The man who never cries is like the ship
That never sailed, or left the sleepy shores,
Who’s never felt the waves of peril whip
Against his keel far off from peaceful shoals.
Afraid of what the sea’s dark depths might hide—
Of the treasures beneath the briny surface—
A denizen upon Calypso’s isle,
He lies on shores of voluptuousness.
When gazing from his tearless strand, he sees
In twirling clouds the faces he so loves;
He thinks of worlds across the salted seas,
Then looks to the lingering host above:
____How cruelly his dry eyes imprison,
____As each cloud fades into the horizon.


David is a young translator, linguist and poet based in Montreal. He is the founder of the 21s century poetry website

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21 Responses

  1. Martin Rizley

    Very striking metaphor, careful phrasing and engaging imagery throughout. The allusion to Calypso’s isle and “shores of voluptuousness” highlights the self-centered nature of a life that ventures nothing and gains nothing, devoted to the service of self and the pursuit of personal peace and tranquility, while avoiding pain at all cost.

    • Monty

      Well, I’m surprised to hear them words, Martin; to me, the exact opposite is where it’s at.

      You say it’s “self-centred” to pursue “personal peace and tranquillity”; and that it “gains nothing” . . I say that to attain such is the peak of human achievement, and it gains the ultimate reward.

      You also, rather puzzlingly, make it sound like a sin to “avoid pain at all cost”. What else should one do . . seek it?

      • Martin Rizley

        I was thinking, Monty, of the phrase used by the late Francis Schaeffer, who said that the pursuit of “personal peace and affluence” as life´s supreme goal has produced the culture of narcissism and ethical nihilism in which we now live, in which the only value promoted by the state is “tolerance” and the demands of the autonomous self– no matter how outrageous or harmful to future generations– are elevated as sacrosanct above the good of society as a whole. I certainly do not believe that masochism is a virtue; I am not saying that we should directly pursue pain. But I am saying that we should pursue love, and the pursuit of loving relationships always involves pain– first of all, the pain of self-denial and the subordinating of one´s own wants to the needs of others. It involves the pain of solidarity and empathy– “weeping with those who weep”– the pain of loss (since death and illness can claim those we love), the pain of risk-taking (since love involves embracing vulnerability, and along with it, the potential pain of rejection.) The only way to avoid such pain, therefore, is to avoid loving relationshps, and to make one´s supreme goal in life the love of self and the pursuit of passing earthly pleasures. What is abortion on demand but an attempt to avoid the pain of self-sacrificial love for another human being? Ask any parent who has chosen to welcome a disabled child into the world, and they will tell you that one cannot avoid pain if one would love. The two things go together.

  2. James A. Tweedie

    David, I very much like the sound of this poem and the audio supports this. As a “poem” the work could be considered a success. As a meaningful “sonnet,” however, there are issues.

    Rhythm. Lines 6, 8, 12, 13 and 14 are iambically irregular. In addition, 6 has 11 syllabic beats and 13 has only 9. Was this intentional? And if so, why?

    Rhyme. I don’t mind near rhymes but, as in horseshoes, they should be close enough to score a point. “ Voluptuousness” and “surface,” unfortunately, are too far apart to score. As for shores/shoals, hide/isle, loves/above, and imprison/horizon I might let one pairing slide by but not that many in one poem. If I include the homophones seas/sees in the mix, that leaves ship/whip as the only standard rhyme in the entire poem. Why?

    Sense. I do not see the connection between taking risks in life and whether a man cries or not—or why crying or not crying in any given circumstance should be judged one way or the other. A man may weep for many reasons: regret, remorse, joy, sympathy, self pity, or grief, for example. The phrase “crying in your beer” suggests that men can weep in a bar (or in the bosom of Calypso’s voluptuousness) as easily as they can weep in the face of tempestuous seas. Indeed, a stoical man would not likely shed tears under any of those circumstances. The final image is particularly compelling insofar as I should think that, more than anything else, watching my loved ones evaporate into oblivion would be more likely to bring tears to my eyes than anything else. But even under those circumstances would that make me a better person? Or more human, perhaps? After all, the absence of tears does not necessarily equate to an absence of feeling. Am I missing something?

    I only raise these questions because I am familiar with your poetry (and a fan) and find that you are ordinarily more attentive to the details of poetic form.

    • Joe Tessitore

      “peaceful shoals” is a problem as well.
      A shoal is defined as “a naturally submerged ridge … that rise(s) near enough to the surface of a body of water as to constitute a danger to navigation” – clearly not what the poet intended.

  3. Monty

    I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Tweedie’s observervations:
    The Sense is flimsy and groundless . . and to have only one bona fide rhyme in the entire piece is, to me, outrageous.

    I must assume that, on this occasion, the muse remained tightly chained.

    • Monty

      It’s just occurred to me that my last sentence was begging for a couplet:
      ‘I must assume the muse remained,
      On this occasion, tightly chained.’

      • C.B. Anderson

        Monty, if this couplet is the only thing I ever read of yours, then you will already have earned a place in my pantheon of versifiers.

  4. C.B. Anderson

    I have often commented upon certain insufficiencies in poetic order that characterize one poem or another, and often David has pointed out that regularity is the enemy of good poetry, citing metrical and other irregularities of past masters in an attempt to prove his point. Well , I am quite happy not to have to come down on slipshod work, since others have already done it for me. Metrical rules are not absolute, but if you violate them, you sure as hell better know what you are doing. And rhyme is rhyme, or else it isn’t.

    • David Gosselin


      The poem is definitely not perfect metrically, or in terms of rhyme. However, the main thing I did try to focus on in this piece was the crafting of a thorough metaphor, and maintaining a naturalness. The latter is something which I find often lacks in much of the rhymed and metered poetry we see today.

      Having experimented with pieces like this one, I feel that it’s better to have an imperfect poem, which aims to create genuine ironies and metaphor, than to have one that sounds unnatural i.e. has forced rhymes and awkward phrasing simply to maintain regularity, and often has very little poetry per se. We see many examples of pieces with perfect rhyming and meter, but no passion and no poetry per se.

      Much of these reflections come from experimenting with blank verse, trying to create genuine poetic ironies and metaphor without relying on things like rhyme to make up for what lacks in metaphor and idea content.

      The Chinese Mountain Man pieces are experiments in that.

      In reading the Chinese Mountain Man series to people, surprisingly, I’ve found this is one of the things people are most receptive to. I’ve tried it on many people who do not regularly read poetry or are not necessarily interested in literature, but they responded with excitement, they feel that they are left with something after the piece over. They also read like nice vignettes.

      In a word: I agree with the shortcomings of the piece, and will try to see if I can iron them out, but I think the above mentioned points are other important aspects that we shouldn’t overlook, which we often do.

      Ultimately we want perfection, something very few writers ever achieve, but I do believe it’s important to recognize some of the nuances involved as we strive for that.

      Wherein lies the actual poetry of a piece? In rhyme, in the meter? Those are only characteristics of a poem, but they are not the poetry per se. Otherwise there would be thousands of poets. As Keats writes in Sleep and Poetry:

      But ye were dead
      To things ye knew not of,—were closely wed
      To musty laws lined out with wretched rule 195
      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 200
      Of Poesy. Ill-fated, impious race!

      So wherein lies the poetry of a piece? I think that’s the most important discussion we can be having in the current world of free-verse, modern and contemporary art.

      Lastly, I don’t think a deficient meter or lack of rhyme should prevent anyone from figuring out what the metaphor of The Man Who Never Cries is all about. The idea and metaphor was the main focus of this piece, and that it should read naturally and beautifully, even if lacking mathematical perfection.

