Celebrating Poetry in April: 17. The Woods by Fanny Kemble

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.

The Woods

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.

 

Celebrating Poetry in April: 14. Renouncement by Alice Meynell

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.

Renouncement

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.

Celebrating Poetry in April: 13. Shelley’s “To Wordsworth”

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.

TO WORDSWORTH

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.