Ode on ​Bertel Thorvaldsen’s Ganymede and the Eagle

Bending down in offering, a
Boy extends a shallow bowl;
Craning neck of eagle dips, the
Child foresees his coming role.
Swept from earth to heaven’s cheers,
What held your heart with world below?
Now countless days will turn to years—
Your boyhood cast in Lethe’s flow.

If ever, now, you could have known
What dwelt within that Being’s gaze,
Would you have filled that cup of stone,
Or given up your store of days?
You freely kneel, as yet unscarred,
Your frame in marble, soft and grey.
By virtue only are you marred,
Apart from us, we men of clay.

Still, crouching here, your downcast eyes
Reveal what all men must fear—
Decrying god who heard your cries,
Yet parted you from all held dear.
Now motes of light in space and time,
Standing straight with talon-scars,
The subject of both stone and rhyme—
Both on the Earth and in the stars.



Closer to a Vine

Three lichened pines grow straight and thin
____to reach for filtered rays,
While oak and ash and younger kin
____take other ancient ways.

The spruces wield their blue-green swords,
____the firs their flattened pikes—
A battle waged o’er decades, lords
____of timber trading strikes.

These giants with their days stretched long
____surpass my fleeting life.
Each bough engaged in battle-song
____through centuries of strife.

Myself, I am a moving thing,
____and closer to a vine;
A shifting, yearning will to cling
____to oak and birch and pine.

And like a vine, I suffocate
____to get my share of light.
When sunbeams fade and chills await
____our bonds give way to blight.

All living things in guises fair
____play out this faithless game,
Until the caverns tremor where
____Survival stakes its claim.



Talbot Hook is an educator and nascent writer currently living in Des Moines, Iowa.

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36 Responses

  1. Monty

    Regarding your ‘ode’, Talbot: I’ve not the slightest interest in mythology, thus I wasn’t able to follow your narrative as well as others might. But it’s very well written, very clear and concise, with a skilful use of description. I must say I was slightly dismayed with your attempt to rhyme ‘god’ and ‘marred’, and massively dismayed with your rhyming of ‘a’ and ‘they’. I say this only from a personal point of view, and I’m aware that some with far more poetry-expertise than I may say that using an ‘a’ for a rhyme is perfectly acceptable; but they’ll never dissuade me from my feeling that it looks wrong, feels wrong, and denotes sloppiness! It also, to me, looks visually scruffy on the page; and, much worse, gives off an air of free verse. But that’s just me.

    As for your second offering: I consider it to be a mini-masterpiece. It contains absolutely everything that good poetry should . . beautifully and fluidly written; consistently rhymed; perfectly punctuated throughout; a masterful use of language and metaphor (“..the firs their flattened pikes..”; “..engaged in battle-song through centuries of strife”; “.. a shifting, yearning will to cling..”); and what’s more, all of this is encapsulated in a conceptually-brilliant and imaginative analogy between Tree and Man . . and it’s all deftly concluded in the closing couplet, which reminds us that every living thing is staking its own personal claim for survival.

    This is high-class stuff, Talbot, and I sincerely feel that it wouldn’t look out of place in any poetry anthology, in any century. With that in mind, I was a tad surprised that you described yourself (in your bio) as a “nascent” writer. To that, I can only think that if this is what you’re capable of in your nascency . . then who knows what you could achieve with a little dose of experience!

    • Talbot

      Dear Monty,

      Thanks for all the constructive criticism. I wholly agree with the “god/marred” line, and have a few alternatives, which I will post later. Perhaps you can lend me additional assistance there. I would certainly appreciate it, but I need some more time to mull them over first.

      In terms of the “a/the” rhyme, while it may indeed look “visually scruffy”, both are pronounced〈ə〉where I’m from, so it feels (and sounds) quite natural to me. Just for a bit of background on my choice there (not that it justifies it, in whole or part!).

      I have nothing to say but a sincere “thank you” for your lovely comments about my second poem. And, as to the descriptor of “nascent” in my bio, I’ve only been reading and writing poetry for the past two years, as of this January. For some reason, I was fairly averse to it for a while, and I only overcame that myopia relatively recently. (Better late than never, as they say!)

      Thanks again. I’ll try to tighten up that first rhyme in the coming days.

