Friday, October 30, 2015

On Complaining Camels & Scottish Poets

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit marveous poet-teacher Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for Roundup.

So I found today's poem when I read this article about Scottish poet (from Shetland, actually) Christine DeLuca, who is currently serving as Edinburgh's Poet Laureate. She cites it as one that helped grow her love for poetry and rhythm, And weren't we talking recently about camel poems, after the movie TRACKS?! I still need to write one!

The Camel's Complaint
by Charles Edward Carryl (1841-1920)

Canary-birds feed on sugar and seed.
Parrots have crackers to crunch.
And as for the poodles, they tell me the noodles
have chicken and cream for their lunch.
But there's never a question
about my digestion.
Anything is okay for me.

Cats, you know, can sleep in a chair.
Chickens can rest upon rails.
Puppies are able to sleep in a stable,
and oysters can nap in pails.
But no one supposes
a poor camel dozes.
Any place is okay for me.

Lambs are indoors out of the sun.
Coops are built for hens.
Kittens are treated to houses well heated,
and pigs are protected by pens.
But a camel is handy
wherever it's sandy.
Anywhere is okay for me.

People would laugh if you rode a giraffe,
or rode the back of an ox.
It's nobody's habit to ride on a rabbit,
or to try to ride a fox.
But as for a camel,
he carries families.
Any load is okay for me.

A snake is as round as a hole in the ground,
and weasels are wavy and sleek.
And no alligator could ever be straighter
than lizards that live in a creek.
But a camel's all lumpy
and bumpy and humpy.
Any shape is okay for me.

The original poem was published in 1892. The version here was adapted from a copy in The Oxford Book of Children's Verse, eds. Iona and Peter Opie (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1973), pages 305-306.

isn't that fun?!

...and now a poem by Christine DeLuca herself! 

Head over Heels (translated from the Shetlandic original)
by Christine DeLuca
From different vantage points, the island sharpens
from old man laid out dead upon the skyline
to three proud peaks upon the world's edge.

And seen at different times, headlands looming
closely after rain, distance themselves
through hazy veils. We lift our eyes

from weathered end-of-season sights. Autumn,
with fingers soft and lingering, lightens both
land and heart; bright glints of newness.

And all the pointless fights that come
from thinking we can only see one way, fade
into nothingness. A glow of light upon

the drabbest land, a glimpse of love around
embittered hearts, and everything turns
somersaults. We must un-self ourselves,

untangle all that wearies one another,
journey with our difference, and savor
all the common wonders of our world.

Read more:


"We must un-self ourselves" -- !!! adding that to my "How to Live Your Poem" page!


  1. I particularly like that "un-self ourselves" (very zen!) and "Autumn,/with fingers soft and lingering, lightens both/land and heart;" and the last stanza of the camel poem. Any shape is okay for me!

  2. You're title intrigued me, Irene, that pairing! Thank you for finding that older camel poem, so delightful: "But a camel is handy/wherever it's sandy." And, you took my favorite line from Christine's poem too: "must un-self ourselves". I do love "Autumn,/with fingers soft and lingering" too. Beautiful poem.

  3. Thank you for reading the English version of my poem so beautifully! Sadly, it's not as memorable as the camel one.


Your thoughts?