A Hymn to Beauty: Days of a Year

you’re the trouble I’m in
because there’s a lot of sweetness in my life
with that rude kind of magnificence
as when they hung Le Bateau upside down,
unusually animated and sparkling.
Happy birthday Montgomery Clift:
where did I see this guy — in Red River
or From Here to Eternity?
Accept and you become whole
bend and you straighten.

It’s the trouble I’m in
the paraglider’s air —
if I centre myself
I will then be able to perform my duties with excellence
sending back thousands of pictures of the lunar surface
with that rude kind of magnificence.
Happy birthday Cindy Crawford
whose small, dark purple, fringed bell hangs down
and shudders over the icy cleft that it has cloven.
Search the minds
and test the hearts of people.

But I don’t want to talk about it now
I want to go down
and I should be thinking about work
only I can make things happen
which could produce a black-and-white photograph in 60 seconds
an attractive force, naturally.
Happy birthday W.  H.  Auden
your different impression of loveliness from that which we receive
among the dead ice and the idle clouds.
Wash me
and I will be whiter than snow.

Oh such a beautiful way
to break your heart!
You are resourceful and clever
but your retrieving skills leave something to be desired
if Baruch Spinoza’s house of mourning opens as a museum,
a palindrome dropped and rewritten with appeal.
Happy birthday Luis Buñuel
who ministers to morbid sensibilities,
ticklers and fanners of the soul’s sleep.
I will utterly consume all things
from off the face of the earth!

Down through the long
loneliness of the world
you can take a turn for the better
but only if you are willing
producing a lamb named Dolly
and love to run your eye over a mountain nymph.
Happy birthday G.  F.  Handel
whose heart is rightly tuned
or whose mind is clearly and surely sighted.
Create a pure heart in me,
give me again the joy.

I don’t know where we are
and I don’t care —
if something doesn’t match up
re-evaluate your motives.
Yes, the second killer avalanche
was gloomy, in a ceremonial way.
Happy birthday Wilhelm Grimm —
look upon those as most lovely
which are most happy.
You do not want sacrifices
or I would offer them.

You have heard the silent running
of my dreams:
prepare yourself well
so you can follow
with samples of the moon’s surface
I rant about in spectacles on the lake.
Happy birthday Pierre Auguste Renoir
who can only fully be established
with respect to vital beauty.
This, then
is how you should pray.

I hung around a little too long
I was good but now I’m gone,
I may find myself in a tight spot
but forge ahead
where satellite images show Yongbyon
and a mariner in the distance appears cordial.
Happy birthday Betty Hutton
who is to be found in the lines and gradations
of unsullied snow
for your heart will always be
where your riches are.

You are my sorrow
you are my splendour
you’re on your way
to something good:
a green light to pioneer cloning
make copies and exit at speed.
Happy birthday Elizabeth Taylor —
throughout the whole
of organic creation
you are my defender and protector,
in you I will trust.

I guess I’m taking my chances
trading in my things
and I may find myself
moving in a new direction
where Princess Diana agrees to divorce
allowing a girl to enter a sleazy place.
Happy birthday Raphael.
You cannot be the object of reason
but of immediate sense and feeling,
this includes everyone
because there is no difference.

Did you suffer at the end
would there be no one to remember?
Nice work if you can get it
and there’s no reason why you can’t
if Columbus frightens Amerindians with a lunar eclipse
don’t take it out again in a public place.
Happy birthday Jimmy Dorsey,
you’re just too marvellous
too marvellous for words.
How doth the city sit solitary
that was full of people.

And I was almost persuaded
to strip myself of my pride —
a chance to make a change
to put myself first
as the space shuttle Columbia carries out a mission
releasing Gilbertian medley.
Happy birthday Frédéric Chopin
with that rude kind of magnificence
which appears in many of these stupendous works.
I fear no one
I will never be afraid.

They’re Justified and they’re Ancient
and they drive an ice-cream van
so do what will help
and don’t worry what others think
if King Kong premieres in New York.
In his eyes, beauty may be seen.
Happy birthday Lou Reed,
as fast as a musician scatters sounds
out of an instrument.
One thing only do I want
to marvel there.

