Dirty Mondays: Cock up yer Beaver

Beavers – the aquatic, tree-felling, dam-building rodent – are currently being reintroduced to Scotland, as related in a long article in this Sunday’s Observer, and not without controversy. The article’s author, Tim Adams, notes that the anti-Beaver parties might take their rallying cry from Robert Burns’ 1792 call to arms Cock up yer Beaver.

A beaver in this context refers of course to a hat, probably but not exclusively made from beaver pelt. Burns’ air is an exhortation to the brave Johnie to set such a hat straight and have a go at the English, but it more than raises a smile on a grey Monday morning, whichever way you take it.

Cock Up Yer Beaver

When first my brave Johnie lad came to this town,
He had a blue bonnet that wanted the crown,
But now he has gotten a hat and a feather –
Hey, brave Johnie lad, cock up yer beaver!

Cock up your beaver, and cock it fu’ sprush!
We’ll over the border and gie them a brush:
There’s somebody there we’ll teach better behavior –
Hey, brave Johnie lad, cock up yer beaver!

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796)

If you’d like to hear the poem in the original Scots, the BBC has a recording read, appropriately, by Alan Cumming.

Beaver shot by Paul Stevenson, used under Creative Commons.

Posted December 7, 2009 | Comments Off on Dirty Mondays: Cock up yer Beaver.

Dirty Mondays: Catullus 16

Brought to mind by a recent court case, and with thanks to Julian at Sybawrite, Bookkake’s Dirty Monday Poem returns for a special one-off.

“City boss denies lewd latin claim” goes the BBC headline, but it’s hard to deny your intentions when the latin in question was “irrumabo vos et pedicabo vos”. “The phrase threatens a violent sex act” says the BBC coyly, but any serious classicist knows it’s a lot more fun than that. It is of course the first (and last) line of the sixteenth of Catullus’ Carmina, the “angry love poems”, in which he furiously attacks those who disparage his work. It is also a long time favourite of the more easily amused scholar – among whom we happily count ourselves.

A literal translation is supplied below, and you’ll probably appreciate Wikipedia’s notes on the language too.

Catullus 16

I will bugger you and face-fuck you.
Cock-sucker Aurelius and catamite Furius,
You who think, because my verses
Are delicate, that I am a sissy.
For it’s right for the devoted poet to be chaste
Himself, but it’s not necessary for his verses to be so.
Verses which then have taste and charm,
If they are delicate and sexy,
And can incite an itch,
And I don’t mean in boys, but in those hairy old men
Who can’t get their flaccid dicks up.
You, because you have read of my thousand kisses,
You think I’m a sissy?
I will bugger you and face-fuck you.

Posted November 30, 2009 | Comments Off on Dirty Mondays: Catullus 16.

Dirty Mondays: “The Hairy Prospect, or The Devil In A Fright”

One more gem from The Amethyst, reviving Bookkake’s Dirty Monday poetry tradition:

The Hairy Prospect, or The Devil In A Fright

Once on a time the Sire of Evil
In plainer English called the devil
Some new experiment to try
At Chloe cast a roguish eye
But she who all his arts defied
Pull’d up and shew’d her sexes pride
A thing all shagg’d about with hair
So much it made old Satan stare
Who frighten’d at the grim display
Takes to his heels and runs away.

Posted August 31, 2009 | Comments Off on Dirty Mondays: “The Hairy Prospect, or The Devil In A Fright”.

Dirty Mondays: “I Love Sensual Women” by Daniil Kharms

W took a little hiatus last week, so we thought we’d better give you something good to make up for it.

Daniil Kharms was one of the more extraordinary members of the St Petersburg literary scene of the 1920s and 30s. In 1928, he founded the avant-garde collective OBERIU, or Union of Real Art. Malevich gave the young oberiuty space in his academy to rehearse, with the words: “You are young trouble makers, and I am an old one. Let’s see what we can do.”

The group was short-lived; its absurdism too much for the increasingly totalitarian authorities, but OBERIU’s work has bubbled up again as a new generation of Russian writers, who read Kharms and his friends in samizdat, claim his influence.

Kharms himself took refuge in children’s literature, for which he is still widely remembered in Russia, while his more adult works are only now starting to see publication… such as this fragment, from 1930:

I love sensual women and not passionate ones. A passionate woman closes her eyes, moans and shouts and the enjoyment of a passionate woman is blind.

A passionate woman writhes about, grabs you with her hands without looking where, clasps you, kisses you, even bites you and hurries to reach her climax as soon as she can. She has no time to display her sexual organs, no time to examine, touch with the hand and kiss your sexual organs, she is in such a hurry to slake her passion. Having slaked her passion, the passionate woman will fall asleep. The sexual organs of a passionate woman are dry. A passionate woman is always in some way or another mannish.

The sensual woman is always feminine.
Her contours are rounded and abundant.

The sensual woman rarely reaches a blind passion. She savours sexual enjoyment.
The sensual woman is always a woman and even in an unaroused state her sexual organs are moist. She has to wear a bandage on her sexual organs, so as not to soak them with moisture.

When she takes the bandage off in the evening, the bandage is so wet that it can be squeezed out.

