Sunday, February 28, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010
"The [TV] commercials would have sickened a goat raised on barbed wire and broken beer bottles.""At three A.M. I was walking the floor and listening to Khachaturyan working in a tractor factory. He called it a violin concerto. I called it a loose fan belt and the hell with it.""He was a guy who talked with commas, like a heavy novel.""All tough guys are monotonous."
There is the soft and willing and alcoholic blonde who doesn't care what she wears as long as it is mink or where she goes as long as it is the Starlight Roof and there is plenty of dry champagne. There is the small perky blonde who is a little pal and wants to pay her own way and is full of sunshine and common sense and knows judo from the ground up and can toss a truck driver over her shoulder without missing more than one sentence out of the editorial in the Saturday Review. There is the pale, pale blonde with anemia of some non-fatal but incurable type. She is very languid and very shadowy and she speaks softly out of nowhere and you can't lay a finger on her because in the first place you don't want to and in the second place she is reading The Waste Land or Dante in the original, or Kakfa or Kierkegaard or studying Provencal. She adores music and when the New York Philharmonic is playing Hindemith she can tell you which of the six bass viols came in a quarter of a beat too late. I hear Toscanini can also. That makes two of them.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
If you leave a comment in a language I can't read, I will delete it.If you advertise your paid services, even via a link, I will delete it.If your comment has nothing to do with the post but is mere foolishness or self-promotion, I will delete it.If your comment is cruel or abusive, I will delete it.
With all due respect, J.M., you're not in charge of every story. "In some glade/Obscur'd, where highest Woods impenetrable/To Star or Sun-light, spread thir umbrage broad," there's a woman sitting alone at her desk. She's not sweeping a floor or instructing her sons or collecting eggs or hauling firewood or embracing her husband. She does all of those things every day, and she'll get back to them eventually, but right now she doesn't have time for them.She's busy reading your book.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The stern Bard ceas’d, asham’d of his own song; enrag’d he swung
His harp aloft sounding, then dash’d its shining frame against
A ruin’d pillar in glittring fragments; silent he turn’d away,
And wander’d down the vales of Kent in sick & drear lamentings.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Before the Break of DayMilly JourdainThe silence of these hours before the dawnIs like a world beneath the seaWaiting in a dim, enchanted lightFor morning's new felicity.At last there comes a distant breathless soundOf bird songs, growing still more near,Until the air is full of thrilling notes,The sweetest music men can hear.But now the rain has washed it all away,The silent world beneath the sea,And all the plants are drinking deep of hopeAnd love of life's immensity.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
"So many poems about the deaths of animals."
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Some Thoughts about Sonnets
For about a month last winter I forced myself to keep a diary in sonnets. I had no preconceptions about subject matter: whatever passing recollection or present-tense preoccupation might flicker through my mind was good-enough fodder for the exercise. My only requirements were the bare bones of the form: fourteen lines and a Shakespearean rhyme scheme. I limited myself to the Shakespearean pattern because I was concurrently copying out all of William Shakespeare’s sonnets, with big ideas about mastering the craft at the master’s knee.
Easier said than done, of course. Though I learned a few things from this project, how to write as well as Shakespeare was not one of them. The exercise did reinforce, however, that many of the complications of the sonnet stem from its apparent simplicity. For anyone who is even passably facile with words, the form is alluringly effortless to hammer out. Compared to the repetitive exigencies of a villanelle or the crossword-puzzle distractions of a sestina, a sonnet’s rhyme scheme is undemanding, its metrical requirements flexibly iambic, its fourteen-line frame a convenient fenced-in yard. It tempts writers with a structural security that is both well defined and uncomplicated. No wonder the table of contents alone fills more than twenty pages of Edward Hirsch and Eavan Boland’s 2008 anthology, The Making of a Sonnet. Everyone, apparently—even Edward Lear, even John Quincy Adams—has taken a stab at writing a sonnet.
Why has the form attracted practitioners of all stripes, from clever high school students to elderly politicians, and at the same time regularly been dismissed as dead or dying? A quick Internet search reveals that a good many people are still chewing over answers to this question, spitting out varieties of logical-rational analyses and cranky dismissives with about equal frequency. Where sonnets are concerned, there’s a lot of fretting going on.
