A Miltonian Sonnet

The pattern on the underside confused
By snarl and tangle, jumbled, twisting knot.
Its warp and woof embroidered without thought
It seems: the flawless linen now infused
With spots of wreckage–perfect weave abused.
“A waste of thread,” I cry, upset, distraught,
And try to pluck the mess now sewn in taut,
Then see the Eye that watches me, amused–
Whose Hand now turns the fabric right-side-up.
I, thunderstruck, perceive a pristine shawl,
True motif, dyed perfection, glossy shine
That stirs me as I contemplate close-up
The faultless weft, undamaged after all.
Eternity alone discerns design.

(Inspired by Hebrews 11:13)


Jesse’s Hands

Strike a nail, hold a staple, stretch a fence, and milk a cow,
Grease a zirc, then rock the baby, buck a bale, or show me how
To ease my labor, calm my fear, to train a child, to plant or plow–
Scratch a life from thorns and thistles—past and future, here and now.

Rough and calloused, bruised and rugged, sure to make this family’s way,
Open to receive or furnish bread, truth, wisdom for each day.
Fix a motor, start a tractor, change a tire, change my way—
Holding, lifting, strong, supporting, showing more than words can say.

Leather-hard in storm and blizzard, warm and gentle on my face,
Teaching, guiding, firm providing, rooted motion, steady pace.
Scarred and chapped and stained from farming, years of struggle won’t erase,
But my hands, when held within them, know they’ve found their resting place.


Leaving Eden

Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field
which the Lord God had made. (Genesis 3:1)

To have it all, and then to doubt,
When rules seem made for breaking,
One “Hath God said?” One quick sell-out,
Folly’s decision-making.
Sweet fellowship, idyllic love,
Abundance, life secure–
Just one rule: “Please abstain thereof
Or lose it all for sure.”
But that’s the on e thing we must take
We cannot do without.
Angel of light, alluring snake
Who charts our wretched route.


Amy Foreman hails from the southern Arizona desert, where she homesteads with her husband and seven children.  She has enjoyed teaching both English and Music at the college level, but is now focused on home-schooling her children, gardening, farming, and writing. 

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54 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    “Jesse’s Hands” is a beautiful portrait and very well-written. Well done Amy!


  2. Michael Dashiell

    I liked all 3 of these poems especially the first. I was intrigued by the rhyme structutre of this Miltonic sonnet. I could use it myself for a future poem. You also used the technical words particular to weaving that gives it freshness and credibility. In the second poem you use the A, A, A, A rhyme sequence in the quattrain which is challenging for any poet.

    • Amy Foreman

      I appreciate your kind words, Michael. I also have a two-part rondeau on the “Post Your Poetry Here” section of “Feedback on Your Work,” in the sidebar. It is entitled, “Light of the World” and the form I used might inspire you for a future work.

      • Amy Foreman

        And the sonnet form I used in “Tapestry” was ABBA ABBA CDE CDE. I called it a Miltonian sonnet instead of a Petrarchan or Italian sonnet simply because the shift in perspective comes in line 8 of the poem, instead of coming after line 8, like the Petrarchan and Italian styles. In all other ways, the Miltonian sonnet resembles the earlier sonnets, but Milton was a bit freer in where the “turn” came: it could be anywhere in the latter half of the poem. That’s my understanding, anyway, though I’m definitely not an expert!

  3. James Sale

    Very powerful poems; I like these a lot – this is a kind of poetry I have waited a long time to see and read: technically accomplished, idiomatic, and deeply spiritual. Congratulations – keep on writing; you have important things to say but not by saying them (necessarily) in prose!

    • Amy Foreman

      Thank you for that, James. I just started my journey into poetry-writing this past summer, and it’s become an addictive joy! Glad you enjoyed these; I hope to submit more in 2017.

  4. Dona

    I liked all three, of course. “Tapestry” was my favorite. The words chosen created vivid images making the contrast at the turn especially pleasing. Now, I’m off to look for the rondeau you mentioned. Thank you for your poetry, Amy Foreman.

