Happy Earth Day, to all. I remember turning the earth 50 years ago with my 5-year-old classmates as we planted little saplings at our elementary school. Now, 50 years later, I look back and savor the many hours I have spent on trails and shores, appreciating the earth. So much of my writing is inspired by the Earth.
I selected today’s sonnet with our earth in mind. It’s a variation of our familiar Petrarchan form, and written by English and romantic author Mary Russell Mitford (1787-1855). The poem it titled, simply, “Grasshopper and Cricket.”
Grasshopper and Cricket, by Mary Russell Mitford
How oft, amid the heaped and bedded hay,
Under the oak’s broad shadow deep and strong,
Have we sat listening to the noon-day song
(If song it were), monotonously gay,
Which crept along the field, the summer lay
Of the grasshopper. Summer is come in pride
Of fruit and flower, garlanded as a bride,
And crowned with corn, and graced with length of day:
But cold is come with her.
We sit not now
Listening that merry music of the earth,
Like Arid beneath the blossomed bough;
But all for chillness round the social hearth
We cluster.–Hark! a sound of kindred mirth
Echoes! O wintry cricket, welcome thou!
For today’s poem, I decided to dip into the 20th century with a sonnet by Wilfred Owen, a British poet and soldier who died in battle in World War I. Wilfred wrote poetry for just about a year and died a few months after penning this poem, ironically, and sadly, called, “Anthem for Doomed Youth.” I have to admit, that reading this poem was a bit tough, especially with all of the Covid-19-related deaths here and around the globe.
Peace to all of you; may you be safe and well.
Anthem for Doomed Youth, by Wilfred Owen
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,–
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
Welcome to Day 20 of our daily sonnets celebrating National Poetry Month. Tonight, I am reading Robert Burns’ “A Sonnet Upon Sonnets,” which he wrote in the Shakespearean sonnet form.
A Sonnet Upon Sonnets, by Robert Burns
Fourteen, a sonneteer thy praises sings;
What magic myst’ries in that number lie!
Your hen hath fourteen eggs beneath her wings
That fourteen chickens to the roost may fly.
Fourteen full pounds the jockey’s stone must be;
His age fourteen–a horse’s prime is past.
Fourteen long hours too oft the Bard must fast;
Fourteen bright bumpers–bliss he ne’er must see!
Before fourteen, a dozen yields the strife;
Before fourteen–e’en thirteen’s strength is vain.
Fourteen good years–a woman gives us life;
Fourteen good men–we lose that life again.
What lucubrations can be more upon it?
Fourteen good measur’d verses make a sonnet.
Good evening, all. It was absolutely wonderful to reconnect with my students this week. I am so glad that we are back in session as we venture to the end of the school year together.
Tonight’s sonnet is by the British poet and actress Fanny Kemble. It’s a love sonnet (of course), and it celebrates a love with nature that we all can appreciate.
Without further ado, “The Woods,” by Fanny Kemble.
Cover me with your everlasting arms,–
Ye guardian giants of this solitude!–
From the ill-sight of men, and from the rude
Tumultuous din of yon wild world’s alarms!
Oh, knit your mighty limbs around, above,
And close me in for ever! let me dwell
With the wood spirits, in the darkest spell
That ever with your verdant locks ye wove.
The air is full of countless voices, joined
In one eternal hymn; the whispering wind,
The shuddering leaves, the hidden water springs,
The work-song of the bees, whose honeyed wings
Hang in the golden tresses of the lime,
Or buried lie in purple beds of thyme.
Good afternoon, all! Today’s sonnet is by Alice Meynell, a British poet who lived from 1847-1922. This poem, “Renouncement,” is in traditional Petrarchan form and captures the bridge between love and religion for Alice, as she recuperated from illness and pondered life in the Catholic Church.
Without further ado… Renouncement, by Alice Meynell.
I must not think of thee; and, tired yet strong,
I shun the thought that lurks in all delight–
The thought of thee–and in the blue Heaven’s height,
And in the sweetest passage of a song.
Oh, just beyond the fairest thoughts that throng
This breast, the thought of thee waits, hidden yet bright;
But it must never, never come in sight;
I must stop short of thee the whole day long.
But when sleep comes to close each difficult day,
When night gives pause to the long watch I keep,
And all my bonds I needs must loose apart,
Must doff my will as raiment laid away,–
With the first dream that comes with the first sleep
I run, I run, I am gathered to thy heart.
Hello! Today’s sonnet is by Percy Bysshe Shelley, titled “To Wordsworth.”
Everything about this poem seems like it is a celebration of life of the late poet, but Shelley wrote his poem in 1816, and William Wordsworth lived for another 30 years following the death of Shelley in 1822. So why the faux posthumous ode?
Shelley was so angry at Wordsworth for what he saw as an “abandonment of his ideals” in his later works, so Shelley decided to mock his change by citing his own works in this sonnet, throwing them in the still-living face of Wordsworth in a lament of the “passing” of the more idealized and youthful Wordsworth.
Sonnets aren’t all about love, apparently. 😉
Enjoy “To Wordsworth,” by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Poet of Nature, thou hast wept to know
That things depart which never may return:
Childhood and youth, friendship and love’s first glow,
Have fled like sweet dreams, leaving thee to mourn.
These common woes I feel. One loss is mine
Which thou too feel’st, yet I alone deplore.
Thou wert as a lone star, whose light did shine
On some frail bark in winter’s midnight roar:
Thou hast like to a rock-built refuge stood
Above the blind and battling multitude:
In honored poverty thy voice did weave
Songs consecrate to truth and liberty,–
Deserting these, thou leave’st me to grieve,
Thus having been, that thou should’st cease to be.