Thursday, March 03, 2022

Another 'final' poem of the English Strain sonnet project: looking eastwards and to the Ukraine

Gerard Manley Hopkins and Arthur Symons provided the templates for my last attempts at the ‘last poem’ of ‘The English Strain’ project. But I seem to be providing a long coda by writing three ‘after’ poems, versions of the two named above, already written about here: Pages: Another 'final poem' to The English Strain Project / British Standards (temporary post) ( and here: Pages: 'The Shepherd's Brow' (the final poem of British Standards (probably)) appears on International Times ( .

Of course, the world is watching (with rising horror) the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, and it occurred to me to provide a quite dislocated ending to the sonnets by taking on a sonnet from the literature of the region (I say ‘region’ because borders have proved porous (and nationalities and exiles mobile)). ‘Sonnets from the Crimea’ by Adam Mickiewicz seemed to offer themselves, particularly the first poem, which is about traversing the threatened ground that is now Ukraine, and which mentions the lighthouse at Ackerman, now called Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi. A former three division world champion, Lomachenko, has just enlisted in the Territorial Defence Battalion of his hometown, Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, he announced Sunday on his Facebook page, and I read yesterday. The 34-year-old posted a photo of himself carrying an M16 assault rifle in fatigues alongside Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi mayor Vitaliy Grazhdan, just days after Russia invaded Ukraine. The city is in the South and, I suspect, endangered.

The choice of poem is a bit of a swerve (so was the Russian invasion) but it brings us back to the years of the Shelley poem with which the third book begins. I read several translations on this site:

Poetry in Translation – The Akerman Steppe – karimpootam (

The 1917 translation of the whole sequence may be read here:

Here’s the Polish (oh yes, that was his language, though the territory is Ukrainian, his country Lithuania):

Wpłynąłem na suchego przestwór Oceanu,
Wóz nurza się w zieloność i jak łódka brodzi,
Śród fali łąk szumiących, śród kwiatów powodzi,
Omijam koralowe ostrowy burzanu.

Już mrok zapada, nigdzie drogi ni kurhanu;
Patrzę w niebo, gwiazd szukam, przewodniczek łodzi;
Tam zdala błyszczy obłok? tam jutrzenka wschodzi?
To błyszczy Dniestr, to weszła lampa Akermanu.

Stójmy!—jak cicho!—słyszę ciągnące żórawie,
Którychby nie dościgły źrenice sokoła;
Słyszę kędy się motyl kołysa na trawie,

Kędy wąż śliską piersią dotyka się zioła.
W takiéj ciszy!—tak ucho natężam ciekawie,
Że słyszałbym głos z Litwy,—jedźmy, nikt nie woła.

Google translates it like this (where ‘goats’ came from I don’t know. All other translations have ‘cranes’! I took ‘flowers of the flood’ from here):

I have sailed into the dry expanse of the Ocean,
the cart is plunging into greenness and like a boat wading,
In the middle of a wave of meadows humming, among the flowers of the flood,
I avoid the coral sharp storm.

Already darkness is falling, nowhere the road or the barrow;
I look up at the sky, I look for stars, boat guides;
Is there a cloud shining there? there dawn rises?
It shines Dniester, it entered the lamp of Akerman.

Let's stand!—how quiet!—I hear the goats pulling,
Which the falcon's pupils would not catch up;
I hear where the butterfly is rocking on the grass,

Where the snake is touched with a slippery breast is the herb.
In such silence!—so my ear intensifies interestingly,
That I would hear a voice from Lithuania,—let's go, no one calls.

Google translate was, in a sense, where the ‘English Strain’ project began, since it was my playing around with that, using Petrarch 3, that set me off in the first place, the way Cupid’s dart became (via the Italian ‘darto’) Cupid’s dick! (See the FOOTNOTE to this piece: Pages: Robert Sheppard on The Petrarch Boys: Peter Hughes and Tim Atkins)

Of course, there’s little mirth in this version of Mickiewicz, though there is play. To write a conventional anti-war poem would not be appropriate either.

My poem, neither a version nor a translation, more a triangulation of different versions, as I hint in the poem, is called Aftershock – monitoring Adam Mickiewicz’ first Crimean Sonnet: The Ackerman Steppe, and (after having been on show for a week) is now removed for further work and - hopefully - publication.  


