Bid Them Be Patient, No More

Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Owen

Anthem For Doomed Youth

by Wilfred Owen (1893 – 1918)

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
–The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

It’s Veteran’s Day, November 12, a day of red-orange poppies on lapels.  My Grandfather served in both World War I and World War II, his skills as a civil engineer well regarded in wartime.   There is an obvious ridiculous irony in that fact.

What did we learn from the war to end all wars?  How do we honor our veterans, those that fought and those that sacrificed their lives?  Do we honor them by making it legal to own in peace time the very munitions used to kill their enemies on the field of battle?  Is gun ownership the hope of soldiers who come home?  Or do they wish for the guns of war to fall silent?

We celebrate this Veteran’s Day in the shadow of another senseless mass shooting with 26 lost lives in Texas.  Some politicians say it is not time to talk of gun control after Las Vegas, after Sutherland Springs.  Instead, these politicians choose to serve the interests of weapons manufacturers and the shrinking minority that want assault rifles to remain legal.  When will it be time to talk of sensible gun laws? Are we at an impasse where meaningful change in our gun culture is impossible? I don’t believe anything is impossible.  I believe that honoring our veterans can co-exist with laws that make the guns of war illegal and inaccessible in our communities of peace.  I say it’s possible to keep bolt action hunting rifles legal and make semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifles illegal, along with the extended clips and bump stocks that can easily modify them into machine guns. I say that bringing home a war mongering culture of death after the armistice is not the cause for which soldiers fought and died.  I say, bid them be patient, no more.

The poppy as a symbol of remembrance comes from the poem In Flanders Fields,  by John McCrae.  McCrae was a battlefield doctor who did not see the end of the World War I.  The Anxious Dead was the last poem he wrote before he died from a severe asthma attack.

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John McCrae

The Anxious Dead

by John McCrae (1872-1918)

O guns, fall silent till the dead men hear
Above their heads the legions pressing on:
(These fought their fight in time of bitter fear,
And died not knowing how the day had gone.)

O flashing muzzles, pause, and let them see
The coming dawn that streaks the sky afar;
Then let your mighty chorus witness be
To them, and Caesar, that we still make war.

Tell them, O guns, that we have heard their call,
That we have sworn, and will not turn aside,
That we will onward till we win or fall,
That we will keep the faith for which they died.

Bid them be patient, and some day, anon,
They shall feel earth enwrapt in silence deep;
Shall greet, in wonderment, the quiet dawn,
And in content may turn them to their sleep.

A Rich Unplanned Life

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Hope Is Not For The Wise

By Robinson Jeffers

Hope is not for the wise, fear is for fools;
Change and the world, we think, are racing to a fall,
Open-eyed and helpless, in every newcast that is the news;
The time’s events would seem mere chaos but all
Drift the one deadly direction. But this is only
The August thunder of the age, not the November.
Wise men hope nothing, the wise are naturally lonely
And think November as good as April, the wise remember
That Caesar and even final Augustulus had heir,
And men lived on; rich unplanned life on earth
After the foreign war and the civil wars, the border wars
And the barbarians: music and religion, honor and mirth
Renewed life’s lost enchantments.  But if life even
Had perished utterly, Oh perfect loveliness of earth and heaven.

 

Poetry often reminds me how little has changed in 100 years.   The issues that Jeffers was writing about in the 1920’s and 1930’s could be lifted from today’s headlines.

I honestly don’t know what to think of Robinson Jeffers.  Sonnets make up a small part of the larger body of his work and unfortunately, Jeffer’s style in most of his poems is not one that I am overly attracted.  However he has several poems that I am fond. In the poem Song of Quietness, he brings the California coast of Carmel where he lived come alive in the way that only the rumbling Pacific ocean can bring solitude on its rocky beaches with the opening lines:

“Drink deep, drink deep of quietness,
And on the margins of the sea…”

Robinson was a man of passion and he focused on a creating a poetic vision in which nature is beyond the indentured servitude of man’s unquenchable thirst for exploitation and destruction.  He inspired writers, preservationists, ecologists and the reading public to think of nature as not only natural resources but also to see the beauty in the existence of wild spaces that can be untouched by man, whether that is in our hearts or in a redwood forest.

