Sunday, March 1, 2009

Villanelle For Our Time

It seems that I am the undisputed Queen of editing, amending and etc and so on my posts. Trolling the web for Villanelles I found others besides the one below written by Mr. Cohen. I include for your poetic gratification, education, glorification, mortification, what-ever.

The villanelle is a poetic form which has only two rhyme sounds. The first and third lines of the first stanza are rhyming refrains that alternate as the third line in each successive stanza and form a couplet at the close. A villanelle is nineteen lines long, consisting of five tercets and one concluding quatrain. (Got that? I do want you learn something from this lesson!)

I love the Villanelle and have written one or two myself (best left unquoted) I have also written of it before.

The Villanelle I know (or knew) best was a Saanen goat as big as a pony, and gentle as a mitten. Many years gone now, but she gave a gallon of milk a day and ate all my raspberry bushes in return.

The best known Villanelle of poetic (and not goatly) fame is Dylan Thomas', Do not go gentle into that good night, which you will find below. But this one by Leonard Cohen is outstanding. He reads it here. Well worth a listen.

Villanelle For Our Time

From bitter searching of the heart,
Quickened with passion and with pain
We rise to play a greater part.
This is the faith from which we start:
Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart.
We loved the easy and the smart,
But now, with keener hand and brain,
We rise to play a greater part.
The lesser loyalties depart,
And neither race nor creed remain
From bitter searching of the heart.
Not steering by the venal chart
That tricked the mass for private gain,
We rise to play a greater part.
Reshaping narrow law and art
Whose symbols are the millions slain,
From bitter searching of the heart
We rise to play a greater part.


Thomas wrote Do Not Go Gentle.. for his dying father. He sang rather than spoke, listen here. Tragically dear Dylan drank and whored himself into an early grave, dying at 39. People have written poems about him. (I'll bet no one writes me poems when I'm shuffling off this mortal coil. Maybe a round of "So long, it's been good to know ya", which would be okay too.)

Dylan Thomas's
Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learned, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And after all the ponitification and breast-beating we end on a lighter note. John Ford, a noted poet who oft wrote in the style of the Bard wrote the following ditty in Villanelle form.

The villanelle is what?

Enter Mr Jno. Ford as King Edward the Fourth.

I am the King now, and I want a sandwich.
This monarch business makes a fellow hungry.
I wonder where my brother Richard is.

What happened to the kippers left from breakfast?
Or maybe there's a bit of cold roast pheasant.
I am the King now, and I want a sandwich.

A civil war is such an awful bother.
We fought at Tewksbury and still ran out of mustard.
I wonder where my brother Richard is.

Speak not to me of pasta Marinara.
I know we laid in lots of boar last Tuesday.
I am the King now, and I want a sandwich.

The pantry seems entirely full of Woodvilles
And Clarence has drunk two-thirds of the cellar.
I wonder where my brother Richard is.

If I ran England like I run that kitchen
You'd half expect somebody to usurp it.
I am the King now, and I want a sandwich.
I wonder where my brother Richard is.

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