Thanks to such an abundance of juices, the sexual organs of a sensual woman give off a slight, pleasant smell which increases strongly when the sensual woman is aroused. Then the juice from her sexual organs is secreted in a syrupy stream.

A sensual woman likes you to examine her sexual organs.

Daniil Ivanovich Kharms (30 December 1905 – 2 February 1942)

Dirty Mondays: “Aphrodite” by John Hall Wheelock

It’s a cold, wet day in London today, and John Hall Wheelock’s poem of the snow-cold sea, the dawn-light and the wind seems to let a little brightness in, despite its insistence on stillness and seaweed. Happy Monday.


Dark-eyed, out of the snow-cold sea you came,
The young blood under the cheek like dawn-light showing,
Stray tendrils of dark hair in the sea-wind blowing,
Comely and grave, out of the sea you came.

Slim covered thigh and slender stockinged foot
In swift strides over the burnished shingle swinging,
Sweet silence of your smile, soft sea-weed clinging,
Here and there, to the wet bathing-suit.

O fierce and shy, your glance so piercing-true
Shot fire to the struck heart that was as tinder—
The fire of your still loveliness, the tender
High fortitude of the spirit shining through.

And the world was young. O love and song and fame
Were part of youth’s still ever believed-in story,
And hope crowned all, when in dear and in queenly glory,
Out of the snow-cold sea to me you came.

John Hall Wheelock (September 9, 1886-March 22, 1978)

Photograph by Russell Davies, used under Creative Commons.

Posted April 27, 2009 | Comments Off on Dirty Mondays: “Aphrodite” by John Hall Wheelock.

Dirty Mondays: Byron’s “Love and Death”

Yesterday was the 185th anniversary of the irrepressible Lord Byron’s death at Missolonghi from a violent fever as he prepared to assault Lepanto.

Byron’s love for Greece – the attack on the Ottoman fort at the mouth of the Bay of Corinth was part of a wider campaign for Greek indepence, in aid of which Byron had refitted the Greek fleet out of his own pocket – was mirrored in his love for Greek boys. Indeed, as well as his lifelong attachments to women and his ongoing and somewhat self-created reputation as a Don Juan, it was the death of his friend Nicolo Giraud, who died fighting the Turks, that precipitated his final involvement in Greek affairs, and his final months were spent pining with unrequited passion for another youth, his teenaged page, Lukas Chalandritsano.

Love and Death, written in 1824, was one of Byron’s last works, and was dedicated to Lukas.

I watched thee when the foe was at our side,
     Ready to strike at him–or thee and me,
Were safety hopeless—rather than divide
     Aught with one loved, save love and liberty.

I watched thee on the breakers, when the rock
     Received our prow, and all was storm and fear,
And bade thee cling to me through every shock;
     This arm would be thy bark, or breast thy bier.

I watched thee when the fever glazed thine eyes,
     Yielding my couch, and stretched me on the ground
When overworn with watching, ne’er to rise
     From thence, if thou an early grave hadst found.

The earthquake came, and rocked the quivering
     And men and nature reeled as if with wine.
Whom did I seek around the tottering hall?
     For thee. Whose safety first provide for? Thine

And when convulsive throes denied my breath
     The faultest utterance to my fading thought,
To thee–to thee–e’en in the gasp of death
     My spirit turned, oh! oftener than it ought.

Thus much and more; and yet thou lov’st me not,
     And never wilt! Love dwells not in our will.
Nor can I blame thee, though it be my lot
     To strongly, wrongly, vainly love thee still.

George Gordon Byron, later Noel, 6th Baron Byron FRS (22 January 1788– 19 April 1824)

Image: Lord Byron on His Deathbed, by Joseph-Denis Odevaere, c 1826

Posted April 20, 2009 | Comments Off on Dirty Mondays: Byron’s “Love and Death”.

Dirty Mondays: “The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name” by James Kirkup

For Easter Monday, possibly the most controversial poem of recent decades: James Kirkup’s “The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name”. When it was first published in Gay News in 1976, it caused a furore led by the British “moral campaigner” Mary Whitehouse, which led to the eventual prosecution and conviction for Blasphemy of the editor of Gay News, Denis Lemon.

Blasphemous libel was an offence under the common law of England and Wales until it was abolished on 8 July 2008 by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, having been replaced with the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, another piece of legislation which has been accused of poor phrasing, dubious intent, and of more likelihood to create tensions between communities than prevent them.

Poetry can be dangerous, and rarely more so than in Kirkup’s poem, which uses the same religious themes and setting employed by countless artists over centuries to throw light on current issues, and highlight in the story of Christ not the savagery of his execution, but the love he brought into the world.

The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name

As they took him from the cross
I, the centurion, took him in my arms—
the tough lean body
of a man no longer young,
beardless, breathless,
but well hung.

He was still warm.
While they prepared the tomb
I kept guard over him.
His mother and the Magdalen
had gone to fetch clean linen
to shroud his nakedness.