      The idea of grieving and mourning is one of the things most people spend their lives running from. Much has been written about this by famous clinicians like John Bradshaw.

      Friedrich Schiller has a great piece, which in certain respects touches on this theme most beautifully. And naturally, being Schiller, it is a perfect piece.

      The Power of Song:

      One might think of the Man Who Never Cries as an inversion of that kind of theme. The consequences of the pain is ironically not tears, but a lack of such tears.



      • C.B. Anderson

        Ho-hum. It took the better part of an essay to get yourself off the hook a few short comments put you on. Most readers want consistency in form and a coherent narrative. Why should such expectations take a back seat to “a thorough metaphor,” whatever the hell that is.

      • C.B. Anderson

        All that hot air must leave you in fear that you’ll be blamed for global warming.

  5. James A. Tweedie

    David, I understand the point you are trying to make. And I appreciate (and enjoyed) the very cogent quote you took from Keats. I can’t help, however, notice that Keats, while he opined against the “musty laws” and “wretched rule(s)” of rote poetry, he nonetheless followed those very same rules of rhyme ad meter in his poetic diatribe. And it should be obvious that his point is both more memorable and more effective because of it. That, to me, is the ongoing (and possibly unattainable) challenge of the SCP site: to create poems that combine rhythm, rhyme, metaphor and meaning in a grammatically coherent manner while packaging them in a recognizable poetic form. To sacrifice one or more of these elements as less important than another is to miss the whole point of attempting to write “classical poetry.” Milton achieved success with his Petrarchan sonnet, On His Blindness.” While there is an endless trail of poems that “break the rules” it is the effective mastery of them that elevates a classical poet to true greatness. Even though there may be only a handful of such master works, we should be mindful of them as we attempt to match them with our own.

  6. Lew Icarus Bede

    1. Since all poems are flawed, what’s wanted are poems whose flaws are the least possible, given constraints. To arrive at a place where one can see that is itself an achievement of sorts. In lots of ways Mr. Gosselin’s “The Man Who Never Cries” is flawed, and various individuals have commented on some of its flaws.

    2. But criticism (as in these comments) is flawed as well. I know I tend to search for what is strong within a poem, note first the positive qualities, and then some negatives. That I suspect is a flawed literary view, which, however, I have yet to be logically disabused of.

    3. Though Homer’s Odysseus is in his mind, as relates to Mr. Gosselin’s diction, the two writers who come to my mind are Shakespeare, in both his sonnets and his dramas, and Tennyson, in his monologues. That histrionic element, though a bit pretentious, is what I like the most about the sonnet.

    4. I think the opening quatrain is brilliant; and the rhyme of shores and shoals exquisite. I also like the line, “A denizen upon Calypso’s isle”, which I hope he will not change, because of its centrality in locating the poem in space and time.

    5. Mr. Gosselin’s poem reminds me of “An Ancient Gesture” by Edna St. Vincent Millay:

    I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron,
    Penelope did this too.
    And more than once: you can’t keep weaving all day
    And undoing it all through the night;
    Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight;
    And along towards morning, when you think it will never be light,
    And your husband has been gone, and you don’t know where, for years,
    Suddenly you burst into tears;
    There is simply nothing else to do.

    And I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
    This is an ancient gesture, authentic, antique,
    In the very best tradition, classic, Greek;
    Ulysses did this too.
    But only as a gesture—a gesture which implied
    To the assembled throng that he was much to moved to speak.
    He learned from Penelope…
    Penelope, who really cried.

    6. I wholeheartedly support Mr. Gosselin’s desire for naturalness; though I disagree with him when he uses phrases, like “little poetry per se” or “no poetry per se”, as if poetry were merely a quality, as opposed to a major genre. The excellent quote from Keats shows Keats escape from Dryden and Pope, using their foundation (as Mr. Tweedie pointed out) in a more prosaic manner, one that Browning perfected in “To My Last Duchess”. I think Pope’s “Essay on Criticism” at 23 years of age, however, is superior in many ways to Keats’ “Sleep and Poetry”. Though who in the 19th, 20th, or 21st centuries in English literature sees that? Though Pope was certainly working harder intellectually than Keats in the literary tradition including Greece and Rome, Keats plowed more deeply through the English tradition with great enthusiasm and effusion. In that respect, his efforts, if not Herculean, were important.

