Saturday Poem - Invictus

I like this one - it's a courageous call into the night and whether it be true for you or not, this is one of those wonderful poems with the power to give strength just by repeating the words.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

Review: Viper Wine, Hermione Eyre

Viper Wine is one of those rare and astonishing novels that leaves one feeling slightly out of breath afterwards, as though one had been whirled about in and then set down feeling as though your perspective has shifted.  Kaleidoscopic in its scope and ambitious in the telling, this was a truly original historical novel which breathes extraordinary life and energy into a cast of characters who seem not so very far removed from ourselves.  Leading the pack are Sir Kenelm Digby and his wife, celebrated beauty Venetia Digby (nee Stanley).  Best known for her mysterious death, the novel opens with a copy of Venetia's deathbed portrait and her husband's words on her passing.  Yet this never feels like a book written about death, rather instead it concentrates on the notion of beauty and how far people are prepared to drive themselves in order to attain it.  The cover gives away what the novel's trick is; the portrait of Venetia depicts her clutching an iPhone.  Expect the unexpected - or at least, the post-modern.

Thursday Picture - A Reader Lives A Thousand Lives

(c) Incredibru at Deviantart
This picture is just so me during the school years ... except my uniform was maroon and my hair wasn't as dark.  Ah, childhood.

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books I Could Buy With My Newly-Discovered Book Token

I am on a book-buying ban.  Seriously.  A total moratorium.  I keep saying it but it is getting to the point that it's a choice between my room being a bedroom or a library.   However.  At the weekend, I was in Blackwell's with my friend Alice and I bought Well-Read Women because it was marked down to one pound (from £11.99 - it would have been foolish not to, right?) and I also got a Buy One Get One Half Price a couple of days after the General Election to cheer myself up and also there's a shop in central Oxford that sells vintage Penguin classics for £1 so I got four.  Basically, the book ban has made me think carefully about my book buying addiction (less than twenty pounds over a two month period is pretty good going for me) but it has not cracked it.  But here comes the second However.  Yesterday evening, I discovered two separate Waterstone's stamper cards which put together mean that I have a £10 book token to spend and which surely I would be stupid to pass up. So.  Here are the top ten books that I really, really would like and please feel free to advise me on which one to spend the £10 which I am owed by Waterstones.  Ahem.

Review: My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell

One of the chapters in this book appeared in an anthology of 'Funny Stories' that I had as a child, so the first time I started this book, I was eleven.  However, the copy I was using as a huge hardback from the school library and my interest began to ebb.  While I still think nothing of putting three normal-sized books in my bag before I leave the house, somehow one large book tends to put me off.  In the end, I abandoned My Family with some regret.  However, last year I discovered a very small and very battered Penguin edition in the Basildon Books for Free Project and I nominated it for my Classics Club Reading List.  And so here we are.

Quote of the Week

Saturday Poem - Book Lover

I think this one sums me up so well!  I read so much and so quickly and yet I still buy books quicker than I read, then I have such good intentions but the ones I want to read grow dust while I keep grabbing at the next shiny book from the New Releases table of the book shop!

Book Lover

I keep collecting books I know
I'll never, never read;
My wife and daughter tell me so,
And yet I never heed.
"Please make me," says some wistful tome,
"A wee bit of yourself."
And so I take my treasure home,
And tuck it in a shelf.

And now my very shelves complain;
They jam and over-spill.
They say: "Why don't you ease our strain?"
"some day," I say, "I will."
So book by book they plead and sigh;
I pick and dip and scan;
Then put them back, distrest that I
Am such a busy man.

Now, there's my Boswell and my Sterne,
my Gibbon and Defoe;
To savour Swift I'll never learn,
Montaigne I may not know.
On Bacon I will never sup,
For Shakespeare I've no time;
Because I'm busy making up
These jingly bits of rhyme.

Chekov is caviare to me,
While Stendhal makes me snore;
Poor Proust is not my cup of tea,
And Balzac is a bore.
I have their books, I love their names,
And yet alas! they head,
With Lawrence, Joyce and Henry James,
My Roster of Unread.

I think it would be very well
If I commit a crime,
And get put in a prison cell
And not allowed to rhyme;
Yet given all these worthy books
According to my need,
I now caress with loving looks,
But never, never read.

Robert William Service 

For the full archive of past Saturday poems, visit Poetry Please in the Features.