In individual introductions to their anthology, Hirsch and Boland illustrate personally how readers and poets can find themselves falling spontaneously into pro- and anti-sonnet camps. Boland, for instance, had strong first reactions against the form: “At seventeen . . . I wanted to belong to Irish poetry; I wanted Irish poetry to belong to me. The sonnet, I believed, could have no role in that. I had read it at school and resisted writing it. I was sure it was un-Irish, un-local, too courtly for a new republic; too finished to ever find a new beginning in the literature I was trying to understand.” Hirsch, on the other hand, recalls, “My own acquaintance with the sonnet came to me in a round-about way. The form snuck up on me without my knowing it—a stealth music—and insinuated itself inside of me: a little sound, a little song. It carried me away.” Their variant responses sum up a discomfort with the form that seems to rub generation after generation: Why should this old pattern matter to me, here in the midst of my modern life? And why does this old pattern keep lingering in my brain?
These issues have relevance beyond the sonnet, of course. They extend to all the arts; to our cogitations on history and religion; to our fumbling sense of what it means, and has meant, to be human. But for poets and readers of poetry brought up in the western tradition, the sonnet seems to have become, over the course of centuries, an emblem of our Sisyphean struggle to make words speak the wordless.
So where does the trouble lie? Why is composing a mediocre sonnet so easy, a good sonnet so difficult? Speak, I think, is a key element of the struggle; for poetry is a version of drama, and a poet must manage a poem’s dramatic arc, its speaking shape, whether she works in strict form or a looser invention. And it’s here that sonnets, with their fourteen-line compressions, their subtle interwoven patterns of formal rhyme and the meter of oral language, peel off their genial wordplay masks and reveal themselves as obdurate stone. For a poet’s primary tool for dramatic control is grammar; and in a sonnet, issues of grammar can begin to override every other consideration. Slough off rhyme and regular meter; slough off, as E. E. Cummings does, syntactical sense; and what’s left is a fourteen-line grammatical progression, sinewy or floundering, peaceful or polemical, and sometimes the knottiest, most unforgiving sentence or two that a sweating poet has ever managed to sculpt.
So how does the magic happen: how does a sonnet metamorphose from a grammatical construction into the singular revelation that a reader recognizes as art? And who are the magicians who have managed this feat? In both the instructional essays that open each section of The Making of a Sonnet and in their choice and organization of representative poems, Hirsch and Boland tinker with these questions. The subject being poetry, however, I shouldn’t be surprised that their explanations and examples often only complicate the mystery.
Any book subtitled A Norton Anthology exudes authority. As a canon-besotted undergraduate, I never once considered that real living people actually had to sit down in the same room and sort through likely candidates for inclusion, that they ever had to complain or argue or compromise, that they were ever ultimately dissatisfied with the tome they had constructed. I assumed that such anthologies more or less leaped from college-bookstore shelves fully formed—bristling with intellect, crowned with laurels. And even now that I know better, it’s still tempting to believe that A Norton Anthology of anything is beyond review. These must be the important poems; these must be the poems to study and honor.
So as I waded into the first sections of The Making of a Sonnet, I anxiously tried to juggle a reviewer’s dispassion with an acolyte’s deep, uncritical affection for the great English sonnet writers of the past—Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats . . . those old Norton Anthology standbys that for me, as a young reader, first deified poetry. And what I found, immediately, is that, woven as they are among the hundreds of sonnets the editors chose to publish in this collection, these great familiar poems still glow like rubies. William Wordsworth may be generally unpopular today, but “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802,” still sends me reeling, just as it did when I first collided with it in a circa-1982 high school textbook.
Earth has not any thing to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This city now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theaters, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendor valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!
“Dear God!”—those two plain words and their exclamation point are the emotional equivalent of the sestet in John Keats’s “On first looking into Chapman’s Homer”:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
This, I think, is the miracle of a great sonnet—how its myriad ingredients suddenly cohere, transforming mundane quarrels into the nobility of legend, as Patrick Kavanagh does in “Epic”; blunt violence into ecstasy, a John Donne specialty in his Holy Sonnets; even prim mourning into deep and abiding grief, as John Milton managed in “Methought I saw my late espousèd saint.”
