“Pride Goeth . . . .”

“How dare you, sir! Your libel will not stand!”
The words flew out across the now-hushed room.
“Retract your vile lies or face your doom!
“Repent or you shall die by my own hand!”
A single calf-skin glove was raised on high.
“My honor demands satisfaction, sir,
“By sword or pistol as you may prefer.”
The glove was swung with force. “Prepare to die!”
And so, at dawn on the succeeding day
Two stone-faced men stood in a wooded dell.
Two pistols flamed apace and two men fell,
Too proud and honor-bound to back away.
And afterwards no witness could recall
The slight that brought about the two men’s fall.



Gordian Knots

Of cornel bark and intricate design
The Phrygian Gordian knot was made;
Exquisite skill and artistry displayed
Within its tightly-plaited serpentine.
A prophesy was intertwined within it,
To be fulfilled by one both bold and wise.
The whole of Asia was the proffered prize.
Whoever could untie the knot would win it.
So many tried and failed to undo it
Until great Alexander showed his face.
He scratched his head, then cut straight to the chase,
Unsheathed his sword and hacked his way right through it.
When facing knots, it’s always “do or die”
To choose whether to cut or to untie.



Buried Treasure

The U.S. Geological Survey
Once tested soil across America
And found a bit of esoterica
Concerning where the richest soil might lay.
They checked for nitrates—even radium—
And found, to their surprise (and my delight),
The finest soil to be beneath the site
Of Pittsburg’s old Three River’s Stadium.
When pirates buried treasure, like as not,
They hid it well, completely out of view.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have a treasure too,
Beneath what’s now a nearby parking lot.
An asphalt field, now sterile, bleak, forlorn;
That could have been a field of golden corn.


All poems previously published in Mostly Sonnets–Formal Poetry for an Informal World, by James A. Tweedie, Dunecrest Press, 2019


James A. Tweedie is a recently retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He likes to walk on the beach with his wife. He has written and self-published four novels and a collection of short stories. He has several hundred unpublished poems tucked away in drawers.

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17 Responses

  1. Theresa Rodriguez

    Three very well-written sonnets, thank you James! I tried to find information on your book Mostly Sonnets–Formal Poetry for an Informal World, but could not find anything on Amazon or via an internet search. Would you be so kind as to let me (and others) know how we might be able to purchase a copy?

      • Theresa Rodriguez

        Great James, just ordered a Kindle copy, and I look forward to reading it!

      • Peter Hartley

        … “before destruction and an haughty spirit before a fall,” in which case I suppose the pride comes before a fall as well. Three interesting little moral tales. The first reminds me how fortunate we are we live in an age where we don’t need to duel to preserve honour as Castlereagh and Canning felt they had to do in the nineteenth century.In Manchester when arguments get out of control we just set fire to each other. Number three reminds me of Richard III, last Plantagenet king of England, buried under a car park in Leicester (died in 1485)

      • James A. Tweedie

        Peter, Not to mention John Knox buried somewhere under the cobbled parking area in front of St. Giles in Edinburgh.

  2. Joe Tessitore

    These are wonderful, James!
    I’m tempted to say that one is better than the next, but in fact I believe that they’re equally brilliant.

  3. Margaret Coats

    Three very good sonnets! The first (which can apply to any duel) is an excellent reminder to take serious thought before entering or continuing a conflict. There are times when we need to fight, and in some vitally important fights, we should never give up. Still, many personal battles have trivial causes, and may use weapons that result in disproportionate injury. If this is still a shared moral commonplace to many people, your duel sonnet performs well the function of moral poetry. In my opinion, this is to present the shared commonplace yet again, in beautiful and satisfying form.

    • James A. Tweedie


      I grew up one mile from the site of the 1859 Broderick-Terry duel in California. It was fought, between two erstwhile fiends and political allies in part over the issue of slavery. Broderick’s death made him a martyr to the anti-slavery cause and galvanized public opinion which assured that California became an anti-slavery state. It is considered to have been the last notable duel in American history and spurred many states to enact legislation to outlaw it Shortly after I wrote the poem an episode of the television series, Poldark, featured a duel nearly identical to the one I describe. As an American, I cannot also forget the tragic duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, two men, either of whom could have one day become the US President. Not to mention the fictional Barry Lyndon losing a leg in yet another senseless duel.

  4. Jeff Eardley

    Mr Tweedie, thank you for lighting up a bad news day over here. I love all three but particularly “Buried Treasure” which led me to research baseball and the Pittsburgh Pirates, named after their poaching of players from rival teams. For an Englishman who doesn’t even understand cricket, you have done well.

    • James A. Tweedie


      The trivia enshrined in that last poem dates back many many years. Why it stayed in my memory and why it emerged to inspire a sonnet (of all things) 40/50 years later is a mystery even to my muse.

      And let me encourage you to brush up on your cricket. Any sport with a player position called a “silly mid on” is worth more than just casual glance.

      • Jeff Eardley

        Mr Tweedie, this evening, in our final parliamentary debate as we leave the EU, one of our leading politicians stated that we have “sliced through the Gordian knot” that has tethered us to Europe. Poem 2 is topical indeed tonight.

  5. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    James, what a wonderful trio of sonnets. All are accomplished and engaging, but my favorite is; ““Pride Goeth . . . .” – what a lesson we could all learn from the closing couplet! Thank you muchly!

  6. C.B. Anderson

    These wide-ranging sonnets, James, have a common thread: all three deal with actual historical persons and/or organizations. I love being reminded of how little I have studied history, and I admire someone who can fill in some of the blanks in metrical/rhyming form. The sonnet has traveled a long way. I can remember when one member of an editorial panel judging a sonnet I submitted wrote: I thought sonnets were supposed to be about romantic love. Well, yes, there are many of those, but sometimes it just comes down to a love of language. I thank you for submitting these and adding to my continuing education.

  7. James A. Tweedie

    I thank each and every one of you for your affirming comments. I look forward to what we will create and share together in the coming year.

  8. Theresa Rodriguez

    James, just wanted you to know that I posted a review on Amazon of Mostly Sonnets at the link above. Thank you for a truly enjoyable reading experience!


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