Monday, June 30, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part XI" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month

For the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for June 30, 2014, we shall complete our study of "Ode on Intimations of Immortality" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month.  This will complete our thirty-poem, month-long survey of the great poet.

Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part XI
William Wordsworth

And O, ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Forebode not any severing of our loves!
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I only have relinquish’d one delight
To live beneath your more habitual sway;
I love the brooks which down their channels fret
Even more than when I tripp’d lightly as they;
The innocent brightness of a new-born day
               Is lovely yet;
The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
   Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
   Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
   To me the meanest flower that blows can give
   Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

Wordsworth begins the ending of his "Ode" with bold apostrophe, shouting his undying love of the countryside to the countryside.  However, it is the ever changing, ever flowing brooks with which he identifies the most--more than the relatively unchanging landscape.  Halfway through, the poet evokes God whom he sees as ever watchful over mankind.  The past joins the present and the future as he makes reference in succession to "another (past) race," followed by "the human heart by which we live (now)," and finally to the profound thoughts that even "the meanest flower (for the rest of his life)" may provoke in him.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part X" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month

For the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for June 29, 2014, we continue with our study of "Ode on Intimations of Immortality" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month.  Today we will examine Part X.

Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part X
William Wordsworth

Then, sing, ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song! 
          And let the young lambs bound 
          As to the tabor’s sound! 
     We, in thought, will join your throng, 
          Ye that pipe and ye that play, 
          Ye that through your hearts to-day 
          Feel the gladness of the May! 
What though the radiance which was once so bright 
Be now for ever taken from my sight, 
     Though nothing can bring back the hour 
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; 
          We will grieve not, rather find 
          Strength in what remains behind; 
          In the primal sympathy 
          Which having been must ever be; 
          In the soothing thoughts that spring 
          Out of human suffering; 
          In the faith that looks through death, 
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

Part X contains nineteen lines, an unusual number of lines for a rhyming form poem.  The rhyme scheme is a complex abbacccddeeffgghhif with the penultimate line having no other that rhymes with it, and the final line rhyming with one six lines back.  The rhythm is irregular, staccato at times--the eleventh line even has six feet!  One imagines that Wordsworth did not choose this structure, but that it flowed from his pen rapidly and exuberantly and perhaps without thought as his Ode was coming to an end.

The message is still one of hope and optimism--that it is possible to capture the naive wonder that children find in nature, and that it is possible, with perseverance, to harness this ability to limit the anxiety and care that comes with the responsibilities of adulthood.  The poem reads as a hymn to this concept--the opening line particularly evokes Psalm 96.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part IX" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month

For the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for June 28, 2014, we will continue with our study of "Ode on Intimations of Immortality" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month.  Today we examine Part IX.

Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part IX
William Wordsworth

O joy! that in our embers
          Is something that doth live,
          That Nature yet remembers
          What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest,
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:--
          --Not for these I raise
          The song of thanks and praise;
     But for those obstinate questionings
     Of sense and outward things,
     Fallings from us, vanishings,
     Blank misgivings of a creature
Moving about in worlds not realized,
High instincts, before which our mortal nature
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:
     But for those first affections,
     Those shadowy recollections,
          Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
     Uphold us--cherish--and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
               To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
               Nor man nor boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
   Hence, in a season of calm weather
          Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
               Which brought us hither;
          Can in a moment travel thither--
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.

I find it easier to understand Part IX by setting aside the nineteen lines that are not presented in iambic pentameter and considering only the twenty lines that are comprised of iambic pentameter.  This creates a standard fourteen-line sonnet, complete with an ending heroic couplet, with a six-line introduction appended:

The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest,
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:--

Moving about in worlds not realized,
High instincts, before which our mortal nature
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
Uphold us--cherish--and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.

In this edited version of Part IX, it should be easy--or easier--to see that Wordsworth once again reminds us that we all are conceived in heaven and arrive at birth in possession of the bliss and beauty of the divine, and that it is this that is at the root of the joy that children find in nature and in life--and it is this, therefore, that adults should reach for to "uphold us--cherish" in "our noisy years."

