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Favorite rhymed metric verse written after 1950 (e.g. Wilbur and Gunn)

  1. Jul 8, 2008 #1

    marcus

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    Check these out. Add your favorites if you have some. Richard Wilbur was born in 1922 and in 2004 published his Collected Poems 1943-2004. The NYT published these exerpts
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/29/books/chapters/0529-1st-wilbur.html
    and at the bottom of that page there's one I like called Blackberries for Amelia
    so I will put a sample here that starts about halfway thru the poem

    he is talking about a blackberry thicket the way it looks at the beginning of summer, and the white fivepoint blossoms scatter thru it somewhat like stars and he says:
    ***
    ...As the far stars, of which we now are told
    That ever faster do they bolt away,
    And that a night may come in which, some say,
    We shall have only blackness to behold.

    I have no time for any change so great,
    But I shall see the August weather spur
    Berries to ripen where the flowers were--
    Dark berries, savage-sweet and worth the wait--

    And there will come the moment to be quick
    And save some from the birds, and I shall need
    Two pails, old clothes in which to stain and bleed,
    And a grandchild to talk with while we pick.
    ***

    the poem has a complicated message which maybe you need to read the whole thing to get----the darkness at the end of the universe and life is connected and balanced with the dark ripeness of a blackberry. He wrote it in 2003, when he was 81 years old, I guess. If you want to see all 5 stanzas, it is on the NYT page along with some other Wilbur verse. I am using *** as a demarcation for quotes.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2008
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  3. Jul 8, 2008 #2

    marcus

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    Rhymed metric poets of the 1950+ years are to some extent a craft guild and JV Cunningham was a master that some of them, like Thom Gunn, looked up to.
    So Gunn wrote this, about JVC.

    ***
    He concentrated as he ought
    On making language fit his thought,

    And getting all the rhymes correct,
    Thus exercising intellect.

    In such a space, in such a fashion,
    He concentrated into passion.

    ***

    I type this from memory, without consulting printout. It is witty and funny because Gunn exactly mimics Cunningham style in eulogizing him. I think every word is perfect. As John Donne lasts, so, I think, will Thom Gunn. Some of the rhymed metric verse of our period will survive.

    Here is one by Richard Wilbur, which I also type from memory. Perhaps I miss some punctuation. Consult his Collected Poems to be sure :-) It is addressed to the Etruscan poets, whose work sadly did not survive because the Etruscan language was forgotten. That's something about poetry, it can last only so long as the language it's written in is understood. Carved stone could have a better chance.

    ***
    Dream fluently, still brothers, who when young
    Took with your mother's milk, the mother tongue,

    In which pure matrix, joining world and mind,
    You strove to leave a line of verse behind,

    Like a fresh track across a field of snow,
    Not reckoning that all could melt and go.

    ***

    the language is the matrix
    in which the poem is written
    if the language melts and vanishes
    so does the poem. I swear each word in that Wilbur poem is perfect
    and cannot be changed. Can you bring something with a like perfection to expand this thread?
    I want more of these. They add to my life.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2008
  4. Jul 8, 2008 #3

    marcus

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    Thom Gunn was born in 1929 in England and he happened to be gay and live in San Francisco. He probably saw a number of his contemporaries die, and he may have been a bit like a high-resolution camera--accurately recording detail both witnessed and imagined. Here is "Words for Some Ash"

    ***

    Poor parched man, we had to squeeze
    Dental sponge against your teeth,
    So that moisture by degrees
    Dribbled to the mouth beneath.

    Christmas Day your pupils crossed,
    Staring at your nose's tip,
    Seeking there the air you lost
    Yet still gaped for, dry of lip.

    Now you are a bag of ash
    Scattered on a coastal ridge,
    Where you watched the distant crash,
    Ocean on a broken edge.

    Death has wiped away each sense;
    Fire took muscle, bone, and brains;
    Next may rain leach discontents
    From your dust, wash what remains

    Deeper into damper ground
    Till the granules work their way
    Down to unseen streams, and bound
    Briskly in the water's play;

    May you lastly reach the shore,
    Joining tide without intent,
    Only worried any more
    By the current's argument.