  5. Dona Fox

    I apologize, on my iPhone, forgot to enter my last name. I didn’t mean to be rude.

    • Amy Foreman

      Thank you, for your kind thoughts on the poetry, Dona. Not for a minute would I have thought you rude! Hope you enjoy the rondeau.

  6. Amy Foreman

    Thank you, Dona, for your kind thoughts about my poetry. And not for a minute did I think you rude! I hope you enjoy the rondeau.

  7. Wendy Bourke

    I enjoyed all of these pieces – though the second one really resonated with me and the cadence works wonderfully with the content, I think. It’s a pleasure to read rhyming done so well.

  8. Agnes

    Enjoyed all three -the closing line of “Jesse’s Hands” was perfection. I’m new here, and yours were the first poems I read. If they’re all like this, I’m in for a treat! Thank you for sharing them.

  9. Blake Elliott

    Tapestry was indeed in the iambic pentameter required for a sonnet. You’re the first living person I’ve seen write using traditional rhythm and meter, and that is an impressive feat. It wasn’t Miltonic, though, in that Milton made Constant reference to Greek mythology. The meter seemed spot on, but the rhythm wasn’t always solidly built. This line was spot on: “With spots of wreckage–perfect weave abused.” But other lines toward the end are a stretch to make it fit the rhythm, like “True motif, dyed perfection, glossy shine.” It’s like you got tired toward the end. That line is very unbalanced. Naturally, you’d read the first two words as, “TRUE, moTIF, DYED…,” which is trochaic, followed by another stress; to make it iambic requires reading in an extremely counter intuitive and awkward way. Overall, I’m very impressed. By the way, I assumed you were a home schooled young person when I was reading, so I was a bit off, but nothing in your bio was suprising: homeschooling mothers of large families are some of the best read people I’ve ever known.

    • Amy Foreman

      Thank you so much, Blake, for your thoughtful and constructive reading of my poetry. I appreciate you pointing out the clunky, trochaic “True motif” line, and I agree with you, though when I was writing the poem, I forced it to have the “emPHAsis on the wrong syLLAble.” It helps to have another reader who can see objectively. 😉 So, what if I replaced that line, and the line that follows it with
      “The knit superb, so perfect in its shine.
      It stirs me as I contemplate close-up”–Would that help it be less awkward?

      Also, I think Milton may have written sonnets without Greek references; I think specifically of “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent (On His Blindness) or “How Soon Hath Time, the Subtle Thief of Youth.” So, perhaps “Tapestry” might still fall into that category. I hesitated to label it “Petrarchan” because of the turn happening slightly early . . . What would you label it?

      Thank you, again, for engaging with my poetry and helping me to improve!

      • Blake Elliott

        You’re welcome, Amy. That’s better, but first remember the difference between knitting and weaving. Knitting can’t produce a shine whereas the right weaving techniques can. Replace the word knit with weave, I’d suggest:
        “My wistful weave, so perfect in its shine.”
        The next line would be rhythmically better as upclose rather than close up, but I don’t know how to make the rhyme work, so maybe try “It stirs me as I gaze and hold it up.” Pairing “up” with another “up” isn’t a true rhyme, but it’ll do.

        I’d just call it iambic pentameter. If I recall correctly, most sonnets (like the Elizabethan or Pushkin) have ten lines. The Petrarchan sonnet has fourteen lines like this, and the rhymes are in the right place, but the up ending of those two lines aren’t a true rhyme; also, there needs to be not merely a change in perspective with line nine, but it needs to be a dialectical (opposite) shift. Reading books with a lot of dialectical reasoning can help you not only grasp the concept of dialectic, which is better experienced, but also helps with rhetoric. I’d recommend reading Plato’s repetitive dialogue The Statesman first, then Aristotle’s Ethics.

  10. Amy Foreman

    Thanks for getting back to me on that, Blake. I’m going to have to play with it some more; I don’t really want to use the word “weave,” because I already did in line 5. And anyway, in order to make the “up” lines rhyme, my only real options other than “up” words are “sup,” “cup,” and “pup,” or words that end with those words–and I just can’t reconcile myself to any of those. So, if I want to make it perfect, I may need to change the word “up” to something completely different. Anyway, you’ve given me some food for thought. And you’re right, “up close” is more of a natural iamb than “close-up.” Thanks for the ideas.