Of the several poems I’ve mentioned thus far, only Kavanagh’s (whose powerful shift from local dispute to “an exuberant claim about the origins of art” Boland very helpfully dissects in her introduction) was, for me, a new discovery. Yet by the time I’d reached this point in the anthology, I’d read more than a hundred pages of sonnets, nearly all of them older than the nineteenth century. And nearly all of these poems are unmemorable. Even when I make allowances for readers’ varied tastes, attention spans, and sophistication, how can I account for the number of dull sonnets included in the collection?
Clearly, the editors wanted their anthology to serve as a chronicle as well as a showcase; so they felt obliged, understandably, to include certain poems for reasons of historical interest. (James I’s ponderous “Epitaph on Sir Philip Sidney” is an example.) Similarly, their cluster of mediocre eighteenth-century sonnets proves a point raised in the section introduction: “the Augustan age that enshrined the routine simulation of wit in the rhyming couplet also honored regulation and reason—not especial purposes or strengths of the sonnet.” But anomalies remain. For instance, why, in a set of poems already labeled as inferior, did Hirsch and Boland decide to include four sonnets by Charlotte Smith, compared to three by William Cowper and one by Thomas Gray? None of these poems is great. Really, the best that the editors can say about any of the eighteenth-century sonnets is that “the gains made in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were not lost; they just had to wait for a later age to become applicable.” In “Sonnet to William Wilberforce, Esquire,” Cowper reaches back toward poems such as Milton’s hortatory “To the Lord General Cromwell, May 1652,” but cannot transmit any sense of real, ardent, personal zeal. Both Gray and Smith work out their sonnets in traditional pastoral style but end up wallowing self-consciously in nature and loss rather than delicately probing their links. Quality-wise, there’s no reason to feature one of these poets over another.
I suppose it’s possible that Cowper wrote only three sonnets and Gray only one. But my suspicion is that Smith’s mediocre sonnets are reprinted in quantity because she is a representative woman poet, a reasonable rationale until I recall Cowper’s broad influence on the thought and achievement of women in the early to mid-nineteenth century—notably, Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. Whether or not he was a good poet, these women read his poetry avidly as they themselves became great writers; and in this light, the historical value of Smith’s sonnets begins to seem muddier.
But A Norton Anthology needs to please a swath of potential purchasers—most importantly, those who mold or uphold an institutional program’s curricular bents and fashions—and an introductory textbook serves as a kind of tasting menu for novice readers. Professors assign a little of this, a little of that; certain teachers may focus on poems that buttress their own critical specialties rather than rise to the heights of great art. The rare curious student may venture to taste a few unassigned sonnets on his own. But in truth, learning how to get drunk on poems requires considerable stretches of unregulated reading, muttering, and staring into space—an unlikely organizational strategy in an “introduction to the sonnet” unit. Sitting behind me in a movie theater, a college student explained to his companion, “I never reread anything. Who has time for that?” For all I know, he was a creative-writing major.
What is the point, then, of including four Charlotte Smith sonnets? Or three Frederick Goddard Tuckerman sonnets sandwiched between a single Walt Whitman poem and a single Matthew Arnold poem? Why, in an introductory textbook purporting to celebrate the form’s power throughout history, include so many nicely constructed but infinitely forgettable examples?
Much of the editors’ dilemma over which sonnets to anthologize must have stemmed from poets’ split expectations of the form, an issue as old as the sonnet itself. In their introduction to sonnets in the sixteenth century, Hirsch and Boland bring forward two early sonneteers: Sir Thomas Wyatt, whom they describe as the form’s first practitioner in English, and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, “a more gifted stylist but a lesser poet.”
“Wait. What does that mean?” I asked when I arrived at this claim. I scanned the section for clarification and learned only that both men had revised the Petrarchan rhyme scheme and that “Wyatt’s metrics were awkward, distinctive,” as in this, possibly his most famous, sonnet:
Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, alas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh behind.
