A Dream of Days

I wrote this by instinct, and now I like it. Tell me what you think.

<i>A Dream of Days</i>

Have you o’erheard the middle evening birds?
No chirp, their solemn anthem of romance.
Listen. One seems to hear enchanting words,
Mid the crescent strains; rising, rising trance–
Enrapt. Two arms of boundlessness enfold,
In tranquil inscrutability, you,
Of depths, and drowsiness–O sleep–untold;
Ne’er to be abandoned, ne’er bid adieu.
One rouses to the sounds of young spirits
Living continually in springtime hues,
Engaged in a lyric battle of wits
And sonnets colorful, wi’ the very Muse.
So topple me, with ne’er a wordful sound,
Nor fear our timeless plummet from the ground.

A very nicely constructed sonnet indeed! You are obviously a keen student of nature and adept at putting your thoughts into finely crafted metrical verse (I have read a few of your other poems as well). I can relate since I also find myself composing verses on the natural world and I have used the sonnet form as well (although I use the Petrarchan form) when composing on that subject. Your poetry and interest in nature remind me very much of Wordsworth, Thoreau, and general poetics of the Romantic period.

Thank you. I try to illustrate a deeper principle of nature in each sonnet, and cause at least a little shift of consciousness in the reader. You’re certainly on target, regarding the Romantic era: till recently, I favored Wordsworth, and now prefer Keats. I’d be interested to read some of your poetry. I remember enjoying it some years ago.

I am not using my own computer at the moment, so all of my poetry is not immediately at hand, but I shall try to post some soon. I regret that I have not written that much lately, but then again, I do consciously write in an archaic idiom, which makes things take longer. My last completed work (which still requires some editing) is a sestina-form troubadouric song. I have tried to incorporate various rhetorical devices and word-plays into my poetry recently, possibly because of a recent surge of interest in classical rhetoric. I have also found that many of my poems have subtle sexual imagery. Also, like you, I have a fondness for antithesis. However, my poems are more influenced by mediaeval and renaissance poets than Romantic ones, although I cannot deny that Romantic poetry has not had a strong influence on me. My main influences have been the Provençal troubadours (especially Bernard of Ventadorn), later mediaeval poets like Dante, Petrarch, Machaut, and Pisan, and Renaissance poets like Wyatt, Howard, Sidney, and Spenser (England) and Bellay, Ronsard, and other poets of the Pléiade circle (France). There is also a strong chivalric tone in my poetry which simply comes from my love of knightly romance.

My diction is somewhat closer to Old and Middle English, owing to my favour of paratactic sentences (as opposed to the hypotactic Ciceronian sentences favoured in the Renaissance and beyond) and short Anglo-Saxon words with a sprinkling of some derived from Old Norse and Old French as well. I do not dislike Latinate or Hellenic words, but I seem to a serious Anglo-Saxon diction of monosyllabic words to the more playful and philosophical diction which uses more complicated polysyllabic words derived from Latin and Greek.

Some time ago I began a ballad, whose first few lines are:

Abide, my fair mermaid if so thee list,
That fain my tongue may play a blissful rhyme,
Though these my hands the harp have missed
To wit in cunning youth’s unstinting time.

I have also tried writing alliterative Old-English-style verse, both in my archaic idiom and in Old English itself, but I have yet to produce a real poem in it.

One thing which I noticed about your poem which I like is your use of enjambment, which causes the reader to pause as if the speaker were beckoning him or her to listen by forcing pauses (and brief moments of silence).

I also seem to remember that you had composed some poems on something about Apollonian versus Dionysian spirituality and/or ethics/morals and/or religious institution. Recently, I have become curious about this, since a Canadian band which I like, called Rush, have some songs rooted in this. One is a musical drama of Apollo as a god of reason and Dionysus as a god of love struggling for control over humanity. I confess that I am not knowledgeable in this area, but it seems that you are. Might you be able to illuminate me a little?

The lines you posted have a melodious and archaic grace I find delightful. My knowledge of late medieval poetry is limited, but I can clearly see the influence of early Renaissance poets like Sidney and Spenser–particularly Spenser, who I think would sympathize very much with your poesy. Archaic language itself has a sort of metaphorical life, more and more the further back one goes, such that one can nearly bask in the language itself.

I also prefer a more serious style of diction to the playfulness of the Rationalist era, and its influx of Greek and Latinate vocabulary and Ciceronian diction. Yet, the Romantic era, in my opinion, brings these imported words and Ciceronian diction to life. For instance, I know no work that can match Wordsworth’s Prelude, for moving at the steady pace of nature, and illustrating its solemn movements; and he embraces metaphorical Latin terms, and the Ciceronian style. I attempted this style recently in a longer poem, and I’m actually quite fond of the results.

I’d like to see your sestina when it’s finished. Verse with a chivalric air appeals to me as well, though it’s been unfortunately neglected in my studies. Would you recommend any medieval works in particular? I’ve thought of reading the Faerie Queene during the holiday break, but if you’d recommend anything, I’d certainly appreciate it.

Dionysian and Apollinian spirituality makes a huge appearance in Nietzsche. In his philosophy, Dionysus personifies the creative faculty–the equivalent of Coleridge’s Imagination. Dionysus is an uncontrolled outpouring of ideas. Apollo, on the contrary, is the rational faculty that checks the Dionysian outpouring. It makes order out of chaos: arranges the imaginative outpouring in canals of reasonable thought. Dionysus and Apollo have been called the poetic and philosophic faculties, respectively. Nietzsche believed his age was dominated by Apollinian tendencies, and sought to break the deathgrip of rationality. (Though, his understanding of this was altogether hazy. In my opinion, Coleridge explains the Imagination far more clearly.) Does this illuminate any of Rush’s music?

Absolutely! :cool: There is one verse which sounds quite awkward and I am trying to play with it at the moment. Other than that, little should need editing. Part of what has hindered my poetry has been translation of Middle English verse, which I have begun as a project which I hope to continue in graduate school (hopefully beginning next September). I have already translated Emaré (A Breton lay which is a variation of Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale), and I have begun another called Robert of Sicily.

My favourite work is Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, but I ought to also recommend the alliterative and stanzaic Morte d’Arthurs and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. There are also some good less well-known Middle English romances like The Knightly Tale of Gologras and Gawain, Havelok the Dane, King Horn, and Bevis of Hampton. I highly recommend reading them in the original Middle English if you can. The University of Rochester’s TEAMS Middle English texts site online should has all of the less well-known romances which I mentioned (plus many, many more works) complete with annotation.

The romances of Chrétien de Troyes are certainly also worth a read. If you are leaning towards the Italian-Renaissance fusion of romance and epic, you have Pulci’s Morgante the Bigger, Boiardo’s Orlando Enamoured, Ariosto’s Orlando Enraged, and Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered before you. I have not read all of these poems, but I have at least read excerpts and they please me very much.

As for The Faerie Queene, I have read it, but it took me quite some time because of the sheer length of the work (about 32,000 lines). I also read it aloud, since I think that better behoves heroic poetry (and because it kept me awake). Spenser can be quite tedious at times, but his imagery and ideas are very, very rich. I recommend the Penguin edition, since it has full annotation.

Yes, indeed, although I shall have to listen to the tracks again, I think. The music and lyrics of Rush are very philosophical (with Rand being the greatest influence, I have heard), and so I am not surprised they would include allusion to what you have explained.