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Of When I Lived in Prague—

I wander through a maze of gold and stone,
Mosaic pavement watched by gilded faces;
Bridges, towers etched with cryptic traces
Of bygone kings that haunt a bygone throne.
I wandered through that city all alone,
Aimless through its trove of secret places,
And sang of country roads and open spaces
In trim, secluded gardens walled in stone.
Across a hedge a foreign baritone
Raised the chorus full of homesick yearning,
Nostalgic for a land he never lost.
I think about him now and then, I own.
The years march by. I dream about returning…
That land I never had but somehow lost.

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Isabel Scheltens teaches at a Lutheran Classical school in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she shares a love of history, literature and music with her students. 


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12 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    This is a lovely sonnet about a very lovely city — one that was spared much of the destruction that wrecked other European cities during the second world war.

    There are two interesting touches in the poem’s structure: 1) the “A” rhyme of the first two quatrains is carried over into the sestet, and this smooths over the absence of a clear volta (not needed in a purely descriptive piece); and 2) the rime riche of “lost” in lines 11 and 14, which serves to emphasize the poem’s sadness. It is a memory poem, but one that seems to be occurring in a dream vision.

    Reply
    • Isabel Scheltens

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, thank you! It is good to know that the devices I tried worked as I wanted them too. On my last post, a Mr. Richard Craven suggested that I go “the whole Spencerian hog,” and that the scheme negates the Volta. It is effective when you want to show how different things are actually the same. Walking in Prague missing America is actually very similar to living in America and missing Prague.

      By repeating the word “lost,” I also wanted to highlight my connection with the baritone and show that our experiences were actually very similar.

      Reply
  2. Roy Peterson

    Prague and Budapest are the only two Central European capitals I missed seeing. The extended family of my wife at the time had one of the castles returned to the. I was offered a position there as a Foreign Commercial Officer but had other irons in the fire. I really wish we could have visited Prague in the summer. Your melancholy poem with nostalgic phrases brought back such wishes for spending time there.

    Reply
  3. Inez lemnus

    So proud of you my darling girl! Such talent from a beautiful young lady with a beautiful heart.
    Grandma

    Reply
    • Paul Freeman

      An enchanting sonnet about an enchanting part of the world, Isabel.

      Reply
  4. Cynthia Erlandson

    Beautiful! “Gilded faces” in line 2 is a brilliant phrase, as the faces reflect the gold in line 1. The baritone also adds a lot to the deep feeling of the poem. This was great to wake up to!

    Reply
    • Isabel Scheltens

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! Many facades are decorated in the Art Nouveau style and incorporate wild faces. Their gaze is very aloof and dispassionate.

      The baritone is a true story. One day I brought my ukulele to a city park in old town. Some guy across a lilac bush had a guitar and he finished off “Country Roads” with me. I never saw him.

      Reply
  5. Brian A Yapko

    This is really a beautiful poem, Isabel — a fitting tribute to a city that is rich in history and beauty. I love Prague. Visiting its historic center is truly like stepping into a time machine. One of my favorite travel moments of all time is seeing “Don Giovanni” performed at the Estates Theater where Mozart himself premiered the opera in 1787.

    Your poem is one of the few that I’ve read that I felt could actually have been longer — I wanted more! There is so much atmosphere and detail to be seen in Prague that you could fill a book of poetry with it.

    Reply
    • Isabel Scheltens

      I love the Estates Theater! I was obsessed with opera at the time and went two dozen times a season. They did a wonderful staging of Verdi’s Macbeth, also. There’s something bewitching about that city…

      That is quite a complement, thank you! I’ll see what I can do… 😀

      Reply
  6. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Isabel, thank you for this admirably crafted poem with a message of wistful beauty that has spoken to my heart.

    Reply
  7. C.B. Anderson

    This poem is precious, and at the very least semiprecious. So now we’re talking about the difference between diamonds and rubies and emeralds in comparison to sapphires, garnets and pearls. The upshot is that you will never need to apologize to anyone.

    Reply

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