O how I long to hold thee in my arms,
And taste again of nature’s sweet reprieve,
To cast off masks, false affectations, charms;
To savor all I had before you leave.

For thee alone I lie awake at night,
Tortured by the memories unmade,
For that alone I scorn all other sight;
The world without thee makes me wish I stayed.

I talked to gods I don’t believe exist,
Yet I cannot be helped by any priest,
On meager scraps of us must I subsist;
A hell for him that turned away a feast.

I made a bed in which I cannot sleep;
Thy ghost is lonesome company to keep.


Edward Hoke studies Acting and Classics at Northwestern University. For weekly poetry-based posts and photos, follow on instagram at @blandmagyar

NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets.

The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or commentary.

CODEC Stories:

6 Responses

  1. David Gosselin

    Dear Edward,

    You write well, and based on some other themes you’ve taken up, it’s nice to see you’re developing good concepts.

    One thing that I think is worth considering is the question of voice. Often, especially when people are relatively newer to writing poetry, they will tend to imitate (unconsciously) the styles that they have studied and immersed themselves in. I did, and perhaps still do sometimes. The great challenge today is of course how to write in our modern times (not to be confounded with the philosophy of modernism), as if with our own voice, while still writing a classical poem.

    A classical poem is not classical because of the kinds of words it uses or style of language, it’s classical because of the standard of composition that it demonstrates. It uses irony and metaphor as a means of elevating the mind as opposed to the drab literal prose that modernist have so often attempted to pass off as poetry.
    At the same time, we don’t want to get lost in the idiosyncrasies of our modern English as well, the goal is always to speak with a universal voice, which resounds true regardless of time or place. However, at the same time, the challenge is to sound like you’re speaking in your rightful voice, rather than being overly effected by another’s style of writing. We should not confuse elevated speech with archaic expressions (though they may coincide sometimes).

    So how does one write with elevated language in our time? That’s actually what John Keats was grappling with. He was trying to re-write his Hyperion because he felt that it had “too many Miltonisms” i.e. inversions, which essentially acted like Latinized English. Inversions can be useful, but too often people just use them to write clunky rhymes, or they are imitating the style of others who imitated a Latinized English. As Keats matured, he sought to remove these kinds of elements from his writing. He was looking to develop and express a more authentic English. It is a great challenge, and more so today since the gap between the last truly great poets and the language they used is essentially 200 years. We don’t want to sound like we are writing from a past time, nor our own time – we want the writing to come from a timeless place.

    I’ll give you some examples below of what I mean.

    I think you’ve been studying Shakespeare’s sonnets, which is good, that’s why you’re able to weave some good ironies together; at the same time, something like:

    O how I long to hold thee in my arms,
    And taste again of nature’s sweet reprieve,
    To cast off masks, false affectations, charms;
    To savor all I had before you leave.

    It seems somewhat like a study, like your are attempting to write in the style of something you’ve been reading.

    I think these are just some good questions for any of us to keep in mind as our poetic voices develop.

    Here are a few examples of what I mean by modern voice in a classical poem:



    Paul Gallagher, who wrote the poem Deep Down linked above, also wrote a great piece on the crucial difference between a classical poet like Shakespeare and someone like Dryden:

    Robert Frost is the best example of a classical poet in the 20th century, in my opinion:

    Lastly here is something I wrote and edited many times. It was written with the kinds of questions raised above in mind:



    • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

      There is nothing more to add to this magisterial comment, except that your sea poem, Mr. Gosselin, was also published I remember some time ago in the actual Society of Classical Poets, is that not so? I remember it because it truly is classic in every way, and distinctly so—a gorgeous, perfect piece!

  2. james sale

    I have enjoyed this poem, especially the concluding couplet. Well done – there is real feeling in this poem. I also have enjoyed David Gosselin’s commentary and there is much one could say about it, but I will restrict myself to one point only: the fact that Keats revised his Hyperion, and there are two versions; and both are brilliant in different ways, as the second moved towards the influence of Dante and away from Milton. But Keats’ predicament is exactly the predicament all poets in all ages following the golden age of a language’s best poets (e.g. Shakespeare and Milton, or Dante etc, whoever they be and in whatever language) and what Keats did about it is far more instructive than what TS Eliot did in the C20th, for he was very aware of this issue, but took, I think a wrong turn with his solution. Keats, by going into serious emulation of Milton and Dante, produced two works (the Hyperions) which more or less guarantee him – astonishingly for a 26 year old – entry into the rank of the top 4 or 5 poets in the language. I consider the Hyperions works of genius compared with the plodding epics of, say, Wordsworth. And to add just one more point, as I am in a flow; it is probably a little subjective but the greatest English language poet of the C20th is not Frost, as great as he was, nor, sadly any Englishman or Brit: we have to go to the Emerald Isle and study what true lyric greatness is in WB Yeats, the one poet who perhaps could have written a real epic of the C20th, for his whole cast of mind was epic, but actually never did. Still, what a body of poems.

  3. dave whippman

    Clever work about lost love. Very competent handling of the sonnet form which was still very readable.

  4. Theresa Rodriguez

    Thank you Edward for producing such a beautiful sonnet! Well done!

  5. Monty

    While I consider the above piece to be a decent effort; there are several minor reasons why I can’t concur with one of the above Commenter’s description of “a . . perfect piece”.

    Regarding the 4th line of the 1st stanza:
    Unless I’m reading the line wrongly, it could only make sense to me if the last word of the line was LEFT.. not LEAVE.
    For the last word of the line to be LEAVE.. then the 5th word of the line has to be changed from HAD to HAVE.
    Hence, the line should read as either:

    “To savour all I had before you left”

    or.. “To savour all I have before you leave”

    but not.. “To savour all I had before you leave” (the tenses
    are mixed-up).

    The 2nd line of the 2nd stanza:
    Given which side of the pond the author resides; coupled with my recently-gained knowledge of the flagrant liberties taken with syllables by those from ‘that side’ . . . if I was to say that the line was one syllable short of maintaining metrical equality; then I just know that the author (in the name of ‘convenience) will try to claim that “tortured” contains 3 syllables. I’m getting used to it now: Thus when I point-out that for “tortured” to gain a 3rd syllable it would have to read as ‘tor.. churr.. red’ (with ‘red’ being pronounced the same as the colour) . . . I expect to be dismissed by others from ‘that side’ as being pedantic or officious.
    I now know how you’se operate in the ‘land of convenience’: if you’ve got a 2-syllable gap to fill.. you’ll class “tortured” as 2-syllables . . . but if you’ve got a 3-syllable gap to fill.. you’ll simply class “tortured” as 3-syllables . . . that is your wont!

    Without my knowing why: the 4th line of the 2nd stanza just seems a tad awkward to me.

    Given that the first 3 lines of the 3rd stanza (and indeed the 1st line of the 4th) are all in the first-person; why does the 4th line deviate . . with “him” instead of “I”? Surely it should just simply read: “A hell for I who turned away a feast”.

    Like I said: it’s a decent poem . . but it can’t be described as “perfect”.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.