    • James Sale

      My own view Amy is that your poem is fine as it is. One doesn’t need, as you point out, Greek classical allusions to be ‘Miltonic’ and one certainly doesn’t need spurious scanning ‘rules’ to write a great poem; one needs scanning rules to write verse. of course; but that is a much lesser thing, and not I think what you are attempting. For proof of this we need only go to Milton and his sublime first line of his sublime epic, Paradise Lost: “Of Man’s First Disobedience, and the Fruit ..” It is quite obvious from this that the word ‘First’ is stressed, which in fact breaks the iambic pattern – but brilliantly – because semantically the meter is being ‘disobedient’ and this echoes – is mimetic of – what mankind has done! The meaning dictates whether or not one breaks the pattern that one has established. Always remember Emerson’s famous dictum: ‘A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds’. Your poem’s great – leave it for 3 months and then if you feel inclined, review it again.

      • Amy Foreman

        Thank you, James, for pointing out that first line of “Paradise Lost.” I do like the idea of having some flexibility within a construct, as he did with his “disobedient” meter! But I’ve also been rolling over in my mind some other options for those slightly troublesome spots, which I may or may not employ.

        Your advice to leave it for awhile, though, sounds quite sane to me, and fits with my personal leanings to keep my poetry in the category of fun, leisure activities–ie., to write primarily for my own enjoyment and edification! Really appreciate your input!

      • Blake Elliott

        Hello James, I think you’re advise on not changing it is sound, I suggested changes to try to help Amy improve her skills with rhythmic writing, and got a bit carried away. I do have a few disagreements with what you said, and these things are said with good intentions, not with a personal grudge. We’ve both been trying to help. First, if point out that referencing, especially to Greek mythology, is what defines Milton’s poetry. He does it so constantly it seems like every other line. Also Milton’s English was so different to ours that your assertion about the first line is impossible to verify without the original spelling, still, it’s certainly a brilliant thought I’ll think of the next time I read it. As for the spurious rules of poetry, they predate Christ by many centuries, and there are good reasons for them. I read Aristotle’s rhetoric a few days ago, he talks a bit about them, and he suggested their use for certain occasions. The equally ancient Plato held much higher praise for it. Here are a few nice things about those rules of sound: rhythm and meter are easier to memorize, improve your memory if memorized, and can have a mezmorizing beauty, as in Love’s Labour’s Won. As a teenager studying the classics, my memory was greatly improved by memorizing such poetry, that’s part of why I love it so much. Writing it is also a unique mental test: I trust that Amy is intelligent because she wrote this. If someone can’t do it, it doesn’t mean they’re unintelligent, of course, but it is a nice accomplishment. Sir, in the spirit of a good natured dispute, I’ll offer you a challenge: write a poem in consistent iambic pentameter. I’m sure you can do it, maybe you already have, but it’s a good reminder of the meritorious difficulty involved in such writing.
        What you’re driving at with abandoning rules for effectiveness is absolutely true, which is why there are many kinds of writing, but of course, there is also merit to many writing rules: they each help accomplish a task, if your task doesn’t match the rules, then yes, drop the rules, this was a wise suggestion. But it’s great to have various writing tools handy, hence the difficult practice she’s engaged in here, and feedback is part of the practice. James, have a lovely Friday,

