‘There’s no money in poetry,’ Robert Frost once observed, ‘but then there’s no poetry in money, either.’ But was Frost right? Are there any great poems about money? Has money ever inspired a good poem? Here are some of the best poems about money in some way, whether they merely mention money as a crucial element or even, in some cases, take cash, money, pounds, pence, and dollars as their central subject.
Anon, ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’. Given the monetary mention in its title, this traditional nursery rhyme had to feature in this pick of the best poems about money! The rhyme has attracted some fanciful theories concerning its lyrics, including the idea that the twenty-four blackbirds represent the hours in the day, with the king representing the sun and the queen the moon. Another places the rhyme in the time of King Henry VIII and the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s, with the blackbirds symbolising the choirs of the monasteries, baking a pie in order to try to curry favour with Henry.
Robert Herrick, ‘Money Makes the Mirth’. This rhyming couplet pithily praises money’s value: ‘When all birds else do of their music fail, / Money’s the still-sweet-singing nightingale!’ Read the rest of this entry
In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reads the rich and rewarding planetary romances of a forgotten pulp writer
What happens if you cross the Martian adventures of Edgar Rice Burroughs with the pulp fantasy of Robert E. Howard? You get the planetary fantasies of Leigh Brackett, the underrated writer of ‘science fantasy’ who penned a number of hugely entertaining short stories and novellas set on Venus and Mars. Leigh Brackett hasn’t quite been forgotten, at least by those (including the fantasy and SF author Michael Moorcock) who have championed her work and, in the case of Moorcock among others, been inspired by her: Moorcock himself wrote a trilogy of Martian novels, Kane of Old Mars, which were influenced by Burroughs but also, I suspect, by Brackett. (Leigh Brackett also inspired, and later collaborated with, a young Ray Bradbury: one of their co-authored stories, ‘Lorelei of the Red Mist’, is included in the edition I mention and review below.) But nor has she ever quite got her due. Like another queen of the golden age of pulp fantasy, C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett has been allowed to fall out of print. Much of Brackett’s best writing goes unacknowledged: she also worked with Jules Furthman and William Faulkner on the critically acclaimed screenplay for the 1946 film version of Raymond Chandler’s novel, The Big Sleep, one of the classics of the noir genre. Read the rest of this entry
The best poems by John Clare
John Clare (1793-1864) has been called the greatest nature poet in the English language (by, for instance, his biographer Jonathan Bate), and yet his life – particularly his madness and time inside an asylum later in his life – tends to overshadow his poetry. So here we’ve picked ten of John Clare’s best poems which offer an introduction to his idiosyncratic style and wonderful eye for detail, especially concerning the natural world.
‘First Love’. First love is powerful and stays with us, but it can be painful as well as joyous or liberating. This poem, one of John Clare’s most widely anthologised, captures this dual nature of first love and the way in which it is a loss of something – namely, innocence – as well as a gaining of something new and special. Read the rest of this entry