A burgundy-coloured bus

Between two and three in the afternoon

Buses are rare and come once in a blue moon.

At the Bus Stop in front of Usher Hall

There are two men, one tall, one rather small.

The small chap plays a game on his i-phone

Whilst the taller one makes a tuneless drone.

Seemingly unaware of each other they wait

Each hoping the bus ain’t gonna be late

In twenty minutes a Lothian bus appears

Allaying both the tall and small men’s fears

The Burgundy bus stops and its doors open

It’s nearly empty with only six or seven

Seats occupied…


………………………….. Haroon the apprentice tailor ……………………….

First, dear friends, I will begin by telling you about the Caliph. It was no less than our venerated Haroun al Rashid who started the tradition. He used to dress in poor man’s garb and go out incognito in the night, into the haunts of ordinary rabble, join them for a glass of tea, smoke the nargile with ruffians, just so he might learn more about his people, with the sole purpose of finding out what their problems were, after which he would order his ministers, to find a remedy for the failings of…


Falafel and Shirazi Wine

Old Bagdad (wiki)

Our beloved country with the wise and generous Saddam Hussein Abdel Majeed al-Tikriti …

may he rot in gehenna!

… at the helm, was not always so prosperous and so happy. When he is not on the scene, his sons Qusay and Uday, handsome as princes, who never sleep watch…

because the sons of dogs who deserve all the shoes of Baghdad on their faces, are roistering, drinking womanising or getting high…

… over us, with the many James Bond of the Mukhabarat, all with licences to kill, to keep us safe. The people can sleep peacefully in our beds…


Pierre de Ronsard is among the earliest known French poet. He was born in 1524, in a family of nobles. He was considered to be the lead-ing light of the Renaissance movement, Les Pléiades. His wrote a lot of homages to men and women of power, he celebrated the beauty of France but after five centuries he is best known for his slightly hectoring poems to youth, I include his two best-known short pieces.

An early edition of his Poèmes de Ronsard

A CASSANDRE

Mignonne, allons voir si la rose

Qui ce matin avait déclose

Sa robe de pourpre au soleil,

A point perdu cette vesprée,

Les plis de sa…


Guilleaume Apollinaire (wiki)

Apollinaire was an innovative French poet, trying to break from the conventions of his time. He was born in Rome of a Polish mother. His friend Picasso used to joke about his father being the pope, but he grew up and lived in Paris. He was an important figure in the development of Futurism, Cubism, Dadaism, and Surrealism. His poem 1909 is an important illustration of his style. Set during the belle époque, it deals with the poet’s ambivalence about his times, with one foot in pessimism and the other in optimism. On the one hand the symbolic woman has…


And other La Fontaine fables

Jean de la Fontaine is he most famous fabulist in Europe after Aesop, from whom he borrowed extensively. He collected fables from all over the world, and re-wrote them in his own style. He was born in 1621. Although he is principally known for his fables, he was also a poet, playwright and novelist. Interestingly, the expression sour grapes, borrowed from a La Fontaine fox fable, has entered the English language under false pretences. As an example, a competitor losing out who suggests that he was tired, or hinted that their opponent used underhand tactics, is scorned with the epithet…


An early French poet

Joachim du Bellay was born around 1522 in Anjou, and lived for 37 years. He founded the “Pléaide”, a movement whose aim was to defend and foster the French language. He had a lifelong friendship with Ronsard. His best-known poem, Ulysse resulted from his many travels performed in an official capacity. Although he exulted in his exalted position as an aristocrat, he composed one of the best poems in the French language about those who “missed the boat”.

I first did more or less a word for word translation without making any effort at rhyming. I then proceeded to add…


The great love story of Louis and Elsa Triolet

Louis and Elsa

Louis Aragon, part of the French surrealist movement, was a poet, but also novelist, journalist and pamphleteer. He was a lifelong communist although hetook his distance from Stalinism over the invasion of Hungary. He was also defined by the great love he shared with his Muse and wife, Elsa Triolet. The two poems here are testaments for their great love. His poems have been great favourites of French chansonniers and singers.

Aimer à perdre la raison

Aimer à n’en savoir que dire

A n’avoir que toi d’horizon

Et ne connaître de saisons

Que par la douleur du partir

Aimer a perdre la raison

Ah c’est…


The lugubrious bard

Charles Baudelaire was probably the first of France’s many poètes maudits, so dubbed because of their nonconformism and for their refusal to consider any subject taboo, and for which he spent time in jail. He had travelled extensively, and indulged in many of the activities that had become available to him, opium eating, illicit sex, and excessive drinking. One would have wished that travelling had widened his horizons, so it is sad to note instances of his feeling of racial superiority, illustrated in the line: Si vous allez Madame au vrai pays de la gloire/ if you go Madam to…


Sabine Sicaud, was a poet who died at fifteen, but not before leaving an important collection of poems, many of an incredible maturity. She was born in 1913 in a family which encouraged learning. She started writing poetry almost before she could walk, and won a poetry competition aged 11. During her short life she kept winning literary prizes. She produced her unique brand of poetry at a vertiginous rate, as if she knew she would only live to fifteen.

The teenager poet

Her poems might not sound like those of a teenager, and deserve to be better known. …

San Cassimally

Prizewinning playwright. Mathematician. Teacher. Professional Siesta addict.

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