      • James Sale

        Hi Blake – no sweat, as we are on the same side; all members of The S of CP believe that form is a necessity for true poetry; and form here can mean structure, meter, sound effects of which rhyming is primary. What is is different might be our emphasis here. I am all for rules, all for meter, all for rhyme, as all more articles, reviews and poems for S of CP (and elsewhere show). But it is very important that the ancients become our teachers, not our masters; this is almost the same argument, albeit in a vastly different context, that Dr Johnson had in the C18th when he demolished those critics who claimed that Shakespeare’s work was inferior because he didn’t follow the ‘rules’ (the 3 unities specifically) of the ancient. Johnson’s response to that was that Shakespeare followed a higher power: that his work held a mirror up to Nature. So I agree with you – we need the forms, meters, rhymes – but always context is decisive. And here’s the other weird thing: I am a great believer in the Muse. Truly great poetry does not arise consciously, so whilst the logical mind may edit the work that the subconscious throws up, it needs to be careful that it doesn’t edit out the ‘inspiration’ on the grounds merely of metrical regularly. I know you are wise enough not to disagree with that point? Hah – I welcome your challenge but I need to point out that Evan has published pent;y of my metrical and rhyming compositions, including last year 3 Shakespearean sonnets on these pages – so do check them out. And, if that doesn’t persuade you of my sincere credentials re form, then do feel free to be one of the first to acquire my new collection, The Lyre Speaks True from Amazon: http://amzn.to/2iM6AeV . Thanks for your comments; your erudition is impressive and would that more people read the classics as you do and saw their relevance to today’s world.

  11. Amy Foreman

    Thank you both, James and Blake, for the lively discussion above. I am delighted and honored that you would have opinions on “Tapestry,” and consider it worth your time to examine.
    Since receiving your recommendations about the “up” lines and the trochaic line, Blake, I’ve been tossing around other options in my mind, options that might square up the structure of the poem without diminishing its meaning. For me, fitting thoughts into a structure is a bit like a puzzle, and, though I thought I might leave it for awhile, James, as you suggested, I found that the temptation to play with that puzzle overcame the sensible advice to let it rest.

    So, here is an edited “Tapestry,” which, depending on your point of view, may or may not be better. I think, though, that it does adhere more closely to iambic pentameter, and I don’t think any of the original meaning is lost. See what you think. And thanks, again, both of you, for all the feedback!

    The pattern on the underside confused
    By snarl and tangle, jumbled, twisting knot.
    Its warp and woof constructed without thought
    It seems: the flawless linen now infused
    With spots of wreckage–perfect weave abused.
    “A waste of thread,” I cry, upset, distraught,
    And try to pluck the mess now sewn in taut,
    Then see the Eye that watches me, amused–
    Whose Hand now turns the underside to light.
    Amazed, I view a matchless, pristine shawl,
    Embroidered dosser, interlaced with shine
    That stirs me as I contemplate the sight
    Of faultless weft, undamaged after all.
    Eternity alone discerns design.

    • Blake Elliott

      Just read some of your writing James, you have nice thoughts to express. Its been frustrating that people don’t appreciate the classics.

      Amy, you’ve succeeded in making your poem rhythmically solid. I’ll offer some general ideas for improving your skill:
      1. Listen to good recordings of Gilbert and Sullivan operas, they have extremely musical lyrics that can help with making beautiful sound patterns. You’d be surprised how much this can help.
      2. Try writing in simple prose what you want to say in verse before writing a poem, this approach may backfire, but it might help.
      3. Keep fishing for the deepest ideas you can find, the less historically original, the better.
      4. Try writing trochaic poetry.

      • Amy Foreman

        Thank you, Blake, for all of your suggestions. I appreciate your analysis and instruction.

    • James Sale

      I love this poem; it is superb. What you have achieved, which is difficult, is a speaking and contemporary voice that yet uses an ‘old’ form. That to me is one of the big challenges: to sound contemporary but via a ‘classical’ idiom. Keep it up. You are steering through the Scylla of modernist claptrap and the Charybdis of archaic language and sentiments.

      • Amy Foreman

        Beautifully and classically put, James! Thank you for your appreciation and commendation of my poetry. I look forward to reading more of yours in 2017.

  12. Lorna Davis

    Amy, these are all beautiful. I love Tapestry, both before and after your revision, especially the line “Then see the Eye that watches me, amused”. That’s a familiar feeling. 🙂

  13. Rebekah

    All three: great to read aloud (or whisper, rather, as my kids sleep a little longer); I like very much feeling/understanding I get when reading each of these.

    • Amy Foreman

      I appreciate your kind words, Rebekah. Blessings to you and your (sleeping) kids!

  14. Reid McGrath

    Dear Amy,

    I do prefer the second version of “Tapestry;” although I would be remiss to say that I was fond of the “I, thunderstruck” line that you expurgated in the second.

    I agree with James on all accounts; and am happy to have discovered your poetry. There is something dry and arid in it that reminds me of Southern Arizona. With that being said, I am interested and curious to see if you can incorporate any cold and green motifs into your poetry, or venture marginally closer to the Scylla of modern diction, which may seem like a challenge but, if it is, is one I indubitably know you have the talent or work-ethic to conquer.

    Your poetry is inspired: not merely technical. You write about the right things.

    Dear Blake,

    I honor your spunk and ardor. Your insight helped to correct a line which was admittedly rather weak, especially as compared to what it is now: i.e. “Embroidered dosser, interlaced with shine.” I don’t know how long you have been following the Classical Poets, or traditional poetry forums or anthologies in general, but your authoritarian attitude comes off as kind of patronizing.

    No sonnet worth the name was ever written in ten lines.

    The Elizabethan Sonnet, later to be called the Shakespearean sonnet, adapted from the Petrarchan by Tom Wyatt and Hank Howard, consists of fourteen lines, as does Pushkin’s sonnet, albeit Pushkin wrote principally in iambic-tetrameter.

    There have also been many contemporary poems written on this site and elsewhere which have been in more or less perfect iambic pentameter.

    Here are two of my favorites from our site:

    (As a disclaimer, while Stratford’s sonnet has three substitutions for the perfect iambic pentameter, coming in lines 3, 9, and 10, if she had not taken a liberally metrical stance we would have never been vouchsafed the beautiful metaphor of “apple-blossoms” being likened to cascading water.

    In the second collection, look at Bruce Dale Wise’s poem, “To a Fellow Traveler,” for an example of immaculate iambic pentameter.

    And, finally, before you challenge me in fair sport, I’ve attached three old ones of mine, the second of which, “The Dawn Sleep,” is the most metrically perfect.

    1. http://classicalpoets.org/helen-keller-at-niagara-falls-by-meryl-stratford/.

    2. http://classicalpoets.org/a-herder-near-the-sea-by-bruce-dale-wise/.

    3. http://classicalpoets.org/tares-in-the-wheat-and-other-poetry-by-reid-mcgrath/



    • Amy Foreman

      Thank you, Reid. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your poetry, especially the “Tares” poem. Then I looked through what I have written in the past eight months or so (since I began writing poetry) and most of it is, indeed, somewhat arid! Arizona surely doesn’t let us take our water for granted! I’ll have to think about some greener themes . . . Here is another dry one, if you’re interested. The passages acting as its inspiration are listed before and after:

      Sonnet: SALT
      Ye are the salt of the earth; . . . (Matthew 5:13)

      Preservative or pickler in the brine,
      To render flora, fauna for our good,
      Or season, that the flavor ever should
      Appeal to palate, coarsest fare refine.
      That drawing, drying halite from the mine,
      Which whitens pasture, threatens livelihood,
      Keeps calling out for only That which could
      Begin to slake, assuage its arid shine.
      And what but Water satiates our thirst?
      The salty food that makes us crave the cup,
      That bone-dry want for quenching from Above
      Just proves the pow’r that salt had from the first
      To drive us toward the Life that fills us up–
      And plunge our thirsty souls into His Love.

      “And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17)

    • Blake Elliott

      You’re correct Mr. McGrath, sonnets are fourteen lines, I’ve only ever written one, and its been quite some time since I’ve looked up sonnet rules since I don’t write them.

      I haven’t followed such forums as this till now. I was simply educated in the classics since I was little, and that’s how I came in contact with poetry. A few years ago, I wondered if I could write it, and gave it a shot. Not that much has been written since then by me, though I’ve written a variety, even non-spondaic dactylic hexameter.

