Poetry from Ocaso Press


A social comedy by C. John Holcombe

Nicholas's affair with the captivating Clare is not progressing well. In fact it's not progressing at all, despite a summer holiday together in Italy where they do all that could be expected of a well-bred and cultivated couple: tour around, visit galleries and churches, follow up invitations and dine out in romantic settings. Back home in England, Nicholas is even more perplexed when Clare takes up with a young socialite who dabbles in banking. What is the budding art historian to do? An affectionate look at the antics and follies of the English upper-middle classes — a sort of Three Weddings and A Funeral in verse. Free ebook.


An historical romance by C. John Holcombe

Shuja Khan and his Toba princess are fictions rooted in historical fact. When the story opens in 1290 (690 A.H.), the Mongol conquests initiated by Genghiz Khan have been extended and consolidated by his extensive family. Iran and the Middle East are ruled by the Ilkhans, descendants of Genghiz's grandson Hulegu. China is ruled by Genghiz's grandson Qubilai (Coleridge's Kubla Khan), founder of the Yuan Dynasty and nominally Great Khan (Qaghan). The northern part of central Asia is occupied by the Golden Horde, and the southern part by the Chaghatayids. Local wars are common, and neither the Golden Horde nor the Chaghatayids pay much attention to the Chinese ruler. Free ebook.


satyavati ebook cover

A tale of mediaeval India by C. John Holcombe

Like Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat, the fictional story of Satyavati derives from many sources — in this case the popular romances of pre-Mogul India. The speaker is Hushang ibn Dilawar, ruler of the small sultanate of Malwa in what is now Madhya Pradesh in north-central India. Hushang introduced a policy of religious toleration, encouraged sufis and Islamic clerics to settle in the kingdom, and employed many Rajput (Hindu) soldiers in his army. India has many poems telling the love of Islamic rulers for Hindu princesses, most of them ending badly. Hushang's misfortunes stem from his character - his distrust of Satyavati's brother, whose death he engineers, and his attack on the stronghold of Satyavati's family. Free ebook.

A Novel in Verse by C. John Holcombe

Like a contemporary Moll Flanders, the beautiful Mai Ying progresses from Bangkok peepshow performer to bar-girl, unpaid British housemaid, escort hostess to finally mistress and soon-to-be wife of a wealthy industrialist. In this comedy of manners, Mai Ying is the poorly-educated but knowing student of male hypocrisy — until she falls for the industrialist's son and enjoys the raptures of physical possession that she has supplied to men but not tasted before. Mai Ying is a survivor, the laughing and rapacious sorcerer, and she returns to Thailand not a whit restrained or sadder for her adventures in the land of farangs. A long poem: free.


A Venetian tale in verse by C. John Holcombe

Venice at the height of her glory, and celebrated above all in the canvases of Veronese. But what has happened to that altarpiece commissioned from him, the one modelled on a child he had of the courtesan Antonia Schiavoni? Ten years later it has not been delivered. The new abbess calls him to account, and in the aged painter makes various excuses — until he must meet the courtesan and their daughter again, when he sees his life as great gifts squandered. A sadder man returns to the small church of San Sebastiano, where his canvases show him what he was once had the power to achieve. A long poem: free.


A political satire by C. John Holcombe

In this tale for our times, where the Civil Service has become a political machine, an ambitious young protégé of Tony Blair's finesses the concept of 'spin' and does his master's bidding through the Whitehall corridors of power. In this he is joined by his secretary, Fiona, a beautiful woman out of our hero's social league but one who knows advantage when she sees it. Only one obstacle stands in the way of our hero's climb to power, the wily Permanent Secretary, and Sir Roderick is not a loyal Blairite, though too astute to say so. He will have to go, decides our hero, but how? A long poem with quotable comments: fifty stanzas. Free ebook.