I was alone with him.
For the last time
I kissed his mouth. My tongue
found his, bitter with death.
I licked his wound—
the blood was harsh
For the last time
I laid my lips around the tip
of that great cock, the instrument
of our salvation, our eternal joy.
The shaft, still throbbed, anointed
with death’s final ejaculation

I knew he’d had it off with other men—
with Herod’s guards, with Pontius Pilate,
With John the Baptist, with Paul of Tarsus
with foxy Judas, a great kisser, with
the rest of the Twelve, together and apart.
He loved all men, body, soul and spirit. — even me.

So now I took off my uniform, and, naked,
lay together with him in his desolation,
caressing every shadow of his cooling flesh,
hugging him and trying to warm him back to life.
Slowly the fire in his thighs went out,
while I grew hotter with unearthly love.

It was the only way I knew to speak our love’s proud name,
to tell him of my long devotion, my desire, my dread—
something we had never talked about. My spear, wet with blood,
his dear, broken body all open wounds,
and in each wound his side, his back,
his mouth—I came and came and came

as if each coming was my last.
And then the miracle possessed us.
I felt him enter into me, and fiercely spend
his spirit’s final seed within my hole, my soul,
pulse upon pulse, unto the ends of the earth-
he crucified me with him into kingdom come.

This is the passionate and blissful crucifixion
same-sex lovers suffer, patiently and gladly.
They inflict these loving injuries of joy and grace
one upon the other, till they die of lust and pain
within the horny paradise of one anothers’ limbs,
with one voice cry to heaven in a last divine release.

Then lie long together, peacefully entwined, with hope
of resurrection, as we did, on that green hill far away.
But before we rose again, they came and took him from me.
They knew not what we had done, but felt
no shame or anger. Rather they were glad for us,
and blessed us, as would he, who loved all men.

And after three long, lonely days, like years,
in which I roamed the gardens of my grief
seeking for him, my one friend who had gone from me,
he rose from sleep, at dawn, and showed himself to me before
all others. And took me to him with
the love that now forever dares to speak its name.

James Kirkup (born April 23, 1918).

Image: Detail from Caravaggio’s Taking of Christ in the Garden.

Posted April 13, 2009 | Comments Off on Dirty Mondays: “The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name” by James Kirkup.

Dirty Mondays: “The Breasts of Mnasidice” by Pierre Louÿs

Pierre Louÿs was quite a one, and is an old favourite of Bookkake. He was among a number of writers we seriously considered but ultimately didn’t include in the first Bookkake set. An intimate of Gide and Wilde, his work often entwined classical and lesbian themes, and his Songs of Bilitis went on to inspire the Daughters of Bilitis, the first Lesbian rights organisation in the United States.

Wikipedia has the ultimate, and enviable, epitaph: “Even while on his deathbed, Pierre Louÿs continued to write delicately obscene verses.”

The Breasts of Mnasidice

Carefully she opened her tunic with one
hand and offered me her warm soft breasts as
one offers a pair of living pigeons to the
goddess. ‘Love them well,’ she said to me,
‘I love them so much! They are dears, they are
like little children. I amuse myself with them
when I am alone. I play with them and give
them pleasure. I sprinkle them with milk. I
powder them with flowers. Their little tips
love the fine hair with which I wipe them. I
caress them with a shiver. I lay them to
sleep in wool. Since I shall never have
children and since they are so far from my
mouth, kiss them for me.

Pierre Louÿs (December 10, 1870 – June 6, 1925)

If you’ve got a suggestion for Monday’s dirty poem, don’t hesitate to get in touch…

Posted April 6, 2009 | Comments Off on Dirty Mondays: “The Breasts of Mnasidice” by Pierre Louÿs.

Dirty Mondays: “Feeling Fucked Up” by Etheridge Knight

Lord she’s gone done left me
done packed up and split
and I with no way to make her
come back and everywhere the world is bare
bright bone white crystal sand glistens
dope death dead dying and jiving drove
her away made her take her laughter and her smiles
and her softness and her midnight sighs—

Fuck Coltrane and music and clouds drifting in the sky
fuck the sea and trees and the sky and birds
and alligators and all the animals that roam the earth
fuck marx and mao fuck fidel and nkrumah and
democracy and communism fuck smack and pot
and red ripe tomatoes fuck joseph fuck mary fuck
god jesus and all the disciples fuck fanon nixon
and malcom fuck the revolution fuck freedom fuck
the whole muthafucking thing
all i want now is my woman back
so my soul can sing

Etheridge Knight (April 19, 1931 – March 10, 1991)

Posted March 23, 2009 | Comments (1).

Dirty Mondays: “High Windows” by Philip Larkin

High Windows

When I see a couple of kids
And guess he’s fucking her and she’s
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
I know this is the paradise

Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives—
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
And everyone young going down the long slide

To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if
Anyone looked at me, forty years back,
And thought, That’ll be the life;
No God any more, or sweating in the dark

About hell and that, or having to hide
What you think of the priest. He
And his lot will all go down the long slide
Like free bloody birds. And immediately

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

Philip Larkin (9 August 1922 – 2 December 1985)

If you’ve got a suggestion for Monday’s dirty poem, don’t hesitate to get in touch…

Posted March 16, 2009 | Comments Off on Dirty Mondays: “High Windows” by Philip Larkin.

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