This blog's poems are from my published poetry book Star Steeds and Other Dreams: The Collected Poems (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2009) and are © Dr Karl P.N. Shuker, 2009. Except for author-credited review purposes, it is strictly forbidden to reproduce any of these poems elsewhere, either in part or in entirety, by any means, without my written permission.

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If you wish to buy this book, which is 230 pages long and is ISBN 978-1-905723-40-9, it is readily available online from its publisher, CFZ Press of Bideford, Devon, UK at and also from such major literary websites as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, W H Smith, and sellers on AbeBooks to name but a few. You can also purchase a signed copy directly from me, the author - please email me at for full details.

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Tuesday, 28 December 2010


Ever since childhood I have adored the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, but I have always questioned whether they were truly intended for children, as many of them seem much too complex, lyrical, and often too dark for young minds to appreciate fully. Over the years, I have adapted a number of them to yield narrative poems, including this one, which is based upon my all-time favourite Andersen story.


Day was fading like a phantom
As the evening softly drew
Spangled veils above each village,
And the moon’s pale radiance grew.
Stars lit up the sable heavens
With their softly twinkling light,
Like a host of spectral lanterns
From the valleys of the night.

But below their twilit kingdom
Flew a shining image mild –
There, an angel, bearing gently
In its lovely arms a child.
For the child had died that evening,
And the angel bore it long,
As it spoke in blissful murmurs
Like a peaceful, dulcet song:

“When a good child dies, an angel
Flits from Heaven’s golden Bliss,
And embraces long this infant
With a warm and tender kiss.
Then it spreads its wings like crescents
Soaring brightly through the sky,
And with joy it takes the infant,
As through all the world they fly,
To the lands where once this youngster
Had found Happiness and Peace,
Where they gather sprigs of flowers
Whose souls then will meet release,
And will bloom with lasting beauty
In the bliss of Heaven’s calm.
But the flower the child loved dearest
Will receive a voice of balm,
And will sing with all the angels
Each rejoicing psalm and chord
In a universal chorus
Praising ever more our Lord.”

And the youngster listened softly
In a tranquil, peaceful dream,
As they passed through lovely gardens,
Over woodland vales and streams,
To the lands in which the infant
Spent its most delightful hours,
Where they’d stay to gather bouquets
Of the most resplendent flowers.

Here they saw a fragrant rose tree,
Now forgotten, all alone.
For its stem had once been broken
When the buds were but half-grown.
Now they drooped in wilting sadness,
Though the rose was still in bloom,
So enchanting, as it waited
For its end, its final tomb.

And the child sighed long, and murmured:
“Pray, dear Angel, take it too,
So that once again, in Heaven,
It may live and bloom anew.”
And the angel kissed the infant,
As it plucked the wilted rose;
And the infant’s eyes half-opened,
For they wanted not to close.
Thus they gathered many flowers:
Some were beautiful and fair,
But amidst their sprigs, the lowly
Buttercup was also there.
And the happy child spoke softly:
“We have flowers now,” he said.
And the lovely wing├Ęd angel
Smiled, and nodded then his head.

Yet they flew not up to Heaven,
Still remaining in the town,
Which lay sleeping in the shadows
Of the evening’s dusky gown.
For they hovered long in silence
O’er a dark and narrow street
Where a rubbish pile lay, trampled
By the shoes of many feet.
And the angel pointed downwards
To a dim, deserted spot
Where a large white flower lay shrivelled
By a broken plaster pot.
For the flower had been discarded,
Thrown away and left to die.
But the angel said: “This also
We shall take, and as we fly
Up to Heaven I shall tell you
Then the story of this flower”.
So they onwards flew, as Morning
Lit the dawn’s first rosy hour

“There, below,” the angel murmured,
“Lived a sick, bedridden boy,
In a cellar where the sunlight
Was his comfort and his joy
When on crutches he could hobble
Round his tiny, darkened room,
As the sun’s caressing shaftlets
Filtered softly through its gloom.
And, when on such days he sat there,
Bony fingers thin and red
With the flow of blood within them,
“He’s been out,” his parents said.

“One fair spring, the neighbour’s youngster
Brought a leafy beech tree bough,
Which the poor sick boy would dangle
O’er his head, and wonder how
Bright and happy he would be if
He could sit beneath the trees
In the forest every summer
‘Midst the coolness of the breeze.

“Then the neighbour’s son collected
Many sprigs of springtime flowers
From the woodlands’ verdant arbours
And the valleys’ leafy bowers.
And amongst them was a white flower
With its fragile roots preserved,
Which, when watered in a plant pot,
As a small flower garden served.
Thus it flourished, sending blossom
Forth each sunny summer’s day,
And it gave him hope and comfort
In its simple humble way.
Soon it entered e’en his dreamworld,
As it bloomed for him alone.
And as e’er he watched, it seemed that
Even fairer had it grown.
For its beauty was his pleasure,
And its spirit was his breath.
And towards his flower, forever,
Still the boy turned, e’en in death.

