Robin Gordon

Part I:
Poems of the
Sixties and

Auksford arms: a great auk displaying an open book with the words "Ex ovo sapientia"
Auksford, 2019

Copyright Robin Gordon, 2019



Part I: Poems of the sixties and seventies



Fräulein Schiller

The Pearl

Du Heuchlerin (You hypocrite)


Oceans of memory

A world lay in the hollow edged with clay

Fair Rosamund of the Ivory Tower

Swave, blaze and soffis-ticketed

Zeptember goocoo zong

(December 2018)

Look not here for lyrical effusion,
nor golden thoughts to guide in your confusion,
nor yet outpourings of a wounded heart.
Instead you’ll find the versifier’s art.

No deep and wondrous thoughts here you will find,
but poetry of a rather different kind.
It’s merely entertainment, nothing worse,
that you’ll discover in my bits of verse.

Of form I am a master, as you’ll see,
in fact I think that few’re as good as I
these days when anyone, it seems, can be
an artist and you do not need to try
to learn technique, it’s taken all as read,
when art can merely be an unmade bed.

When ‘poets’ count vague assonance as rhyme,
and pair up words like ‘wine’ (or ‘wines’) with ‘time’,
what are we then to think of all of those
who write as so-called poems simply prose,

and think that, if they gaily intersperse
some line breaks, they’ve converted it to verse,
that, if you write some lines while you feel sad,
you’ve made a poem, and it can’t be bad,

and if by chance you stick in rhyming words
you’ve made a verse, although it may not scan,
that assonances such as ‘purse’ and ‘birds’
make you a very skilful rhyming man,
or woman as perhaps the case may be?
That’s not, I fear, the kind of verse for me.

Way back when I was just a simple teenage boy
my teachers taught me well how to employ
the English language, both in verse and prose.
They taught that verse is based on rhythm, that feet,
which may be iambic or trochaic, make it fleet
to run or hop or skip and metamorphose
prosaic stuff into some form of verse.
They said in poetry there’s nothing worse
than pseudo-verse that doesn’t really scan,
that rhyme’s an ornament that needs some skill,
and assonance will not quite fit the bill.
I’ve learned these lessons and do what I can.

So there it is.  Scansion here you’ll find
of many sorts, and rhymes of every kind,
and word-play too of any kind you choose,
but deep philosophy or consolation
you’ll have to seek in quite another station.
My greatest talent’s merely to amuse.

Part I: Poems of the sixties and seventies

(14 April 2109)

In Volume the First
the poet, athirst
to seek out a voice
must first make a choice.

If his thirst he would quench
would German or French
be the way he should go?
Did he really not know?

Would mere imitation
discover his station
and help him move faster
to being a master?

By Volume the Second
could he be  reckoned
his voice to have found,
his very own sound?

Of that you must judge,
but don’t bear a grudge
if there’s no consolation
for your desolation.

I invite to peruse
these lines, to amuse
my readers, that’s all,
and not to enthral.


This is an early attempt to write a baudelairean poem in French in the pantoum form, in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza becomes the first and third of the next.  Though the poem is in French the title is in German, presumably linking the figure of Care who plants her standard on Baudelaire's skull with that of Sorge who haunts the dying Faust.  Who knows, who cares?  Anyway, here's a bit of pretentious adolescent rubbish to start the collection. 

Mon crâne est une tour où se trouve une horloge
qui me dit d'un ton sec et monotone: Le temps
s'enfuit.  Dans un théâtre, accroupi dans mon loge,
j'écoute les moments; j'y suis depuis longtemps.

Qui me dit d'un ton sec et monotone, Le temps
s'écoule?  Est-ce l'horloge, ou tes yeux, profonds, vides?
J'écoute les moments - j'y suis depuis longtemps -
sous l'ombre de tes cils, où la vie de tes rides

s'écoule.  Est-ce l'horloge, ou tes yeux, profonds, vides,
qui me dérobe de ma volonté?  Ah, j'attends
sous l'ombre de tes cils où la vie de tes rides
s'écoule, et, près de ce vide affreux, je l'entends

qui me dérobe ma volonté.  Ah, j'attends
que la fleuve du temps, me jettant au néant,
s'écoule, et, près de ce vide affreux, je l'entends
qui me pousse et me roule jusque au gouffre béant.


My skull is a tower where stands a great clock
which tells me in a dry, monotonous voice: Time
is fleeting.  In a theatre, crouched in my stall,
I listen to the moments.  Long have I been here.

Which tells me in a dry monotonous voice, Time
is running out?  Is it the clock or your deep empty eyes?
I listen to the moments - long have I been here -
under the shadow of your lashes,
        where the life of your wrinkles

is running out.  Is it the clock or your deep empty eyes
robbing me of my will?  Ah, I wait
under the shadow of your lashes,
        where the life of your wrinkles
is running out, and, close to that atrocious void, I hear it

robbing me of my will.  Ah, I wait
until the river of time, throwing me into nothingness,
runs out, and, close to that atrocious void, I hear it
pushing and rolling me into the yawning abyss.