    ***
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2008
  5. Jul 8, 2008 #4

    marcus

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    One night around summer 1968 Wilbur went out in a field with his wife Charlotte and looked at the stars---a field near their summerhouse in the Berkshires, I think---and the next morning they walked thru the same field which at the moment was full of wildflowers. And "In the Field" records some of what they thought and talked about.

    The poem has 20 short stanzas. I'm going to excerpt a sample and you can always get the whole thing in his Collected Poems. This won't necessarily be in order. I will start with the last three stanzas

    ***

    We could no doubt mistake
    These flowers for some answer to that fright
    We felt for all creation's sake
    In our dark talk last night,

    Taking to heart what came
    Of the heart's wish for life, which, staking here
    In the least field and endless claim,
    Beats on from sphere to sphere

    And pounds beyond the sun,
    Where nothing less peremptory can go,
    And is ourselves, and is the one
    Unbounded thing we know.

    ***

    This is pretty good, but to see what it is saying you have to have some of the preceding 17 stanzas! So I'll put in a few more to give a hint of the idea.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2008
  6. Jul 8, 2008 #5

    marcus

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    You know that the best law of gravity we have leads to the picture that distances keep increasing by a certain percentage each year----it is just part of how gravity (which is to say geometry) works. And stars must eventually burn out. So the very longterm future is dark and comparatively empty. And no matter how beautiful the night sky, it also contains that thought. Which will occur to someone who thinks as carefully as Richard Wilbur and he will tell you what he thinks about it.

    ***

    This field-grass brushed our legs
    Last night, when out we stumbled looking up,
    Wading as through the cloudy dregs
    Of a wide sparkling cup,

    Our thrown-back heads aswim
    In the grand, kept appointments of the air,
    ...
    ...

    ...

    It was the nip of fear
    That told us when imagination caught
    The feel of what we said, came near
    The schoolbook thoughts we thought,

    And faked a scan of space
    Blown black and hollow by our spent grenade,
    All worlds dashed out without a trace,
    The very light unmade.

    Then, in the late-night chill,
    We turned and picked our way through outcrop stone
    By the faint starlight, up the hill
    To where our bed-lamp shone.

    Today, in the same field,
    The sun takes all, and what could lie beyond?
    Those holes in heaven have been sealed
    Like rain-drills in a pond,

    And we, beheld in gold,
    See nothing starry but these galaxies
    Of flowers, dense and manifold,
    Which lift about our knees--

    ...
    ...
    ...

    We could no doubt mistake
    These flowers for some answer to that fright...
    ...
    ...

    ***

    And so on. I gave the last three stanzas already. I think it is really good and worth remembering. He describes the stars they saw and the changes in the starmap that he and Charlotte knew had occurred (e.g. since Egyptian and Greek times).
    I skipped it but it's a nice description. Then he evokes the dread they felt at the longterm prospect of a cold dark empty universe. Then he describes the field of wildflowers they saw in the morning. And then he says this curious thing: not even the universe is infinite or forever, only the heart's wish for life is infinite.
    or at least it's the only infinite thing we know.

    Wilbur is careful with the truth. As far as I know, there is not an ounce of baloney in his whole lifetime work.
    except a little bit for fun now and then, and in his translations where there may have been some theatricality in the original and he renders it accurately.
    but basically no baloney. read him and see. :-)
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2008
  7. Jul 8, 2008 #6

    marcus

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    rhymed metric verse written post-1950 that has a touch of bitters, or satire

    social satire is an important vitamin for keeping society healthy and not every firstrate poem needs to be serious obviously
    so here is a sample satire verse from XJ Kennedy (b. 1929) called "Family Reunion"
    It is from memory so you need to look it up to be sure about the punctuation etc.
    It is a cartoon of an uncongenial family gathering at Thanksgiving (the day in November when Americans eat turkey).

    ***

    Drawn round the roasting of a bird
    By duty once each year,
    With first a drink and soon a third
    They baste glazed looks of cheer.