      • C.B. Anderson

        Ya can’t really rhyme schwas, Talbot, because they rarely , if ever fall on a stressed syllable, and true perfect rhymes ALWAYS fall on stressed syllables, unless we’re talking about multisyllabic rhymes such as mystery/history, and there, you see, the authenticity of the rhyme depends on the first (stressed) syllable. The following unstressed syllables don’t really matter, as long as they are identical in sound. This is the answer to the riddle, “When does and end rhyme not come at the end of a line?

  2. Christopher Flint

    Talbot —

    I admire your second work a great deal. In that spirit, I had several thoughts for what they might be worth. If you find them disagreeable, please have Mike strike my post.

    I felt line five could be even stronger if you used the singlular form plural for “spruces” and “firs”. It could read something more like this:

    The spruce all wield their blue-green swords,
    ____the fir their flattened pikes—

    I also thought you might want to consider strengthening your transitional contrast even more by altering this line slightly from

    Myself, I am a moving thing,
    ____and closer to a vine:


    I am. myself, a climbing thing,
    ____though closer to a vine:

    Finally. it seemed to me you could preserve the plural sense of “all living things” and avoid gender attribution without diminishing wonderful strength by changing your last phrase slightly to:

    ____Surviving stakes its claim.

    Again, none of this is intended to be critical. Your work stands tall as is.

    • Monty

      You’re obviously unaware that two of the suggestions you’ve made to Talbot (above) serve no purpose other than to invite him to commit bad grammar. You suggest that he changes ‘spruces’ and ‘firs’ (both plural) to ‘spruce’ and ‘fir’ (both singular. These are your suggestions:

      a/ ‘The spruce all wield their blue-green swords..’
      b/ ‘The fir their flattened pikes..’

      Can you still not see the errors in those two lines? We have ‘spruce’ in the singular, but the rest of the line is in the plural: ‘The spruce ALL wield THEIR blue-green swords’.

      Also, ‘fir’ is in the singular, but the rest of the line in the plural:
      ‘The fir THEIR flattened pikes’.

      D’you see what I’m saying? It’s akin to writing:
      ‘The man all wield their shiny swords’ . . . when we both know it should be ‘The men all wield their shiny swords’ (plural) . . or ‘The man wields his shiny sword’ (singular).

      If, as you suggest, the two trees should be in the singular, then each line must be entirely in the singular:
      ‘The spruce wields its blue-green swords’.
      ‘The fir its flattened pikes’.
      And even correctly written as such, I still fail to see how they could, in any way, improve upon the author’s own words.

      And as for your suggestion that he changes ‘moving’ to ‘climbing’ . . why? Yeah, we know that, in general, vines climb; but in the process of their climbing, they’re also moving, are they not? Thus Mr Talbot’s analogy is adequate as it stands. On top of which, wouldn’t you agree that it may sound a tad awkward for one to describe themself as ‘a climbing thing’? We often hear the words: ‘He’s always on the move’.. but we don’t hear: ‘He’s always on the climb’.

      Finally, regarding the last stanza: There’s no connection whatsover between ‘all living things’ being in the plural . . and the last line, ‘Survival stakes his claim’ being in the singular. After all, one can hardly make the last line plural: ‘Survivals stake their claim’.. because ‘survival’ is a single thing. I also feel that you’ve used the term ‘gender attribution’ needlessly in relation to the last line. Mr Talbot’s use of ‘Survival stakes his claim’ is just an everyday figure of speech; and should be taken with the same innocence as when one describes their car thus: ‘She drives like a dream’.

      • C.B. Anderson

        Monty, your opening comment on plural & singular nouns is a tad off. As you know words that name living things are often both singular and plural. “Fish” and “deer” are good examples. We can say, “A fish likes water” or “Fish like water.” If we say, “Fishes like water,” what we probably mean is that different kinds of fish like the natural medium in which they live. One could say the same thing for names of trees. “All the spruce growing in my woodlot are perfectly healthy,” is a sentence I find perfectly acceptable.

        If I have any objection to “Survival stakes his claim” it is the personification of survival, which, after all, is a thing:

        “Survival stales its claim” is preferable

      • Christopher Flint

        Monty —

        You are certainly entitled to be rude, but that’s not the tone I used with Talbot, and my comment clearly was not addressed to you. I suspect Talbot can capably respond for himself.

        As for me. I welcome critical reaction courteously stated and supported by material reasoning.

        To my first point, it might be that my expression “singular form plural” was confusing, but that’s why I immediately and specifically illustrated my point.

        Early in his verse Talbot validly enumerated “three pines”. He went on to validly invoke “oak and ash” in the plural sense.

