I stopped at the gate of a rich city.
I had everything the gods required;
I was ready; the burdens
of preparation had been long.
And the moment was the right moment,
the moment assigned to me.
Why were you afraid ?
The moment was the right moment;
response must be ready.
On my lips,
the words trembled that were
the right words. Trembled-
And I knew that if I failed to answer
quickly enough, I would be turned away.
|Durham Cathedral engraving by William Miller after J M W Turner, published in Picturesque Views in England and Wales. From Drawings by J.M.W. Turner, engraved under the superintendence of Mr. Charles Heath with descriptive and historic illustrations by H.E. Lloyd. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1838. Rawlinson 297
Earthly Terror, by Louise Glück , from The Making of a Sonnet, eds. Edward Hirsch and Eavan Boland
Image from Wikimedia Commons
I can’t sleep in case a few things you said
no longer apply. The matter’s endless,
but definitions alter what’s ahead
and you and words are like a hare and tortoise.
Aaaagh there’s no description — each a fractal
sectioned by silences, we have our own
skins to feel through and fall back through — awful
to make so much of something so unknown.
But even I — some shower-swift commitments
are all you’ll get; I mustn’t gauge or give
more than I take — which is a way to balance
between misprision and belief in love
both true and false, because I’m only just
short of a word to be the first to trust.
by Alice Oswald from The Thing in the Gap-Stone Stile (Oxford 1996).
I am adding here the Library Thing link for The Thing in the Gap-Stone Stile by Alice Oswald. I wrote a brief polemic last week about the decision of the two poets , Alice Oswald and John Kinsella, to leave the T.S Eliot Prize, but I do hope that people will do their own reading on the issues surrounding their decisions. There are a some sonnets on this blog and a few of these are taken from the magnificent Norton Anthology, The Making of a Sonnet , edited by Eavan Boland and Edward Hirsch , which I’d recommend to lovers of the sonnet form.
On the Other Hand.
by Phyllis Levin
” The leaves of the ivy
Are heavy today.
Even we are too heavy,
Their shadows say :
Nothing moves us,
We cannot stray
Across a walkway.
But glory is still green.
Against a screen
Unlatches the door,
There, there, now
from : The Making of a Sonnet , Edited by Edward Hirsch and Eavan Boland . A Norton Anthology 2008.
‘My future will not copy fair my past-
I wrote that once; and thinking at my side
My ministering life-angel justified
The word by his appealing look upcast
To the white throne of God, I turned at last,
And there , instead, saw thee , not unallied
To angels in thy soul! Then I , long tried
By natural ills, received the comfort fast,
While budding , at thy sight, my pilgrim’s staff
Gave out green leaves with morning dew impearled.
I seek no copy now of life’s first half:
Leave here the pages with long musing curled,
And write me my new future’s epigraph,
New angel mine, unhoped for in the world!
Of course Elizabeth Barrett Browning‘s rhyme schemes drove the establishment cracked, the mention of her name for the Laureateship ( after the death of Wordsworth) was not truly in earnest but it was good discussions began…..
The Sonnets from the Portuguese were written to Robert and handed to him after their elopement , when he was in deep grief over a death in his family. and 341 years after the name of Barret-Browning was mentioned in jest for the British Laureateship, the cycle of male-domination of these laurels was broken by Carol Ann Duffy in 2009 !