    Each spine erected in its seat
    Each head bowed low for grace,
    All wait the word to fork white meat
    In through the family face.

    ***

    And Suzanne Doyle, born 1953, has this poem called "Modern Love" about a less-than-perfect marriage:

    ***

    In middle-age they woke to find
    Their marriage flabby, both behind
    And there before them. No sweet tension
    Informed their speech. No sex worth mention.
    At breakfast each chose to discover
    The other had secured a lover.

    The intimacy of confession,
    The details of the transgression,
    Aroused an affirmation of
    The passion latent in old love.
    So had each going out confirmed
    The choice they made when they returned.

    Some say they paid a price, of course,
    But saved the cost of a divorce.
    And cast off lovers? Well, observe,
    The wicked get what they deserve.

    ***

    There's a Thom Gunn quattrain called "Lines for My 55th Birthday" which I'm not sure whether to classify as satire or simple observation:

    ***

    The love of old men is not worth a lot:
    Desperate and dry even when it is hot.
    You cannot tell what is enthusiasm
    And what involuntary, clawing spasm.

    ***

    Philip Larkin (b. 1922), who served awhile as Poet Laureate of England, has this famous rant called "This Be The Verse"

    ***

    They fk you up, your Mum and Dad.
    They do not mean to but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some new ones, just for you.

    But they were fked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats
    Who half the time were soppy stern
    And half at one another's throats.

    Man hands on misery to man:
    It deepens, like the coastal shelf.
    Get out as early as you can,
    And don't have any kids yourself.

    ***

    Like the Gunn quattrain, this is typed from memory---I don't vouch for punctuation or spelling. I think verse is meant very much to be recited (rather than read silently) so one test is whether it sticks in my mind enough for me to type it from memory.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2008
  8. Jul 9, 2008 #7

    marcus

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    back to serious (and non-bitter) rhymed metric post-1950 verse

    You know at a wedding one or more people are supposed to give a toast to the bride and groom. Richard Wilbur wrote this, "A Wedding Toast", for the occasion of his son's wedding on Bastille Day (14 July) 1971. I'd say the thought is routine--love can make the everyday stuff of life (like ordinary water) into something special (like wine)--but appropriate to a wedding, and the execution is flawless.

    ***

    St. John tells how, at Cana's wedding feast
    The water-pots poured wine in such amount
    That, by his sober count,
    There were a hundred gallons at the least.

    It made no earthly sense, unless to show
    That whatsoever love elects to bless
    Brims to a sweet excess
    That can, without depletion, overflow.

    Which is to say, that what love sees is true.
    That this world's fullness is not made but found.
    Life hungers to abound
    And pour its plenty out for such as you.

    Now, if your loves will lend an ear to mine,
    I toast you both, good son and dear new daughter.
    May you not lack for water,
    And may that water smack of Cana's wine.

    ***

    We tend to think of the poetry of the 20th Century as nearly all belonging to the MODERNIST school. Mostly not patterned. Not rhymed. Not following a regular metrical rhythm. What I'm thinking is that after 50 or 100 years have passed people might look back and not see it quite so clear-cut modernist. Rhymed metric verse may not have lapsed as an art-form after all. It depends on what is remembered after the passage of time---what is collected, and anthologized. It's a wait-and-see thing.

    Borges, the Argentina literary giant, happened to write rhymed metric verse--he liked to write sonnets. And Richard Wilbur achieved a very fine English translation of one of Borges sonnets. For me, it is about spacetime---the 4D version of reality. Borges had a fairly sophisticated familiarity with physics. Again this is from memory, so check a print version if you want correct official punctuation etc.

    ***

    One thing does not exist: Oblivion.
    God saves the metal and he saves the dross
    And his prophetic memory guards from loss
    The moons to come and those of evenings gone.

    Everything is: the shadows in the glass
    Which, in between the day's two twilights, you
    Have scattered by the thousands, or shall strew
    Henceforward in the mirror as you pass.