        When he also validly invoked “spruces” and “firs”, it seemed to me he might have done so to preserve good meter, a problem he did not face earlier with “oak and ash”.

        “Spruce” and “fir”, however, do not require an added “s” to connote plural nature even though adding the “s” may also acceptable.

        His use of “their” would have been correct in either case. I did not fault Talbot’s grammar, nor did I state that needed to use the singular.

        I thought usage consistent with “oak and ash” read more smoothly, tied his lines together better, and lent more poetic grace. The change required only a minor tweak, and I thought he might find it useful.

        As for my second point, changing…

        “Myself, I am a moving thing,
        ____and closer to a vine


        I am myself a climbing thing,
        ____but closer to a vine:

        …Talbot’s opening spoke to trees growing, to vertically, reaching for the sun. We grow too, and we reach heavenward for light. That’s why I felt the tree and vine analogy was so powerfully appropriate as he more fully developed it.

        I felt establishing his similarity to both the tree and the vine before introducing his powerul contrast would leverage his earlier lines more effectively. His alliteration of “myself” and “moving”was clever, but I felt the alliteration of “climbing” and “closer” was even stronger and more to his point. I didn’t feel the fact that we “move” was as material to his ensuing thought as the fact that we “climb” (as in the ladder of success. heavenward by deed, etc.)

        Using “but” rather than “and” makes it clearer that he is going to take his comparison into contrast.

        I also found nothing “wrong” with his “Myself I am…” word order, per se. I just felt like the metered natural order (“I am myself…”) in this case made the transition less abrupt seeming (which I thought fit his approach).

        As for my third point, changing Talbot’s final phrase. from…

        ____Survival stakes his claim.


        ____Surviving stakes its claim.

        …he is essentially saying that of “all living things”, many are constantly deceasing as others he mentioned, including himself, are growing.

        I feel “surviving” speaks more strongly to that ongoing process and its plurality. When Talbot spoke of “tremors”, I could hear the trees succumbing to suffrocating vines, cracking loudly, and falling to the shuddering ground. And I saw the vines still greening, still strangling, still surviving. I felt what is happening in America.

        I at no time suggested pluralizing “survival”.

        I concur with Mr. Anderson regarding the change to “its” if Talbot decides to stay with “survival”. But I still commend “surviving” as a stronger choice.

        In sum. I am not immune from error. but I don’t invest time in other peoples’ work frivolously. I have nothing to gain but the hope that specific constructive thought will be helpful, if not in the work addressed perhaps in the future. And I have valuable time to lose. I try to give the sort of feedback I would appreciate getting.

      • Monty

        Yeah, I’m aware, CB, that some living things have the same word in both singular and plural; but as far as I’m aware, there are only about a handful of such cases regarding creatures: fish, sheep, deer, buffalo, wildebeest. I’m sure there may be several more, but not many. It may be the case that 98 or 99 percent of creatures simply have an ‘s’ added to their name to form the plural.

        It’s the same with non-creature living things such as trees and plants; I’m sure there must be the odd few for which the same word is used for both singular and plural, but none that I’m aware of. Again, in most cases we simply must add an ‘s’ to form the plural. Thus, I don’t agree that more than one spruce tree can be correctly referred to as ‘spruce’. The correct usage must surely be ‘spruces’. Hence more than one fir tree becomes ‘firs’; more than one pine tree becomes ‘pines’. If we had one pine tree in our garden, we’d say:
        ‘The pine is swaying in the wind’.
        But if we had three, we’d say:
        ‘The pines are swaying in the wind’.
        The way I see it, to refer to three spruce trees as
        ‘The spruce were swaying in the wind’
        is akin to saying
        ‘He turned up at her house with a bunch of rose’.
        In the same sense, Wordsworth doesn’t refer to a field of daffodil, but daffodils.

        Regarding the closing line of the poem, I fully agree with you that ‘Survival stakes ITS claim’ is “preferable” to ‘.. HIS claim’; and if I had wrote the above poem, I feel certain that I would’ve used ‘its claim’.. without even considering ‘his claim’. I was merely pointing out to the other commenter that the use of ‘his claim’ was perfectly acceptable, and that it wasn’t flouting any rules of “gender attribution”.

    • Talbot

      Christopher —

      Thank you for your praise, and for your suggestions. I certainly would never seek to remove a comment, especially when it is constructive and well-intentioned!