A modern pastoral by C. John Holcombe

A depiction of the east Anglian countryside in her various moods and seasons, but also a tale of commercial adventure as young Robbie and his sweetheart Meg struggle to make a go of their butterfly farm in the depths of an abandoned market-gardening estate. Robbie is an oddball character and Meg is no beauty queen, but they find affection for each other in shared discomfort and hard work about their little farm. In looking back over a half century, Robbie finds life just as he thought it would be, part of a tradition coloured by individual hopes and disappointments and soldierings on. An honest view of contempory aspirations. A poem of fifty stanzas. Free ebook.


A love poem by C. John Holcombe

All writers have their jealous but inconstant muses, and here the mocking spirit flits across the English countryside and through the generations of a family that traces itself to holdings in the west country long before the Normans came. In this modern version of the English pastoral the same themes are repeated: the constant longing for place, the reference to what should have been, the evocation of someone dead who still serves as emissary to a world that lies everywhere around us, if we had the humility and sense of history to see it. An evocative portrayal of past generations. Free ebook.



A short story in verse by C. John Holcombe

The whole lot of them were chancers, good-natured philanderers who take up various trades in London but who never settle, being always attracted to women and their mysterious ways. But Charlie Tranter does settle, and balances family life with innumerable affairs, until he gets into one scrape too many. He is away on the usual fling when his wife and young kiddie perish in a house blaze. The local press go to town on the episode, and Tranter loses his job. But not for long. Irrepressible as ever, he is soon a rep travelling in ladies underwear, and the pattern of conquests begins again over the southern counties of England. Free ebook.


A life in fifty chapters C. John Holcombe

Fifty linked poems written in stress metre that generates a drumbeat measure that gradually drowns out the inner emotions as Caesar evolves into a public person. An unexpurgated version where Rome is very different from out Hollywood versions. Despite all that we have gained from it in law, administration and language, Republican Rome lacked Greek refinement or Christian caritas, and its brutality was exacerbated by increasing civil wars. Free ebook. po



A Collection of Lyrics by C. John Holcombe

An old-fashioned book of poetry: thirty poems on love in its various aspects and manifestations. Some are simple and faux-naif, little more than nursery rhymes. Others are more demanding and extended. Many of the poems follow strict and/or complex rhyme schemes, and all are metrical. Indeed this short collection demonstrates what Modernism denies, that traditional poetry may create pieces of memorable beauty while not shunning contemporary issues and themes. A free e-book in pdf format.



A Short Story in Verse by C. John Holcombe

An A countryside romance set in the Berkshire Downlands. A lawyer's son falls for the daughter of a local landowner, and goes abroad to earn the money to set himself up in farming. She is destined elsewhere, however, and, though returning his feelings, the girl eventually marries into her own class. Not a comment on social manners so much a depiction of early love and its steadying and warming influence on the young man's later marriage and successful farming. Life as it still is in the rural communities of England, with its stress on the manners appropriate to class, and the long traditions that reach back over the centuries. A free e-book in pdf format.


A Short Story in Verse by C. John Holcombe

A plain tale from the Indian hills. George Phelan follows in his father's footsteps to India, via the usual route of the English ruling classes: public school, Oxford and the India Office. His accomplishments mark him off from the normal run, but he's also sensitive enough to see through the hypocrisies of the English Raj and want something more authentic and helpful to the subcontinent. His father's ideal of public service clashes with the sensual nature of Indian life, and he is drawn to local girls and frank eroticism of Tamil literature. He disciplines and remakes himself as an agricultural specialist, but the old longings keep him from following the expected route of expatriate marriage and local governance. A free e-book in pdf format.po

A Children's Story by C. John Holcombe

Russia's history of the last hundred years set out as a cautionary children's story. Here are the fabulous excesses of czarist rule, the growth of the Bolshevik party and the iron rule of Stalin — shot through with vignettes of rural life, the horrors of war and descriptions of contemporary Soviet towns. Into this story are woven the elements of Russia's history from earliest times, its literature and rich vein of music and painting. Though a terrible story, which grows only more heartless as the children are taken through their Soviet catechism, the poem is a celebration of mankind's ability to survive even the worst of horrors, and ends on a modestly optimistic note. A free e-book in pdf format.


