Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I dream of verse, but live in prose

All month I've been aware that it's National Poetry Month, and all month I've been thinking, "Hey, it's all month long, I can post something about it at some point." And wouldn't you know: now it's the last day of the month, so I'm just getting this in under the wire.

I always want to post more about poetry, but somehow I don't; maybe this is because poetry is, for me, the most personal of literary regions, and there are ways in which it almost feels unseemly to discuss the poems that mean most to me, like I'm sharing something deeply private that shouldn't be spoken of in a forum such as this, even though it is (mostly) read by friends. But I do love the poetry.

I tend to read poetry in spurts. I will go a month or two without reading any poetry, and then I'll binge on it, taking a poetry book to work with me every day to read during breaks. I'm probably due for another such binge in the near future; I suppose it's a testament to my contrary nature that I am feeling poetic as Poetry Month draws to a close.

Have I written poetry? Yes, I have. Will I post any of my poems here? Not at present. This goes back to my very personal relationship with poetry. The poems that I've written in the past have, in almost every case, been written as gifts for loved ones, and I don't feel that those poems are mine to share here, even though I wrote them. Most of them – and there have only been a few, really – refer to things that only the recipient would know about, and would thus be impenetrable to readers here. (Plus, I'm not at all certain that my poems are any good! Especially the ones where I actually try to work within the confines of an actual form. Sonnets are hard to write, folks.)

But setting all that aside, I figure I could at least share here a few poems that I've found most meaningful to me over the years. I'm sure this too will come as no surprise to longtime readers here or those who know me, but the poems that move me most are almost exclusively love poems. Here are a few.

"Love's Philosophy"
Percy Bysshe Shelley

The fountains mingle with the river
   And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of Heaven mix for ever
   With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single,
   All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
   Why not I with thine?

See the mountains kiss high heaven
   And the waves clasp one another:
No sister-flower would be forgiven
   if it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
   And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
   If thou kiss not me?

One of the poets nearest to my heart is Robert Burns:

"A Red, Red Rose"

O, my luve is like a red, red rose,
   That's newly sprung in June;
O, my luve is like the melodie
   That's sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
   So deep in luve am I,
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
   Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
   And the rocks melt wi' the sun,
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
   While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!
   And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my luve,
   Tho' it were ten thousand mile!

This is an anonymous poem, very short. It served as the inspiration for one of the band directors at the high school music camp I attended to compose a piece of music:

O western wind, when wilt thou blow,
   the small rain down can rain?
Christ, if my love were in my arms,
   and I in my bed again!

I've never really felt that the poems JRR Tolkien wrote for The Lord of the Rings are as bad as many commentators seem to think; I actually like quite a few of them, none moreso than this, one version of the "Old Walking Song" that crops up throughout the trilogy, the last version:

The Road goes ever on and on,
   Out from the door where it began.
Still round the corner there may wait
   A new road or a secret gate;
And though I oft have passed them by,
   A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
   West of the Moon, East of the Sun.

The novels of Guy Gavriel Kay, my favorite living writer, are full of poetry and verse, though as in Tolkien, the verse mainly appears in the form of brief quotations from what in the novels are reported to be longer songs. I would so dearly love to hear the full version of the song that contains this lyric, from A Song for Arbonne:

Even the birds above the lake
   are singing of my love;
And even the flowers along the shore
   are growing for her sake.

Another poet whose work often speaks directly to my own heart is Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

"The Miller's Daughter" (excerpt)

It is the miller’s daughter,
   And she is grown so dear, so dear,
That I would be the jewel
   That trembles in her ear:
For hid in ringlets day and night,
I’d touch her neck so warm and white.

And I would be the girdle
   About her dainty dainty waist,
And her heart would beat against me,
   In sorrow and in rest:
And I should know if it beat right,
I’d clasp it round so close and tight.

And I would be the necklace,
   And all day long to fall and rise
Upon her balmy bosom,
   With her laughter or her sighs,
And I would lie so light, so light,
I scarce should be unclasp’d at night.

And of course, there's no other way to conclude a post of love poetry than by turning to the Bard himself:

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 possess'd,
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 remember'd such wealth brings
   That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Poetry is why we invented language, I think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice poems, Jacquandor! I've totally been into poetry month. I've loved all the stuff people have posted.

OT: I hit you with a meme! You're it!