Category Archives: Poems

Legacies

I remember, from childhood, a parody of Longfellow’s verse, which always amused me:

‘Lives of Great Men’ all remind us
As we through their pages turn
That we too may leave behind us
Letters that we ought to burn.

Some years ago I was trying to come up with a version for the modern age, and I stumbled across it this morning:

As you scoff at simple errors
In some ‘Great Man’’s last spreadsheet,
Lurk within your email backups
Attachments you too should delete!

Mmm. Perhaps that was best consigned to the digital flames as well.

Ode to a blustery winter campsite in the Dordogne

It’s good to know,
As the north winds blow,
That there’s plenty of eau,
And the eau is chaud.

Roses are red

I came across a thread on Twitter with geeky poems on the ‘Roses are red…’ model. So here’s mine:

Roses are #ff0000
Violets are #0000ff?
I think violets should be
More like #ee82ee
Don’t you?

Mmm.

Poetry Reading

A mistake reading poetry at night, I find,
   but not for fear of sleepless angst
   nor yet of haunted dreams.
Good verse needs concentration,
   yes, and coffee.
Bedtime is for prose.

Brevity is the soul of wit

There once was a man from the sticks
Who liked to compose limericks.
But he failed at the sport,
For he wrote ’em too short.

From Wikipedia.

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, but he’ll remember, with advantages…

Richard and I have been playing with flash cards as a way of learning things.

The great thing about an electronic implementation of the old ‘question on one side, answer on the other’ idea, is that it can make smart decisions about when and how frequently you should be presented with a particular card. Things you find easy to remember need only occasional repetition, while those which are new or more challenging need more regular viewing until they stick in your memory. When you see the answer, you just say whether or not you got it right, and how hard you found it.

Richard wrote a little while back about using this model to learn a reading he had been asked to give at a wedding. I’ve always liked learning poetry or bits of Shakespeare, but often find that large chunks will flow easily while there are one or two lines I always forget. Could this be the solution?

One of the popular flashcard systems out there is an Open Source one called Anki, created by Damien Elmes. It has Windows, Mac, Linux and Web clients, plus Android and iOS (though these don’t yet work on the latest version). And there are various ways you can get decks of cards in and out. The user interfaces are rather quirky, I find, and even the web sites can be confusing to navigate, but the underlying system works fine.

It’s easy to find plain-text versions online of most things I want to learn, so I wrote a little script called poem2anki which will take a text file containing lines of poetry (or prose!) and convert it into a file suitable for importing into Anki.

A question:

and the answer:

It will create these for all the lines in the poem, but you’ll quickly find you’re only tested on the ones you find difficult to answer.

You can find poem2anki here if wanted.

Seeing Venice a different way

In the past, we’ve just been casual tourists, but this time I felt we really got to the bottom of Venice.

Ode to a Central Heating System

As we shiver through what, for the UK at least, is a very chilly winter, it struck me just how much more unpleasant such weather would be without the wonders of modern heating systems. Lest we forget this blessing, I offer a small carol in honour of one of science’s great achievements, which I would encourage you to sing as you go on your way, and share throughout your community…


Pilot light, glowing light
All is warm, while you’re bright
Round yon pipes, radiators and tanks
For our comfort we give you our thanks
And sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Pilot light, went out in the night!
Frozen toes at dawn’s first light.
The boiler’s a new one, so how do we fix?
Knew the old one and all of its tricks.
Now the pipes will be frozen
At Christmas, I’m starting to fear…

Pilot light, dark as night
Who can help, in our plight?
Give me a bonfire, I know what to do;
Pressurised system? I haven’t a clue!
Plumbers are sure to be pricey
Especially at this time of year.

Pilot light, once more alight!
Found the instructions and they set us right.
At the back of the filing drawer
All that was needed for furnace to roar
So, sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace!

The Traveller

A traveller met I, on an evening road
His struggle hard and long
And, though the end was now in sight,
Great danger lingered on!

I hope he reached his journey’s end
As I came safe to mine
His distance may be less by far;
His conquest? Far more fine!

The Traveller

Shelburne Farms, Vermont

With apologies to Robert Frost…

The Barn House, Shelburne Farms

Two roads diverged at a heritage site
And, sorry I could not travel both,
And get to New Hampshire before the night
I studied the map as hard as I might.
To walk, or ride, through the undergrowth?
Then, took the Farm Trail, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
For I was podgy and in need of air
(And ’twas nearly an hour til the tour bus came)
The Farm Trail, Shelburne Farms
And both that morning equally lay
Through fields where Vanderbilts built their shack
I saved the Inn for another stay
(Though, knowing how much I’d have to pay
I wondered if I’d ever come back)
The Inn at Shelburne Farms
I shall be posting this through WiFi
Somewhere highways and highways hence
Two routes diverged at Shelburne Farms, and I,
I took the one less travelled by
And loved all elements.
The Farm Trail, Shelburne Farms

The Farm Trail, Shelburne Farms

Honour

Hey – after my post on Clerihews, Jim posted one about me! I’m honoured! I don’t think anyone’s written a poem with ‘Quentin Stafford-Fraser’ in it before. The nearest was my friend C.D. Happel, who, perhaps aware of my occasional attempts at dieting, came up with an anagram:

Feasters ain’t fun for Dr Q!

Clerihews

And, while we’re on linguistic topics, how about some Clerihews?

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser