Ye boundless vaults of heaven without an end,
__Thy silvery fields of azure stars unfold
Above the earth, and verdurous spruces bend
__Toward the western halls of mellow gold;
There, through their branches, amber rays illume
__The resting place of an old gothic tower
____That once stood firmly rooted ‘gainst the gale
__In distant, ancient times; now in the bower,
____The firs and pines enshroud its walls: the vale
Now makes this grove a silent, desolate tomb.

‘Twas in some forlorn time when knights assailed
__High-wallèd battlements of massy stone
That this cathedral, in its prime, prevailed,
__Was not entombed with verdure overgrown;
Those old, forgotten times — where have they sped?
__Those knights, with mail bright-gleaming in the sun,
____Their ivory coursers storming o’er the field
__‘Midst fanfares of the horns, would proudly run
____Toward a certain death, would never yield
A single step, from battle never fled.

These ancient times are lost, remembered not,
__And so that old cathedral, once so grand,
Sits in the vale entombed within that spot
__Of darkened, doleful spruce; across the land,
The twilight’s glow descends in auburn beams
__Which cast a rosy color o’er the face
____Of that worn structure: there, the gloaming light
__In sanguine tones ignites the stone with grace,
____And though these colors quickly fade, the night
Makes increase with the moon’s ethereal streams.

But hark! There floats a sound within these walls,
__A scintillating tone that softly creeps
Throughout the vale, and echoes through the halls
__Of that high-vaulted nave; the moonlight seeps
In through the clerestory, and soon the rose
__Is filled with bright, celestial beams: the rays
____Increase in sheen, and their intensity
__Grows purer than the sun in watery bays
____Upon the noon. That airy melody
Now fills the aisles, and upwards swiftly flows.

Oh, how I knew these tones so well in times
__Long past — they were the haunting sounds which swept
My soul unto those gleaming heights, where rhymes
__Are not obscured by mortal taint; I wept
With gracious joy when on those heights I flew
__In peace, and heard the singing of those spheres
____Magnificent in all their splendour. There,
__I felt the warmth and Love Divine which steers
____The heart to contemplate that vision fair,
That image whom through ecstasy I knew.

Now heaven breathes! Across the altar pours
__A purest light, a light of whitest sheen
Not glimpsed on earth since ancient times; light soars
__Up to the highest peaks: I have not seen
Such glory e’er! O purest bliss of Art,
__Thy calls now bid me fly. Awakening force!
____Speak now the answer of thy mysteries!
__The heart can toil no more, must know the source
____Of all high universal light — aye, seize
The flaming soul, and from the earth depart!

She shines! That vision of my dreams returns!
__O sacred one, O source of man’s relief,
Direct my soul to thine — how much it yearns
__To be within thy sweet embrace! All grief
Now dissipates, for in thy radiant eyes
__I see that heavenly land where light doth win,
____Where thrives the eternal spirit of all life.
__My soul is set aflame, and deep within
____My aching breast, I feel Love’s tide surge rife
With Joy — all sense is drowned as I arise.

At last, my Love! My high, eternal star!
__I find your sweet embrace again, and though
I wandered from your path, your Love afar
__Hath kissed my burning soul, and zephyrs blow
My erring spirit toward that land I miss
__On cool and tranquil nights; here, high above
____The plains, the seas, and sky, no more I roam
__‘Low melancholy’s shade: Immortal Love,
____I have returned at last — that distant home
Is here within Love’s high empyreal Bliss.

 

William Krusch is a first-year English major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; he hails from Greensboro, North Carolina.

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11 Responses

  1. James Sale

    Thank you William – your line “where rhymes/ Are not obscured by mortal taint” perfectly expresses the poet’s perennial problem!

    Reply
  2. Amy Foreman

    William, you unapologetic Romantic–this lofty verse is the sort of fare that I imagine Wordsworth (with his similar””Ode: Intimations of Immortality”), would have loved reading! Thanks for bringing it to the SCP in the twenty-first century!

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      William,

      Although I commend your lofty aspirations, I think you have fallen far short of the mark. Within the first four lines you have already breached meter and wrenched standard grammar with unconnected dependent clauses. This kind of poem is one of the reasons that formal poetry has fallen out of favor in contemporary times, and as you now witness, it is out of favor with advocates of New Formalism.

