Monday, April 18, 2011

Sending Out the Sonnets: Sonnet #1

I was fortunate in high school to have had some excellent, rigorous literature teachers. (I am also old enough by many decades that literature curricula were still thick, meaty entrees rather than the flighty appetizers that they are all too often now.)

We read a lot of poetry back in those days. If you were in an overview course, you would read English poetry from Chaucer to Eliot and beyond. Sonnets, whether by Shakespeare or Browning (Elizabeth, not Robert) made up a large part of the sampler. If you had Mrs. Hearn, as I did for several classes, both reading and writing sonnets were part of the coursework. So despite the rhyme requirements, I have always had a high comfort level with sonnets. Earlier this year, as I took the training wheels off in my Facebook poetry group, I tried my hand at sonnets. I will be posting the results over the next three days.

Sonnets tend to bring out the somber side of me and this one and the third of the three are no exceptions. I haven't figured out why. Perhaps I am so intent on the rhyme and meter that I can't lighten up the topic.

For those of you who were not fortunate enough to have Kay Hearn, Arlene Gregory, Steve Tobias, or Roberta Rollins for literature, the opening line is from the sonnet by the same name by John Keats. Keats was not being prophetic; he probably already knew he had contracted tuberculosis and that early death was the only outcome.


John Keats by William Hilton, National Portrait Gallery, London

Sonnet One

"When I have fears that I may cease to be…"
Who knows, when they are young, reading those lines
What awaits? Time is endless, a great, free
Banquet spread out at which one is to dine,
Never dreaming in savoring the feast
That the wine may grow flat, the bread turn sour,
That there may not be enough for the least
Hunger to be filled for a day, an hour.
Who knows, sitting there, the bill will come due
And one's pockets may be empty as air?
No, best to eat happily, without clues,
Enjoy the meal, savor all that is fair.

Life will intrude soon enough: sorrow, grief,
Hardship, reminding us our time is brief.

1 comment:

see you there! said...

Ahh... "Best to eat happily, without clues". I thik that's a good motto to live by.