When Horae’s icy carpets sweep the dale
And the heavy boughs shed their frozen tears,
The earth is covered with her icy veil
And mortals lashed with Time’s cold sneers.

Yet let us not run from such cold deceived
As our salted tears turn to wintry pearls
The soul to snowy mounts still lead
Though icy winds the frigid rose unfurls.

While Ida still wears her wintry veil
And our hearth can heat but can never warm,
Apollo’s car should still the heavens sail
Though our sad minstrels sleep with Pan forlorn.

While within the wide wilderness cold stays
The crystal lake and the ever green bow,
From snowy Olympus I hear a muse’s lays
And see the Streams of Helicon still flow.

 

Poet’s Note
Horae are the Goddesses of the seasons. The reference to Pan is that of poetry devoted simply to nature and the senses, which is what our so-called poets, the “minstrels” of today, seem obsessed with, while poets like Keats or Dante always used images of nature and the senses as a foil to bring people to a higher realm, the realm of ideas. Thus even in Winter, despite the cold and going through some hard times at that time myself, the Streams of Helicon (one of the sacred streams of the muses) still flow, regardless of season, regardless of time.

 

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

 

Related Post

‘The Oddity’ and Other Poetry by Mark Stevick   The Oddity My pen and me set off to sea but washed up feeing useless; the cadent swell invoked a spell and story of Odysseus. While...

13 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson

    So David, if it’s your intention to write metrical verse, it’s not enough to count syllables. The accents must be put in the right place. I hope you will not be overly offended by the Return of the Meter-Cop, but I must take issue with a good number of your constructions. Line by line, here we go:

    Line 1: This line is perfectly good iambic pentameter, but I wonder whether “Horae’s,” since it must be construed as a plural form, should not be rendered “Horaes'”, although words taken from other languages probably deserve plural possessive forms taken from the language of origin.
    , does not
    LIne 2: I think you intended “boughs,” but the line, in any case, does not scan. Perhaps you might have written:

    And heavy boughs let loose their frozen tears

    Lines 3 & 4: metrically perfect, but should be preceded with a period at the end of Line 2 to preserve normative English grammar.

    Lines 5 & 6: These lines do not scan. Perhaps they could be rewritten:

    Yet let us not evade such cold received
    As salty tears turn into wintry pearls

    Line 7: You have suddenly gone from pentameter to tetrameter. Why?

    Line 8: As a lifelong gardener, I have never seen a frozen rose unfurl its petals, but I’ll chalk that up to poetic license.

    Line 9: This does not scan. I don’t know who Ida is, but I think

    While Ida still puts on her wintry veil

    would serve to preserve the sense & metrical integrity of the poem

    I’ll stop here, although I still have many reservations about the metrics, rhetoric, and logic of the poem. Perhaps the only line with which I have no issue is the very last.

    Reply
    • David B. Gosselin

      Hi Anderson,

      Yeah it’s an old poem, I thought the virtue of it was the idea, you may or may not agree.

      Ida is the ancient mountain in Greece, which Homer mentions in the Iliad as a place where the Gods watched the battle of Troy raging. The idea was the image of this old mountain, now covered in snow is buried and somewhat lost to us today.

      However, that aside even Keats has a poem, Ode to a Nightingale, with more discrepancies than one would think, take just the first stanza:

      My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
      My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
      Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
      One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
      ‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot.
      But being too happy in thine happiness,—
      That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
      In some melodious plot
      Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
      Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

      I counted at least four such discrepancies, and none of them seemed to have a real purpose. This is not degrading Keats at all, it’s just showing to what extent even some of the greatest stuff ever written, will look over such discrepancies when striving after a particular idea.

      I think Keats just did not want a mathematical rule to overpower the idea he was trying to get across. Slight mathematical discrepancies do not have the power to weigh down a great idea in poetry. Were we talking about mathematical formulas, then such a discrepancy would void the value of that formula, for practical purposes at least.

      So I agree a great poet should have mastery of all facets of poetry, but with that said, even the best allow some room for discrepancy. Poetry should not be the product of strict mathematical rules.

      Keats wrote on precisely this issue (also having discrepancies in that very piece), as he did in the Ode to a Nightingale, which was written much later too. However, rather than it coming from me, I would just highlight this passage from Keats himself:

      “Sleep and Poetry”:

      […]Ah dismal soul’d!
      The winds of heaven blew, the ocean roll’d
      Its gathering waves—ye felt it not. The blue
      Bared its eternal bosom, and the dew
      Of summer nights collected still to make
      The morning precious: beauty was awake!
      Why were ye not awake? But ye were dead
      To things ye knew not of,—were closely wed
      To musty laws lined out with wretched rule
      And compass vile: so that ye taught a school
      Of dolts to smooth, inlay, and clip, and fit,
      Till, like the certain wands of Jacob’s wit,
      Their verses tallied. Easy was the task:
      A thousand handicraftsmen wore the mask
      Of Poesy. Ill-fated, impious race!
      That blasphemed the bright Lyrist to his face,
      And did not know it,—no, they went about,
      Holding a poor, decrepid standard out
      Mark’d with most flimsy mottos, and in large
      The name of one Boileau!