      Reply
      • William Krusch

        Mr. Anderson,

        I will concede you your dependent clauses, though I do not think that the error incites any semantic quandary – perhaps I should have been taught proper grammar back at the rural, boondocks elementary school I attended years ago. I make every effort to write grammatically correct English (and I would say that if you assail me with committing continuous dependent clauses, I must rebut by saying that at least it is a lesser crime than any of the entirely nonsensical grammatical errors committed by the majority of today’s poets). Despite any grammatical flaws, I will unwaveringly defend the meter. Perhaps it is from reading too much Milton and Keats, or perhaps it is from living in the southeastern United States (not that I have a particularly distinct southern accent, but I am aware that individuals tend to be unaware of their own dialectic particulars), I scan “heaven” as monosyllabic (perhaps “heav’n” would have been clearer), “verdurous” and “silvery” as disyllabic (trochaic in accent), and “toward” as disyllabic (iambic). Those are the only possible words where I could fathom the accent and number of syllables being misconstrued. I will stand by my vernacular.

        Perhaps I should spend less time studying Dante and more time studying the ribaldry over at The Penn. I am no puritan, but I fail to see how such verse is considered more masterful. Perhaps the work over at The Penn is merely a playground for The Lion’s club, and I am not privy to the masterworks published in the most elusive Trinacria. What the New Formalists desire from poetry is irrelevant to me, for I think formalism is by no means the hallmark of true poetic craftsmanship. Any poet who actually cares about the ideals he or she strives for and not the tinkling bells of the formal structure knows that form arises naturally from beautiful and sublime content. Anyone can pen a sonnet or a villanelle just by looking at the formal structures, but it takes genius to let the form arise as a natural result of the verse itself. Schumann did not sit down to write the Op. 17 Fantasy with sonata form in mind; beautiful form is a consequence of beautiful verse, and the failure to realize that will results only in mediocre, self-serving logorrhea.

        I want to thank Mr. Mantyk and his staff for maintaining this site; although I may not agree with the sentiments or values of every poem presented here, I am glad there exists a place where poets can have their works published and not worry about dying in obscurity. Better to be read by a few and denounced by most than to die unread.

        As Shelley proclaimed to Byron, “Time will reverse the judgment of the vulgar,” or, in keeping with the spirit of my incomprehensible vernacular, as they say in Bavaria, “Schau ma moi.”

  3. Wilbur Dee Case

    1. …dann seng mas scho.

    2. You have not fallen far short of the mark, you hit Romantic gold; and that’s where you are at—in the forest of Keats, with a touch of Shelley—Milton not so much, nor Dante.

    3. The diction is sublime, situated between Romantic and Victorian. The meter is decidedly iambic pentametre, and your variants are typical. Do not put down your rural, boondocks elementary school; frequently such schools are superior to “smart” urban ones; you seem to have learned your basic grammar.

    4. No, it would be better to spend more time studying Dante than the ribaldry at The Penn; but The Penn, like Trinacria, the SCP, etc. all offer nice, if limited, examples of New Millennial poetry. The World is big. There are more places than these.

    Reply
    • William Krusch

      Thank you, Bruce – I am glad someone appreciates what I am trying to express. I will say that I do not consider myself a Romantic, but I also do not consider Keats or Shelley Romantics; rather, I see them very much in the classical tradition. To me, Romanticism is represented by writers like Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Byron – I think the chief distinction is that while the Romantic poets get lost in the senses alone, Keats and Shelley always have “intellectual Beauty” in mind, and their poetry always elevates one to the sublime. To write about the beauties or terrors of nature requires only a basic understanding of meter and a vocabulary to describe what one sees; to write about the sublime and intellectual Beauty requires an immense understanding of metaphor and irony (in the manner in which Plato, Aeschyslus, Shakespeare, and Schiller use it, not the watered-down version people speak of today), something which poems like Keats’ late odes and Shelley’s “To a Skylark,” “Epipsychidion,” “Ode to the West Wind,” and “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty” (among others) capture with astounding power and clarity. I admit my skills in using metaphor are exceedingly below that of both Keats and Shelley, but we must nonetheless strive towards conveying agapē. I hope that at the end humanity will be more moved by Divine Love than by board games…

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        There are many schools of poetry, but few apt students. I don’t blame you for failing to toe the line of New Formalism, but what other movement today demands commitment to coherent structure and logophilic exposition? Your work is beyond that of a freshman, and I can’t wait to see what you will come out with when you are a junior.

