Animals and the Stars by Paul Cameron Brown

 Crickets are a strange place,
cricks of dew hemmed
with hoar-frost
mushrooming by a door.

The glens are fashions of a loom
eerie pads
are nightly rooms.

The padlocks
remove the key
as grass-hoppers
keep the meadow free.

A twilight world
along the edge
at rapier’s length
this light, this point
at end of the void.

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Book Movie Trailer: Murder On the Orient Express

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Two Clowns by François Coppée

A smiling clown-face to the left, a sad one to the right, with a devilish looking man behind.

The night was clear and glittering with stars, and there was a crowd upon the market-place. They crowded in gaping delight around the tent of some strolling acrobats, where red and smoking lanterns lighted the performance which was just beginning. Rolling their muscular limbs in dirty wraps, and decorated from head to foot with tawdry ruffles of fur, the athletes—four boyish ruffians with vulgar heads—were ranged in line before the painted canvas which represented their exploits; they stood there with their heads down, their legs apart, and their muscular arms crossed upon their chests. Near them the marshal of the establishment, an old sub-officer, with the drooping mustache of a brandy-drinker, belted in at the waist, a heart of red cloth on his leather breastplate, leaned on a pair of foils. The feminine attraction, a rose in her hair, with a man’s overcoat protecting her against the freshness of the evening air over her ballet-dancer’s dress, played at the same time the cymbals and the big bass-drum a desperate accompaniment to three measures of a polka, always the same, which were murdered by a blind clarionet player; and the ringmaster, a sort of Hercules with the face of a galley-slave, a Silenus in scarlet drawers, roared out his furious appeal in a loud voice. Mixed with the crowd of loafers, soldiers, and women, I regarded the abject spectacle with disgust—the last vestige of the olympic games.

Suddenly the music ceased, and the crowd broke into roars of laughter. The clown had just made his appearance.

He wore the ordinary costume of his kind, the short vest and many-colored stockings of the peasants of the opera comique, the three horns turned backward, the red wig with its turned-up queue and its butterfly on the end. A 3/4-length portrait of a clown, with arms akimbo.He was a young man, but alas, his face, whitened with flour, was already seamed with vice. Planting himself before the public, and opening his mouth in a silly grin, he showed bleeding gums almost devoid of teeth. The ringmaster kicked him violently from behind.

“Come in,” he said, tranquilly.

Then the traditional dialogue, punctuated by slaps in the face, began between the mountebank and his clown, and the entire audience applauded these souvenirs of the classic farce, fallen from the theatre to the stage of the mountebank, and whose humor, coarse but pungent, seemed a drunken echo of the laughter of Molière. The clown exerted his low talent, throwing out at each moment some low jest, some immodest pun, to which his master, simulating a prudish indignation, responded by thumps on the head. But the adroit clown excelled in the art of receiving affronts. He knew to perfection how to bend his body like a bow under the impulse of a kick, and having received on one cheek a full-armed blow, he stuffed his tongue at once in that cheek and began to whine until a new blow passed the artificial swelling into the other cheek. Blows showered on him as thick as hail, and, disappearing under a shower of slaps, the flour on his face and the red powder of his wig enveloped him like a cloud. At last he exhausted all his resources of low scurrility, ridiculous contortions, grotesque grimaces, pretended aches, falls at full length, etc., till the ringmaster, judging this gratuitous show long enough, and that the public were sufficiently fascinated, sent him off with a final cuff.

Then the music began again with such violence that the painted canvas trembled. The clown, having seized the sticks of a drum fixed on one of the beams of the scaffolding, mingled a triumphant rataplan with the bombardment of the bass-drum, the cracked thunder of the cymbals, and the distracted wail of the clarionet. The ringmaster, roaring again with his heavy voice, announced that the show was about to begin, and, as a sign of defiance, he threw two or three old fencing-gloves among his fellow-wrestlers. The crowd rushed into the tent, and soon only a small group of loungers remained in front of the deserted stage.

