The Mourning Bride
by William Congreve
(Excerpt from the final lines of the play)
“Whose virtue has renounc’d thy Father’s Crimes,
Seest thou, how just the Hand of Heav’n has been?
Let us that thro’ our Innocence survive,
Still in the Paths of Honour persevere,
And not from past or present Ills Despair:
For Blessings ever wait on vertuous Deeds;
And tho’ a late, a sure Reward succeeds.”
The idea of a muse is very real to me. I often have had the sensation in the act of writing that feels like an out of body experience, like I am an observer watching letters and words unfold on my computer screen, as if they are being typed by fingers controlled by something or someone else. It is at those times when words flow or entire poems appear nearly fully formed in an initial draft, having been worked out in my subconscious unknowingly and it is just waiting patiently for stillness for them to come tumbling out that I am most conscious of my muse, to the point that it can make the hair stand up on the back of my neck, almost as if someone is watching me from behind.
The sonnet In The Hand of Heaven was not such a poem. It is an example of good old fashioned hard work, with several failed attempts at starting and stopping. It was an idea that came from multiple sources of inspiration and took a long time to write. The first source of inspiration was a gift from a friend, a translation of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and the second The Mourning Bride by William Congreve. The first is an easy read, short, intriguing, wise and I found shockingly aligned with my own values. The second is a slog, the old English grammar and sentence construction both familiar and unfamiliar to the ear, it was not something that I found instantly compelling, but there are short sections that are hauntingly beautiful and pure poetry. Each of these swirled together and after many revisions, the sonnet worked itself out.
I have not written many things where I have taken a quote from someone else and incorporated it into my writing, transforming it into something new and original. It is an interesting paradox, because it feels a bit like it makes your own writing derivative, but at the same time it gives your writing a deeper context from which the reader can free associate to make their own connections or discoveries.
One of the long term projects that has sustained my writing is attempts to capture the equivalent of short prayers as sonnets, in essence, write my own meditations. Simple Praise is one of the sonnets that falls in that category, (shared in an earlier blog post) and so is In The Hand of Heaven. I often return to reread these poems when in need of contemplation, (i.e. forgiveness), and to be mindful that kindness is at the center of what it is to love and be loved.
In The Hand of Heaven
By T. A. Fry
“No longer talk about the kind of man
a good man ought to be, but be such.”*
Who through innocence perseveres to touch
The confluence of my imperfect clan.
To walk their chosen pace, with no less than
The grace of kindness. To thrive without much.
For no better hour will I find, to clutch
The bone and rattle of my neighbor’s hand.
If in the hand of Heaven I have a choice?
I’ll proclaim Love’s name with unclouded voice.
Send care to conquer as Calvary.
Give self to self – free from self pity.
Take salary and stock in earned goodwill,
Until, I’m square with my begotten city.
*The first two lines come from the George Long
translation Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.
Peter Pauper Press 1957..
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