      As to my patronizing authoritarian attitude, I’m not angered by that comment, which leads me to suspect there probably was no such attitude, or else I would’ve been annoyed. Egotism always angers egotism, and if I am proud about something, I get resentful. What you said reminds me of many people’s reaction to the book, The Closing of the American Mind: thinking him rather high brow. Why does that happen, anyway? Maybe its the difference between writing and speaking: you can’t hear my voice or see my face. I think it’s an honest mistake. Please give me the benefit of the doubt, and pardon me if I’ve offended you.

      Have a lovely day,

      • Blake Elliott

        Oh, when I said egotism angers egotism, I didn’t mean to say that you were egotistical, I don’t see you that way. What I wanted to say was that when egotism gets confronted, it reacts with more egotism. It came out wrong.

  15. Blake Elliott

    Ok, now I can see: if I were reading myself, I would definitely see myself as arrogant. I’m much better at face to face communication, and in real life have a very cautious and conservative personality. Body language has probably allowed me to safely speak words that are much more assertive and confident than I ought. This has taught me alot, I’ll try to improve. I can see I’m in the wrong here.

    • Amy Foreman

      Blake, what a gracious mea culpa! Thank you for your mature response. And just so you know, I appreciate the “iron sharpening iron” you gave me on my poetry, and, thanks to your constructive criticism, I believe “Tapestry” is better now than it was originally.

      Tone is sometimes hard to convey in online conversation; different people can take the same words different ways. Anyway, all apologies accepted by me, and I hope you will continue to add your voice and ideas to the exchange–and I certainly welcome your comments on any of my poetry, anytime.

  16. David Hollywood

    What a wonderfully abstract reality in all of these poems! Each placing us in a place and then examining it as a chance to offer conceptual difference or influence, yet placed within experience’s we can gather. Wonderful! I loved them.

    • Amy Foreman

      Thank you, David! I’m glad you enjoyed the poems! Blessings–

  17. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    My humble apologies for not replying to this extremely important posting of exquisite verse. I was being pursued by academics and journalists at the time as the Pibroch of the Domhnall had just been released. There is much to say, in particular about the the precious domesticity of the sonnet, a domesticity which modernism shuns as “counter-revolutionary.” And yet, those of us who understand the works of Marceline Desbordes-Valmore and the last, highly domestic poems of Hugo, are absolutely delighted by “Tapestry.” I must also express how very much I enjoy the poem’s extension into the theological cosmos, first by its title and then by the most effective final verse. May I please propose that everyone visit this perfectly edifying site which the poetess herself has published. It offers insight and instruction: https://theoccasionalcaesura.wordpress.com/

    • Amy Foreman

      Thank you, Joseph Charles MacKenzie, for your kind words about “Tapestry” and for visiting, appreciating, and promoting “The Occasional Caesura; a Pause, Midline.” As a new poet (I just began to write last year), I am so encouraged by the voices of those who, like you, have been doing this well for a long time! Many blessings to you–

  18. David Watt

    Amy, it would be remiss of me not to say, even belatedly, that these are beautifully crafted poems. Tapestry stands out to me as a poem ‘woven around’ (excuse the pun) a normally mundane item ennobled through a creative perspective.

  19. Barbara T.

    Thank you all for a refreshing conversation about the modern classics constructed by the artist Amy Foreman. I sometimes have wondered if this art is lost. I stumbled rather haphazardly onto your site while looking for a lovely poem for my husband of 42 years this coming April. If you have a suggestion for me I appreciate it. I do think that the wonderful poem you wrote for your hardworking husband is spot on in its sentiment.

  20. Amy Foreman

    Thank you, Barbara, for your kind comments! You might enjoy another poem I wrote for my husband: “I Think I Like You Better Now” ( http://classicalpoets.org/i-think-i-like-you-better-now-and-other-poetry-by-amy-foreman/). Or another: “Walk With Me” (http://classicalpoets.org/wedding-vow-in-poetry-walk-with-me-by-amy-foreman/).

    Congratulations on your 42 years of marriage! Marriages that have weathered the years inspire and give hope to all those starting out! May you and your husband have many more beautiful years together!


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