    And everything is part of that diverse
    Crystalline memory, the universe.
    Whoever in its endless mazes wanders
    Hears door on door click shut behind his stride,
    And only on the sunset's farther side
    Will see at last the Archetypes and Splendors.

    ***

    That is very true to a General Relativity vision of spacetime. It is the classic 4D picture.
    Curiously enough there is a different picture emerging, the Feynman path integral, or sum-over-histories, version of spacetime. Quantum 4D geometry instead of classical. July Scientific American has a great article about this by Renate Loll. It is beautiful too, indeed I think far more so than the simple classical picture. Glance at the SciAm illustrations and see if you do not agree. But now it is too late for Borges to write us a sonnet about this new picture---another sonnet for Wilbur to translate.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2008
  9. Jul 9, 2008 #8

    marcus

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    Part of the process of presenting some excerpts of books of verse is always to give links to amazon in case you like it and want to read more. this is traditional. the New York Times does it, the New Yorker does it, or the equivalent. It would be disrespectful of me not to follow the established custom. A poet quoted always gets his plug.

    Here's Richard Wilbur
    http://www.amazon.com/Collected-Poems-1943-2004-Richard-Wilbur/dp/0156030799
    This is amazing. the guy is arguably America's greatest living poet and his collected poems, the book of all his poems, is being sold for $12 new and $3 used. That's a two pound paperback book with 608 pages. It's a lot of wise honest and technically perfect verse for three dollars.

    And here's Thom Gunn
    http://www.amazon.com/Collected-Poems-Thom-Gunn/dp/0374524335
    the price new is $20 and it sells used under $6, plus postage of course.
    496 pages. A 1.5 pound paperback

    For what my judgment is worth, these are two I think will be remembered. Philip Larkin is a bit plaintive for my taste, but if you liked "This Be The Verse", quoted above, and want more here is his collected work
    http://www.amazon.com/Collected-Poems-Philip-Larkin/dp/0374529205/
    240 pages, about the same number of poems, a surprising number of them rhymed and metrical. $10 new, under $7 used.

    Look. Here is a great poem by Gunn called "Still Life". When his friend Larry Hoyt was still alive (not quite dead) then, as often happens, they gave him oxygen via tube to the mouth.

    I shall not soon forget
    The greyish-yellow skin
    To which the face had set:
    Lids tight: nothing of his,
    No tremor from within,
    Played on the surfaces.
    He still found breath, and yet
    It was an obscure knack.
    I shall not soon forget
    The angle of his head,
    Arrested and reared back
    On the crisp field of bed,
    Back from what he could neither
    Accept, as one opposed,
    Nor, as a life-long breather,
    Consentingly let go,
    The tube his mouth enclosed
    In an astonished O.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2008
  10. Jul 10, 2008 #9

    marcus

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    Here is one by Richard Wilbur called "Matthew VIII,28 ff."

    Rabbi, we Gadarenes
    Are not ascetics; we are fond of wealth and possessions.
    Love, as You call it, we obviate by means
    Of the planned release of aggressions.

    We have deep faith in prosperity.
    Soon, it is hoped, we will reach our full potential.
    In the light of our gross product, the practice of charity
    Is palpably non-essential.

    It is true that we go insane;
    That for no good reason we are possessed by devils;
    That we suffer, despite the amenities which obtain
    At all but the lowest levels.

    We shall not, however, resign
    Our trust in the high-heaped table and the full trough.
    If You cannot cure us without destroying our swine,
    We had rather You shoved off.



    In the New Testament story a Gadarene man suffering from mental illness was cured by transferring his demons over into a herd of swine that happened by. But then the crazy swine self-destructed by stampeding off a cliff. Wilbur lays the voice of consumption-now Americans right on the imagined voice of the Gadarenes like two congruent triangles. They coincide so perfectly it tingles.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2008
  11. Jul 10, 2008 #10

    marcus

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    Updating Updike---neutrinos do have a little mass and do interact some

    Probably many people who love physics also like this rhymed metrical poem by John Updike about neutrinos. But the the first three lines are troubling because they contain blatant error.
    So how would you suggest fixing them but keeping the rhyme and metrical rhythm?

