Ode on the Moon

This is the product of a long, long day. I hope you like it.

<i>Ode to the Moon</i>

Midnight settles over the darkened field,
To the lengthy howl of a distant beast,
And with a hollow sigh I slowly yield
Under the watch of spirits long-deceased,

And the fair gaze of thee, effulgent Moon.
'Tis the witching hour, and lonely winds drift
Seldom through the boughs of trees, while the loon,
Wary of the forlorn hour, hov’ring low,
Sings a lofty ballad in dusky tune.
The stillness seems to breathe its own sweet life,
Such nectar as would bring me to a swoon

Beneath the stars and glitt’ring firmament,
The faint forms of clouds, the lingering Orb;
A shimmer on the bare graves, somnolent;
A lucence I would earnestly absorb.

'Tis no rash melody for rapid minds,
This dark symphony of the midnight hours;
No coarse joy, nor fleeting pleasure that grinds
A fugitive life, till it strains, and sours.

'Tis lasting wonderment that brews this glow,
That pierces lightly the encroaching trees,
And settles in patches on autumn snow,
While currents of the night pass piously.
The fog hath parted, and thou hang’st low
Over the graveyard, lonesome in thy heights,
Fair Moon, and glimm’ring with abiding woe.

A quietude hath spread beneath thy rays,
And ah! is breathing of an ancient dole.
'Tis sweet communion, the Moon is in phase,
And the night airs are rich upon my soul.

The tombstones lie in hushèd dignity,
Austere and bleak beneath the midnight skies,
And I imagine my own name, deeply
Inscribed on a stone, with words fair and wise;

An epithet to solemnize my end.
Thou would’st illuminate me all the night,
Effulgent Moon, and I be free to send
My praises to the midnight, forever.
The breezes gather, and quietly wend
Between the trees, and I would be as much
A part of them as thee, my darkling Friend.

The calls of forest beasts transpire the dark,
Sound off the stones, and echo to the skies,
While clement melodies flow from the lark;
And I, too, would linger in those sweet cries.

The mistrals breathe many a fragrant promise
That tingles over my exposèd skin,
Of grave solemnities, and torpid bliss,
And blankets of fallen snow that lie thin

Upon the distant surface of the soil.
These rows are only halfway desolate,
For wand’ring spirits flit by, free of toil,
Save delicate exertion of the will,
And free of heaving passions that would spoil
The tranquil stillness of thy light, dear Moon.
Ah! drafts of night beckon me from this coil,

And I desire to be part of that scene!–
To be the leaves that rustle overhead,
Or the gusting winds that howl by unseen,
And bristle with poignant words, left unsaid.

Alas! what is this? The wraiths of night fly
Off on the breezes, and dive underground,
And a gleam of harsh light hath pierced my eye,
And broken the dark spell that held me bound.

In my soul there settles a deep yearning,
As gusts of morning billow o’er the field,
And the lofty stars cease their shimmering.
I turn my gaze to thee, effulgent Moon,
And watch thee overhead, still lingering
Amid the hostile proddings of the sun,
Even as thy creatures cease their howling;

And all thy ghastly company are fled
Beneath the verdance of the graveyard main;
As the loon reposes on its dry bed
Of leaves, and nature comes to life again.

Yet another beautiful work from you! Keats’ ‘Moon and her starry fays’ have certainly got to you.

The only thing which you may want to do is use the grave accent (è), not the accute, in words like ‘exposèd’ to add an extra final syllable; that is what is standard. The grave accent usually stands for an untressed syllable, and the acute a stressed one.

What always amazes me about your poetry is how fast you can compose (I confess that I am a little jealous). A poem of this length easily might take me weeks. Of course, from what I have seen, I am much more selective about diction that you are, so that is undoubtedly it.

Anyhow, good show.

Thank you for the compliments, and also for the explanation of accents. This is actually something that was never taught to me, and I simply picked the acute and stuck with it. I’ll have to correct some of my earlier poetry.

I’ve found that I’m most productive, writing poetry, when I’m not too self-conscious–not too concerned with rationally justifying every line, letting my instincts guide me. It’s often only afterward that I become aware of the argument a poem makes, that’s been in my subconscious mind all along. This, especially, has helped me write quickly. Of course, I imagine that adopting a highly selective diction (and one only partly native to me, at that) would slow me down as well.

Regarding that, have you been composing lately? No one I know personally writes formal verse (and alas, very few modern poets I’ve heard of), and I’m always curious to see what serious, modern poets can accomplish.

I have been writing now and then, but I have not produced that much, since as you know, I am very picky about verse and especially diction, excluding many long words derived from Latin, Greek, and other languages from my poetry, and using largely monosyllabic Anglo-Saxon words (with a sprinkling on Old French and Old Norse derivatives), and using my archaic idiom. Part of this is my favour of the very serious Anglo-Saxon style over the much more playful Classical style, because I am a very serious person.

I wrote a birthday sonnet for my sister (not my best work, but I composed it quickly) and I have been working on a song (similar to works by early renaissance poets like Wyatt and Howard) called Hallow Me, but otherwise not too much. I have done a few translations, though.

One of my projects is translating/modernising Middle English poetry, largely so that I may earn some experience in my field, mediaeval studies, before graduate school. I have translated two works thus far: Emary, a sort of cross between romance and hagiography, and a version of the Constance story (better known in the form of Chaucer’s Man of Law’s tale) and a short bawdy poem called A Talk of Ten Wives on Their Husbands’ Ware, about ten wives who sit around complaining about their husbands’ penises. I have begun translating another work called Robert of Sicily, which is much more of a religious didactic story, although I am growing bored with it and have considered trying something else, like a real romance, instead. My translations here use easy-to-read more-or-less idiomatic Modern English, with perhaps a ‘thou’ and ‘thee’ here and there.

Recently, I tried a blank verse translation of Ovid’s Amores 1.5, mainly so to practise my Latin (I hope to gain admission to the graduate mediaeval studies programme at the University of Toronto, but they require a good grasp of Latin).

Lastly, I tried writing an elegiac poem in Old English, modelled after Old English poems like The Wanderer and The Seafarer, and to a degree like the The Battle of Maldon, and using (of course) alliterative verse. I have not got that far with it, but I hope to return to it soon. I certainly find alliterative verse much easier to write than end-rhyme verse!

I used to post more of my poems here, also, but I stopped because almost no one was reading them, let alone commenting on them.