Yet may I, by no means, my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore,
Fainting I follow. I leave off, therefore,
Since in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I, may spend his time in vain.
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about,
“Noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.
Compared to Wyatt’s, Surrey’s sonnets are indisputably tidier:
Love, that doth reign and live within my thought,
And built his seat within my captive breast,
Clad in the arms wherein with me he fought,
Oft in my face he doth his banner rest.
But she that taught me love and suffer pain,
My doubtful hope and eke my hot desire
With shamefast look to shadow and refrain,
Her smiling grace converteth straight to ire.
And coward Love then to the heart apace
Taketh his flight, where he doth lurk and plain,
His purpose lost, and dare not show his face.
For my lord’s guilt thus faultless bide I pain,
Yet from my lord shall not my foot remove:
Sweet is the death that taketh end by love.
Yet who can deny that Wyatt is by far the greater poet? His sonnet rings and recurs in the ear’s memory while Surrey’s blurs into a generalized sixteenth-century pop song.
Given Surrey’s historical and prosodic relevance, Hirsch and Boland could hardly have chosen to leave him out of their anthology. But when “being a more gifted stylist” becomes its own raison d’être, we risk simplifying our expectations of poetry, of reducing it from urgent revelation to clever wordplay. I suppose this makes a sonnet easier to parse in a college class; but in a climate that is already antithetical to deep engagement with great poetry, what kinds of readers and writers are we training?
As The Making of a Sonnet progresses through the centuries, the poet-versus-style conundrum becomes ever more fraught. There are moments—say, in certain sonnets of Gerard Manley Hopkins—when it is clear that poets have been able to seize the standard of Wyatt’s “awkward, distinctive” metrics, pressing the form into unfamiliar patterns that leap beyond cleverness, coalescing into urgency or revelation. Yet as Hirsch and Boland acknowledge, the form itself, rather than the poetry arising from the form, has more often than not become the sonnet’s contemporary proving ground. “In the twentieth century, . . . tradition had to be summed up, authorized, challenged, and reinvigorated. [The sonnet] is a touchstone and a rallying cry. The form has been lit and shadowed by modernism and postmodernism. It is a stay against confusion . . . and an opportunity for innovation.”
But as far as I can tell, the major innovation in contemporary sonnet writing has been poets’ almost universal tendency to focus on contemporary life, whether they etiolate the form or celebrate its lush traditions. No more timeless Arcadian pastorals or convoluted religious-erotic metaphysics. Now we have Mary Jo Salter’s “Half a Double Sonnet” about a toddler who is coping with double vision, which concludes with the final mock-triumphant couplet “Victory! Even when he went to pee,/he was seconded in his virility.” We have Alice Notley’s prosy “Sonnet” about the waning years of Gracie Allen and George Burns. There are exceptions, of course. R. F. Brissenden writes about Samuel Johnson; Anne Sexton writes about Icarus. The language of Sylvia Plath’s “Conversation Among the Ruins” harkens back to the vigorous sixteenth century; the sonnets of Seamus Heaney recall the preoccupations of Keats and John Clare. But on the whole, sonnets—at least those written in English—have become simply another venue for the anecdote, if they are not an ironic logic-illogic game or a rhymed summary of modern social disintegration.
I don’t see it as a flaw, this need to frame our present-tense lives within the strictures of formal verse. But as, in the case of Surrey and Wyatt, facile technique may overshadow the intensities of true poetry, so may a witty or cogent summary of the here-and-now appear to be an adequate substitute for transformative vision. The issue is not tragedy versus comedy, high-flown philosophy versus grubby details, contemporary culture versus an idealized past. The issue is, Does the sonnet constructer strive to use her materials to build something greater than the sum of its parts?
