Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Pomegranate

This little ditty, dating back to my college years, is one of my several attempts at the famously tricky poetic form called a "villanelle." Like the sonnet and the sestina, it is a form that the English stole from the Italians. It hasn't become quite as famous as the sonnet. Anyone who knows a little English verse has probably read a number of sonnets by various authors, but the only villanelle most of us know is the one by Dylan Thomas ("Do not go gentle into that good night...") quoted in full by Rodney Dangerfield in his cinematic masterpiece, Back to School. Like the sestina, the villanelle has hints of obsession knit into its structure, what two of the first three lines being repeated in alternation at the end of each stanza. Here is, probably, my first complete villanelle, based on the legend of Hades and Persephone.

The tender scarlet heart split in his hands,
The god coaxed Ceres’ daughter to his knee
Still trailing meadowandering’s gay bands.

Come, sweet delight be yours; do hungry brands
Not sear your gentle bosom? beckoned he,
The tender scarlet heart split in his hands;

But she yet longed for strolling verdant lands
Tasting the sun and laughing buoyantly,
And trailing meadowandering’s gay bands.

She’d heard a mother’s warning, knew his plans,
Would not yet buy with her fertility
The tender scarlet heart split in his hands;

Yet as it dripped sweet royal-purple strands
Her fainting-hunger conquered memory
Of trailing meadowandering’s gay bands.

Succumbing, she bit in. Though hardly bland,
Its savor failed. Rememb’ring, she would see
Her tender scarlet heart split in his hands
For trailing meadowandering’s gay bands.

PS...You know I'm kidding about the cinematic masterpiece, right?

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