How does your body feel today?
— I forgot to ask.
Tie up loose ends
you will enjoy the rest
and Apollo 9 is launched
a mythical tale with a sad end.
Happy birthday Jean Harlow
amid the deafening tumult
scarcely heard.
Nature is not kind
it treats all things impartially.

I go to bakeries
there’s a lot of sweetness in my life
and this is the perfect time to take a trip
or get involved in talks
about Swan Lake first performed at the Bolshoi Theatre
or take to the air in frenzied dances.
Happy birthday Evan Dando.
Amid the smoke of cities did you pass
your time of early youth
knowing that tools come from what exists
but use from what does not.

I need an empty room
the crowd has just passed through
where you can do no wrong
as long as you get out
to Italian dirigibles behind Turkish lines
or country roads all over the place.
Happy birthday Niki Taylor —
beauty should be smooth and polished
the great, rugged and negligent.
Deal with the difficult while it is yet easy
deal with the great while it is yet small.

I need a gravel path
to travel on
to begin the long process
of quitting a bad habit
as Michelangelo strikes personal computers.
Though coming by river, not all are daring.
Happy birthday Kiri Te Kanawa
with that rude kind of magnificence
among the dead ice and the idle clouds.
Arise, cry out in the night
at the beginning of the watches.

Searchlights on the skyline:
just looking for a friend
a mixed bag of happy tidings on the home front,
some stress, an increase in travel
when Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone —
it thrashes and throbs.
Happy birthday Matilde Serao.
The men who thus feel will always be few
and overborne by the thoughtless avaricious crowd.
Nature doesn’t miss these luxuries
when people can recline in company on the soft grass.

You were washed up on the glittering shoals
looking for another crime to confess
but it’s time to get new clothes, a haircut,
pay your bills and clean your home.
The Edwin Hubble photo shows as many galaxies as the Milky Way has stars
and loves to run the eye over a mountain nymph.
Happy birthday Joseph Berg
whose ear might have learned to distinguish
the sounds that communicate ideas.
I punish all those that leap over the threshold,
that fill their master’s house with violence and deceit.

Shut up!
I’m about to tell you how I won the war
and get everything out
in the open:
my plans to clone a human being
my game of drunken flirting.
Happy birthday Yuri Gagarin.
The mind will upon the whole
be in a state of enjoyment
so why spend your wages
and still be hungry?

I don’t know if you’d be here less
if I was here more
but you can make changes
and travel in a direction.
Mr Watson, come here — I want you
smoothly, with added love.
Happy birthday Sharon Stone.
This effect is always produced
in pathetic and impassioned poetry
and there is nothing dreadful in life
because there is nothing terrible in not living.

Here we go now
I’m under your skin
now get busy and show everyone
what you can accomplish
like Mary Shelley getting Frankenstein published
the one providing illumination at a late stage.
Happy birthday Nina Hagen
you know all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow
of powerful feelings.
Let the wicked leave their way of life
and change their way of thinking.

I’m waving in the sound
I’m a sound within the wave.
Travel will lead to opportunities
and a chance meeting with someone
where Coca-Cola is sold in bottles for the first time
a traditionalist who’s tough on sources of debt.
Happy birthday Jack Kerouac —
poetry sheds no tears
‘such as Angels weep’
and like a dry, worn out and waterless land
my soul is thirsty for you.

Cover me in fire
cover me in lies:
your ability to see both sides of an issue
will help you to help
the ordinary speech of Discovery Channel,
unusually animated and sparkling.
Happy birthday Hugo Wolf.
You know we have no sympathy
but what is propagated by pleasure,
your constant love is better than life itself
and so I will praise you.

You’re the trouble I’m in
too marvellous for words
but before reacting
ensure you have a command of the facts
with samples of the moon’s surface
just a fantasy I kid myself about.
Happy birthday Albert Einstein!
Poetry is the impassioned expression
which is in the countenance of all Science
and when thou lightest the lamps
the seven lamps shall give light.