      I will ask, based on your (and C.B. Anderson’s) comment, that the final line be changed to “Survival stakes *its* claim.” I debated that one a good long while, but it seems consensus is against me! I believe I will keep the other lines as-is. Again, I do appreciate both your critiques and kind words.

      • Mike Bryant

        Talbot, I’ve changed the line as instructed, Mike

    • Talbot

      Thank you. I still need to tweak some things, but thanks for your comment. Happy New Year!

      (Also, I see what you did there!)

  3. Benjamen Grinberg

    I loved the first poem but have no idea what it’s talking about. Evan can you provide a link?

    • Talbot

      Thanks, Benjamen. In fine, Ganymede, in some tellings, was among the most beautiful of mortals; Zeus, upon seeing him, fell in love with his beauty and kidnapped him (as an eagle) to serve as cup-bearer to the gods and goddesses in Olympus.

      The statue is housed in the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and is among my favorite pieces in their exquisite galleries.

  4. Benjamen Grinberg

    Yes Talbot I’ve been there many times and their galleries are exquisite even if small. Of course my favorite piece is the elaborate Chinese jade rock carving!

  5. Chtistopher Flint

    Talbot —

    Search “oak plural form”, “ash plural form”, “spruce plura form”, and “fir plural form” or consult a good dictionary like Merriam Webster’s to check out whether such words as oak, ash, spruce, and fir can be countable, uncountable, or both. Mr. Anderson is correct

    • C.B. Anderson

      Surely, Mr. Flint, Monty is well aquainted with more examples of type of thing than he has enumerated. No one would say “I caught seven trouts and three basses at the lake today. I don’t know WHY this happens, or what it is called by the lexical authorities, but it is as common as grass. Perhaps it is some sort of collective biological noun.

      • Christopher Flint

        I admire yout work a great deal and your commentary as well. Like Margaret, your contributions to this site are many and invaluable.

        Regarding plurals. as one of my iambic limericks puts it:

        The study of plualities
        is fraught with technicalities.
        The esses taught
        are all for naught
        in certain abnormalities.

      • Monty

        I can assure you, CB, that I’m not “well acquainted” with any more creature-examples than the ones I “enumerated” above (fish, deer, sheep, buffalo, wildebeest). Like I said, I suspect there may be more; but I equally suspect not MANY more, and I’d be grateful to learn of any additional examples that you know of. Indeed, I now find myself wondering whether there may be any creature(s) of which the plurality entails not the addition of an ‘s’, or ‘es’.. but an ‘i’, in the same way that cactus becomes cacti (but obviously excluding the latin terms for creatures which, as we know, invariably end in a vowel).

        Of course you’re right in asserting that we wouldn’t say “I caught seven trouts and three basses today”; but given that we’ve already agreed in earlier comments that ‘fish’ remains ‘fish’ pluralised, then that goes without saying. But I’d be interested to know how you view the following: Talbot’s second piece begins with the line
        ‘Three lichened pines grow straight and thin’ . . and I wonder if you feel it would’ve been equally acceptable – and grammatically correct – to write
        ‘Three lichened pine grow straight and thin’.
        Regardless of the examples since given by another commenter on the plurality of certain trees . . the latter line, to me, simply looks and feels wrong! Perhaps it highlights the difference between what a dictionary prescribes.. and what we actually use in everyday speech; and what sounds right or wrong to us as individuals.

        But if it’s universally agreed – and proven – that the latter line is as equally correct as the former, then my confusion may lead me to believe that you might be on to something when you venture that this whole topic may be the result of “some sort of collective biological noun”. And if that happened to be the case, then it’d be too far beyond my comprehension for me to attempt attaching any thought to it.

  6. Margaret Coats

    The Ode stakes a legitimate claim to that name, as it’s in three parts and features classical allusion, but most especially because you, Talbot, keep your focus on the statue. You are imagining thoughts and feelings in the boy Ganymede, and suggesting how these may apply to any man, yet the work of art remains in the foreground. I especially like the line, “By virtue only are you marred.” It speaks to Ganymede, but in doing so between lines contrasting the statue’s marble with “men of clay,” it speaks also of Thorvaldsen’s virtu as a sculptor. Great reason to keep “marred,” even though it and “god” are slant rhymes rather than perfect ones. When there is an established rhyme scheme, we should strive for perfect rhyme, but striving should avoid frequent experimentation, while allowing a judicious substitution.