      Boileau was the authority of the day dictating what constituted poetry based on the primacy of precise metrical construction. We don’t hear about him anymore. The problem was he was obsessed with rules, like a Kantian who dictates that morality is based on your ability to follow rules. While the rules are important, poetry is ultimately an instinct, it must be like nature or it is not poetry. In the same way, morality only has value if you truly mean it. Doing the right thing just because someone said it’s the right thing, does not make you moral does it? Anyone who must rely on rules in order to produce a piece of poetry, is not a poet and does not write poetry.

      You are definitely right that To Winter has several discrepancies, more than it should. I take ownership of that, but I would much rather have an imperfect poem, and only become better with time, rather than only have words organized according to mathematical rules, and not poetry. Anyone can do that, which is what Keats is saying in his piece. You can find some better poems of mind on my website though to prove I can do much better, in case you think I’m trying to make excuses.

      Let me know if you think that one is better, it’s called The Gardens of Cordoba:

      https://www.thechainedmuse.com/single-post/2017/12/04/The-Gardens-of-C%C3%B3rdoba

      Reply
  2. Tell it Like it is

    C.B.,

    This is not eratosphere. If you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all. Go back to the garden and pull rhubarb, learn not to enjamb so much and not to thump so much with your metre. You came to poetry very late and it shows.

    David Gosselin,

    I enjoyed your Hendecasyllable truly classical poem. Thanks for sharing.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hendecasyllable

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Though what I say might not be good,
      I hope that it is understood.
      I’ve pulled the rhubarb, plus the weeds,
      And hope that adventitious seeds

      Will plague me nevermore. I reap
      As I have sown, and when I sleep
      I only hope that what I’ve said
      Will not torment me when I’m dead.

      Saying nothing that isn’t good does not advance the merit of literary criticism.

      Thumping meter has never been an issue with Richard Wilbur or our own Joseph Charles MacKenzie. Both of them always got it exactly right at every turn.

      As for hendecasyllable poetry, I cannot find a single line in your poem that has eleven syllables. What should I make of that? And, pray tell, what’s wrong with enjambment?

      Reply
  3. C.B. Anderson

    Actually, I agree with almost everything you wrote. If I have a single cavil, It might be that formal poetry creates certain expectations of regularity, to which the poet should live up to as far as possible. Precise mathematical rules, as you say, are not of the essence; they are guidelines and not laws. This idea is formalized in the general allowance for metrical substitutions.

    Reply
  4. Acwiles Berude

    Mr. Gosselin has pointed out that there are metrical “discrepancies” in the first stanza of Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale,” at least four. I wonder what those specific four, or more, are. And why “none of them seemed to have a real purpose”?

    He also stated that we don’t hear about Boileau anymore. It is true Boileau is a rarety in discourse these days; but I seem to remember Joseph MacKenzie, and myself, as well, invoking Boileau in one of these literary streams. Just because someone is not mentioned does not discount their work. I rarely hear anyone speaking of Alcaeus, Baccylides, Callimachus, Dioscorides, Ennius, Fronto, Gallus, etc. these days; but that doesn’t mean that what they accomplished wasn’t important. It only suggests that we aren’t thinking about them.

    I know I recently wrote a poem invoking the spirit of Terence; and frankly nobody cares; but that does not mean that the accomplishments of Terence are not significant. I think it says more about us than it does about him.

    Your poem, hoever, did inspire me to respond in like:

    Kazdaği
    by Çelebi Ürwëdas
    “…this old mountain…is somewhat lost to us today…”
    —David B. Gosselin

    Perhaps it got its name, Mount Ida, in the Bronze Age times,
    when Teucri came from Cretan shores and slightly varied climes.
    Perhaps Aeneas left his sacred cattle there before
    Achilles came to take them during horrid, raging war.

    Herodotus wrote that King Xerxes passed through Antandros,
    from Sardis to the Hellespont and his impending loss,
    that place from which Aeneas left to go to ancient Rome;
    in tears he left his coast to find another land and home.

    Today the crystalline, volcanic mass of ancient fame
    is the possesser of a rather more prosaic name.
    The region has become a draw for hikers and their crews,
    who seek fresh oxygen, the waterfalls and scenic views.

    The wooded, wind-swept massif in northwestern Turkey called
    Goose Mountain, and whose summit is, due to exposure, bald,
    contains, amidst the villages connected by stone paths,
    deer, wild boar and jackals in the Turkish-fir-tree swaths.

    Reply
    • Acwiles Berude

      Note: I also seem to have violated a “rule”—and misspelled “however.”

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        I did not notice, and could not find, your misspelling of “however,” and I haven’t the slightest idea how I should pronounce your name. But the verse you provided in your comment was superb. Where can I see more of its kind?

      • C.B. Anderson

        David, I really liked “The Sea”. I haven’t quite figured out the pattern, but it was “all of a piece.”

  5. Duc Blaise Were

    “Le temps fuit, et nous traine avec soi:
    Le moment ou je parle est déjà loin de moi.”
    —Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.