I know why the red rose weeps
Why she hides her tears in dew
As the summer breezes sweep
From those seas of peaceful blue,
And then like our dreams
She fades with the morning dew.

I know why the red rose weeps
Through the dreamy months of June
As the golden breezes sweep
Over the ocean rocks, hewn
By Neptune’s tide
As he guards each sailor’s tomb.

And I know why the red rose weeps
While birds sing their matin lay
And a gentle breeze sweeps
Our cares somewhere far away
To where the grasshoppers leap
And the happy children play.

I know why the red rose weeps
Through dreary September
As the cold wind keeps
Songs that are more sober
And sap slowly seeps
Into lonesome October.

And I know why the red rose weeps
Through those months of January
As the ice wind creeps
Through her sanctuary
And the summer’s cradle
Becomes her cemetery.

For when the rose parts with its petals
And the fragrance of its dying breath
On fleeting breezes settles
Seeing her beauty bereft
While the air carries the ocean brine
Makes life all the more sweet with Death.

I know why the red rose weeps
When her buds have yet to see the day
When beauty still sleeps
Through flowery May
And the frost still keeps
Our dreams at bay.

For as when one can almost hear
The sun’s rays dancing
On the golden fields
And each frond spreading
As the wind softly passes
And the skylarks sing,

So I know why the red rose weeps
Why she hides her tears in dew
As the golden breezes sweep
From those seas of peaceful blue
And then like our dreams
She fades with the morning dew.

 

David Bellemare Gosselin is a student in classics and languages in Montreal. His poetry, translations, and essays can be read on TheChainedMuse.com

 

 

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11 Responses

  1. E. V. "Beth" Wyler

    Congratulations! You wrote a lovely, lovely poem that’ll brighten many people’s mornings.

    E. V.

    Reply
  2. Basil Drew Eceu

    Part of the songlike quality Mr. Gosselin is striving for comes from his accents of Burns, “red rose,” Wordsworth, “songs that are more sober,” and Dunbar “I know why.” Like Goethe (in his small works), Heine and other German songsters, he is striving for a Romantic feel to the lines, which are indeed NeoRomantic, at moments, in the style of Wordsworth (like MacKenzie’s sonnets), Blake, Shelley, and occasionally Dylan Thomas. This poem seems particularly Romantic in its pictures of a generalized nature.

    Reply
    • David B. Gosselin

      Dear Basil, Drew, Icarus, Bede,

      If I had to sum up the thinking on this ballad:

      I had the musical line “I know why the red rose weeps” in my head and thought it was a perfect line, but I had it many months ago and just left it there until I felt I was in the right place and had the concept of how to proceed clear in my mind. At first I had just the idea of fleeting experiences, and then this morphed into an ordered passing of the seasons. At first it was a more organized succession of seasons and imagery, but that felt too contrived, so the idea was to do a sweep, a panorama of sorts, of the hearts emotions. It is questionable as to whether it succeeds in its intended goal however, which is that while ostensibly a sad and Romantic theme, as the oda is carried from stanza to stanza, the idea is that there is an undeniable beauty in these yet seemingly sad or sobering thoughts. By the end, the question should be, “can any of us, who witness and a are participant in this universal cycle, really be overcome with the idea of simple sadness, or rather, does the sadness, by the end, find its source more in the realization that we must all one day part with this world? Thus should life not be seen more as a gift, rather than something being taken from us?” That was my thinking at least, although the poem sought to bypass that kind of consecutive reasoning and just go straight for the heart – that arguably makes it less intelligible, but there seems to be a certain freedom in that, or charm, in this case at least. Not sure.

      Because of the above, I would argue however, that it is not a Romantic poem. Romanticism tends to remain fixated on time long past (a lament), on the loss of all those fleeting sensations. Otherwise it tends to remain stuck in the eternal present of the sensual world, attempting to crowd itself with pretty images to avoid the higher paradox of those experiences. In this one, the idea was to see it as a gift, a kind of sobering beauty, as opposed to a Romantic distraction or a relishing spat of sensuality.

      There is a good chance you will disagree with my characterization of Romanticism, however, but I do think Goethe in his best poetry, always overcomes such otherwise Romantic leanings, perhaps in part thanks to Schiller’s sagacious guidance? I encountered this Goethe poem only recently, but it is much to my taste, and so I guess in that you did touch on something in seeing hints of that spirit. https://www.thechainedmuse.com/single-post/2018/03/25/Translation-Wanderer%E2%80%99s-Night-Song—Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe

      As for Wordsworth, I have trouble enjoying most of his stuff. It seemed one of the only meaningful pieces he wrote (there are some minor decent things) was his Ode on an Intimation of Immortality, where he essentially, at least I think, rejects, or takes a much more mature stance towards his earlier thoughts (and writings), which unfortunately seems to have come much much later, rather too late. Despite that, that piece is quite good, and I would argue that Keats thinking begins where Wordsworth’s ended. I do have to commend Wordsworth’s on that part, to as a result having been able to lead Keats, at his tender age, to come face to face with this higher intimation of immortality (a theme most Romantics shy away from).