    Let me say that I admire the Ode very much, before pointing out two problems in the final stanza. First, “decry” means to cry out against, and “descry” means to discern or recognize. These words are pronounced alike and often confused; if you intended “descry,” you may be the victim of a spell-checker. Please correct the checker! The other problem is the line, “Now motes of light in space and time,” which seems to refer back to Ganymede’s eyes. But the remaining three lines refer to Ganymede himself, and because the motes of light are immediately followed by “Standing straight with talon-scars,” which cannot describe the eyes, there seems to be a missing transition. A little stutter there in an excellent poem overall.

    In “Closer to a Vine,” you’ve defined the forest context beautifully–showing that a robust, wild vine is your type. But that begs the question, what do you mean by saying, “All living things in guises fair/Play out this faithless game”? The fair wisteria vine and the fruitful grape vine would seem to live in entirely different settings, not playing the forest game.

    I do like the poem very much. About the much-discussed controversies, I find that most tree names can be both plural and singular, AND I believe you use both options to good effect in the same poem. “Spruce all wield” is decidedly weaker than “spruces wield” because “all” is a filler word easily noticed as such by anyone who reads much metered poetry. Still, in accord with Mr. Flint’s suggestion, I looked at my Webster’s and Shorter OED to confirm my opinion from the American and British dictionary viewpoints. An amusing answer emerged from Webster’s, with definition 3 for “spruce” being, “any of several evergreen trees, as the Douglas fir, resembling the spruces.” In other words, Webster’s uses generic tree names as both singular and plural, even in a definition–just as Talbot Hook does in his poem.

    “Survival” is better than “surviving” as the name of someone or something staking a claim. “Survival” as a masculine personification is fine with me–if that’s what the poet wants. Context of the poem helps decide: is Survival in this forest to be viewed as a masculine, feminine, or neuter matter? Justice (for another abstraction) can be feminine if we think of the lady holding balances, or masculine if we think of Spenser’s Sir Artegall, or neuter if we think of a law library. And there’s my possibility at the beginning of this paragraph: Survival could simply stake a claim, as there are several other forces also staking claims when survival is at stake.

    Lastly, why not “sunbeams fade” instead of “sun-beam fades”? This gets rid of the ugly hyphen and makes good parallel construction with “chills await.”

    At this point, Talbot, your head must be spinning around these little critiques from critics who like your poems. Please take them as evidence of admiration!

    • C.B. Anderson

      As usual, you, Margaret, have made some fine points. I would, however, like to object to your phrase “begs the question” in your third paragraph. Begging the question (or petitio principii) refers to a particular logical fallacy. It would have been better to write “invites the question” or something along those lines. Although I had already known this, I used the phrase in a poem once and was taken to task by a scrupulous executive editor (Orson Scott Card), so I changed “this question begs another one” to “this question spawns another one.”

      In your fourth paragraph you call out “all” as a filler word, and I agree that this is so, but I also admit that I employ such words, when necessary, to round out the meter. Another such word is “just” (in any one of its adverbial senses). As metrical poets, we are stuck with the resources at hand, and must expediently use them to our advantage. If the world were ideal, we would all spout perfect verse on demand, but we must make do with what we have at our fingertips

    • Talbot

      Dear Margaret,

      Thanks for another round of lovely praise and suggestions! I find this website a great sounding-board and font of knowledge. The comments on this post have been exceedingly helpful in stirring my thought. In reference to your suggestions, perhaps I can explain my way out somehow; you rightly say:

      “You are imagining thoughts and feelings in the boy Ganymede, and suggesting how these may apply to any man, yet the work of art remains in the foreground.”

      This was indeed my aim, and my use of the word “decry” was intentional, only because some tellings of the myth (especially Virgil’s account) are depicted with, as I read it, a reluctance to be borne away, if only on the parts of his tutors and trusty hounds. And, even in the statue, I get the feeling of a vague reluctance, as if Ganymede can read, in his offering of the bowl, what will happen shortly thereafter. And I can’t imagine he’s perfectly willing to rise to his “calling”. As I ask in the second stanza, “If ever, now, you could have known // What dwelt within that Being’s gaze, // Would you have filled that cup of stone, // Or given up your store of days?”, I try to answer here, with at least a perfunctory “decrying”, or some amount of mental trepidation or unease about being taken from one’s life to serve beings far above one’s mortal lot. So, he is, somehow, crying out against Zeus, who has heard his cries, yet still bears him away from his loved ones.