The Female Right To Literature

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Autumn Leaves

by Anna Seward

Behold that tree in autumn’s dim decay,
Stripped by the frequent chill and eddying wind;
Where yet some yellow lonely leaves we find
Lingering and trembling on the naked spray,
Twenty, perchance, for millions whirled away!
Emblem–alas too just!–of human kind:
Vain man expects longevity, designed
For few indeed; and their protracted day
–What is it worth that wisdom does not scorn?
The blasts of sickness, care, and grief appal,
That laid the friends in dust, whose natal morn
Rose near their own!–and solemn is the call;
Yet, like those weak, deserted leaves forlorn,
Shivering they cling to life and fear to fall.

Anna Seward had the good fortune to have a “room of one’s own” in every fashion that Virginia Wolf articulated brilliantly 150 years later. Anna was born into a liberal, relatively wealthy educated family and remained resolutely single her entire life.  Her father Thomas Seward, was a clergyman who wrote the poem “The Female Right To Literature” in which he penned:

Come then, Athenia, freely let us scan
The coward insults of that tyrant, man.
Self-prais’d, and grasping at despotick pow’r,
He looks on slav’ry as the female dow’r;

Go Thomas!   She inherited an income of 400 pounds a year after her father’s death and had the good sense to spend it on herself.   She traveled in eclectic circles with Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles Darwin,  and Sir Walter Scott both close friends.  Sir Walter Scott edited the complete anthology of her poetry in three volumes and oversaw it’s publishing following her death. Seward’s sonnets mix religious themes with the natural world or observations of everyday life. I have a feeling her Father and Sir Walter Scott would both be quite pleased that her poetry is still being read and enjoyed 200 years after her death.

Lucy Ashton’s Song

By Sir Walter Scott

Look not thou on beauty’s charming;
Sit thou still when kings are arming;
Taste not when the wine-cup glistens;
Speak not when the people listens;
Stop thine ear against the singer;
From the red gold keep thy finger;
Vacant heart and hand and eye,
Easy live and quiet die.

More Worth Than Gold

Anna Seward

December Morning

by Anna Seward

1742-1809

I love to rise ere gleams the tardy light,
Winter’s pale dawn; and as warm fires illume,
And cheerful tapers shine around the room,
Through misty windows bend the musing sight
Where, round the dusky lawn, the mansions white,
With shutters closed, peer faintly through the gloom,
That slow recedes; while yon gray spires assume,
Rising from their dark pile, an added height
By indistinctness given. Then to decree
The grateful thoughts to God, ere they unfold
To friendship or the Muse, or seek with glee
Wisdom’s rich page. Oh, hours more worth than gold
By whose blest use we lengthen life, and, free
From drear decays of age, outlive the old.

 

William Walond (1719 – 1768)  Voluntary V in G Major Op. 1 (1752)

There is an advantage to being an amateur and not having a degree in English; literature remains a source of constant surprise. I don’t have the baggage of thinking I know very much and since my interest in sonnets is pure entertainment, I have no ponderous academic credentials weighing me down in my free time.  The internet makes it possible for me to uncover sonnets from throughout history with only a dogged curiosity required.

I discovered Anna Seward long before I wrote Gallant Ghosts, Undaunted. In the drafts of my sonnet I was careful to avoid any connection to December Morning.  As time went on I kept coming back to both poems. Originally I concluded mine with a different couplet at the end.  It was forced and wasn’t what I wanted to say.  I felt like I was creating an unnecessary barrier. Literature is filled with conscious and unconscious connections to writers work that have come before. The idea of originality can be debated endlessly with someone always able to point to the step in history upon which the avant-garde have risen.

I finally relented and consciously created a connection between the sonnets with the ending and the word illumine.  An old garret in England the perfect fictional setting for thinking back upon the end of a love affair within a modern sonnet.

Gallant Ghosts, Undaunted

by T. A. Fry

I think of you, writing late in the nightfall
Revering your muse, as no other may place
Claims to a heart.  Forever a rightful
Palace of dreams,  once my saving grace.
What’s mine is yours,  our auspices blessed
By memories of loving which illumine my soul.
On Darkest Night(s) as you slowly undress,
recall my touch, though its loss be a toll.

