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Cento Thursday

December 17, 2009

The Cento Generator has been occupying much of my free time over the last couple of days and has produced some gems, so in what may become a semi-regular thing, I hereby declare that from now on Thursday will be Cento Day, and will be accompanied by an assortment of interesting fragments churned out by the ever-growing generator.

Inadvertently hilarious lines of the week:

I sing of May-poles, Hock-carts, Wassails, Wakes,
Desiring this man’s art, or that man’s scope,
In doubt his Mind or Body to prefer.

Unorthodox collaborations of the week: Byron/Barrett Browning,

And for the future – but I write this reeling
With my lost saints, – I love thee with the breath,
As I am blood, bone, marrow, passion, feeling –
I shall but love thee better after death.

and Bishop/Shakespeare:

Though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Brilliant opening of the week:

I met a traveller from an antique land,
When winter reigned in bleak Britannia’s air –
The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band

The city now doth, like a garment, wear –
Who said ‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Earth has not anything to show more fair,

And wander roads unstable, not their own;
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.’

Brilliant conclusion of the week (thank you, Byron):

Like shades in love and death’s oblivion lost,
Who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
My friends forsake me like a memory lost,
And so – for God’s sake – hock and soda-water!

Weirdly oblique but you’re sure it must mean something poem of the week:

The tigers in the panel that she made
Strengthened, and fed without the aid of joy,
Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid,
And even Despair was powerless to destroy.

For this, for every thing, we are out of tune;
Its first desire is spent. The star’s impulse,
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
And love arrived may find us somewhere else.

Unhappy narrator of the week:

I am – yet what I am none cares or knows,
Except the Will which says to them ‘Hold on!’
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
To serve your turn long after they are gone;
I cannot say what loves have come and gone.

Haiku of the week:

say can you see by the dawn’s early my
The grass below – above the vaulted sky.


The strangest whim has seized me … After all
There are no fortunes to be told, although
I write of Hell; I sing (and ever shall).

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Seamus permalink
    December 18, 2009 12:16 am

    I read “A Requiem” to the room at Mel and Tom’s place, and they were mightily impressed. Then, having spotted this, I read some of these out too.

    I have decided to spend a few hours tonight adding lines to my copy of the Generator, so that I can send you some verses incorporating stuff that hasn’t already come up in yours. I intend to spend at least another two hours on this, but I’m periodically hitting F5, and my Generator just came up with its first real gem. This is edited down to the best bits, but each bit is in the genuine order it came up in:

    Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
    That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
    While the world’s tide is bearing me along;
    Was three long moons in icy fetters bound.

    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Things that are small enough to go by water,
    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    Who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter.

    A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn,
    Pensive, reclines upon his useless oar,
    Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn,
    I say, ‘But when you think you’re at death’s door
    Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn,
    You’ve got another twenty years or more.’

    I’ll be posting more as it comes.

  2. wickedday permalink
    December 18, 2009 12:58 am

    That’s brilliant. Especially the last stanza there; amazing how it fits so seamlessly together, with the Pagan’s ‘creed outworn’ matching the ‘useless oar’ he leans on, and the narrator bitterly declaring that, even once supplanted, you don’t get to die just like that.

    It’ll be interesting to see how the generators evolve once their databases start diverging. I take it that everything’s working okay then, and that no hilarious inconvenient bugs have manifested themselves?

  3. Seamus permalink
    December 18, 2009 1:30 am

    One inconvenient bug appeared for a while, but it was of my making, rather than yours: I forgot to close a square bracket. It’s fixed now.

    I’m heading to bed, but first, here are three more things that have come out of my experiments tonight:

    And e’en the dearest, that I loved the best,
    Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
    And post o’er land and ocean without rest.


    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
    My friends forsake me like a memory lost.
    Earth has not anything to show more fair:
    Like shades in love and death’s oblivion lost,
    The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
    And yet I am – and live, with shadows tossed
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.

    When faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
    Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
    Now at the last gasp of love’s latest breath,
    How many more times can I hope to come?
    I shall but love thee better after death.


    Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best, his state
    And worship’st at the Temple’s inner shrine;
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate;
    Thy nature is not therefore less divine.

  4. Seamus permalink
    December 18, 2009 12:43 pm

    A slightly demented but rather striking sonnet, produced mainly by Shakespeare’s “For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings” feeding into two poems about loss, by Fleur Adcock and William Cowper.

    My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
    Oh that those lips had language! Life has pass’d
    With me but roughly since I heard thee last.
    For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings,
    Which yet remain, stamped on these lifeless things,
    From thirty hours’ flying to a vast
    Galactic space between present and past
    That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
    All my life’s bliss from thy dear life was given;
    ‘I don’t think it’ll be like that,’ you said:
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings –
    No later light has lightened up my heaven,
    Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
    If you can make one heap of all your winnings.

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