      “Now motes of light in space and time” is meant to refer solely back to Ganymede himself, especially as he was eventually identified with the constellation of Aquarius. The transition from eyes to person is probably not the strongest, and for that, I’ll have to beg the reader’s indulgence.

      Concerning the “all living things” in “Closer to a Vine”, I think Christopher explained what I intended below, saying that “To the prey or the collaterally affected, the predator or cause seems inherently selfish and ‘faithless’.” Here I am certainly using a bit of hyperbole, but I do so in order to strike at a truth of biology (and our perception of watching whatever ecosystem we have in our gaze): things look lovely, and often are, during times of abundance, but the moment that the abundance is lost, nature reveals a less-than-savory truth about the individual organism’s desire for survival. Surely my rose-bushes know this, and, during my more realistic moods, so do I. The rugged forest vine just happened to be the object that illustrated this most purely for me; of course some vines are more friendly than others!

      I do agree that “spruces wield” sounds better to my inner ear than does “spruces all”, though, of course, both work well, I believe. De gustibus non est disputandum, after all. Concerning “survival/surviving”, I ultimately prefer it more as a concept than an action, though both could work to different effect. The effect I want, though, is, as you point out, of an “entity” staking a claim, deep below the loveliness of the forest.

      And, while I don’t consider the hyphen necessarily an ugly creature, I do agree that changing it makes for better parallel construction, and would have it altered to “sunbeams fade”. An excellent suggestion.

      “At this point, Talbot, your head must be spinning around these little critiques from critics who like your poems. Please take them as evidence of admiration!”

      Although my head was in a whirl this morning (a delightfully-mixed neurochemical cocktail resulting from both praise and criticism — something that seems unique to putting your work before others), I feel as though my work has been improved, so I am ultimately quite pleased. Thank you all for your time and attention on this! I can’t overstate my appreciation.

  7. Christopher Flint

    Margaret —

    i respect your studied views enormously. even where in good faith I humbly disagree. This site is replete with your commentary that is remarkably civil and useful not only to the author addressed but to all authors who are interested in perfecting their craft. Your reaction here is no exception. That is the wonder of what Mr. Mantyk has
    created in his efforts to preserve formalism and protect the advocacy of liberty.

    In that spirit, I state facts, when I believe I know them, as absolutes, but I lack the credibility to assert my opinions that way, and I go to great lengths to make that clear. I hope I have done so here.

    To your point about unenumerated plurals, I did not question Talbot’s grammar. I was addressing the poetic effect and consistency of the options he had available. He beautifully used “oak and ash” without “s” plurals. and he had the same opportunity with “spruce” and “fir”. Most folks would not question either plural choice grammatically, though some, from a usage standpoint, would insist the “s” forms intended to suggest that multiple varieties of both sorts were in view.

    The latter explains why you saw “spruces” in the definition you cited. It was a reference to varieties, a case by rule in which the noun becomes countable.

    Like Mr. Anderson, I don”t share your view of “all” in this context, or of its weakening effect, but those are inarguable matters of opinion, and I certainly respect yours.

    Regarding “All living things in guises fair/Play out this faithless game”, I think whether the guises of all living things are fair would be arguable. Talbot reasonably only took on trees and vines that climb them, but the latter half of his much broader generalization seems valid in any ecosystem habitat. To the prey or the collaterally affected, the predator or cause seems inherently selfish and “faithless”.

    As for “Survival” versus “Surviving”, it is, I believe. another of those things that can strongly be argued both ways. I prefer the gerund because it seems to more strongly suggest the activity that comprises the “game” — all living things each staking its claim to resources or actions that are necessarily denied to all others in the same space and moment. Further. the gerund removes the gender issue that I thought was abrupt and not usefully taken on or supported.

    I agree. however. if gender is going to be usefully asserted, the gerund is not the better choice. I think the verse would have to build that case, though, as your significant point (about which gender to use) implies.

    I also share your preference for eliminating unneeded hyphenation and installing parallel structure.

    And I share your sense that all comment directed to Talbot has been in the spirit of well deserved praise.

    And again, I also think that, where civil, these sorts of discussions speak well to the Society’s purpose and extend the value of works presented exponentially. You have a very precious gift for making that true.

    I was not a party to the discussion of Talbot’s first work, but I found it intriguing and useful too.

    • Talbot

      “And again, I also think that, where civil, these sorts of discussions speak well to the Society’s purpose and extend the value of works presented exponentially. You have a very precious gift for making that true.”

      Hear, hear!

  8. David

    Dear Talbot,

    That was an interesting treatment of the Ganymede theme.