Come gallant ghosts, lay down by my side
Undaunted: whisper poems long written for me.
Their haunting passion shall always reside
Deep in bruised hearts, a grand larceny.
Timeless this beauty, in mind’s eye I hold,  
The feel of your lips and outlive the old.

Gallant Ghosts, Undaunted

IMG_1557I have ghosts on my mind this week,  with Halloween, The Day of the Dead and All Saints Day all swirling beneath the surface.  A good yarn, which is all any poem should aspire, at least the ones that keep my attention, require some truth,  a truth worth tending.   The question is always how much truth comes from a writer’s imagination and how much from their experience?  Truth in literature may be fabricated entirely.   An empathetic phrase by which we catch a collective breath of understanding.

I write primarily in first person.   I realize that this may create confusion for anyone who knows me personally and chooses to view the narrative as literal.   What is real and what is not real?  Isn’t that the cloak behind which all writers hide and invent a reality worthy of putting to paper.

We don’t have Shakespeare’s blog or twitter feed to gain further insights into his poetry.  He left the interpretation of his writing to the reader.   But make no mistake,  Love plays a role in all this business. A most generous Love, a Love that both clasps hearts in irons and springs the lock of freedom.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29, in my view, is a mirror in which to view myself.   Yes, it is hubris to put one of my sonnets alongside Shakespeare’s and pretend they belong in the same space.  But then isn’t it hubris that drives any of us to write in the first place?   My sonnet, Gallant Ghosts, Undaunted, was written during the tail spin of a relationship. It is a fictional Polaroid of a future yet to be experienced, but hoped for with an optimism of forgiveness.  I was delusional.  Hell hath no fury…..

It is a connection to a beginning and an homage to the role that poetry played throughout our relationship.  I am fully aware that the last few words are identical to a sonnet from the 1700s.   I will share the story behind that fact in the next blog.

Sonnet 29

By William Shakespeare

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
       For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
       That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

 

 

Gallant Ghosts, Undaunted

by T. A. Fry

I think of you, writing late in the nightfall
Revering your muse, as no other may place
Claims to a heart, forever a rightful
Palace of dreams,  once my saving grace.
What’s mine is yours,  our auspices blessed
By memories of loving which illumine my soul.
On Darkest Night(s) as you slowly undress,
Recall my touch, though its loss be a toll.

Come gallant ghosts, lay down by my side
Undaunted: whisper poems long written for me.
Their haunting passion shall always reside
Deep in bruised hearts, a grand larceny.
Timeless this beauty, in mind’s eye I hold,  
The feel of your lips and outlive the old.

________________________________

© T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

She, To Him

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She, To Him

by Thomas Hardy

When you shall see me in the toils of Time,
My lauded beauties carried off from me,
My eyes no longer stars as in their prime,
My name forgot of Maiden Fair and Free;
When, in your being, heart concedes to mind,
And judgment, though you scarce its process know,
Recalls the excellencies I once enshrined,
And you are irked that they have withered so;
Remembering mine the loss is, not the blame,
That Sportsman Time but rears his brood to kill,
Knowing me in my soul the very same
One who would die to spare you touch of ill!
Will you not grant to old affection’s claim
The hand of friendship down Life’s sunless hill?

 

 

Boning In The Bone Yard

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The Danse Macabre

Boning in the Bone Yard

By T. A. Fry

Come to us now, red maggots of passion.
Consume what we were, ’till there’s nothing left.
Devour our malaise with endless compassion.
Leave only lust, with your cleansing so deft.
Strip us bare, bring life to these ol’ bag-a-bones.
Stir carnal thoughts in our skeletal remains.
We’ll rattle and clack to a chorus of moans,
A fervor of desire in worm eaten brains.
Arise and fight, powerful God Eros.
Awake in fury and vanquish your foes.
Scorch the indifferent and the vapid morose.
Bathe them in fire from their head to their toes.
Bring back brave passion we’ll see with new eyes.
Our sockets empty, but for pupae of flies.