Consider, for instance, two sonnets with roughly the same theme: W. H. Auden's Sonnet XII from "Sonnets from China" and Julia Alvarez's sonnet from "33," which begins "Let’s make a modern primer for our kids:/A is for Auschwitz; B for Biafra" and continues in alphabetical horror to "An X to name the countless disappeared/when they are dust in Yemen or Zaire." Auden manipulates sound, subject, language, and emotion so subtly and precisely that his sonnet transcends his tools. The final couplet, with its inevitable and horrifying rhyme, its shrinking syllable count, slams the poem shut as I imagine the gates of hell might slam shut. Alvarez, on the other hand, limits herself to filling in the alphabetical blanks; essentially her poem is a list of evocative names arranged in sonnet form. Clearly, as human beings, both writers are deeply anxious about humanity, injustice, cruelty, ignorance; yet if Auden’s sonnet, first published in 1939, is for the ages, Alvarez’s 1996 poem already shows signs of wear.
How often, then, is a sonnet simply a fourteen-line suitcase stuffed with words? And can a poem, sonnet or not, continue to matter if it has never been designed to soar beyond its details? When I opened Greg Williamson’s 2008 A Most Marvelous Piece of Luck, I had hopes that a single contemporary poet’s collection of related sonnets might help me answer these questions. For no matter how artfully chosen and arranged an anthology might be, the end result is piecemeal; the book belongs to its editors, not to its poets. And having lately spent so much time transcribing Shakespeare’s sonnets, I missed the progressive curiosities that arise from time spent with a poet’s own ordered collection, where themes and word choice and pacing modulate or repeat; where one sonnet may illuminate or obscure the poems that surround it. Moreover, Williamson’s generation (which is also my own) is entirely unrepresented in Hirsch and Boland’s anthology, whose youngest poet was born in 1956. Given that I was born in 1964, write sonnets, and am now in my forties, this means that at least two generations of contemporary sonnet writers remain undocumented in a book intended for widespread classroom use.
As a series, Williamson’s sonnet collection is indeed striking, most obviously because of the poet’s strict adherence to a preconceived game plan.
* The rhyme scheme is abab cdcd efgefg. (The only exception uses a blues phrase written in guitar tablature to stand in for a rhymed line.)
* Every third stanza begins with the word “Until,” which then triggers the volta, or rhetorical turn, between the two-stanza octave and the one-stanza sestet.
* The poem titles are all single nouns or modifier-and-noun phrases, such as “Earth,” “Sex,” or “Hubble Constant.”
* Each sonnet defines or delineates or rants about the title in a Mad Magazine encyclopedia-entry sort of way.
* With one exception, Williamson breaks the last line of every sonnet into two parts and drops the poem’s final phrase into flush-right position on line 14½. (In the one exception, he adds a stanza break between lines 13 and 14.)
* The title and the poem’s last words are identical.
* Meter is the primary technical variant: despite the sonnets’ rigid exterior frame, the poet allows himself free rein to use whatever interior sonic devices he pleases.
Here's the first stanza of "Marriage":
With more spouse farms, shrink rap, and psychosprawl
Than you can shake a “stick it” at, you’d say
The All-American marriages are all
Uniquely bad in exactly the same way,
For copyright reasons I can't reprint the entire sonnet here, and I can't find links to any of them on the web. Suffice it to say that A Most Marvelous Piece of Luck includes sixty-eight sonnets, and all of them are more or less identical. Williamson’s tune is cynical irony; his tools are glib cultural referents, witty word choice, and hectic TV-advertisement narrative compression. Probably his structural tricks are even slyer than I’ve noted, but I got tired of tracking them down. For beyond the superficiality of his anecdotes and his casually reprised stereotypes of human nature, even beyond the speaker’s essentially heartless comprehension of the world, these poems are boring. The “Untils” and the title/last word repetitions are particularly galling, with the cumulative bloating effect of making me feel like I’ve read too many Shel Silverstein poems at one sitting.
I have hopes for my generation of poets, and it makes me sad to dislike this collection. Yet I think these poems flow all too easily into the common slough of artifice-driven sonnets. The form is no longer, as Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote, “a small poem, in which some lonely feeling is developed,” but, in Mona Van Duyn’s words, the one “most available to poets for deconstruction.” And in my view, when structure, with all its ploys and flourishes, tramples on what William Hazlitt described as “a sigh uttered from the fulness of the heart, an involuntary aspiration born and dying in the same moment,” then something in the art of poetry has gone terribly awry.