    I think it’s very useful to compare how different artists have treated the theme not only in poetry, but in painting. Take the case of Rembrandt’s treatment of the Ganymede myth compared to that of Paul Peter Rubens. There are some stark and very fascinating differences.

    I look forward to seeing more of your work!

  9. David

    Dear Talbot,

    I had written something in the comments earlier, but it looks like there was a glitch. Given your treatment of the Ganymede story, I thought it was worth making a few observations. So I’ll add those to my shorter remarks above and hopefully there is no glitch.

    I think that when it comes to the question of classical composition and classical poetry, the question of treatment is especially important, in my opinion.

    For example, in the case of Shakespeare, the stories and legends he used to write his dramas had often existed for many centuries. What set Shakespeare apart from the other playwrights in his treatment of something like the story of Hamlet or of Julius Caesar? It was a question of treatment, how Shakespeare chose to use the raw elements of the story, the predicates, to convey some kind of new and profound dramatic or tragic composition. It is through Shakespeare treatment of the parts, the predicates of the story that he is able to convey something profound to the audience, some kind of timeless wisdom or idea.

    In regards to the specific myth of Ganymede, it’s interesting to compare how different artists have treated the same theme over time. It’s also a useful way of comparing different kinds of treatment i.e. Classical vs. Romantic. For instance, if one compares the painting of Ganymede by the Romantic painter Paul Peter Rubens with the Rape of Ganymede by Rembrandt, one see’s two very different kinds of idea. Rubens’ work is essentially just a Romantic descriptive piece, he depicts the basic elements of the story i.e. Zeus descends to earth in the form of an eagle and brings Ganymede back to heaven, thus immortalizing his mortal beauty. In the traditional myth, we are of course talking about the immortalization of physical beauty, which is not insignificant.

    In the case of Rembrandt, we are presented with a much more nuanced and ironical treatment, a genuine classical treatment. Rembrandt does several things to make his irony transparent. Firstly, Ganymede is depicted not as a teenager, but as essentially a baby. The eagle also appears much more menacing. The scene is much darker. Perhaps, Rembrandt thought that the idea of an old hoary God snatching up a young boy to make him his “wine pourer” wasn’t actually that romantic of a theme…

    • Talbot

      Dear David,

      I agree. It was immensely delightful to view how many different depictions of Ganymede’s abduction there are in existence. While I enjoy the irony present in the Rembrandt (and still perhaps more in Nicolaes Maes’s George de Vicq as Ganymede — though it strikes me more as comical, in honesty), I ultimately prefer the Rubens. As to sculptures of the event, they range from the beautiful and touching to the almost laughable: José Álvarez Cubero’s work, while not without merit, always struck me as either “buddy-buddy” or “cocktail party”. As you said: “in classical composition and classical poetry, the question of treatment is especially important.” I couldn’t agree more, and I wonder which Ganymede himself would prefer!

      Thanks for the kind words.

      • Monty

        . . . even your prose, Talbot, contains a delectably light touch and a masterful flow. “Nascent writer”?

  10. Talbot

    So, after a few days of reflection on the “god/marred” line, I would offer these alternatives. I am happier with one than the other, and ultimately either could change. I would happily welcome feedback of whatever variety. Keeping “marred” was a necessity for me, and I was thereby restricted a bit (hence the original slant rhyme).

    “You freely kneel, with god’s regard,
    Your frame in marble, soft and grey.
    By virtue only are you marred,
    Apart from us, we men of clay.”

    “You freely kneel, with heart [unbarred/off guard],
    Your frame in marble, soft and grey.
    By virtue only are you marred,
    Apart from us, we men of clay.”

    The second is more open to change, and [unbarred/off guard] both connote very different things, either of which would work for me. I also considered “ageless” in place of “freely”, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, as I said, I am open to whatever suggestions come my way!

  11. Christopher Flint

    Talbot —

    I would recommend this:

    “Serene you kneel and seem unscarred.”

    I think that plays into the rhyming “marred” line well and is consistent with the tone you are using.

    I like the idea of not using “stone’ again in this line.

    Just a thought.

  12. Talbot


    I definitely agree about nixing the word “stone” here; I’ll consider that an oversight on my end. Happily I have people to point these things out to me.