I am not one to interpret or offer criticism of my own poetry.    The act of sharing my writing sufficiently in flagrante delicto.   I wrote this sonnet early in my foray into writing sonnets several years ago, in a single early morning, the day before Halloween.

I have attached an mp3 of Camille Saint-Saëns – Danse Macabre below.   Give it a listen. What comes to mind in relation to the music and Wratislaw’s Sonnet Macabre?  Start a conversation, share your thoughts.

The Danse Macabre by Saint-Saëns.

Performed by Malmo Symphony Orchestra. Conducted by Marc Soustrot.

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Valente Celle Tomb, 1893, The Staglieno Cemetery, Genoa – Italy
Sculptor: Giulio Monteverde 

 

Sonnet Macabre

by Theodore Wratislaw (1871 – 1933)

I love you for the grief that lurks within
Your languid spirit, and because you wear
Corruption with a vague and childish air,
And with your beauty know the depths of sin;
Because shame cuts and holds you like a gin,
And virtue dies in you slain by despair,
Since evil has you tangled in its snare
And triumphs on the soul good cannot win.
I love you since you know remorse and tears,
And in your troubled loveliness appears
The spot of ancient crimes that writhe and hiss:
I love you for your hands that calm and bless,
The perfume of your sad and slow caress,
The avid poison of your subtle kiss.

_______________________________

© T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to T. A. Fry and Fourteenlines with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Phantasmagoria

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            “Empress of Art, for thee I twine
This wreath with all too slender skill.
Forgive my Muse each halting line,
And for the deed accept the will!”

                                                       Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll published Phantasmagoria and Other poems in 1911. It is a long poem, written in six Cantos, but is of light enough fair that I’ll break the rules on sharing long poems in honor of Halloween.   Here is Canto I and if you are interested in finding out more I have included a link to the entire poem at the end.

Phantasmagoria Canto I (The Trysting)

by Lewis Carroll

ONE winter night, at half-past nine,
Cold, tired, and cross, and muddy,
I had come home, too late to dine,
And supper, with cigars and wine,
Was waiting in the study.

There was a strangeness in the room,
And Something white and wavy
Was standing near me in the gloom –
I took it for the carpet-broom
Left by that careless slavey.

But presently the Thing began
To shiver and to sneeze:
On which I said “Come, come, my man!
That’s a most inconsiderate plan.
Less noise there, if you please!”

“I’ve caught a cold,” the Thing replies,
“Out there upon the landing.”
I turned to look in some surprise,
And there, before my very eyes,
A little Ghost was standing!

He trembled when he caught my eye,
And got behind a chair.
“How came you here,” I said, “and why?
I never saw a thing so shy.
Come out! Don’t shiver there!”

He said “I’d gladly tell you how,
And also tell you why;
But” (here he gave a little bow)
“You’re in so bad a temper now,
You’d think it all a lie.

“And as to being in a fright,
Allow me to remark
That Ghosts have just as good a right
In every way, to fear the light,
As Men to fear the dark.”

“No plea,” said I, “can well excuse
Such cowardice in you:
For Ghosts can visit when they choose,
Whereas we Humans ca’n’t refuse
To grant the interview.”

He said “A flutter of alarm
Is not unnatural, is it?
I really feared you meant some harm:
But, now I see that you are calm,
Let me explain my visit.

“Houses are classed, I beg to state,
According to the number
Of Ghosts that they accommodate:
(The Tenant merely counts as WEIGHT,
With Coals and other lumber).

“This is a ‘one-ghost’ house, and you
When you arrived last summer,
May have remarked a Spectre who
Was doing all that Ghosts can do
To welcome the new-comer.

“In Villas this is always done –
However cheaply rented:
For, though of course there’s less of fun
When there is only room for one,
Ghosts have to be contented.

“That Spectre left you on the Third –
Since then you’ve not been haunted:
For, as he never sent us word,
‘Twas quite by accident we heard
That any one was wanted.

“A Spectre has first choice, by right,
In filling up a vacancy;
Then Phantom, Goblin, Elf, and Sprite –
If all these fail them, they invite
The nicest Ghoul that they can see.

“The Spectres said the place was low,
And that you kept bad wine:
So, as a Phantom had to go,
And I was first, of course, you know,
I couldn’t well decline.”

“No doubt,” said I, “they settled who
Was fittest to be sent
Yet still to choose a brat like you,
To haunt a man of forty-two,
Was no great compliment!”

“I’m not so young, Sir,” he replied,
“As you might think. The fact is,
In caverns by the water-side,
And other places that I’ve tried,
I’ve had a lot of practice:

“But I have never taken yet
A strict domestic part,
And in my flurry I forget
The Five Good Rules of Etiquette
We have to know by heart.”

My sympathies were warming fast
Towards the little fellow:
He was so utterly aghast
At having found a Man at last,
And looked so scared and yellow.

“At least,” I said, “I’m glad to find
A Ghost is not a DUMB thing!
But pray sit down: you’ll feel inclined
(If, like myself, you have not dined)
To take a snack of something:

“Though, certainly, you don’t appear
A thing to offer FOOD to!
And then I shall be glad to hear –
If you will say them loud and clear –
The Rules that you allude to.”

“Thanks! You shall hear them by and by.
This IS a piece of luck!”
“What may I offer you?” said I.
“Well, since you ARE so kind, I’ll try
A little bit of duck.

“ONE slice! And may I ask you for
Another drop of gravy?”
I sat and looked at him in awe,
For certainly I never saw
A thing so white and wavy.

And still he seemed to grow more white,
More vapoury, and wavier –
Seen in the dim and flickering light,
As he proceeded to recite
His “Maxims of Behaviour.”

 

For the next installment, Canto II (Hys Fyve Rules) and a complete reproduction of the original book, check out the link to Project Gutenberg below:

Phantasmagoria and Other Poems by Lewis Carroll.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/651/651-h/651-h.htm#page1

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The Art of Dying

 

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Pride of The Spirit – Woodcut by Master E. S. circa 1460

 

Sonnet

Evelyn Douglas

Starry mystery of the eternal skies!
To-night I walk the verges of the grave:
The shallow things that charm life and enslave
Fall off: the gaunt world stands without disguise.
Hope, starry mystery, to the world-sick eyes:
Unfold, thou aching void, to thoughts that crave
The secret of thy secret, though I rave.
Better to rave than live in sick surmise.

The moon, and all the stars about the pole.
Swim round me, and I travel in dull pain,
A dumb Want in the solitude of Time.
What means it all ? Whence comes, and to what goal?
Whence, what am I whose life seems all in vain?
— Earth, sea, and sky stand silent and sublime.

Happy Halloween.  This trick or treat connects sonnets of Evelyn Douglas (John Barlas), the theater of Phantasmagoria and the Christian text, The Art of Dying.    Where do I see a common thread? The answer is in the imagery of the macabre, which today we associate with Halloween, but was common in religion, architecture, art and literature from the middle ages through the early 1900’s.

Deaths constant presence, a source of mystery, solace and sorrow, for the whole of human history has diminished in our sanitized modern experience. Health care having changed, for most of us, our first hand knowledge of death, relegating it to an infrequent stranger, an antiseptic ghost that exists outside of our homes and daily lives.  Death in the middle ages and Victorian England was an ever-present master,  a very real specter that haunted from the miracle of birth to all facets of life.   The language and experience of death, a central inspiration of classical poetry,  is spoken more seldom today.  We have turned the macabre into a mere light-hearted entertainment of October, not a reflection of our human experience, reconciling Life with the inevitability of Death, light with dark.

Ars Morendi, The Art of Dying,  is a Christian text.  Published first in Germany in the 1400’s and then revised and republished in the 1500’s.  It was written during the context of the Black Death, the depopulation of parts of Europe and the following social unrest that occurred.   Illustrated with graphic woodcuts like the one above, it provides instruction in how to approach death with propriety.  It was an unexpected response by the Roman Catholic Church, whose ranks were hard hit by plague.  It gave to laymen,  the precepts of preparing for a good death.  The idea of the Art of Death, became popular among both Protestants and Catholics, lessening fear and providing relief to both the living and the dying.