In a section of The Making of a Sonnet titled “The Sonnet Under the Lamp: A History of Comments on the Form,” Hirsch and Boland reprint all of these melancholy quotations and more. But they also reprint an extract from Sidney’s An Apology for Poetry, which declares, “Truly many of such writings as come under the banner of irresistible love; if I were a Mistress, would never persuade me they were in love; so coldly they apply fiery speeches, as men that had rather read lovers’ writings . . . than in truth they feel those passions.” In so doing, Sidney argues, they “miss the right use of the material point of Poesy.”
And there are, thankfully, twentieth- and twenty-first-century sonneteers who have transcended cunning structure and clever byplay, writers who have created sonnets that are also enduring poems. In Hirsch and Boland’s anthology, I reread, with familiar and pleasurable sadness, a Stephen Tapscott translation of one of Pablo Neruda’s glorious “Cien sonetos de amor.” I reread Assia Gutmann’s translation of Yehuda Amichai’s “A Pity. We Were Such a Good Invention,” so moving in its awkward, surrealistic, understated grief. I read, for the first time, Denis Johnson’s beautiful “Passengers,” proof that everyday, present-tense American life can indeed be the stuff of poetry. And I read Hayden Carruth’s “Late Sonnet,” which is perhaps as good a depiction as any I have encountered of how poets struggle—and ought to struggle—within and against the boundaries of the sonnet form in their quest to make “right use of the material point of Poesy.”
And that I knew
that beautiful hot old man Sidney Bechet
and heard his music often but not what he
was saying, that tone, phrasing, and free play
of feeling mean more than originality,
these being the actual qualities of song.
Nor is it essential to be young.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Friday, February 12, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
--after Elizabeth Bowen
You look at places
you are leaving,
did I hope to find?—
fat girl alight
in the fluorescent
shimmer of Monday
fear, blank field
beyond a window
gray as a mitten,
a stack of syllables
against your tongue,
savage and unkempt—
here, in the emptiest
room on this round
earth: a slew of eyes,
and your thin
hands, mouthing air—
a single note,
ticking, ticking . . .
a vast alarm
(from How the Crimes Happened [CavanKerry Press, 2010]).
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Monday, February 8, 2010
Hope End, the house in sight of the Malvern Hills where Elizabeth was brought up, was in complete contrast to the character of her father who had had it built. Edward Barrett Moulton-Barrett was an austere man with puritanical standards, while Hope End looked like a "Kubla Khan" pleasure dome. It had minarets in concrete, turrets in cast iron, and a vast glass dome over the central hall where there was an organ, rich furnishings and stained glass in the windows.
That Elizabeth with her intelligence and independence of mind should have submitted for so long to the doctrine of paternal omnipotence is surprising to a later generation, but it must be remembered that she was very fond of Papa and that she had the innocence often found in intellectuals.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Saturday, February 6, 2010
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--
Friday, February 5, 2010
Thursday, February 4, 2010
from The PoetasterBen JonsonSwell me a bowl with lusty wine,Till I may see the plump Lyaeus swimAbove the brim:I drink as I would write,In flowing measure filled with fame and sprite.
On My First SonBen JonsonFarewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;My sin was too much hope of thee, loved boy,Seven years thou wert lent to me, and I thee pay,Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.O, could I lose all father, now. For whyWill man lament the state he should envy?To have so soon 'scaped world's, and flesh's rage,And, if no other misery, yet age!Rest in soft peace, and, asked, say here doth lieBen Jonson his best piece of poetry.For whose sake, henceforth, all his vows be such,As what he loves may never like too much.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Monday, February 1, 2010
FritillariesMilly JourdainIn a flower-seller's basket,Bunches of fritillaries,Purple and mysteriousWith green and twisted stalks, are lying.How they wish they still were livingIn the wet and open spacesWhere the river winds are blowing,Far beyond the old, grey city.Though they stand among some blue-bells,Still they hold themselves aloofly,Drooping, with their darkened faces,Lonely in their secret wildness.