Fräulein Schiller

This poem is about a teacher I met in Germany, who one day, much to the surprise of her colleagues, confessed to being an ardent televiewer.  Her name, of course, was not Schiller.  (1964)

Das Auge hell, die Lippe Schaumbefleckt
sitzt Fräulein Schiller, hier entdeckt.
Hier sitzt sie in der Dämmerung,
entzückt und voll Bewunderung,
schaut vor sich hin im dunklen Zimmer,
Intensiv, bewegt sich nimmer.
Sie spricht: Wie leidenschaftlich gern
sehe ich jeden Abend fern.


Her eye so bright, her lip beflecked with foam
sits Fräulein Schiller, discovered here at home.
She sits in gloomy eventide
Full of wonder, quite beside
herself, and through the darkling density,
gazes still in her intensity.
She speaks: “My passionate delight
is watching telly every night”.

The Pearl

This poem was constructed entirely out of phrases taken from John Steinbeck's novelle "The Pearl”, a form of composition later used by a published poet whose innovation was hailed as genius.   (1964)

The neighbours
half-conscious in the noonday sun.
The man lying dead in the brush beside the path.
A little column of ants
near to his foot.
And the newcomers,

It is said that humans are never satisfied.
The need was great,
and the desire was great,
and the song was in the dry, brittle trees
                that line the road.

It was a morning - like other mornings.

Du Heuchlerin

This poem was written about my first German landlady, a ruthless sentimentalist.  (1964)

Du Heuchlerin,
die du immer klagst und schreist.
Du meinst du seist
der Mittelpunkt der Welt,
und alles andere
um dich zu drehen hat,
um dich zu kreisen.
Dein Mann, der armgekrümmte Wurm,
lässt dich, verachtend, auf ihm stehn,
auf ihm die Shuhe putzen.
Dich dient er, vor dir wälzt er sich im Dreck.
Und du?  Du tretst auf ihm
mit deinem zarten

Eine Dame, sagt man sollen wir beachten,
und das ist wahr.
Schon manche Frauen achtet man sogar.
Aber so ein heuchlerisches Weib,
das kann man hassen nur, das nur verachten.

Mittelpunkt des Weltalls,
wie du denkst.
Du lassest alles kriechen um dich her,
und sich erniedrigen vor deiner Majestät,
alles lenkst,
jeder der sich dagegen sträubt, den treibst du weg.
Drum bist du jetzt genau -
weisst du's nicht, o Frau -
der Mittelpunkt vom Dreck.

Translation: You hypocrite

You hypocrite,
with your complaints and screams,
to you it seems
you're the centre of the world
and everything else
has to turn around you,
make you the centre of its orbit.
Your husband, poor bowing, scraping worm,
lets you, haughtily despising, walk on him,
clean your shoes on him.
And you?  You tread on him
with your tender,
fashionably booted

A lady, it is said, we should respect.
How true.
And even common women too.
But such a such a hypocrite and such a bitch
with such a soul, well that is something which
a man like me can only hate, despise, reject.

Centre of the Universe,
you think.
Around you every other thing must crawl,
abase itself before your majesty.
You guide all.
Any who resist you drive away.
That's why you've become -
as you must surely see -
the centrepoint of scum.


A concoction probably inspired by Victor Hugo’s mockery of the French written by Belgian restaurateurs, one of whom offered Hépole d’Agnot instead of Épaule d’Agneau (shoulder of lamb).  (ca 1964).

Au gratin!  Au gratin!
il vole au vent menu.
Au gratin!  Au gratin!

A la cocque!  A la cocque!
Ils s'élancent, olé!
A la cocque!  A la cocque!

Au chant, pinnions, au chant!
Je volerai au vent!
Au chant, pinnions, au chant!

Aux cressons!  Aux cressons!
crie Hépole d'Agnot.
Aux cressons!  Aux cressons!

Le croissant!  Le croissant!
crie le Turc délicieux.
Regardez le croissant!

Aux chant, pinnions aux chant!
Je volerai au vent!
Au chant, pinnions, au chant!

