Sunday, April 24, 2011

NPM: Sunday of the Sonnet

I did a Google image search for "sonnet," and this was the first result. We're just gonna run with it.

I've got a thousand other things I need to take care of before conking out tonight, so there's not much time for exposition, unfortunately. Tonight's National Poetry Month gift basket is full of sonnets -- short, sweet, endlessly versatile.

You still have a couple days to leave me a haiku on this post to win incredible prizes and impress the literate world with your bold eloquence. A few people posted their own haiku as comments on a couple of different posts; I would humbly ask them to copy and paste it on this page instead, just so everything's all in one place. I am sorry if I didn't make it clear enough, and have already pushed five thumbtacks into my palm as an act of contrition. (With the two stray haiku added to the eight that have already been posted, we got ten altogether -- which means the composer of the one I like best wins him or herself a slightly-used copy of Final Fantasy III DS. If you want to try and win it for yourself, show us what you got.)

And now, sonnets!

Upone Tabacco
By Sir Robert Aytoun (1570-1638)

Forsaken of all comforts but these two,
My faggott and my Pipe, I sitt and Muse
On all my crosses, and almost accuse
The heavens for dealing with me as they do.
Then hope steps in and with a smyling brow
Such chearfull expectations doth infuse
As makes me think ere long I cannot chuse
But be some Grandie, whatsoever I'm now.
But having spent my pipe, I then perceive
That hopes and dreams are Couzens, both deceive.
Then I make this conclusion in my mind,
Its all one thing, both tends unto one Scope
To live upon Tabacco and on hope,
The one's but smoake, the other is but wind.

Scorn Not the Sonnet
By William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850)

Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frown'd,
Mindless of its just honours; with this key
Shakespeare unlock'd his heart; the melody
Of this small lute gave ease to Petrarch's wound;
A thousand times this pipe did Tasso sound;
With it Camöens sooth'd an exile's grief;
The Sonnet glitter'd a gay myrtle leaf
Amid the cypress with which Dante crown'd
His visionary brow: a glow-worm lamp,
It cheer'd mild Spenser, call'd from Faery-land
To struggle through dark ways; and when a damp
Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand
The Thing became a trumpet; whence he blew
Soul-animating strains — alas, too few!

On First Looking into Chapman's Homer
by John Keats (1795 - 1821)

Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
 And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
 Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
 That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne:
 Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
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.

(You know what? Fuck you, John Keats. It's hard not to feel envious of a twenty-one-year-old kid who spends his evening reading the Iliad, then goes home the next morning and writes a quick little poem about it that gets reprinted and taught in school for the next two-hundred years.)

Sonnet To Science
By Edgar Allen Poe (1809 - 1849)

Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
 Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart,
 Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise,
 Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,
 Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?
 And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?
 Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?

(Hmph. I take exception to that, Mr. Poe. Perhaps I shall write my own pro-science sonnet in response. Say -- this gives me an idea for Tuesday's NPM post.)

Love Is Not All
By Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 - 1950)

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

The View From an Airplane at Night, Over California
By Bruce Bawer (1956 - )

This is a sight that Wordsworth never knew,
whether looking down from mountain, bridge, or hill:
An endless field of lights, white, orange, and blue,
as small and bright as stars, and nearly still,
but moving slowly, many miles below,
in blackness, as stars crawl across the skies,
and ranked in rows that stars will never know,
like beads strung out on a thousand latticed ties.
Would even Wordsworth, seeing what I see,
know that these lights are not well-ordered stars
that have been here a near-eternity,
but houses, streetlamps, factories, and cars?
Or has this slim craft made too high a leap
above it all, and is the dark too deep?

Post-Coitum Tristesse: A Sonnet
By Brad Leithauser (1953 - )


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