"Tintern Abbey" by William Havell‘Ethereal Frontiers’ by Sean Wojtczak The Society May 19, 2019 Beauty, Poetry 8 Comments Ethereal Frontiers beyond my view: Allow thy bards to sing their songs divine And thus remind my soul of what it knew, When I still drank the Spirit in the Wine. Oh Faith, confess that thou hast left my side, Admit that it was thou, not God, who fled! For now I walk this world without a guide, Unsure of just how far my faith misled. Ah, I have fears that I’ve wasted my days In the pursuit of what I’ll never see. But more than this, I know that in my gaze, I’ve failed to note the gifts in front of me. In Michigan, I stood watching the breeze And saw its influence across the scenes. The wind would brush the dust across the trees And serve a glimpse of how the Earth convenes. I failed before to acknowledge this grace, Or offer thanks when sate within the shade. But now when sunshine falls upon my face I know it matters not who made what’s made. To breathe in air perfumed by spruce or pine, To hear the blended notes of rills serene, Through these we might perceive something divine, Even if they are never touched or seen. But textures smooth or rough and coarse in grain, The warmth now felt, the cold from which we’ll brace, The fields of turf softened by heavy rain, The grooves in stumps from what we can’t replace; The crisp delights of apples tart and sweet The sips of wine to start the morrow’s eve, The strawberries dusted in sugars neat, The homemade meals we give or we receive. The world around a softly spoken dream, And oh, the sights upon the mountains blue: The southern vales all laced in brooks and streams, The mists, the fogs, the mornings born anew. In these I find a beauty which is true, And some solace which should not be denied. I trust my soul in what I feel and view, And forfeit fears of what may not betide. And though I weep to think the world abroad May not contain the Lord Ethereal, I weep the more that I could search for God And overlook the World material. But oh, the haunting dreams I have at night, The ashen graves which sob in full despair The voice that cries my choice was ne’er right And that my soul has forgotten its prayer. And then I wake upon that endless shore, And watch the tempest rage against the bay. Each night it’s fiercer than the one before, The shore and sea embattled in the fray. I know one day I’ll stand within that storm, And feel the power whipping at my flesh: ‘Tis God, ‘tis Earth, synonymous in form! And oh, how all my views shall start afresh. Sean Wojtczak is a student at the University of Iowa. His writing has been published in Cleaver Magazine, 1966, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine, and The Opiate. Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related 8 Responses Monty May 19, 2019 High class stuff, Sean. This is a really strong poem . . and really strong poetry. It contains with ease every attribute required to make a strong poem: a thoughtful and felt narrative.. clear and concise diction.. syllabic-equality.. full and unforced rhymes.. generous use of grammar . . . salivating stuff! My only quibble? You’ve written 55 lines of strict syllabic-equality . . and 1 line (S6, L3) which deviates conspicuously. The two extra syllables in that line could’ve easily been dispensed with by changing it from: ‘These acts allow us to perceive something divine..’ to: ‘These acts let us perceive something divine..’ I’d like to know how long you’ve been writing poetry . . ‘cos you were born to do so. Reply C.B. Anderson May 19, 2019 Syllabic equality?! How about metrical regularity? in stanzas 3,4 &5, line 1, we are left to wonder whether to accept two consecutive unaccented syllables or to mispronounce, in order to preserve the iambic, “was-TED,” “watch-ING” and “AK-now-LEDGE,” respectively. There are more, but I’m not going to go through the entire poem. In stanza 5, line 2, I’m sure that “sate” should have been “safe.” In stanza 12, line 3, if the author had left well enough alone and used “never” instead of the silly contraction, “ne’er,” the iambic meter would have been preserved. So, Monty, if you are still salivating, you might want to get tested for rabies. Reply Monty May 19, 2019 My understanding of rhyme and meter is: A poet has 3 acceptable options as to how they wish to compose their poem . . a/ To use strict meter with no regard to syllabic-equality.. b/ To use strict syllabic-equality with no regard to meter.. c/ To use strict meter and strict syllabic-equality. I took the above poem to’ve been written using option ‘b’ . . and as such, I find it to be a well-written poem; a strong poem with strong, immaculate rhymes . . with none of the lazy, convenient cutting-of-corners (forced rhymes, etc) that I see so much of on these pages, of which you yourself have always been aware, and have (quite rightly) not been afraid to let the author know. I see no cutting-of-corners in the above poem . . . give credit where it’s due. Reply C.B. Anderson May 21, 2019 Points taken, Monty. But there are many other ways to measure a poem, including counting accented syllables without regard to unaccented syllables. Counting syllables probably works best for 5-7-5 haiku. Anyway, since we are talking about iambic pentameter, which , to the best of my understanding, means five iambs in a line, then it is either so or not so. If the Romantics fell short in this discipline, then too bad for them. My model of perfection is Richard Wilbur, who surely read everything the Romantics had to offer, and whose poems, in my opinion, are far better, in general, than anything offered by the likes of Wordsworth, Keats, Byron, Coleridge or Shelley. In fact, I think Claire might have been the best of them, God rest his soul. My proposal is that, if iambic pentameter no longer means what it is supposed to mean (i.e. five iambs in one line), we should abolish the term altogether, and restore the chaos brought upon us by the likes of Pound. Sean’s attempts to capture some Romantic ideal (metrical malfeasances included) strike me as a perfect representation of teen-age angst. It’s not a bad poem, just an unpolished one that failed to deliver adequate substance. In the first stanza the author set up the expectation of regular iambic pentameter, but then failed to deliver in subsequent stanzas. Am I the devil for having noticed that? Martin Rizley May 20, 2019 The picture of Tintern Abbey at the top of the page is appropriate, since the poet shares with Wordsworth a similar philosophical outlook and similar theme– the solace found in nature. The imagery is vivid, showing a keen response to beauty in the natural world, which is touching; at the same time, there is a sad, elegaic tone to the poem since it deals, not merely with the discovery of beauty in the “world material” but with a loss of faith in the “Lord ethereal.” The poem made me curious about the author´s life journey and what led to his loss of faith. It also made me wonder if the faith he formerly had (and lost) had been somewhat of a Manichean character, equating spirituality or faithfulness to God with disinterest in the material world or an ascetic denial of all joy and delight in the creation. If so, my hope is that he might someday find authentic faith on a surer footing– stripped of “Manichean” misconceptions– and that his notable poetic gifts might be consecreated to the praise of the Creator who made the “world material” and calls us to value, explore, and enjoy it within lawful limits and with thanksgiving. Reply David Gosselin May 20, 2019 Hi Sean, Very nice stuff. None of the lines feel contrived; they appear to be weaved by a soul that has the kind of sensitivity needed to craft genuine poetry. There are some that will search for perfect meter and focus on the mathematical perfection of the piece, however you could have 1000 poems with perfect meter and still not have any genuine poetry. So here we have genuine poetry, which is worth more than 1000 mathematically perfect lines. You’ll find imperfect meter in Edgar Allan Poe, in Keats, Shelley. Had the poem only been a series of nice mathematically perfect lines, I think it would fall short, but what you also craft by the end is a nice irony. This transformation changes everything that came before, or better yet, informs us of the higher meaning lurking “behind the words.” There are many who admire or strive for good craftsmanship, but still lack the ability to create genuine poetry per se i.e. using classical irony and metaphor. Your poem does both, so that’s great. I’d be happy to see what other stuff you have. Feel free to submit to The Chained Muse.com. We’re always looking for new original stuff. Daniel Leach is a great poet regularly published on The Chained Muse and also here at the SCP, I recommend taking a look at some of his stuff. His poem “It” is a great example: https://www.thechainedmuse.com/single-post/2019/02/08/It Keats was a master of classical irony, and this month marks the 200th anniversary of his Great Odes. So we have been celebrating that by publishing pieces that get to the heart of the matter. Given what I’ve seen, I think you’ll find this piece on his “Great Odes” rather revolutionary. To this day, it remains the most important piece that I’ve ever read on the question of classical composition and the nature of truly great poetry, as opposed to merely fine lines: https://www.thechainedmuse.com/single-post/2019/04/01/KEATS%E2%80%99-GREAT-ODES-AND-THE-SUBLIME Best, David Gosselin Reply Mark Stone May 21, 2019 Sean, 1. I agree with David that to create poetry, an author must have a poetically sensitive soul (or at least it helps). But I also agree with C.B. that when one writes a metrical poem, the meter should be aesthetically pleasing (or at least not displeasing). Of course, the soul is the tough part. Meter can be easily taught, but genius is much more difficult. 2. Since your poem does reflect a poetically sensitive soul, the rest is just a matter of editing. I think the choriamb (Even if they) in line 24 works. Line 24 is: Even if they are never touched or seen. It creates a nice change from the overall iambic meter. However, I don’t enjoy three syllable words that are “flipped,” i.e., where each stressed syllable is unstressed and each unstressed syllable is stressed. I find this very stressing, so to speak. Here are two examples: I failed before to acknowledge this grace, And that my soul has forgotten its prayer. 3. With regard to diction, line 8 reads: Unsure of just how far my faith misled. This line is awkward to my ear. I think it’s too compacted. I think of “misled” as a transitive verb. Or, if one is using the passive tense, then one would normally say “is misled” or “was misled.” On another point, I’m not sure what “sugars neat” means. And I agree with C.B. that there’s no reason to abbreviate “never” to “ne’er.” Finally, although having 27 of the 56 lines start with either “the” or “and” might normally bother me, it does not in this poem. 4. On the positive side, I very much enjoyed the sonics in lines 7 and 15, which read as follows: For now I walk this world without a guide, The wind would brush the dust across the trees Always a fan of internal rhymes, I also enjoyed line 36: The mists, the fogs, the mornings born anew. Finally, I am pleased that the poem taught me a new word: betide. 