Numbered Sonnet Opus 2 #2

Ah, fie upon the fickle heart of man!
For wherefore do his eyes’ affections change
From face to face through all o’er whom they range,
Shifting without any conscious plan?
It’s littered with dry streambeds that once ran,
Each, deep with floods of passion. ‘Tis so strange
That this part, so decisive, can’t arrange
Its choice (let alone a line that’ll scan!)
The human heart, erratic, has its head,
For no man has the strength to take it in
Until, perhaps, he’s aged well past his prime —
He follows blindly where his heart doth lead
No matter unto where his fancies spin.
(No matter whether he can find a rhyme!)

I’m not sure when during my sophomore year I wrote this, though it was probably during the first semester. I’ve now also posted it to my wiki. As always, any sort of feedback–comments, criticism, compliments, or anything else–is both anxiously solicited and graciously appreciated.


6 thoughts on “Numbered Sonnet Opus 2 #2

  1. Jonathan,

    This probably mirrors influences of the things you read sophomore year, learning to write poetry/sonnets from reading them. You’re toying with words in reflecting on human nature. You’re toying with these reflections, too, but you still get your point across. I was a little startled by your jumping in to satirize the poem and yourself; but this suits the poem. If memory serves me well, it’s like a lighter moment from one of the Metaphysical Poets.

    This image is strong and good, and because of it, I take your observation about fickleness to heart:

    “It’s littered with dry streambeds that once ran,
    Each, deep with floods of passion.”

    I’ll go back to vote on which of the four is my favorite.


    • Actually, I don’t think I read much poetry (aside from perhaps Charles Williams’ Taliessin through Logres and The Region of the Summer Stars again, and some of Shakespeare’s plays) that year. I just hadn’t written much structured poetry in a long time, or at all, so here I was trying to find my voice, searching for rhymes and then forcing phrasing to fit them, etc. (I’ve since abandoned the use of deliberate archaisms like the second-person-singular-intimate pronoun (“thee” etc.) and associated verb forms, for example.)

    • Perhaps it’s sometimes an intensity-caused slip; in my case it was imitating the superficial features of the best I had read without understanding the deeper value that made them the best—taking the veneer without the substance—like a lot of novice poets (I saw in my stint on the editorial staff of Dialogue, the literary magazine, when I was a student there) imitate e. e. cummings (and his imitators) by dropping standard punctuation and capitalization without, as he did, having something truly worth saying.

      If you’ve read some of Williams’ novels, you’ll understand why I often say that he can be …. difficult, to say nothing of being obscure. His poetry is at once more accessible and more obscure; you never have to study intensely to figure out what’s going on, but even more than in his novels he expects his readers to be as well-read as he is: there are allusions to the Jewish Kabbala, medieval ideas about angels, and other similarly obscure topics that get tossed in, usually without further explanation.

  2. Sounds great! Medieval? Am finishing “A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th century.” I’ve gaped at something about this world and its view of things on every page I’ve read. Will borrow the Williams poetry on Taliessin. Thank you for mentioning it! Williams novels, at least the ones I’ve read, didn’t seem difficult but mysterious.

    • The best example I can think of for Williams’ difficult bits is in War in Heaven. There’s a scene (let me see if I can remember and describe this properly …) where the three protagonists are all together, but each more or less fighting his own private spiritual battle. And Williams has at least three different ways of referring to each of those characters, including given names, last names, and the characters from the Arthurian legend that they represent. My dad has a piece of paper stuck in our copy with a list matching all of the different referents for each character up with each other. This is a difficult bit, where it takes some study to figure out exactly what’s going on—but I still recommend reading it if you haven’t.

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