Oceans of memory
(May 1972)

When the grey waters of the farmyard pond
stretched like boundless seas about the earth,
and chiplike fragments swirled beyond
the confines of the known;
when the boundless days from birth
lead on to glory, fortune, greatness, fame;
when every trial was nothing but a game,
and Death, the Leveller, a name unknown,
an empty, fruitless, unregarded name;

when the sweetness of a great revenge
was won with struggling limbs and tight-clenched fist,
and bands of happy, loyal friends
made common cause
to grab the bully's arm and twist
until he cried, and then take off his pants
and throw them back and forth in mocking dance,
laughing as he clutched his threatened drawers,
and mocking him at every glorious chance;

When the glowing August moon above
bathed in her silvery beams the passionate swains,
declaring to the night their love
for sundry girls;
when each his own true love detains,
to shower kisses on her cherry lips,
and, looking up at him, her head she tips,
pouring o'er his hands her golden curls,
and then, with lightsome foot away she skips;
who thinks of Grand-dad, dreaming in his chair,
dreaming of adventure's far-off thrills,
of the time he had no care,
of ships and swelling sails,
and Indians, aflame with quills,
who chase the shirt-tailed fleeing bully-boy,
of laughter's storms and love's tempestuous gales,
of false love's treacherous alloy
and true love's calm and unreceding joy.

He sets sail now, across the far-off seas,
his white sails full and eager to the blast,
a rug of tartan laid about his knees,
leaving all behind,
to make his lonely way at last
to where his loved one waits him with a smile.
He's almost there, with scarce another mile.
With all his soul and all his heart and mind
he leaps to her and loses all that's vile.

A world lay in
the hollow edged with clay

(13 may 1972)

A world lay in the hollow edged with clay,
whose water lapped the far exotic shore,
and strange craft from adventurous days of yore
rocked and swayed upon the sunlit deep.
Who knows what monsters
            under that calm surface sleep,
and may emerge, one terror darkened day,
to pluck beneath the waves these little craft,
the galleons and liners, and the raft
crowded with survivors from a wreck?
Can nothing hold in check
this fearful doom
that calls brave sailors to a watery tomb?

Now Johnny, I have told you not to play
along the ditch.  I won't tell you again,
so come on in before it starts to rain.
That ditch, it must be two feet deep.
I dream he's drowning when I go to sleep.
I know that's what will happen one fine day.
Johnny!  I have told you!  Come in now!
He behaves just as he likes, just anyhow.
I can't control him.  I'm a nervous wreck.
I don't know how to check
his love of clay.
You'd think he'd find a cleaner place to play.

Fair Rosamund of the ivory tower
(1 July 1973)

Fair Rosamund dwelt in an ivory tower,
on an island of ebony based,
and all around a mage's power,
to keep her from all evil hour,
a wide green lake had placed.

Sir Roland to the tall tower came
upon a milk-white steed,
for wide had spread fair Rosamund's fame,
and he'd account it to his shame
if he should not succeed.

The green lake round the island spread,
its depth no eye could plumb.
Sir Roland urged his horse ahead,
he chose far rather to be dead
and in his quest succumb

than from that tower to turn away
and leave fair Rosamund in her bower,
alone until the Judgement Day,
and bear what men of him might say,
recounting that dark hour.

Deep and cruel the emerald lake,
its waters icy cold.
It sought young Roland's life to take,
the vengenace of the mage to slake,
who placed it there of old.

It slew the horse between his knees,
the great beast breathed no more.
Sir Roland thought his heart would freeze,
no heaven above would hear his pleas,
but came at last to shore.

The lake had failed: Fair Rosamund's spire
was touched by mortal hand.
Its waters turned to emerald fire,
seeking with a green desire
the stranger in its land.

Sir Rolande sped into the tower
and mounted without rest,
until he reached fair Rosamund's bower,
and straightway in that doom-filled hour
he drew her to his breast.

A green smoke rose about the tower:
the envy of the mage
swirled around Fair Rosamund's bower,
darkened the sky of love's very own hour,
in blinding, burning rage.

Over the knight it had no power,
for his heart felt no dread,
but in his arms that precious flower,
fair Rosamund of the ivory tower,
lay pure and cold and dead.

Swave, blaze and soffis-ticketed
(Suave, blasé and sophisticated)
(5 September 1973)

None but the brave
deserve the fair.
If I were swave
I'd get in there.

Through rosy haze
I'd view the world
if I were blaze
and well-begirled.

Just like James Bond,
of girls I'm fond,
but I am weedy, weak and ricketted.
I'd get my wish
with every dish
If I were only soffis-ticketed.

Zeptember Goocoo Zong
(16 December 1974)

When the goocoo do zing in Zeptember
the cows all get the gund,
and old volks who do remember
think back to the lore that was shunned:

When the goocoo do zing in Zeptember
and it do shram in May,
then old volks who do remember
hold up their vingers and zay:

When the goocoo do zing in Zeptember
the cows all get the gund,
and old volks who do remember
think back to the lore that was shunned:

When the goocoo ... [etc.]

Please remember that these poems are copyright
For permitted uses see Copyright and Concessions.

Poems, Part II

Index to Robin Gordon's works

Auksford Index

Send an e-mail to Robin Gordon at robingordon.auksford@gmail.com