    The idea is that in this thread you can try putting thoughts into rhyme and metric pattern yourself, not just read other people's efforts. trying it is a good way to increase your appreciation of it and enjoyment.

    So this what Updike wrote is wrong:

    "Neutrinos, they are very small.
    They have no charge and have no mass
    And do not interact at all.
    The earth is just a silly ball
    To them, through which they simply pass,
    ..."

    they have some slight mass and they interact with other matter, though rarely, because we can build detectors

    so how would you fix this?

    Here is a sample solution, only the first three lines have been revised:

    Cosmic Gall
    (almost completely) by John Updike

    Neutrinos have a size quite small,
    No charge, and hardly any mass.
    They scarcely interact at all:
    The earth is just a silly ball
    To them, through which they simply pass,
    Like dustmaids through a drafty hall
    Or photons through a sheet of glass.
    They snub the most exquisite gas,
    Ignore the most substantial wall,
    Cold-shoulder steel and sounding brass,
    Insult the stallion in his stall,
    And scorning barriers of class,
    Infiltrate you and me! Like tall
    And painless guillotines, they fall
    Down through our heads into the grass.
    At night, they enter at Nepal
    And pierce the lover and his lass
    From underneath the bed-you call
    It wonderful; I call it crass.
     
  12. Jul 11, 2008 #11

    marcus

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    like dustmaids DOWN a drafty hall, dammit. only caught that the next day when it was too late to edit
     
  13. Jul 12, 2008 #12
    I really enjoyed reading this, thanks for posting it.
     
  14. Jul 12, 2008 #13

    marcus

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    So glad you enjoyed this pick of goodies, Hypatia!
    If any particularly grab you, please let me know. Other people's reactions help.

    Before I only posted the last half of Richard Wilbur's Blackberries for Amelia. But now I think it should be read complete for greatest pleasure:

    ***
    Fringing the woods, the stone walls, and the lanes,
    Old thickets everywhere have come alive,
    Their new leaves reaching out in fans of five
    From tangles overarched by this year's canes.

    They have their flowers, too, it being June,
    And here or there in brambled dark-and-light
    Are small, five-petalled blooms of chalky white,
    As random-clustered and as loosely strewn

    As the far stars, of which we are now told
    That ever faster do they bolt away,
    And that a night may come in which, some say,
    We shall have only blackness to behold.

    I have no time for any change so great,
    But I shall see the August weather spur
    Berries to ripen where the flowers were --
    Dark berries, savage-sweet and worth the wait --

    And there will come the moment to be quick
    And save some from the birds, and I shall need
    Two pails, old clothes in which to stain and bleed,
    And a grandchild to talk with while we pick.

    ***
     
  15. Jul 12, 2008 #14

    Evo

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    I absolutely loved that Marcus. I meant to thank you sooner, it brightened my day.
     
  16. Jul 12, 2008 #15
    Re: back to serious (and non-bitter) rhymed metric post-1950 verse

    I really enjoyed this, and I will ponder it during the rest of our rain showers today, and hope that it will clear up, so that I may think about it as I go star watching tonight.
     
  17. Jul 12, 2008 #16

    marcus

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    Hypatia and Evo, thanks for your reactions! Both those poems are special favorites of mine too. Evo, I hope so much that you are feeling better.
     
  18. Jul 12, 2008 #17

    marcus

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    a comic plaint by Larkin

    I'm not especially fond of Larkin's verse because the voice is so often plaintive but he was extremely skillful and could be funny in the way he complained. This one is dated 8 January 1954, so it just barely got in through our time-window :-)

    there is something subtle about the rhyme-pattern of this poem that took me a while to figure out. The poem is called "I Remember, I Remember".

    ***

    Coming up England by a different line
    For once, early in the cold new year,
    We stopped, and, watching men with numbered plates
    Sprint down the platform to familiar gates,
    'Why Coventry!' I exclaimed, 'I was born here.'