I was just going off, when I noticed by my side an old woman who looked with strange persistence at the empty stage where the red lights were still burning. She wore the linen bonnet and the crossed fichu of the poorer class of women, and her whole appearance was that of neatness and honesty. Asking myself what powerful interest could hold her in such a place, I looked at her with more attention, and I saw that her eyes were full of tears, and that her hands, which she had crossed over her breast, were trembling with emotion.

“What is the matter with you?” I said, coming near to her, impelled by an instinctive sympathy.

“The matter, good sir?” cried the old woman, bursting into tears. “Passing by this market-place—oh, quite by chance, I tell you (I have no heart for pleasure)—passing before that dreadful tent, I have just seen in the wretch who has received all those blows my only son, sir, my sole child! It is the grief of my life, do you see? I never knew what had become of him since—oh, since my poor husband sent him away to sea as a cabin-boy. He was apprenticed to an ironmonger, sir. He robbed his master—he, the son of two honest people. As for me, I would have pardoned him. You know what mothers are. But my man, when they came and told him that his son had stolen, he was like a madman. It was that that killed him, I am sure. I have never seen the unhappy child again. For five years I have heard nothing from him. I sought to deceive myself. I said experience will reform him, and there—there—just now—”

And the poor old woman sobbed in a pitiful way. A crowd had formed. It was no longer to me that she spoke; it was not to the crowd; it was to herself, to the bitterness of her own heart.

“He, my Adrien, the child that I nourished at my own breast, a mountebank in a travelling theatre! struck and insulted before the whole world! He, whom I saved at four when he was so ill, a clown in a tent! He, the beautiful baby of whom I was so proud, whom I made the neighbors admire when he was so small that he rolled naked on my knee, holding his little foot in his hand!”

Suddenly at this point in her heart-breaking monologue the old woman perceived the crowd listening to her. She looked on the spectators in astonishment, as one who starts from sleep. She recognized me who had questioned her, and became frightfully pale.

“What have I said?” she stammered. “Let me pass.” And brusquely putting us aside with an imperious gesture, she went off with a rapid step, and disappeared in the night.

The adventure made a lively impression on me. I thought often of it, and after that, when I saw before my eyes some wretched and degraded creature, some woman of the street, trailing her light silk skirts in the flare of a gas-jet, some drunken idler leaning on the bar of a café and bending his bloated face over his glass of absinthe, I have thought, “Is it possible that that being can ever have been a little child?”

Now, some little time after that rencontre—let us be careful not to indicate the date—I was taken into a gallery of the Chamber of Deputies to be present at a sensational sitting. The law that they were discussing on that day is of no importance, but it was the old and tedious story: a Ministerial candidate, formerly in the Opposition, proposed to strike a blow at some liberty—I don’t know what—which he had formerly demanded with virulence and force. And, more than that, the man in power was going to forfeit his word to the tribune. In good French that is called “to betray,” but in parliamentary language they employ the phrase, “accomplish a change of base.” Opinion was divided, the majority uncertain; and upon his speech would depend the political future of the speaker. Therefore, on that day, the legislators were in their places, and the Chamber did not resemble, as usual, a class of noisy boys presided over by a master without authority. The lunch-counter was deserted, and the deputies of the Centre themselves were not absorbed in their personal correspondence.

