy, invisible bride –
bright Pegasus, short Wain (snow tears).