    I leant far out, and squinnied for a sign
    That this was still the town that had been 'mine'
    So long, but found I wasn't even clear
    Which side was which. From where those cycle-crates
    Were standing, had we annually departed

    For all those family hols?...A whistle went:
    Things moved. I sat back, staring at my boots,
    'Was that,' my friend smiled, 'where you "have your roots"?'
    No, only where my childhood was unspent,
    I wanted to retort, just where I started:

    By now I've got the whole place clearly charted.
    Our garden, first: where I did not invent
    Blinding theologies of flowers and fruits,
    And wasn't spoken to by an old hat.
    And here we have that splendid family

    I never ran to when I got depressed,
    The boys all biceps and the girls all chest,
    Their comic Ford, their farm where I could be
    'Really myself'. I'll show you, come to that,
    The bracken where I never trembling sat,

    Determined to go through with it: where she
    Lay back, and 'all became a burning mist'.
    And, in those offices, my doggerel
    Was not set up in blunt ten-point, nor read
    By a distinguished cousin of the mayor,

    Who didn't call and tell my father There
    Before us, had we the gift to see ahead
    --
    'You look as if you wished the place in Hell'
    My friend said, 'judging from your face.' 'Oh well,
    I suppose it's not the place's fault,' I said.

    'Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.'

    ***

    You can hear the rhymes, but there may seem to be no regular pattern to them. There is a concealed pattern which emerges if you divide the 36 lines into four groups of nine.


    Coming up England by a different line
    For once, early in the cold new year,
    We stopped, and, watching men with numbered plates
    Sprint down the platform to familiar gates,
    'Why Coventry!' I exclaimed, 'I was born here.'
    I leant far out, and squinnied for a sign
    That this was still the town that had been 'mine'
    So long, but found I wasn't even clear
    Which side was which. From where those cycle-crates

    Were standing, had we annually departed
    For all those family hols?...A whistle went:
    Things moved. I sat back, staring at my boots,
    'Was that,' my friend smiled, 'where you "have your roots"?'
    No, only where my childhood was unspent,
    I wanted to retort, just where I started:
    By now I've got the whole place clearly charted.
    Our garden, first: where I did not invent
    Blinding theologies of flowers and fruits,

    And wasn't spoken to by an old hat.
    And here we have that splendid family
    I never ran to when I got depressed,
    The boys all biceps and the girls all chest,
    Their comic Ford, their farm where I could be
    'Really myself'. I'll show you, come to that,
    The bracken where I never trembling sat,
    Determined to go through with it: where she
    Lay back, and 'all became a burning mist'.

    And, in those offices, my doggerel
    Was not set up in blunt ten-point, nor read
    By a distinguished cousin of the mayor,
    Who didn't call and tell my father There
    Before us, had we the gift to see ahead
    --
    'You look as if you wished the place in Hell'
    My friend said, 'judging from your face.' 'Oh well,
    I suppose it's not the place's fault,' I said.
    Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.'

    aBccBaaBc
    The first couplet tells you the last line. The second couplet echos the first line. But Larkin didn't break it up that way. He didn't want you to see the rhymes schematically as a reader sees them on the page. At least that time he only wanted you to hear them.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2008
  19. Jul 13, 2008 #18

    marcus

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    a sad poem by Elizabeth Bishop about loss

    She used a centuries-old form, the villanelle. The form requires echoing the first and third lines of the first stanza---working them into the flow in a prescribed way. Dylan Thomas used this form in "Do not go gentle into that good night" written in grief at his father's death. Bishop's villanelle, called "One Art", is likewise about loss.

    ***
    The art of losing isn't hard to master;
    so many things seem filled with the intent
    to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

    Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
    of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
    The art of losing isn't hard to master.

    Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
    places, and names, and where it was you meant
    to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

    I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
    next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
    The art of losing isn't hard to master.