Poem of the Day: "Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part VIII" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month

For the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for June 27, 2014 (with apologies for the tardy posting), we will continue with our study of "Ode on Intimations of Immortality" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month.  Today we examine Part VIII.

Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part VIII
William Wordsworth

Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
          Thy soul’s immensity;
Thou best philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal Mind,--
          Mighty Prophet! Seer blest!
          On whom those truths rest
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
Thou, over whom thy Immortality
Broods like the day, a master o’er a slave,
A Presence which is not to be put by;
          To whom the grave
Is but a lonely bed, without the sense of sight
Of day or the warm light,
A place of thoughts where we in waiting lie;
Thou little child, yet glorious in the might
Of heaven-born freedom on thy being’s height,
Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke
The years to bring the inevitable yoke,
Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife?
Full soon thy soul shall have her earthly freight,
And custom lie upon thee with a weight
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!

In Part VIII, Wordsworth again exhorts his readers to guard against losing one's "inner child."  However, it is not until line eighteen of this twenty-five-line poem that we find out that the "thou" of the previous seventeen lines is a child.  Wordsworth does this deliberately, forcing the reader to wonder just who this amazing "thou" could be--although, by this, Part VIII, the revelation should really come as no surprise.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part VII" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month

For the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for June 26, 2014, we shall examine Part VII of "Ode on Intimations of Immortality" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month.

Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part VII
William Wordsworth

Behold the Child among his new-born blisses, 
A six years’ darling of a pigmy size! 
See, where ‘mid work of his own hand he lies, 
Fretted by sallies of his mother’s kisses, 
With light upon him from his father’s eyes! 
See, at his feet, some little plan or chart, 
Some fragment from his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly-learned art; 
          A wedding or a festival, 
          A mourning or a funeral; 
               And this hath now his heart, 
          And unto this he frames his song: 
               Then will he fit his tongue 
To dialogues of business, love, or strife; 
          But it will not be long 
          Ere this be thrown aside, 
          And with new joy and pride 
The little actor cons another part; 
Filling from time to time his ‘humorous stage’ 
With all the Persons, down to palsied Age,
That life brings with her in her equipage;
          As if his whole vocation
          Were endless imitation.

Part VII has the most complex rhyme (abbabcdceecffdfggchhhii) and rhythm schemes that we have seen in our survey of Wordsworth--complex, but nevertheless unforced; the words fall with satisfaction upon the ear every time.  The poem is presented as a single stanza of twenty-three lines, but rhyme, rhythm, and the use of indentation serve to break the poem up into several pseudo-stanzas and two "hidden" sonnets.

The first pseudo-stanza, comprising the first eight lines, serves as an introduction and would also work well as a stand-alone poem.  The rhythm of this "octet" is iambic pentameter, and it has a rhyme scheme of:  abbabcdc.  It would seem that line seven stands alone and unrhymed until this chord is finally resolved in line fourteen, which is also in iambic pentameter--were the poem to end here, we would have a pretty good stand-alone sonnet.

Speeding the poem along with a pleasant lilt, lines nine through thirteen contain an iambic foot pattern of 4-4-3-4-3.  Lines fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, twenty-two, and twenty-three contain three feet a piece, the final two forming a tight closing couplet.

Lines eighteen through twenty-one form a pseudo-quatrain in iambic pentameter which is linked to the opening "octet" not only in rhythm but also by the first line of the "quatrain" rhyming with the sixth and eighth lines of the "octet."  Had Wordsworth ended line seven with a period instead of a comma, the opening "octet" followed by the pseudo-quatrain followed by the closing couplet would have also made a pretty good stand-alone sonnet.