When we left for the big outside
just guess who got left behind
so concentrate on your home and what it will take
to get it into shape
while Christopher Columbus returns to Spain
at sea by and large.
Happy birthday Ry Cooder:
we know poets do not write for poets alone
but for men
and I want you to remember, my friends,
what happened to our ancestors.

Sitting here on top of the world
I’ve got everything
and you can make things happen
if you are quick to respond.
Ferdinand Magellan reaches the Philippine Islands
but scattered the rest around two points of the compass.
Happy birthday Bernardo Bertolucci.
Poetry takes its origin
from emotion recollected in tranquillity
but we must not complain
as some of them did.

Though it may seem calm
underneath it all confusion
so this is the perfect day to socialise
or nurture a love interest —
as Lawrence Oates says, ‘I may be some time’
or at home by six with time to mix gin.
Happy birthday Rudolf Nureyev,
through these emergent
a slender, pensive, fragile flower
but he hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones
he hath made me to wallow in ashes.

Hold on to me
take time out
and pursue something
like the first broadcast by a ‘ham’ operator
revealing personal intelligence under torture.
Happy birthday Queen Latifah
by whom we are flung into a pleasing astonishment
at such unbounded views
and every test you have experienced
is the kind that normally comes to people.

I remember that your touch has left me
perfectly defined
but your ability to meld creative with clever
will grab the attention of someone.
The first recorded bank robbery
reeled off blushing.
Happy birthday Ursula Andress.
They say astonishment is that state of the soul
in which all its motions are suspended
so when a great flood of trouble comes rushing in
it will not reach them.

I dropped my anchor in the dead of night,
unpacked my suitcase and threw it away,
optimistic, naive, faithful,
unquestionably truthful.
John Lennon marries Yoko Ono in Gibraltar,
an attractive force, naturally.
Happy birthday Vera Lynn —
we call not men intemperate so much
with respect to the scents of roses
but there is one petition that we ask:
we would be preserved in knowledge.

Time that you and me
had lots and lots of meaningless sex
but it’s not a good reason to turn back
and motivate others to push and shove
or take to the air in frenzied dances.
Here’s to performing with the trio!
Happy birthday Fijian Banded Iguana!
— To roam at large
among unpeopled glens
amid the deafening tumult
scarcely heard.

This great city lies before us
the prospect is so vast
though panic is for the unprepared
and you certainly are not that
like August and Louis Lumière showing their first movie
prepared to explode — or not to explode.
Happy birthday Anthony Van Dyck.
What a joy to roam
an equal among mightiest energies
knowing he has given us the message that tells us
how he makes them his friends.

Three chords in your pocket tonight —
are you the one?
What about the uncertainties that will unfold
should you be frivolous
when the Messiah has its London premiere,
a love-god found among cattle, gathering fuel?
Happy birthday Akira Kurosawa.
Sublime objects are vast in their dimensions
beautiful ones comparatively small
and is it possible to point out a similar fruit of the contemplative life,
visible in the here and now?

You’re just too marvellous
too marvellous for words
and in the end
you will realise the importance of your gesture
when Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opens on Broadway
since having its makeover, about to be good to look at.
Happy birthday William Morris.
Every leaf and stalk
has a design and tracery upon it
so watch for the new thing I am going to do
a road through the wilderness.

The sun went down tomorrow
it will not come up today
and the focus should be on money, health
and getting your life
as Olivier’s Hamlet wins four Oscars
I rant about in spectacles on the lake.
Happy birthday Sarah Jessica Parker
actually passing and palpitating
before our eyes —
how can young people
keep their lives pure?

Looking back at some dead world
that looks so new
they frequently defend the interests of others more intensely than their own
and exhibit a bodyguard’s instinct
at the first performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis
while other people break into a cold sweat.
Happy birthday Diana Ross —
you know the sensual pleasure which may be its basis
should be accompanied first with joy
and there is one protection that we desire:
that we not stumble in this kind of life.