    I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
    some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
    I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

    --Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
    I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
    the art of losing's not too hard to master
    though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

    ***

    This is more stoical and less cathartic than Thomas'. Perhaps you could say that Bishop's is tougher and at the same time more touching. I want to show Thomas' villanelle for comparison although it is pre-1950 and does not belong to the thread time-frame:

    ***

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    And you, my father, there on the sad height,
    Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    ***
    Comparing these two examples will show just how the villanelle form works and also show what liberties Bishop took with it (to good effect I think)---she sometimes avoided exact repetition, and kept just enough that you could hear the line resurface.
    I am finding myself overwhelmed with how much good rhymed metric verse there is even from times when it was supposed to be out of fashion. (When modernist-school poetry, normally unrhymed and rhythmically irregular, supposedly predominated.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2008
  20. Jul 13, 2008 #19

    marcus

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    "Going, Going" --a great one by Larkin

    Putting this thread together, samples to show how much good R-M verse grew in the post-1950 years, has given me a new appreciation for Philip Larkin. He seems to have had a pretty good time in his 63 years (1922-1985) and to have actually had the impertinence to turn down the Poet Laureate job when it was offered him. Reading the wikipedia article told me stuff I hadn't known. He liked jazz and used to play the drums when he was a kid. I'm tickled by his use of vernacular, among other things---as when referring to death as "snuffing it" and the UK's leading citizens as "crooks and tarts". Here's "Going, Going", written January 1972:

    ***

    I thought it would last my time -
    The sense that, beyond the town,
    There would always be fields and farms,
    Where the village louts could climb
    Such trees as were not cut down;
    I knew there'd be false alarms

    In the papers about old streets
    And split level shopping, but some
    Have always been left so far;
    And when the old part retreats
    As the bleak high-risers come
    We can always escape in the car.

    Things are tougher than we are, just
    As earth will always respond
    However we mess it about;
    Chuck filth in the sea, if you must:
    The tides will be clean beyond.
    - But what do I feel now? Doubt?

    Or age, simply? The crowd
    Is young in the M1 cafe;
    Their kids are screaming for more -
    More houses, more parking allowed,
    More caravan sites, more pay.
    On the Business Page, a score

    Of spectacled grins approve
    Some takeover bid that entails
    Five per cent profit (and ten
    Per cent more in the estuaries): move
    Your works to the unspoilt dales
    (Grey area grants)! And when

    You try to get near the sea
    In summer . . . It seems, just now,
    To be happening so very fast;
    Despite all the land left free
    For the first time I feel somehow
    That it isn't going to last,

    That before I snuff it, the whole
    Boiling will be bricked in
    Except for the tourist parts -
    First slum of Europe: a role
    It won't be hard to win,
    With a cast of crooks and tarts.

    And that will be England gone,
    The shadows, the meadows, the lanes,
    The guildhalls, the carved choirs.
    There'll be books; it will linger on
    In galleries; but all that remains
    For us will be concrete and tyres.


    Most things are never meant.
    This won't be, most likely; but greeds
    And garbage are too thick-strewn
    To be swept up now, or invent
    Excuses that make them all needs.
    I just think it will happen, soon.

    ***

    I've bolded the part that comes to mind, when I think of this poem.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2008
  21. Jul 13, 2008 #20

    marcus

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    a little one of Auden's (1957)

    This one, by WH Auden, gets in through our 1950-plus time window. It is called "The More Loving One"

    ***

    Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
    That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
    But on earth indifference is the least
    We have to dread from man or beast.

    How should we like it were stars to burn
    With a passion for us we could not return?
    If equal affection cannot be,
    Let the more loving one be me.

    Admirer as I think I am
    Of stars that do not give a damn,
    I cannot, now I see them, say
    I missed one terribly all day.

    Were all stars to disappear or die,
    I should learn to look at an empty sky
    And feel its total dark sublime,
    Though this might take me a little time.

    ***

    One of Auden's best known poems "The Shield of Achilles" was first published in 1953 and so it also comes in the time period we are looking at
    http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15547
    It's pretty long. Maybe I will just give a couple of links to this one.
    http://www.sccs.swarthmore.edu/users/99/jrieffel/poetry/auden/achilles.html
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2008
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