      Reply
  3. David B. Gosselin

    Thank you for the kind words everyone.

    It is becoming clearer and clearer to me that the recitation of classical poetry is primordial for a true revival of classical poetic composition. It is like a piece of classical music, where the idea can soar or sink with the performance. Listening to a performance of Beethoven’s Eroica by Furtwangler vs. the same symphony by Karajan is two completely different worlds – Furtwangler’s being one of empyreal beauty while Karajan’s nears the quality of elevator music. While it’s true a poem’s hidden truths will always be preserved regardless of who approaches it, I think by reviving the culture of classical recitation, this does in fact bring the ideas of poetry to the forefront and it can help many who only faintly grasp something to get a performative sense of it – to see how the idea actually “works”. Otherwise in terms of getting the message across I think of the analogy of the sermon which takes place inside a church and reaches its dedicated congregation while the church bell and its ringing then helps extend the message through the town as a whole.

    Reply
  4. Bieder C. Weslau

    I agree with Mr. Libby about the poem, “very nice work,” and with Mr. Sale about the reading and the voice. I also agree with Mr. Eceu’s critical assessment. I do think he has tagged the Neoromantic pose accurately.

    Nevertheless, I like that Mr. Gosselin clearly identifies many of the flaws of Romanticism. And he is also right that J. W. v. Goethe plays off on the contrast between Neoclassicism and Romanticism, as, for example in a poem, like “Erlkönig.”

    It is interesting how Mr. Gosselin latched on to the trochaic tetrametre line “I know why the red rose weeps.” The succinct monosyllabic refrain moves the poem into the realms of song. But does the anthropomorphic quality make it more Neoclassical, or more Realistic? Dare I say it—it fits right in the casual, outer reaches of the terratoria of German Romanticsm.

    As to the poetry and prose of Wordworth; he is a great normalizing force in English literature. There is a prosaic quality to his language that is breathtaking. My dislike of Wordsworth (which I share with Byron) is rather in his lack of critical acumen, especially of the Metaphysical and Neoclassical poets.

    The moment one writes poems, one is immediately compared with many other writers, of all the millions of works and writers who have gone before, in one’s own language, and all languages. Now obviously no one poet can contain even the smallest modicum of that great swirl of language and thought; and yet that is what literary criticism is all about—trying to make sense of that great mass of human perception. And poetry is only one small part of human expression.

    So, when I read poems (as well as all kinds of prose), I look for road marks on the journey of life, that help me comprehend this universe. And as a poet, I am very much concerned with fresh cadences and phrases, as well as familiar cadences and phrases—with the ways people put their words together. Now I know that not all linguistic practice is conscientious. But when I hear other voices in the works of individuals, it excites me, and invites me in…to analyze, compartmentalize, and size up what I experience.

    Because we in the English language use a language that hundreds of millions have used over hundreds of years, it is not surprising that we will hear echoes of individuals who have gone before us—whether we are aware of them, or not. Take one of my favourite sonneteers of the New Millennium, Joseph MacKenzie. Though he dislikes, as I suspect Mr. Gosselin likewise does, having his language compared to that of William Wordsworth, that coauthor of “Lyrical Ballads” is writ all over Mackenzie’s sonnets. I don’t look at it as a negative thing at all. For me, it means two things: 1) he has caught the Wordsworthian tone; and 2) Wordsworth is even more deeply within our language than I realized.

    As a poet, I share Mr. Gosselin’s concerns: new poets want to do new things; we want to move beyond those older echoes. That, in a nutshell, is what so many of the Modernists and Postmodernists were focused on doing, and what so many even now in the New Millennium are trying to do as well. So, for example, when Mr. MacKenzie wrote his “Sonnet for Elizabeth,” whether intentional or not, his poem echoed Longfellow’s “Cross of Snow” in many particulars. Again I don’t look at it as a negative thing at all. For me, it simply means two things: 1) he caught Longfellow’s voice; and 2) Longfellow is even more powerfully under our language than even I ever realized. In short, we lean on and learn from others.

    This is why, and I wish I were not so alone in this, though I know Mr. Gosselin admires Poe’s literary criticism as well, I think Poe’s literary criticism was a good example, because he analyzed both great and run-of-the-mill poets. Some think he was wasting his precious life on inferior writers; but my contention is that he was also formulating his own poetic and prosaic practice. It helped him. His relatively good manners precluded the vehemence of criticism, like that of, say, Randall Jarrell; but within Poe’s inuendoes there is more than meets the eye. He could, after all, be frank, perhaps even crude, in some of his assessments of Longfellow or Hawthorne, to name only two.