The imagery of the Art of Dying may appear graphic to current religious sensibilities; with demons alongside angels,  both waiting for the soul to emerge from the dying man’s mouth, but was common in churches and religious texts of its era.  It should be no surprise then that the macabre made the jump from religious to theatrical.  Phantasmagoria, a common theatrical experience across Europe in the 1800s, combined elements of what we would consider a séance with good old-fashioned scare tactics with projected imagery of skeletons, shadowy apparitions, sound effects and theatrical tricks.  Think of phantasmagoria as the Friday The Thirteenth horror movies of their day.

John Barlas, an under appreciated sonneteer, a friend of Oscar Wilde, an anarchist and ardent socialist, published remarkable poems and sonnets under the name Evelyn Douglas.    Barlas also wrote for the phantasmagoria in London.   His connection to sonnets and phantasmagoria may seem at odds,  but fits together seamlessly with his poetic vision.   Barlas’ use of color, flames, lust and passion in his writing, weave imagery of  romantic beauty with the macabre as part of the natural order.  A perspective that would feel perfectly at home,  if we were able to walk the landscape of the grime infested alleys of London in the late 1900’s.

Barlas’ book, Phantasmagoria: Love Sonnets,  delves deeply into the themes of love, passion, life and death.   Here are two of his sonnets for your Halloween pleasure.  For a complete collection check out the website Sonnet Central.

LIII

Evelyn Douglas

As a flower springs up out of dark and cold,
Drawn by the gracious beauty of the light,
A bud that knows not all its own delight,
Till opening to one blaze of red and gold
Its deep-involvèd splendours, fold by fold,
It yields the perfume of its being one night,
Touches with conscious joy its nature’s height,
Then withers back into the crumbling mould:
So love from the human spirit’s lonely lair,
Nourished in moving darkness and damp gloom;
And peeps forth shyly to the golden air,
–A mere bud, but a blossom in its womb,
That knows itself a moment of brief bloom,
Then withers back into the soul’s despair.

 

LIV

Evelyn Douglas

Wave after wave arises from the deep,
And slips back into silence and the grave:
It matters not whether it fret and rave
And foam at lip with fury, or still keep
A quiet motion: both sink into sleep,
The same cold sleep, and the great sea, that gave,
Receives again their life, wave after wave.
Shall we who think of it give thanks or weep?
I know not; only would the law not lay
With love as life! for as our lives emerge
From the vague sea to sing their own brief dirge;
So out of each of these, and vain as they,
Love after love arises like a surge,
And sighs, and passes in the sigh away.

___________________________________

Poems Lyrical and Dramatic, by Evelyn Douglas. 1894.

Phantasmagoria: Love Sonnets, by Evelyn Douglas, 1887.

©2017 Original material copyright T. A. Fry.  Other material courtesy Creative Commons. Please inform post author of any violation.

How Many Moments Must (Amazing Each)

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e.e. cummings
Writers write and writers read.
                And in between, a writ’s conceived?

                                              T. A. Fry

To even the most superficial of readers of sonnets there emerges a clanging gong of subject matter that shows up over and over again; Love – Love in all its forms.  And I mean Love with a capital L.   This isn’t some sleazy video rental of poetry through the ages. We are talking the timeless questions that come to every person during their lifetime:

  • What is Love?
  • Is Love eternal?
  • Is God Love?
  • Is Love God?
  • Is sex Love?  or better stated,
  • Why is only some sex Love? (No judgement as to types of sexual acts intended, I am referring to emotional connections or lack there of during the sexual act.  We all have felt the difference, even with those we love, and the difference is everything.)
  • Is true Love unconditional?
  • Am I capable of unconditional Love?
  • Is there any such thing as true Love or is there just Love?

I find it fascinating that the sonnet has evolved into the structure by which thousands of writers have taken up the challenge to put to paper their personal philosophy around their own place in relation to their God, or to their fellow-humans and or to woo the epitome of their flesh and blood desire,  whether real or imagined.  Why create so formal a structure and add unnecessary obstacles to the writing process in what is already a difficult subject matter?  Or is that the magic of sonnets that beguile writers and readers alike?   In a sonnet, both share the writer’s struggles, the varying skill with which a sonnet’s structure is lyrically mastered becomes a lasting banner of the battle we all face internally, in raising our own sword to conquer what we believe in our hearts. In a sonnet the writer and reader touch swords before the clash begins to measure the distance between each other.