Poems on Travel by C. John Holcombe

The sixty-odd poems take the reader through various settings in London and southern England to Iran and north Africa, to south-east Asia and Oceania, back to Europe and thence to Latin America. There are poems set in academia and military establishments, in high society and among ordinary folk, in cafés, nightclubs, churches, hospitals on the streets of tropical cities, on desert roads and the lush jungles of Indonesia. Anyone who enjoys the romance of travel will like these poems, which exhibit an unusually wide range of style, from free verse to tightly rhymed forms, all characterize by scrupulous craftsmanship and a keen ear for the possibilities of English metre. A free e-book in pdf format.


Climbing Through

A Short Story in Verse by C. John Holcombe

When his old climbing partner is killed on attempting a solo climb on the same mountain, Davie resolves to undertake a solo climb himself, against good mountaineering practice and Deborah's pleadings to put the family first. Davie succeeds in the climb, but Deborah never forgives him for risking their future happiness. The two gradually drift apart, and Davie comes to see why climbing is so important to him, more than anything else in the world. In this extended poem of fifty stanzas, the mountain becomes a metaphor for inward determination, exemplifying that need so many sportsmen feel for an integration of body and mind, where outward challenges serve to discipline the body and make it fully responsive to its psychological needs. A free e-book in pdf format.


Climbing Through

A Short Story in Verse by C. John Holcombe

A contemporary morality tale in which an amateur singer falls for a another member of the choir, until the affair is brought to an end by a viral infection that leaves him partially deaf in both ears. A punishment for sinning against his wedding vows? So it seems to our protagonist, who sees a religious significance to events. The story is the simplest, but the life-altering experience of love is described through the medium of music, most particularly the appeal of the human voice, which can range from ecstasy and dark despair. A free e-book in pdf format.



Climbing Through

A Sonnet Sequence by C. John Holcombe

The Great War marked the collapse of the old world order, and the beginning of the modern state. Much of what we take for granted grew out of the bloodbath of those years, and we cannot understand ourselves unless we see modernism as a reaction to its horrors. Lost irretrievably in five short years was a belief in social norms, in the rule of reason, and the fundamental decency of human nature. War's blunders and nightmares have continued to haunt us, giving an air of unreality to our high-tech conflicts, our art-forms, and our failing political systems. A free e-book in pdf format.



Planet Earth

A Poetry Collection by C. John Holcombe

A Short Geological Excursion through the British Isles. Fifty poems in free verse that take the reader through the wider aspects of the geology underlying the United Kingdom.

A free e-book in pdf format.




Planet Earth

Occasional Poetry by C. John Holcombe

As in most Latin countries, Chilean life is lived in the streets, and a favourite occupation is seeing and being seen in the innumerable cafés that dot the streets of Santiago. Here are fifty occasional poems that present the passing spectacle of life to an Englishman who has made his home in the capital. Nothing profound, but very varied in their themes, the poems document the social attitudes of the country, the local customs, the passing seasons in the city, and a little of the country's history as it emerged from the Marxist experiments of Allende, through the military dictatorship, to today's centre-left government of Michelle Bachelet.

A free e-book in pdf format.


Some Other Person

Poetry by C. John Holcombe

Some fifty poems. Quiet, meditative pieces that range from the topographical through the surreal to the purely imaginary as the poetry moves from description to the significance that places hold in our lives — the small and nondescript, the grand country houses, new towns and old, unpeopled moorlands and industrial belts, the scenes of past splendour and the small, homely scenes that retain our childhood affections.

Their common thread is a preoccupation with form, here the hexameter, developed with a freedom needed to cope with the author's forthcoming translation of Virgil's Georgics.

A free e-book in pdf format.



A Play in Verse by C. John Holcombe

The play opens in 41 BC, when Antony and Octavian share the rulership of the Roman world with the third triumvir, the inoffensive Lepidus. Antony is tasked with bringing order to the eastern provinces, and creating some defence against marauding Parthian horsemen who regularly invade Syria. Octavian is in Rome, consolidating his hold on Italian politics and finding land and money to pay his troops. Cleopatra is in Egypt, to which she fled when Julia Caesar was assassinated in 45 BC. She has taken no new lover, but rules her country competently, knowing there are always new claimants to the throne.