Sucked you up today
could have got away
but your imagination
will help you
as Guglielmo Marconi sends a message from England to France:
one needs to be tuned in to this way of thinking.
Happy birthday Quentin Tarantino
perishing and passing away
entangled in drifting mist.
I now reckon everything
as complete loss.

Never going to be the same
but she drew me in anyway:
‘Nice work if you can get it
and there’s no reason why you can’t
if the bird of paradise never landed…’
— just a fantasy I kid myself about.
Happy birthday Donna.
The first idea we receive from this picture
is that it is evening
and while you sit there still
the whole body is nevertheless in motion.

There’s a lot of sweetness in my life
amid the deafening tumult, scarcely heard
but don’t take chances
or share your secrets today.
Eugene Onegin premieres at the Maliy Theatre,
it thrashes and throbs
so happy birthday Lucy Lawless.
He went to the cataract for its iris
to the conflagration for its flames
therefore you should not inquire
you should become enlightened on your own.

Well, the race is on
and here comes pride up the backstretch!
There may be a slowdown at work
but if you are creative
the Duc de Richelieu re-establishes censorship —
crazy, perhaps, but often with motive.
Happy birthday Paul Verlaine.
Is that all?
No, for I am still held by the image.
I do not claim that I have already succeeded
or have already become perfect.

I don’t want to talk about it now
it’s the trouble I’m in
though the improvements you can bring about
will also result in your own popularity
as Alexandre Gustave Eiffel completes the Eiffel Tower
and takes a refresher course with initial sangfroid.
Happy birthday René Descartes.
Falsehood is a matter far more of feeling
than of proof
so I run straight toward the goal
in order to win the prize.

Imagine there’s no heaven
it’s easy if you try,
someone will strike a chord with you
and get your mind racing
as John & Yoko found Nutopia, whose national anthem is silence
and foolishly agree to use a lubricant.
Happy birthday Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Look how that blue is made up:
there are black shadows in it under the crags.
If you speak or act with a calm, bright heart
then happiness follows you like a shadow.

I can’t break this spell
I know the trouble that I’m in
but this is the perfect day
to clear up overdue work
in memory of Samuel Morse’s electric telegraph
despite people who chatter and leave second drinks.
Happy birthday Emmylou Harris
among the rack of the higher clouds
and howling of glacier winds —
extract from the race its shadow
and from the light its obscurity.

How can I go forward
when I don’t know which way I’m facing?
If someone tries to put pressure on you
back away
since the Curse of the Pharaoh strikes down Lord Carnarvon
and nothing here is completely sane.
Happy birthday Agnetha Fältskog
whose small, dark purple, fringed bell hangs down
out of an instrument.
Arise, cry out in the night
when a great flood of trouble comes rushing in.

For the first time in my life
my eyes can see:
I step into the limelight
if it will help
when Early Bird I is launched from Cape Kennedy
and climbs to enjoy in a lively celebration.
Happy birthday Oscar Strauss.
I wholly deny that the impressions of beauty
are in any way sensual —
with contact as condition
feeling comes to be.

It’s been very rough
but it’s getting easier now
and this may be the perfect opportunity
for you to get out
as Herbert Hoover appears on long distance television,
a pointed reminder of passing time.
Happy birthday William Wordsworth:
‘Poetry is the breath
and finer spirit of all knowledge.’
All in the world recognise the beautiful as beautiful.
Herein lies ugliness.

Day, day upon day, day upon day,
day upon day
I think about travel, having fun
and being with friends
as Arnold Schoenberg’s Pillar of Fire premieres in New York.
Sadly the yard appears to fill with water
but happy birthday Mary Pickford,
delighting more in finding its table
spread in strange places
and its honey
coming out of the rock.

It’s beautiful, but neurotic
and in the future it will be the same:
brave and self-sacrificing,
they make great, though reluctant, leaders.
James Cook discovers Botany Bay,
it thrashes and throbs.
Happy birthday Eadweard Muybridge.
It dwells upon what
is submitted to it:
no one can find the truth except through you.
Therefore teach us the truth!