“For a year the flower had stood there,
Lone, forgotten by the world
When the boy flew up to Heaven
Where a new World lay unfurled.
And when finally his parents
Moved away to other lands,
They forgot the drooping flower, and
So it met with stony hands,
For into the street they threw it,
Like an old and broken toy.
But the happiness and comfort
That it brought to that sick boy
Is the reason we have placed it
In our nosegay with the rest.”
And the child was filled with pleasure,
As with wonder was he blessed.

“Yet how knowest you of all this?”
Asked the small, enquiring child.
And the angel answered gently
With a murmur calm and mild:
“Every word I spoke is true, and
Now the answer I shall tell –
For I was myself that sick boy,
Yes, I know my dear flower well.”

And the infant’s eyes were opened,
Filled with Happiness and Love,
For they then, at that same moment,
Were in Heaven far Above.
And the infant, like the angel,
Now had sweeping snowy wings.
And together flew they softly
Hand in hand, in endless rings,
While, their lives renewed forever,
All their flowers bloomed full of joy.
But the happiest by far was
Still the small flower of the boy,
For it gained a voice in Heaven,
And with blessed delight it sang
With the seraphim forever
As the chimes of Heaven rang.
For the wondrous bliss of Heaven
Stretches on without an end.
And fore’er its peaceful radiance
Shall, to all, God’s message send.

But of all God’s great creations
Shaped by loving Hands of Power,
None could be more truly happy
Than that white once-withered flower,
Which sang ever to its Father,
For its joy was now complete,
Saved from Death and borne to Glory
From a dark and narrow street.

Monday, 20 December 2010


This poem borrows, adapts, and interweaves a number of separate strands – the legend that the cruciform marking present on every donkey’s back was placed there by Jesus in gratitude for being carried by one of their kind during His triumphant procession into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday; the idea of that particular donkey being granted immortality, so that it has secretly survived in unchanging form down through all the centuries into the present day; and its chance discovery one Christmas morning by a group of children who have no idea of its origin or significance.


Christmas drifts silently downwards ‘ere Morning
Rises from dreams through the depths of the sky,
Softly caressing each child wrapped in slumber –
Sleeping in peace as the stars twinkle by.

And in a field stands a little brown donkey,
Gazing through Space from an icicled world,
Nuzzling the snow with his soft velvet muzzle,
Shaking its crystals from eyelashes curled.

Now, as he pauses, the dawn flushes brightly,
Blushing like rose petals strewn from Above,
Waking the children with murmurs from Morning,
Carolling joyfully anthems of Love.

Soon they chase merrily into the garden,
And as they sing of what Christmas will yield,
One of them points to the little brown donkey,
Standing alone in the snow-covered field.

Swiftly they race through the shimmering snowflakes,
Up to his paddock with eager delight,
Each to embrace him with warm, tender kisses,
Melting the snow in its spiralling flight.

And as he brays in the midst of the children,
Gaily they deck him with tinsel and flowers –
Joyfully plucked from their Christmas tree’s branches –
Glistening brightly in colourful showers.

But as the heavens’ first frost-killing sunlight
Glints from each bauble and gleams from each boss,
Softly a shadow falls over his shoulders,
Sombre and still in the shape of a Cross.

And as he stands there, a tear trickles slowly
Down through his lashes in sorrowful flight,
As he remembers through centuries countless,
Whom he’d once carried with love and delight.

Palms and hosannas regaled him in triumph,
There on his back sat our Saviour and Lord,
Smiling and nodding to people and children,
Standing all round in a vast, cheering hoard.

“Why did they spurn Him, betray Him, and kill Him –
Nailed to that Cross and then left there to die?”
Still the poor donkey weeps long at the memory,
Held for Eternity deep in his eyes.

And as the children, not seeing his sorrow,
Run away laughing, the donkey’s warm heart
Burns with a passionate love so intense that
Not e’en the chill of the icicles’ darts

E’er could refrigerate, e’er could extinguish,
Burning in silence this cold Christmas Day,
Lingering still, like the Cross’s dark shadow –
Borne from a green hill so far, far away.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


Dragon (Dr Karl Shuker)

What would happen, I wonder, if, tired of being slain by knights errant, the ancient dragons of evil decided to adopt new guises in order to survive and continue spreading their malign influence within the modern world of mankind?


Are you there, o monstrous dragon,
Coal-black scales like pools of Night?
Are your hellfire eyes still burning,
Flaming orbs of scarlet light?

Do your spiralled horns still glitter
On your brow like evil towers?
And your heart of bitter longing,
Does it bloom like fiery flowers?

Old you are, yet ever-changing,
No more gusts of toxic breath,
Spurts of fire through roaring nostrils,
Beating wings, or gaze of death.

Smitten by St George’s valour,
Risen now to strike anew,
Born again in new disguises,
More deceptive now, as through

All the lands you steal unnoticed,
No more talons, scales, or flame.
Now you dress in human garments,
Yet your soul remains the same –

Tempting human minds to vanquish
All the love they know is true,
In the guise of friends or kinsfolk,
Those that they feel closest to.

So beware of all such dragons,
Different though they may have grown.
They alone Death dare not call on,
Lest they turn e’en him to stone.
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