    Do you think, though, that “unscarred” would contradict my “talon-scars” below? I wanted to stay away from using “scarred” (or its negation) not only because of this, but for the same reason that I wanted to change stone — just to avoid seeming repetitive. I agree that Ganymede does seem serene, but I believe I like “freely” better, as it intimates a certain generosity and openness, something that is almost unique to children. But I would love to hear your thoughts on the “unscarred/talon-scars” relationship.

    I appreciate your continued help in all this.

    And, if the moderators are still in these halls, I would appreciate having the final stanzas of “Closer to a Vine” changed to the following, based upon the recommendations I’ve received:

    “And like a vine, I suffocate
    to get my share of light.
    When sunbeams fade and chills await
    our bonds give way to blight.

    All living things in guises fair
    play out this faithless game,
    Until the caverns tremor where
    Survival stakes its claim.”

  13. Christopher Flint

    Your question is excellent. At the moment recreated here, Ganymede is indeed “unscarred” in any sort of way, so I think it works. To return to ” freely”, I would make the line:

    “You freely kneel and seem unscarred.”

    You are correct that “serene” does not necessarily connote “freely”. I was contrasting the fear you subsequently introduce.

    I think your “talon-scars” concern does have to be addressed. I believed that going from how he seems to what he might be, like all men, fearing makes the seemingly repetitous use of “scar” plausible and cogent.

    However, upon further review, I now think it requires changing:

    “Now motes of light in space and time,
    Standing straight with talon-scars,”


    “Now motes of light in space and time,
    Still standing but with talon-scars,”

    The latter line was one syllable short anyway, so this fixes that meter issue and to me makes the repeated “scars” much less awkward.

    And I think the trade-off for preserving your “marred” line is worth it. But all that might be more than you bargained for. Hanging on to a particular line can exact an excruciating price.

    Let me know what you think.

    • Talbot

      I think you’ve convinced me to use “unscarred”, but would alter your line slightly to:

      “You freely kneel, as yet unscarred,
      Your frame in marble, soft and grey.
      By virtue only are you marred,
      Apart from us, we men of clay.”

      How does that strike you? To me, it seems much-improved, but I would welcome further thoughts. It feels a poignant contrast between his offering and his almost-immediate spiriting-away (one moment unscarred, and the next, talon-rent).

      As to the final change, I must admit that I prefer what I had originally written; I don’t mind that it isn’t a line of perfect meter (related to what you and Mr. Salemi are discussing elsewhere on this site), and find its flow more pleasing.

      But I do thank you for all your suggestions and commentary. I’m as pleased as punch with the changes.

      • Christopher Flint

        I think your change is a very good idea for two reasons. The first is your logic that makes perfect sense to me. The second is that it will cement your ownership of the work which is very important to you and to the people who render advice in a forum such as SCP. For the same reason I applaud your decision to stick with your original subsequent language. I thought that “but” there had the same sort of impact as you have achieved above with “yet”, but that’s a relatively minor concern compared to saving your “marred” line.

        As for my concern about meter, I’m pleasantly surprised that anyone is tuning in to my dialogue with Mr Salemi.

        Mr. Anderson’s phrase “dealer’s choice” says it all when it comes creative writing. As I said to Mr. Salemi, I believe that effect on the verse is paramount. I would forsake meter perfection (assuing it were reasonably available) only if I felt the trade-off was truly worth it. I certainly respect your decision, as I respect his, even though neither is a choice I would make.

        I place a premium on perfect meter because I believe it is a constraint that drives the best thought you can bring to a poem, even if you can’t seem to get there or you subsequently decide the verse is stronger by compromising it. If you begin by thinking you can do whatever you please, I think you risk stopping well short of the effort your work deserves.

        I don’t believe perfect meter salvages bad poetry, and I don’t believe great poetry requires it. But I do believe it takes great poetry into rare atmoshere. And I believe aspiring to it is invaluable to someone of your skill.

        I also believe in the sort of editing this forum encourages and supports. Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. Thoughtfully processing feedback and the sort of lessons Mr. Salemi, Ms. Coats, Mr. Anderson. et al provide might not impove the work in question, but it will almost certainly strengthen the skill and mindset you bring to the next one.

        I think you should feel very good about your works here, both as they were written and as they have now emerged.

  14. Talbot

    Christopher –

    Thanks again for your help and well-wishes.

    “As for my concern about meter, I’m pleasantly surprised that anyone is tuning in to my dialogue with Mr Salemi.”

    Absolutely. I’ll take knowledge and guidance from anyone, so long as I deem it sound, useful, and well-intentioned! Your dialogue is both spirited and helpful.


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