    7. Though it too has flaws, Mr. Gosselin’s “Chinese Mountain Man II—The Storm” is a delightful little tale in fairly loose iambic tetrameters, which seem livelier than his iambic pentameters. German Romantics, like Schiller and Goethe, are partly famous for their attention to meter and rhyme. Note the extra syllable in line four of Goethe’s remarkable poem “Erlkönig”,
    which he resorts to in line after line of said poem. Is this what Mr. Gosselin is attempting to do, and which several commenters find so unsatisfying?

    Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
    Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind;
    Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm,
    Er fasst ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm…

    8. Though Mr. Gosselin probably disagrees, there is a real argument for not indulging [in Italics] in “grieving and mourning”; and that step, is the first step to the great literary portals of praise and pastoral, satire and comedy, didactic poetry and philosophy, tragedy and epic.

    • David Gosselin

      I experimented to see what could be done and came up with this:

      The man who never cries is like the ship
      That never sailed, or left the sleepy shores;
      Who’s never felt the waves of peril whip
      Against his keel, far off from peaceful shoals.
      He looks over the briny depths the while
      Dark waves reflect the distant skies, star-laced;
      A denizen upon Calypso’s isle,
      The shores enthral with a voluptuous grace.
      When gazing from his tearless strand, he sees
      The distant clouds which glow with love,
      He thinks of worlds across the salted seas,
      Then looks to the lingering host above:
      How cruelly his dry eyes imprison,
      As each cloud fades into the horizon.

      He looks over the briny depths the while
      Pale waves reflect the star-laced skies with grace;
      A denizen upon Calypso’s isle,
      Her sultry shores deny him his own race.



      • James A. Tweedie

        Dave, This reads more smoothly as a formal sonnet but

        it still has multiple, easily resolved rhythmic issues (line 10, for example, is inexplicably tetrameter),

        some awkward grammar

        (He looks over the briny depths “the while”?
        Dark waves reflect the distant skies, star-laced;)

        a revision disconnect where by removing the personal/relational image of the clouds “”In twirling clouds the faces he so loves;”) and replacing it with an impersonal one (“The distant clouds which glow with love”) it leaves the line (“Then looks to the lingering host above”) without a “host” to look to.

        And, to be honest, I still don’t grasp the metaphor of a tearless man. Does he have no feeling? He clearly has loved ones . . .

        I am not normally inclined to critique poems on this sight in this way and am not prone to offering specific suggestions for changing or attempting to improve someone else’s poem. But, since you asked, I prefer “Dark waves” to pale ones.

        In the end it isn’t up to me to decide whether your poem is good, bad, successful, unsuccessful, or somewhere in between. That decision is up to you. If it says what you want it to say and you are satisfied with it, that should suffice.

        As always,

        All the best.

  7. Monty

    c/o Martin Rizley

    . . . but that’s two different things, Martin. In your initial comment, you referred to “personal peace and tranquillity”; but in your last comment, it changed to “personal peace and affluence”. I opined only on the former; with the latter, I’m not sure in which context I should absorb the word ‘affluence’.

    • Martin Rizley

      My mistake. As I said, I had Schaeffer’s phrase in mind–“personal peace and affluence” — but I got it wrong.

  8. Gleb Zavlanov

    Dear Mr. Gosselin,

    I really like this poem.

    The metaphor is highly original and the language is evocative and beautiful.

    Indeed, the man who is bashed by the tempestuous waves of life is not always able to keep it in and must shed the occasional tear.

    Very well done!



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