    • Michael R. Burch

      Well said. It’s a big world and there’s room enough for many kinds of poetry (including free verse). I have published many of the better contemporary formalist poets over the last 20+ years, through The HyperTexts, and most of them were not narrow-minded, with a few exceptions. I remember Richard Moore complimenting the “extraordinary delicacy” of Walt Whitman. I helped Kevin N. Roberts with the launch of Romantics Quarterly and the journal published many different flavors of romantic and formal verse.

      Reply
  4. R. Lee Ubicwedas

    1. I can understand how someone could treat Keats and Shelley as classicists. If I’m not mistaken, Canadian Mr. Gosselin does so, too. And I am sure there are others. I tend to just group individuals by time. So, even Schiller (1755-1805), Blake (1757-1827), and Burns (1759-1796) along with others, yes, Wordsworth (1770-1850), Scott (1771-1832) Coleridge (1772-1834), Southey (1774-1843), Landor (1775-1864), and really so many others, up to Poe (1809-1849) and the Brontes, I consider Romantics—from the Americas to Western Europe to Russia. Though I appreciate the term “Romantic” of Schlegel (1772-1829), I do not use it as he did. I tend to just group individuals by time—without emotional tinge—and, as I am a traditionalist, I tend to accept historical terms—where appropriate.

    2. I think the Romantic Zeitgeist was too large for Keats, or Shelley, to be differentiated from it; I think they contributed to it, along with countless others in dozens of areas, including chemistry, physics, mathematics, painting, music, etc. Nor do I consider the odes of Keats or Shelley, particularly outstanding; though, they were an inspiration to me in my youth. It is nice to be reminded of them; but their contributions are not the equal of Plato in prose, Aeschylus in dramatic poetry, or Shakespeare in dramatic poetry and prose; and each of those mentioned figures is limited—”as are we all” [Al Stewart: “Sirens of Titan”], including the following Romantic figures: Dalton (1766-1844), Fourier (1768-1830), Ampère (1775-1836), Gauss (1777-1855), Davy (1778-1829), Gay-Lussac (1778-1850), Berzelius (1779-1848), Ohm, (1789-1854), Cauchy (1789-1857), Faraday (1791-1867), and Galois (1811-1832). Yes, we should be striving—but the striving, though infused with agapē is much larger by far than agapē; and we are all only on the threshold…

    Reply
    • William Krusch

      Given that you mention so many physicists from the nineteenth century, I wonder if you are referring to Hertz and the photoelectric effect when you say “threshold.” I agree with Gosselin that Keats and Shelley are more classical and Romantic writers, but he and I have some different views regarding rhythmic and meter and the function of rhyme. Despite our disagreements, I have great respect for him as a translator of Schiller and Heine. You needn’t worry that I am a nonexistent personality like Ruleman’s Connor Rosemond (that is the only way I can explain Ruleman’s “to my precious C.R.” poem from a month or so ago, but if Rosemond is indeed a real person, I would be delighted to meet him considering we presumably live in the same state).

      I disagree with Shelley on his atheism, though I think this arises from different definitions of God. Shelley’s God seems closely tied to that of a tyrannical controller of organized Christianity, whereas I view God closer to Gödel’s definition he puts forth in his ontological proof, that God is the greatest formal “container,” so to speak. I agree with Shelley’s ideas on Love and Liberty and Truth, but I don’t think that freedom of spirit negates the idea of God. Shelley’s idea seems to be a very literal interpretation of predestination. I am more inclined toward the Gawain-poet’s idea that we are given free will to choose either to live in accord with or against divine law. Also, Milton’s idea that Satan’s revolt was necessary because God, being omniscient, would obviously have foreseen it, and therefore allowed humanity to fall in order for it to better appreciate liberty after having known evil, has certainly influenced my thoughts. Of course, my thoughts on these ideas are always changing and developing, and I am aware of some of the logical holes still in my theories. Perhaps I am also influenced by the fact that my relationship with Christianity has never been organized (I have never been to a church service in my life), but rather my knowledge of it comes from what it borrowed from Plato via the Neo-Platonics, as well as the works of Dante, Milton, Thomas Cole, C.D. Friedrich, and Dostoevsky.

      I make no claims as to understanding the universe, only that (1) the soul is immortal and (2) reason and imagination allow the mind to apprehend the infinite, which is obviously beyond both time and space, justifying the idea that the soul is immortal because death is a physical phenomenon (not to get sucked into Kantian terminology), and not intellectual/Formal. I will agree with Shelley that it is the intellect of life which is eternal.

      Reply

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