Friday, November 10, 2006

Back to the Past with Friday Poetry Blogging

I have a sickness. It doesn't so much bother me, but it drives my students batty. You see, I love metrical jokes and such. It's pathetic. I'm pathetic.

On that note, here goes, back to poetry blogging:

Who will believe my verse in time to come
If it were filled with your most high deserts?
Though yet heav'n knows it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts.
If I could write the beauty of your eyes,
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say, "This poet lies--
Such heav'nly touches ne'er touched earthly faces."
So should my papers, yellowed with their age,
Be scorned, like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be termed a poet's rage
And stretched meter of an antique song:
But were some child of your alive that time,
You should live twice, in it and in my rhyme.

Yes, that's sonnet #17 from Shake-speares Sonnets. Never before Imprinted. (London, by G. Eld for TT. 1609).

See the bolded word, "stretched"? As you read it, if you haven't already, try saying it two ways, as you normally would [stretch'd] and as a two-syllable word [stretch-ed]. If you say it the second way, it scans perfectly as an iambic pentameter line. And it becomes a "stretched" meter, which makes it part of an antique song fit for scorn, that no one will believe.

My students always give me "that look" (you know the one) when I teach this poem. But I just love the joke here. All the wordplay on "fresh numbers" (lines of verse, metrical verse) "numbering" (counting) all the beloved's graces and stuff just makes me smile.

Then there's the play on the impossibility of getting at real beauty in language, the refusal to actually describe the beloved (eye color? hair color? gender? nada!), finished off by the "make a baby" trope!

I'm teaching a poetry class next semester. Want to suggest some other fun poems?

Teaching a poetry class is a little like living in a candy store, except it's a candy store with a bitter section, with chewy caramel sections, and with joke shaped chocolates. So the analogy doesn't really work, but there we are. And yes, I still need to order my text(s?) for the class.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy the metaphors of Ovid. Yep, sure do and when I find one, I search to see if anyone else found it. Not the easy ones, but the ones he used with just one word. The other students hate me.