A free e-book in pdf format.


That Still Abiding Fire

A Long Poem by C. John Holcombe

That Still Abiding Fire is modelled on Dante's Divine Comedy, and also uses the terza rima form that generates terse expressiveness if handled correctly. But here hell is more contemporary — not some bottomless pit where sinners are treated to ever more diabolical torments, but the world around us, how we adulterate and ruin what should be beneficent and beautiful.

A free e-book in pdf format.


Mary Queen of Scots

A Play in Verse by C. John Holcombe

A play in verse that brings to life the loves and political turmoil of Mary Stewart's last years in Scotland, where she runs into opposition from nobles, John Knox's bigotry, and the English queen who promotes Lord Darnley and stirs up even more trouble for the beautiful but inexperienced Mary. Bothwell murders Darnley, abducts Mary and forcibly makes himself her third husband. The uprising which follows leads to Mary's imprisonment at Lochleven, another battle, and then Mary's flight to long imprisonment in England.

A free e-book in pdf format.



A Tale in Verse by C. John Holcombe

A verse recreation of the novel by Eugène Fromentin, which equals those of Turgenev that depict the human heart in love: its follies, raptures and despairs. Eugène Fromentin was that most unusual of creatures: a successful genre painter exhibiting regularly at the Salon, and a prose stylist of the first order. He wrote only four books: Une Année dans le Sahara (1857), Une Année dans le Sahel (1859), Dominique (1863) and Les Maîtres d'Autrefois (1876) but all were accomplished, Dominique being warmly praised by the likes of Flaubert, George Sands, Gautier and Sainte-Beuve.

A free e-book in pdf format.


Aries Rising

A Long Poem by C. John Holcombe

Most of us like to look back to our early struggles, to some happy period of marriage, children or business successes, or simply on the strange course that family background, career needs and fortune have taken us on. In my case it's from a quiet suburb in London through the wilder parts of the world to a small flat in Chile, from a fairly solitary childhood to overseeing construction gangs in Iran, to a management role in a multinational company, submissions to learned societies and finally to literary work that is read across the English-speaking work.

A free e-book in pdf format.


That Still Abiding Fire 2

A Long Poem by C. John Holcombe

Brutality and saintliness, the present and the past, literary depiction, reportage and sad reality — all are juxtaposed in figures that cast their shadows into the less pleasant aspects of our human world, and so stand for the fallen innocence (but not redemption) that Dante depicted.

This, the most uncomfortable section of the series, describes the miseries of war and civil unrest. As before, the sections are built around characters, some actual and some fictional, but all telling real stories.

A free e-book in pdf format.

Shah Abbas

A Verse Play by C. John Holcombe

Shah Abbas opens in 1593 at Qazvin, the early Safavid capital of Iran, where the three-day puppet king, enthroned to evade an astrological prediction, was deposed and shot. Thereafter the scene shifts between the courts of Iran, Spain, Hungary and England, to close in 1658, when the widow of Sir Robert Sherley has the remains of her husband removed from Iran and interred in the church of Santa Maria della Scala in Rome.

A free e-book in pdf format.


Ibn Battuta Traverls

A Long Poem by C. John Holcombe

Ibn Battuta was the greatest of medieval travellers. Between 1325 and 1355 he travelled 73,000 miles and visited territories that now make up 44 countries. The poem explores those issues of faith, custom and hospitality that still make the Muslim world foreign to the west.

A free e-book in pdf format.


Traditional Poetry

Traditional Poetry by C. John Holcombe 2015-6

Seventy-eight in traditional styles ranging from light verse to the serious.

The collection is loosely modelled on Robert Herrick's Hesperides, and rings the changes on conventional themes by re-echoing rhyme and imagery through these song-like pieces. Many poetry books have a central theme, of course, but here the repetition is denser, giving key words a wider connotation as they operate in different settings across the collection.

A free e-book in pdf format.