It’s beautiful, but hypnotic.
In the future it will be the same
but think for yourself
and you’ll soon have everyone following
distracted by the term ‘technocalypse’,
a palindrome dropped and rewritten with appeal.
Happy birthday Vladimir Lenin.
It does not trample upon it
lest it should be pearls:
it looks to every side
and sees itself from itself.

Because I know you’ll be there
you seem very beautiful to me
though vulnerable to short periods of unexplainable behaviour,
where minor issues anger them greatly.
Pablo Neruda is arrested in Buenos Aires,
a love-god found among cattle, gathering fuel.
Happy birthday Mark Strand.
It clasps all that it loves so hard
that it crushes it if it be hollow
and everything that came from the perishable will perish,
since it came from the perishable.

Other people break into a cold sweat
if you say that these are the best days of their lives
so keep your personal life and your emotions
out of reach today
as Pygmalion opens in London
left surrounded by convenience food in a heap.
Happy birthday Herbie Hancock:
by the term Beauty, then,
properly are signified two things
so why are you looking among the dead
for one who is alive?

All your life you are dreaming
and then you stop dreaming
to get out and be a participant —
and you’ll be meeting all sorts
as G.F. Handel conducts the first Messiah in Dublin
but being somewhat sceptical I phoned a religious leader.
Happy birthday Samuel Beckett —
believe me, there is more than so
that works such wonders in the minds of men
so let us be happy,
let us celebrate!

When the days they seem to fall through you,
well, just let them go.
This can be a perfect day
to host a get-together
as Thomas Edison’s motion picture ‘peep show’
reveals a spritely number in fine disarray.
Happy birthday Julie Christie.
The mirage of the desert
is fairer than its sands.
The nature of mind
is the nature of everything.

Was on one cold winter’s night
and the wind blew across the wild moor
but if you challenge yourself
you will come up with something exciting
like two unmanned Soviet satellites linking up in orbit
a touchy-feely contact I let some make.
Happy birthday Emma Thompson:
the anatomist in a little time
loses all sense of horror in the torn flesh
or takes to the air in frenzied dances —
I know the trouble I’m in.

Let the thunder roll and the lighting flash
I’m doing alright for Country Trash!
Take a leap of faith
and present your unique ideas
when Vladimir Illyich Lenin returns to Russia
where accountants in public appear gloomy.
Happy birthday Charlie Chaplin:
the snowy summits of the alps
have not been polluted by the wrath, ravage, and misery of men.
You measured the earth
and counted all the uncountable grains of sand.

Is she pretty on the inside
is she pretty from the back?
You’ll enjoy a good physical condition,
unless you show inflammatory tendencies
as Christopher Columbus is commissioned to seek Asia —
sea legs always found here.
Happy birthday Victoria Beckham,
neither condemning the delights of others
nor altogether distrustful of our own
because by reflecting without speech
all her own majesty was perfected.

Ian Wedde is a freelance writer living in Wellington. His most recent books of poetry are The Commonplace Odes (Auckland University Press, 2001) and Three Regrets and a Hymn to Beauty(Auckland University Press, 2005), where ‘A Hymn to Beauty: Days of a Year’ was published. A new novel, The Viewing Platform, will be published by Penguin in September 2006.

Wedde comments: ‘“A Hymn to Beauty” recycles remembered and misremembered lines from many songs, by Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, Ryan Adams, Sneaky Feelings, John Lennon, Lou Reed, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Dorsey, Courtney Love, and several others. My thanks to the lyricists. There are remembered (and misremembered) fragments from philosophers and poets of the sublime, especially William Wordsworth and John Ruskin. Religious texts are also remembered, including the Bible, the Tao-Te Ching, Dhammapada, Pali canon, and Tanakh. Like beauty, these fragments are imperfect.

The form of  “Hymn to Beauty” can be sourced in any number of versions of magazine and newspaper pages that repeat a formula of horoscopes, “today in history” lists, thought-of-the-day, cryptic crosswords and birthdays of the famous. Read obsessively and cumulatively, these newspaper pages gain an eerie precision, like accurately coded ghost messages.’

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