The orator mounted the tribune. He had the commonplace figure of a verbose orator: bold eye, protruding lips, as enlarged by the abuse of words. He began by fingering his notes with an important air, tasting the glass of sweetened water, and settling himself in his place; then he started a babble of words without sense, with the nauseous facility of the bar; misusing vague ideas, abstract terms, and words in ly and ion, stereotyped words, and ready-made phrases. A flattering murmur greeted the end of his exordium; for the French people in general, and the political world in particular, manifest a depraved taste for that sort of eloquence. Encouraged, the fine speaker entered the heart of his subject, and cynically sang his recantation. He abjured none of his opinions, he repudiated none of his acts; he would always remain liberal (a blow on his chest), but that which was good yesterday might be dangerous to-day; truth on the other side of the Alps, error on this side. The forbearance of the Government was abused. And he threatened the assembly; became prophet; let loose the dogs of war. He even risked a bit of poetry, flourished old metaphors, which were worn out in the time of Cicero, and compared by turn, in the same phrase, his political career to a pilot, a steed, and a torch. So much poetry could only accentuate his success. There was a salvo of bravos, and the Opposition grumbled, foreseeing their defeat. Violent interruptions broke forth: furious voices recalled the orator’s past life, and threw as insults his former professions in his face. He was unmoved, and stood with a disdainful air, which was very effective. An orating man.Then the bravos redoubled, and he smiled vaguely, thinking, no doubt, of the proof-sheets of the Officiel, where he could by-and-by insert in the margin, without too much exaggeration, “profound sensation” and “prolonged applause.” Then, when quiet was re-established, sure of his success, he affected a serene majesty. He took up again his discourse, soaring like a goose, launching out with high doctrine, citing Royer-Collard.

But I heard no more. The scandalous spectacle of that political mountebank, who sacrificed eternal principles to the interests of the day, recalled to my memory the tent of the acrobats. The cold rhetoric of that harangue, vibrating with neither truth nor emotion, recalled to me the patter, learned by heart, of the powdered clown on the stage. The superb air which the orator assumed under the rain of reproaches and insults singularly resembled the indifference of the clown to the loud slaps on his face. Those sonorous phrases, whose echoes had just died away, sounded as false as a strolling band. The word “liberty” rolled like the bass-drum, “public interests” and “welfare of the State” clanged discordantly like the cymbals, and when the comedian spoke of his “patriotism” I almost heard the couac of a clarionet.

A long uproar woke me from my revery. The speech was finished, and the orator, having descended from the rostrum, was receiving congratulations. They were about to vote: the urns were being passed around, but the result was certain, and the crowd of tribunes was already dispersing.

As I went across the vestibule I saw an elderly lady dressed in black. She was dressed like a wealthy bourgeoise and appeared radiant. I stopped one of the well-groomed little chaps whom one sees trotting around in the Ministerial corridors. I knew him slightly, and I asked him who that lady was.

“The mother of the orator,” he replied, with official emotion. “She must be very proud.”

Very proud! The old mother who wept so bitterly in the market-place was not that; and if the mother of his future Excellency had reflected, she would have regretted—she too—the time when her boy was very small, and rolled naked on her knee, holding his little foot in his hand.

But, bah! everything is relative, even shame.

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NightLark Writing Contest Reminder

This is just a reminder that we are currently running a short story/poetry contest.

Click here for the details.

 

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Keep Going by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Is the goal distant, and troubled the road,
And the way long?
And heavy your load?
Then gird up your courage, and say ‘I am strong,’
And keep going.

Is the work weary, and endless the grind
And petty the pay?
Then brace up your mind
And say ‘Something better is coming my way,’
And keep doing.

Is the drink bitter life pours in your cup –
Is the taste gall?
Then smile and look up
And say ‘God is with me whatever befall,’
And keep trusting.

Is the heart heavy with hope long deferred,
And with prayers that seem vain?
Keep saying the word –
And that which you strive for you yet shall attain.
Keep praying.

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The Tramp by John Clare

 He eats (a moment’s stoppage to his song)
The stolen turnip as he goes along;
And hops along and heeds with careless eye
The passing crowded stage coach reeling bye.
He talks to none but wends his silent way,
And finds a hovel at the close of day,
Or under any hedge his house is made.
He has no calling and he owns no trade.
An old smoaked blanket arches oer his head,
A whisp of straw or stubble makes his bed.
He knows a lawless law that claims no kin
But meet and plunder on and feel no sin–
No matter where they go or where they dwell
They dally with the winds and laugh at hell.

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NightLark Author K.V. Scruggs and Page 158 Books

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