5. Overall, very well done! Reply Monty May 27, 2019 To C.B. No, you’re certainly not the devil for “having noticed that”; quite the opposite. When it comes to the finer nuances of poetry composition, you’re an expert; hence you notice such errors. That’s why I consider your appraisals on these pages to be valuable (if you want evidence of that, read the comments below the recent poem ‘Paper Flowers’ by Sathya Narayana, in which the author felt that you’d been a bit “harsh” towards his poetry; and I tried to assure him that it was just “expert advice” to which he should pay heed). I’m no such expert! Regarding the technicalities of meter, I probably know less than many of those affiliated with SCP; and what little I DO know has been gleaned – only in the last cuppla years – from the comments on these pages by the likes of yourself, Salemi, Stone, etc. Thus, when reading a poem, I generally have to rely on feeling: Do I feel that the author has something sincerely felt that they wish to convey; Do I feel that the author has taken as long as need be to ensure that the grammar/diction enables no ambiguity for the reader; Do I feel that the author has laboured long and hard to attain strong rhymes (as opposed to ‘forced’ ones); Do I feel that the author has a comprehensive command of our language, and has used it to the full in their work . . . And I feel that the above poem displays all of those feelings: and I appraised it as such. I felt, and still feel, that it was beautifully written . . with feeling. Take one sentence in particular: “But now when sunshine falls upon my face I know it matters not who made what’s made.” That’s ‘feeling’. If the meter is wrong in parts, that’s where you come into play. My untrained eye sees only a well-written poem; but your trained eye notices metrical blemishes, and it’s only right that you alert the author to them. How else is he to learn how to perfect his craft in the future? But he’s a young man, CB.. hence a nascent poet, not an older, established poet who should know better. Thus, when you deem it to be an “unpolished” poem . . well yeah, metrically it is, but he’s of an age where “unpolished” can be permitted, expected even, and it’s for the likes of you to guide him towards “polished” poems . . not to assume that the lack of polish is due to “teenage angst”! The lack of polish is due, surely, to a simple lack of experience. And when you say that the poem “failed to deliver adequate substance”, you’re surely referring only to the aspect of metrical discrepancies . . ‘cos ‘substance’ is the one word that I’d attribute to every other aspect of the piece. ‘Substance’. It was a joy to read Mr Rizley’s comment above, in which he showed that the poem sent him off on multiple trains-of-thought: “. . it made me curious about . .” – “. . it also made me wonder if . .” – “. . (it’s this) but at the same time (it’s that) . .” It takes a poem of philosophical ‘substance’ to induce such thoughts in the reader. And in Mr Gosselin’s comment, his opening sentence (as well as sounding poetic in itself) summed-up everything I feel about the poem and it’s author: “None of the lines feel contrived; they appear to be weaved by a soul that has the kind of sensitivity needed to craft genuine poetry.” Those words, I feel, fit the above poem . . but they certainly don’t fit countless other poems I see on these pages. And what’s more, I often see poems here which are not only the exact opposite of all the above (mundane and unimaginative subject-matter.. questionable diction.. forced rhymes.. only plain use of language.. lacking the most basic of grammar), but the authors of such poems will have us know in their accompanying Bio that they’ve been widely published in various other outlets, or have won (or been nominated for) certain literary awards . . which has led me to believe (once I’d recovered from my incredulity) that poetry journals/prizes/awards, etc, on that side of the pond must be based on the modern-day American habit of ‘inclusiveness’ – ‘let’s give everyone a prize’; ‘let’s nominate everyone’; ‘let’s publish everyone’ – which renders all such as diluted, if not valueless. Indeed, you may remember that we both commented on a poorly-written, patently amateurish poem which appeared on these pages about a month ago; with which the author claimed in his Bio that he’d had poetry published “in over a hundred countries world-wide” (which we both questioned in our comments, to which the author never replied). And just last week, a poem appeared here which was flagrantly and shamefully lacking in the most basic of grammar (a point universally agreed by other commenters), and yet the author, in her Bio, tells us that she’s got poetry for sale on Amazon! And I once learnt (from the Bio) that a blatantly poor poem which I saw on these pages had been nominated for a pushcart award. I don’t know what a pushcart is; but I do know that the poem wasn’t fit to push a cart! So, the point I’m trying to make, CB, concerning the above author, is that many poor poems appear on these pages by authors with a glamorous Bio; which leads us to a kind of Catch22: If they’re to be judged on their Bio, then they should clearly know better . . but if they’re to be judged by the errors in their poetry, then they clearly don’t know any better! Which renders their Bio meaningless. But the above author appears to be a genuine poet, albeit an emerging one. All the faults I find in the ‘glamorous Bio’ poems are nowhere to be seen in the above poem . . except for some metrical blemishes. This may explain why none of the ‘poor poetry/nice Bio’ authors bothered to comment on the above poem. Maybe they didn’t want their ‘nice Bio’ bubbles burst. I feel that the potential of the above author, mingled with some expert coaching from the likes of yourself, could produce a high-class poet; and he certainly doesn’t deserve to be accused of suffering from “teenage angst”. 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