Here's my immediate video of the draft of the poem:

Update July 2022: And here is the (slightly) revised text as that now appears on the International Times website:

See these posts for the ruminations on whether to write a fourth book or not (spoiler: Not!) : Pages: Should I write a fourth ‘book’ of The English Strain project? ( and Pages: No need for a fourth book of The English Strain, I've decided (

And I do here (later) conclude this whole project here: Pages: If The English Strain is finished, what next? (Reflections and Loose Poetics) (

But of course that WASN'T the end at all. It nearly was, but one more poem revealed itself with the death of the Queen (did Bo kill her?) and the strange cargo cult reactions of the Great British Public. See here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: A final final poem for British Standards!

Read about the first two books (now both published).  

The English Strain here, which features sonnets from Petrarch (via the Symbolists) to EBB :

and Bad Idea which features only versions of the sonnets of Michael Drayton, here:

Online links to the ENGLISH STRAIN PROJECT:


One poem from Petrarch 3 may be read here:

From Petrarch 3 the doggie poem (a canine version of Petrarch's third sonnet) may be read here.

And one poem from Breakout, to ‘celebrate’ Brexit, here:
An overdub of Milton may be read in International Times here:

The Fugger of Wonderful Black Words in one of my Milton’s ‘overdubs’, dedicated to Tim Atkins, a sonnet. Another one here: ‘Avenge’, another sonnet, a contrafact on Milton’s ‘Avenge O Lord…’, features elements concerning the (female) Yasidi resistance to IS.

from Hap: Understudies of Thomas Wyatt’s Petrarch, in which Wyatt appears in them as himself and as his modern analogue, a foreign office spy on a secret pre-Brexit mission… (See the second half of the video at the top of this page.

‘It’s Nothing’, is a series of 'English Strain' sonnets that tries to write the self and fails miserably (but deliberately), and some are online here and here, and here. 'The Book of Names; or Late at the Tate', a birthday poem for Peter Hughes, comes from the same sequence and  may be read here.

Three more overdubs of the Sussex poems of Charlotte Smith have been published at Anthropocene:
I am pleased to say I have six poems published in BlazeVOX 19, edited by Geoffrey Gatza, four of them poems from ‘The English Strain’ project, versions of the Sussex sonneteer Charlotte Smith, called Elegaic Sonnets. You may get straight to the pages here:
Links to a number of the published poems from Non Disclosure Agreement (the last part of the proposed book of The English Strain) may be accessed here:

More of those ones here:

Some older ‘English Strain’ poems may be found here:

‘Bad Idea’ Poems may be read online: I’m pleased to say three poems from Bad Idea have now appeared in Monitor on Racism. Find the poems here.

Four consecutive poems from Bad Idea (XLV-XLVIII) are published together in International Times. They read well with today’s outing. HERE
I write about them here:

5 poems from BAD IDEA here on The Abandoned Playground:

another six located from here:

You may read two poems HERE.

Two more poems from the sequence may be read HERE

BOOK THREE: BRITISH STANDARDS (unpublished book manuscript)

Two poems have been published from ‘Poems of National Independence and Liberty’ here:

Read 'We had a female Passenger who came from Calais' as part of the 2020 'Talking to the Dead' feature on Stride here. I write about the poem and read it on video here.

The whole of ‘Tabitha and Thunderer’, my versionings of Mary Robinson, is online. The first 8 verses (the octet, if you will) may be read on the most recent Blackbox Manifold here:  Robert Sheppard poems, Blackbox Manifold 27 ( . The last 6 lines are on my blog here: Pages: My 'Tabitha and Thunderer' is published in Blackbox Manifold ( , along with more detail about ‘Tabitha and Thunderer’ and Mary Robinson, and my work on her sequence, plus videos of the first and last stanzas.

Three overdubs of John Keats, also from British Standards, appear on the Pamenar Press website, with videos!:
Robert Sheppard (

‘When I Have Fears that I May Cease to Be’ is published on Stride here:
 A poem by Robert Sheppard | Stride magazine

 More Keats! Four sonnets from Weird Syrup: Contrafacts and Counterfactuals from John Keats (part of the ‘British Standards’ volume of The English Strain project) have appeared on Litter, here: Robert Sheppard - from Weird Syrup: Contrafacts and Counterfactuals from John Keats | Litter (

Here's a link to one of my versions of John Clare on Beir Bua, including a video, here.

My single transpositions of Gerard Manley Hopkins' ‘The Shepherd’s Brow’, may be read here:

[There was even a horrible chance of Bo returning to power in October 2022. I was ready, as you'll see here: Pages: The Horrible Thought that Bo mioght be back: only The Bard could save me now! ( and am ready, should he ever dare!]