I don’t know how many sonnets a writer must write to be considered a sonneteer?  How many more they must write and publish to be of sufficient stature to be mentioned as a minor footnote alongside the Pantheon of Dante, Shakespeare, Sidney or Petrarch?  I bet someone at Harvard or Oxford has done a mathematical analysis on the subject and I am guessing it must be a sufficient volume of sonnets that you remind yourself about roman numerals well over a hundered.  If that’s the case at this point I would consider myself more a mousekeeter.

I smile when I write the word sonneteer.   It evokes an image of a swashbuckling writer, dueling with their nemisis, by sitting down with his or her sheet of velum, quill pen and candle to ink fourteen lines of bravery to win the day.  The sonneteer’s act of writing every bit as daring as the swordsman, upheld as a romantic figure, chivalrous in defending the honor of those he has sworn protection.  I find it ironic that it is the great sonneteers who have touched the honor of millions over time and not the hired muscle.

I am of the mindset that it is not the quantity but quality that defines the legacy of any writer.    Why do we look down on one hit wonders, particularly if their one hit sealed the deal on romance?  We should respect their efficiency. Maybe the best sonneteers of all time have been lost from history as they kept their poetic legacy away from prying eyes,  never sharing their sonnet with a reading public that may have been all too happy to reject it for publication.   There is a power in privacy.   It protects the sanctity of the unpublished poem or sonnet’s ability to cement together two beating hearts.  The sonnet squirreled away as a carefully folded sheet of paper at the bottom of a jewelry box or corner of a dresser, faded and yellow, seemingly forgotten only because it was memorized by the recipient decades before.  I am of the opinion that it only takes one great sonnet which wins the love of your life, your Laura, Beatrice or Stella, to be a sonneteer.

I name dropped e.e. cummings in a recent blog as a more accessible poet with devious intent.  I certainly did not mean to associate the word accessible in readers minds with the idea that I was damning with faint praise. I meant it as a compliment. I think Cummings is brilliant.   I like his poetry because it is entertaining, challenging, and crafted from writing that is both untraditional but easily understood.   Cummings is known for his highly stylized poetry that emphasizes his unique approach to language and representation on the page.  I am in awe of Cumming’s skill in combining the playfulness of words into inspiring ideas.   To those readers that know him by only his unique poetry style, it might surprise you that nearly one-quarter of all the poems collected in his complete anthology in 1962 are sonnets (over 200).  It might further surprise you that he wrote sonnets over the course of his entire career, including at least one in every volume of poetry he published.

At first glance his sonnets may not seem to follow the rules of sonneteering and some critics of his day rolled their eyes at the irregularities, but no one ignored the genius of his writing.

Here are two of my favorites.  “I carry your heart with me” is widely known, but how many readers, read it without any awareness that it is a sonnet?   As you read it, what added complexity does the poem have based on its structure that ties it to a history and legacy far beyond Cummings?

Share your thoughts and ideas.  Comments are welcomed!

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

by e.e. cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
.                                                               i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

how many moments must (amazing each

by e.e. cummings

how many moments must( amazing each
how many centuries )these more than eyes
restroll and stroll some never deepening beach

locked in foreverish time’s tide at poise

love alone understands: only for whom
i’ll keep my tryst until that tide shall turn;
and from all selfsubtracting hugely doom
treasures of reeking innocence are born.

Then, with not credible the anywhere
eclipsing of a spirit’s ignorance
by every wisdom knowledge fears to dare,

how the( myself ‘s own self who’s)child will dance!

and when he’s plucked such mysteries as men
do not conceive-let ocean grow again.

______________________________________

“[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” Copyright 1952, © 1980, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust, from Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage.

“[How many moments must (Amazing each]” Copyright 1961, © 1980, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust, from Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage.

©2017 Original material copyright T. A. Fry.  Other material courtesy Creative Commons. Please inform post author of any violation.