Poetry of MEN - Rizal & Raleigh
Men and Poetry
Despite what women may think of us, we uncouth rough men have our sensitivities. We may like the odd rough sport, but as the years progress, we tend to avoid even the occasional punch up and our tastes become more mellow. In fact at times, when the wind is just right, the muse comes upon us and we even indulge in poetry. Yes, I know, difficult to believe, but strangely true.
But there is a distinction though. We like our poetry to be written by manly men, not men who are inclined to speak of their flowers and of their love in the same verse.
You are my flower
you are my first blossom
you are my love
by Allen Steble, simply does not do it for us, Allen.
Nor are we impressed by crudeness, so supposed “poetry” about bodily functions we consider beneath contempt and we want nothing to do with them, despite some members of our sex thinking that it is the manly thing to do.
Though Alfred Lord Tennyson was not what you would call a tough guy, we like him because he wrote for men and he had a sense of humour as well as a quick turn of phrase. Though as the Poet Laureate he was paid to dish out the stuff by the truck load and was expected to please all and sundry, he also knew how to write for men. When Mariana says
My life is dreary,
He cometh not,
she speaks to us, because we know that she is waiting for us, not for the guy who writes about the regularity of his lavatory functions on a Sunday. When -
Her tears fell with the dews at even;
Her tears fell ere the dews were dried;
we want to offer our shoulder to her to cry on and it’s a pretty close thing to be almost tempted to pat her on the back and say “there, there…”
And sometimes thro’ the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
again, we feel that we are one of the two knights and want to do our bit for The Lady of Shalott.
We know that old Fred is one of us when he writes The Princess, a poem about Princess Ida who has a strong aversion to men (!) and creates a university exclusively for maidens (!) apparently also that way inclined (!), in a remote retreat.
Her father, King Gama, obviously a clueless klutz without an ounce of male imagination, explains that she “refuses to have anything to do with the world of men (!) and is influenced by other women, Lady Blanche and Lady Psyche, who have all resolved never to wed a man (!)”. Way to go Fred!
Come on boys, which one of us doesn't know what’s going on here and is old Fred one of us or is he not?
Whatever thoughts one may harbour about the Manliness of Tennyson’s poetry, his “Charge of the Light Brigade” is enough to erase any doubters.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismayed?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blundered:
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!
Now why the fuck am I crying like a wimp? In a fertile life full of children, I have never been able to tell a bedtime story about the six hundred of the Light Brigade or about the three hundred Spartans, period. I would start and my eyes would fill up long before the punch line. Is it a wonder my children became nervous wrecks?
The problem for us men, ladies, is that we men of steel are in reality sensitive creatures that you can manipulate to your hearts’ content if only you would shut up once in a while, pay attention, and implement what you observe. Luckily for us, you never do and once we have you under our spell, you are done for you poor chumps. Every time I hear you talk about the chills going down your spine whenever your stud “looks” at you, a smile of supreme satisfaction can be seen decorating my lips, because ladies, OUR spine does not feel any chills at all. Ever!
Anyway, back to our subject matter. Old Fred was writing from the safety of his armchair, using his imagination and his talent. But there are two men for whom poetry was incidental to their lives and was simply a way of expressing their feelings and beliefs but whose poetry epitomises Absolute Manhood. Their lives had many similarities in their character, their daring, their sense of adventure and their poetry. Even their lives ended the same way, by execution.
They were, Sir Walter Raleigh and Dr Jose Rizal. One was an English knight, the other a Filipino national hero and they were unquestionably, brothers in spirit.
Now see the difference between our old friend Tennyson, writing from the comfort of his armchair for a tidy sum and the security that goes with the position of the Poet Laureate and these two men. Let us first take Raleigh.
Sir Walter Raleigh
(c. 1552 – 29 October 1618)
He lived at a time when the church and the court were everything. They were all powerful in fact. Yet have a look at one of his most moving poems:
Go, soul, the body's guest,
Upon a thankless errand;
He knows that no one will appreciate what he is going to say here and the soul being the body’s guest is to show that life is temporary and we are all going to die anyway
Fear not to touch the best;
The truth shall be thy warrant:
He is, in fact saying that he IS going to touch the highest in the land!
Go, since I needs must die,
And give the world the lie.
I know that I shall die for this, he is saying, but tell the bastards what I think of them anyway
Say to the court it glows
And shines like rotten wood,
Now is he asking for trouble, or not? Saying something like this at a time when the court was all powerful? Calling them ROTTEN??? Does this take guts, or what?
Say to the church it shows
What's good, and doth no good:
So that there is no misunderstanding about his intentions, he gives the second barrel to the second MOST POWERFUL entity in the land, not known for its Christian charity or reserve when the necessity of silencing the opposition arises.
If church and court reply,
Then give them both the lie.
In other words, if they dare deny what he is saying, call them bare faced liars! And he goes on to take on one by one the ills and the ill doers of his day and gives it to them one after the other. I don’t want to give the full poem here, just to goat your interest to read more. And not a word anywhere about bodily functions, mind you.
WHAT A MAN! Is it a wonder King James I chopped his head off at the first excuse?
Dr. Jose Rizal
(June 19, 1861 – December 30, 1896)
Even so, Raleigh’s adventures and whatever successes he had as an adventurer he enjoyed with the full backing of the English Crown.
Jose Rizal on the other hand was alone, standing up to the then all powerful Spanish Empire for the things he believed in. When writing about Rizal, I have the urge to use capital letters when calling him a MAN!
This Man’s MAN, was from a wealthy Filipino family which lovingly invested in their son’s education by sending him to study in Europe. And he was an all rounder in every sense of the word. Not only did he study and become an ophthalmic surgeon, he obtained degrees from three different European universities (Spanish, French and German). Over and above his medical studies, he was a student of everything available to him at the time. If you name it, he was involved in it.
Speaking ten languages, he was an expert swordsman (well known enough to receive a written apology from a Spaniard who was unwise enough to offend him and whom Rizal challenged to a duel as a result), an excellent pistol shot, was a student of martial arts, a painter, an author, a poet, an educator, a farmer, a sociologist, a sculptor and he even found time to become a member of the Freemasons.
This young man from what at the time was a deprived Spanish colony, managed to capture the hearts of all Europeans who came into contact with him. Men admired him and befriended him, women slept with him and chased after him when he moved on.
So why did the Spaniards sentenced him to death and killed him? Work it out for yourself:
Truly hushed today
Are my tongue and heart
Harm is discerned by love
And joy flies away,
'Cause the Country was
Vanquished and did yield
Through the negligence
Of the one who led.
But the sun will return to dawn;
In spite of everything
Will be liberated;
The Filipino name
Will return perhaps
And again become
In vogue in the world.
We shall shed
Blood and it shall flood
Only to emancipate
The native land;
While the designated time
Does not come,
Love will rest
And anxiety will sleep.
See what I mean? Lucky are his countrymen to count him amongst themselves. I want to be a Filipino!
May this Great MAN rest in peace.
My thanks to: