Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tichborne's "Elegy"

I have huge gaping holes in my education - no literature since high school 50 years ago, never a writing course in my life and no poetry. In those 50 years I never wrote a thing. I have found I can write, but I'm like a pitcher who can only throw fastballs. No one ever taught me to write, to throw curves, sliders or even an occasional  change-up to keep the hitters from sitting on my fastball. My heart may be full of poetry, but I never learned to pencil it on a scrap of paper. Michael White, The Perfesser, at least the closest thing I've had to a poetry teacher, posted a link to this. I suppose everyone who has taken any kind of  poetry class may be familiar with it, but I was first hit with it yesterday. Hit hard. It is simple and direct - only single syllable words, each carefully selected to do it's job, nothing more. It's very intense. The writer seems to be extremely focused. Read it carefully and slowly, savoring the words, the thoughts. Resist any Goddamned urge to skip ahead. 

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain.
The day is gone and yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

The spring is past, and yet it hath not sprung,
The fruit is dead, and yet the leaves are green,
My youth is gone, and yet I am but young,
I saw the world, and yet I was not seen,
My thread is cut, and yet it was not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I looked for life and saw it was a shade,
I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I am but made.
The glass is full, and now the glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.
….….…................….….….—Chidiock Tichborne

Written with his own hand in the tower of London in 1586, awaiting his execution by being drawn and quartered.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://bigthink.com/ideas/1672

a poet laureate talking about his poetry project, Americans and poetry

mw

Gunnar Berg said...

Thanks. It makes me feel I'm not just an ignorant shit-kicker.