The message of the poem is one that will delight parents of bright and imaginative children.  As I read, I pictured my son at age six surrounded by his Thomas the Tank Engine trains and sitting in the middle of the complex system of wooden track that he had constructed.  The stories he would tell!  His fantasy would usually end with a tragic train derailment or bridge disaster as Sir Topham Hatt looked on in dismay, and then he would move on to the next exciting adventure.  Perhaps it is no surprise that this happy, creative boy grew up to be an exceptionally gifted fine arts student--yes, "with light upon him from his father's eyes."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part VI" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month

For the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for June 25, 2014, we continue with our study of "Ode on Intimations of Immortality" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month.  Today, we examine Part VI.

Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part VI
William Wordsworth

Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own; 
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind, 
And, even with something of a mother’s mind, 
               And no unworthy aim, 
          The homely nurse doth all she can 
To make her foster-child, her inmate, Man, 
               Forget the glories he hath known, 
And that imperial palace whence he came. 

Part VI is presented as an octet with a fairly complex rhyme scheme:  abbcddac.  Here Wordsworth reminds us that we humans all begin our lives as divine creatures sent from heaven in the image of God.  He further reminds us that the earth, while not comparable to heaven, is nevertheless filled with pleasure and beauty for us.  As with Part V, Wordsworth uses a prison metaphor to describe Man's condition--a condition against which we all must strive.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part V" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month

For the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for June 24, 2014, we move on to Part V in our study of "Ode on Intimations of Immortality" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month.

Ode on Intimations of Immortality
William Wordsworth

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting; 
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star, 
          Hath had elsewhere its setting 
               And cometh from afar; 
          Not in entire forgetfulness, 
          And not in utter nakedness, 
But trailing clouds of glory do we come 
               From God, who is our home: 
Heaven lies about us in our infancy! 
Shades of the prison-house begin to close 
               Upon the growing Boy, 
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows, 
               He sees it in his joy; 
The Youth, who daily farther from the east 
     Must travel, still is Nature’s priest, 
          And by the vision splendid 
          Is on his way attended; 
At length the Man perceives it die away, 
And fade into the light of common day. 

This piece is comprised of one stanza of nineteen lines--an unusual length for Wordsworth.  The rhyme scheme is a complex ababccddefgfghhiijj.  The ninth line does not rhyme with any other, and, as we have seen in some of his other poems, Wordsworth uses apostrophe here, deliberately setting the line apart for emphasis.

The theme is also one that we have seen many times in Wordsworth's poetry--that the magic of life disappears as we reach adulthood.  The loss of one's exuberant sense of wonder at the natural world starts early, as "Shades of the prison-house begin to close / Upon the growing boy"--a foreboding pair of lines if ever there were any.  Here again, Wordsworth urges his readers to resist this jading process, to capture as much of that youthful perspective as possible, and to hold on to it.

Poem of the Day: "Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part IV" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month

For the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for June 23, 2014 (with apologies for the tardy posting), we continue with our study of "Ode on Intimations of Immortality" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month.  Today we will examine Part IV.

Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part IV
William Wordsworth

Ye bless├ęd Creatures, I have heard the call
     Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
     My heart is at your festival,
       My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel--I feel it all.
         O evil day! if I were sullen
         While Earth herself is adorning
              This sweet May-morning;
         And the children are culling
              On every side
         In a thousand valleys far and wide
         Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the babe leaps up on his mother’s arm:--
         I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
         --But there’s a tree, of many, one,
A single field which I have look’d upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone:
              The pansy at my feet
              Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

This piece consists of a single stanza of twenty-two lines with a complex rhyme scheme:  abbaaacddceeffghhhiijj.  The apostrophe-filled fifteenth line stands alone in that it rhymes with no other.  This was probably done in order to emphasize or set apart the apostrophe.

Once again, the speaker, presumably Wordsworth, revels in the wonders of nature, in this case the sounds of animals and the sight of children picking fresh May flowers.  Then, as we have seen before, melancholy thoughts intrude upon his reverie.  A certain tree, a certain field triggers memories of loss.  His reverie is shattered, and his revelry comes to an abrupt end.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part III" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month

For the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for June 22, 2014, we continue with Part III of our examination of "Ode on Intimations of Immortality" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month.

Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part III
William Wordsworth

Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
     And while the young lambs bound
            As to the tabor’s sound,
To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
            And I again am strong.
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep,--
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong:
I hear the echoes through the mountains throng.
The winds come to me from the fields of sleep,
            And all the earth is gay;
                Land and sea
     Give themselves up to jollity,
            And with the heart of May
     Doth every beast keep holiday;--
                Thou child of joy,
Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy
        Shepherd-boy!

Part III of Wordsworth's "Ode" has the most intricate and unusual rhyme scheme that we have seen in the poems we have studied this month:  abbccadaadeffeeghg.  Although the poem is presented as a single stanza of eighteen lines, it naturally breaks itself up into two pseudo stanzas comprised of the first six lines and the last twelve.  The penultimate line stands alone--it rhymes with no other.  Wordsworth probably enjambed the last line for emphasis rather than making it the end of the seventeenth line.

So, who is the "happy Shepherd boy?"  Did the speaker, presumably Wordsworth, get shaken from his melancholia by literally hearing a "timely utterance" from an actual shepherd boy?  Or does Wordsworth perhaps refer to his own inner child coming to his rescue by dispelling the intrusive negative thoughts of adulthood?  The poem could work either way, but I lean toward the latter interpretation.

Poetry Review Special Feature: "Cosmic Conflict" by F. J. Bergmann

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present "Cosmic Conflict," a previously unpublished poem by F. J. Bergmann.  Ms. Bergmann writes poetry and speculative fiction, often simultaneously, appearing in Black Treacle, Bull Spec, Dreams & Nightmares, Lakeside Circus, Silver Blade, and a bunch of regular literary journals that, according to her, should have known better.  She is the editor of Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association www.sfpoetry.com, and the poetry editor of Mobius: The Journal of Social Change mobiusmagazine.com. She won the 2012 Rannu Fund Speculative Literature Award for Poetry, and her fourth chapbook, Out of the Black Forest (Centennial Press, 2012), won the 2013 SFPA Elgin chapbook award. She is not shy about admitting that one of her pseudopodia can reach all the way from the bedroom to the refrigerator. She frequents Wisconsin and fibitz.com.

Cosmic Conflict
F. J. Bergmann

Anger was a valued trait among the alien Crab Nebula
beings, whose totem resembled a lion, not a lamb.
The Crab Nebula
Cathartic releases of pure spite; elaborate public
displays enacting ineffable, vitriolic hatred; and
ecstasies of memorable viciousness were
fueled by surrender to self-indulgence, as if
granting one's own dispensation. Escalating
hostility was the only safe way to reach
into another creature's mind, the sole anti-
jeopardy position of strategic advantage.
Keeping any entity held dear safe from attack
led to accusations of cheating or unethical
mawkishness and would initiate a pogrom:
neither gravid matriarchs nor litters still in
oocyte stages were shown any mercy. No
pains were spared to ensure ardor or to recap
quibbles that created more grounds for pique.
Regret, however, was an effete delusion, for
sissies and milksops. They felt a mild distress
thinking that others might mistake a warrior's art
under battle conditions for cowardice, or imbue
venomous subtleties with the taint of failure to strive.
We Terrans were their enemies too, of course, by now:
xenophobia came as naturally to them as violence and sex.
Yet sometimes they dreamed, in mid-slaughter's revelry,
zazen-like, of peace flowing over them like a gentle breeze.

Poet's Notes:  I find that working with arbitrary restrictions (vocabulary, form, etc.) seems to generate my best poetry. The double-abecedarian form is especially onerous if one is to avoid awkward or unnatural choices for beginning and ending words (even with cheating on "advantage," "pique," "imbue," "strive," and "breeze"). As always, I choose my words carefully and hope that they are not misinterpreted by the reader.

Editor's Note:  Prosaic pieces such as this one are usually a tough sell for me, but Ms. Bergmann's mastery of the double abecedarian form more than makes up for my bias.  Not a single beginning or end-line word is forced, and her free verse has a gentle rhythm which moves the poem along nicely.  Her ending is a wonderful surprise.