    The flip side of that, of course, is that some writers can only deal with positive analyses; and yet there is much to be learned and argued against in negative ones. That is why the critiques of writers, like Ms. Asch and Mr. Anderson, are so valuable. It forces one to hone his or her poetry, to give the reasons for his or her poetic practice. This is one reason why I admire both Mr. Gosselin and Mr. MacKenzie; they argue their poetic points of view, even when I, and others, disagree with their contentions, as, for example, when Mr. Gosselin argues against calling his poetry Romantic. He says acutely, “There is a good chance you [Eceu] will disagree with my characterization of Romanticism,” and he is absolutely right.

    Reply
    • David Gosselin

      It is great to have honest and informed discussion, and all the more interesting because there are divergences and we are not in some echo chamber. Instead what brings us together is our common belief in the need for classical poetry, not as merely a form of healthy “entertainment” or something one can enjoy without having to feel guilty, but that it is actually a primordial need for healthy human existence because it is the fount of creativity and inspiration, it is that which sets us apart from the beasts. Without it, human nature suffers. In the words of Schiller, in his Artists:

      The dignity of Man into your hands is given,
      Its keeper be!
      It sinks with you! With you it will be risen!

      With that said, I think the main point I made about Romanticism has not really been addressed:

      “Romanticism tends to remain fixated on time long past (a lament), on the loss of all those fleeting sensations. Otherwise it tends to remain stuck in the eternal present of the sensual world, attempting to crowd itself with pretty images to avoid the higher paradox of those experiences. In this one (I know Why The Red Rose Weeps), the idea was to see it as a gift, a kind of sobering beauty, as opposed to a Romantic distraction or a relishing spat of sensuality.”

      I think of the difference between something like Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” which is really the archetypal Romantic poem and “I know Why The Red Rose Weeps.” One seeks to avoid the pain, in an attempt to hang on to those sensual pleasures, while the other one is based on not only the recognition of the fleeting nature of those realities, but recognizes that the truth joy is possible only by first going through the pain. Romantic poetry, at least my conception of it, is based on either trying to avoid that pain, the recognition of mortality and posing the question of its higher meaning, through the relishing of pure sensuality, or by wallowing in the pain, but never getting out.

      In a word:

      But when the melancholy fit shall fall
      Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
      That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
      And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
      Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
      Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
      Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
      Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
      Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
      And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

      She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die;
      And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
      Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
      Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
      Ay, in the very temple of Delight
      Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
      Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
      Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
      His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might,
      And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

      Reply
  5. Beau Ecs Wilder

    Ah, Keats
    by Basil Drew Eceu
    for David Gosselin

    Ah, Keats, especi’lly in his odes. But for his practice, I
    would not have written as I have. His sighs, his furtive eye,
    his flights of fancy through the sky of life’s experience,
    his sentience and his sense, his sensual sapped sapience,
    all brought me to the music of his groaning artistry;
    it is like looking on a pageant in a tapestry.
    Throughout, his diction, precious jewels shine—radiantly.
    His work is like a treasure chest that’s laden with pure glee,
    when even melancholy comes to gaze upon his quest,
    adventurous or dangerous, romantic or beau geste.

    By the way, I also enjoy the original opening of Keats’ “Ode to Melancholy.”

    “Though you should build a bark of dead men’s bones,
    And rear a phantom gibbet for a mast,
    Stitch creeds together for a sail, with groans
    To fill it out, bloodstainèd and aghast;
    Although your rudder be a Dragon’s tail,
    Long sever’d, yet still hard with agony,
    Your cordage large uprootings from the skull
    Of bald Medusa; certes you would fail
    To find the melancholy, whether she
    Dreameth in any isle of Lethe dull.”

    It was from Keats’ odes that, in my earlier years, I created my American sonnets and longer forms. The work of Keats is a good place to begin. We’re only stumbling on the definition of the classic, from Latin “classicus”.

    I’m probably working from a different definition than Mr. Gosselin is. Here is my definition.

    classic: Of or pertaining to the ancient Greeks and Romans, especially to Greek or Roman authors of the highest rank, or of the periods when their best literature was produced.

    romantic: That which is chivalrous, intimate, obsessive, ideal, pure, beautiful, mysterious, exciting, fascinating, embellished, adventurous, melancholic, etc., like the Anglo-Norman and Old French “romans,” contrasting with Baroque, Neoclassic, Realistic, or Modernist.

    I tend to call Romantic that which was expressed in the sensibilities of the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Europe and the Americas, but which has also come to influence Asia, Africa, and Oceania, both positively and negatively.

    Representatives I could include would be Beethoven, Blake, Bolivar, Burke, Fuseli, Irving, Lavoisier, Monge, Napoleon, Nelson, A. Smith, Watt, and events, like the Revolutions, Industrial, US, French, Latin American—the Empires, British with India (and also Canada), Russian, Ottoman, Chinese. This list is so long I don’t have time or inclination to expand here at this time. And then there is, of course, Keats: one figure in that period of two centuries ago.

    Reply

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