Wednesday, February 28, 2007

All things in perspective

Here is my one complete attempt at the poetic form called a "sestina." Note that the last words of each line are repeated, in varying order, in each stanza, and then two of each of these "leitmotif" words appear in each line of the short stanza at the end. I have seen some much better examples of a sestina, but this was the best I could do. I enjoyed the opportunity to make plays on words and to use the organ as a running metaphor.

How dim our light, our speed how great,
And in this headlong hour, how hard
To clear a head sore wont to swell
Or to be turned by gleaming dust.
O whither does our fell course wind?
What shall withstand the thunder’s stroke?

Old men in distant lofts may stroke
The smooth resisting keys with great
Affect and skill; but youth’s long wind
Must tread the bellows long and hard,
Or never shall a mote of dust
Blast out the pipes, nor one note swell

The portent of the room. Though Swell
Be opened wide, the firmest finger-stroke
Will speak but as the fall of dust.
E’en so, the famous and the great
Depend on ciphers, marching hard
Before and aft; the choosy wind

Of fortune lifts most flags to wind
Tight round their staves, and few to swell.
Wise men may say (though it is hard)
This signifies more than fate’s stroke;
Whether Rückpositiv or Great,
Each note stabs through the cosmic dust

And shakes the spheres for aye. To dust
Come all: weak, strong, those full of wind,
And those who suck from such. What great
In men’s eyes seems, in time’s long swell
Is but a pebble-plop—one stroke
On an impassive sea. Though hard

Water makes stone soft, youth stamps hard
On bellows, churning till the dust-
Motes slacken into dreams. We stroke
The truth to lie on this hour’s wind,
Damn the next hour. For what is “swell”
We breathe and die, but what is great

We pass, unseen. Great things are hard
To hold. They swell, peak, turn to dust;
Wind flings the totems that we stroke.

No comments: