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Boleyn, crowned (the sonnet version)

May 25, 2012

Triumphantly I draw the gaze of all,
redeemed as regal, trailing cloth of gold,
anointed, te deum repels the cold
that creeps across my fairness – purple pall.

Mark Smeaton, Henry Percy, Norris – thralled –
and brother George, complicit player, bold.
Sweet Wyatt, yours the eyes that ever hold –
betwixt my thighs a humid hum recalled.

Your fingers played my pearls with slurs and rests
composing futures won awhile from him,
yet skin to skin proved insufficient, dimmed,
out-flanked by sceptre, Henry’s manifest.

A ticking stratagem behind my eyes
around my neck a tight’ning self-strung prize.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is a sonnet in the form introduced to England and most frequently used by Sir Thomas Wyatt, a 16th century lutenist and companion to Anne Boleyn (abba, abba, cddc, ee). I’m using iambic pentameter. It is a companion piece to one I wrote almost a year ago, with an alternative rhyme scheme (abab,abab,cdcd, ee):

Chanterelle

My fingers play your pearls with slurs and rests,
composing futures won again from him;
I slip the string – it stifled you at best –
free-scattr’ing stones, his cloudy patronym.

Now teardrop-bellied trebles slow expressed
upon my thigh vibrato: subtle hymn
refrains your amber-scented shoulder, pressed
against the shadow memory: Boleyn.

Your regal amorata cost you dear:
one life, archived amidst five discard brides;
one lover, plucking basso from low tides;
a madrigal for two, sole bandolier.

Polyphony’s a song I ache to play
but chanterelle’s a singular bare lai.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have also published a free verse interpretation of the same theme, here: http://bit.ly/JDqMte

 

Linking to another galliard-like Open Link Night at http://dversepoets.com/

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45 Comments
  1. ha, some fun word play in this…each of these has its own so its hard to pick one…
    betwixt my thighs a humid hum recalled.& outflanked by sceptre, henry’s manifest in the first…and the music touches in the second…i like…

  2. Great to see both sides of this story back to back in a post, Becky. You know I love your explorations of these historical themes…you bring the characters (so to speak) to life and almost modernize history. Two fabulous poems!

    • Thanks Em.. glad to hear you enjoyed these.. I think this period of history (at least in the UK) has been interpreted so often in historical, fictional (some might say the same thing!) and artistic media that it’s quite daunting to tackle something so familiar. I was compelled! It was reading ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ Hilary Mantel’s sequel to the wonderful ‘Wolf Hall’ that did it. Great reading if you like gritty history… fiction but nor romantic. At all.

  3. Form matches theme beautifully… I still prefer the sonneted version I think. Brava

  4. Love the form and how you played those words “with slurs and rests,” Becky. Always impressed when I read somebody’s work who makes form run so seemingly effortlessly.
    ~ j

    • I’m thrilled to hear your comments Joe.. and that line is my favourite – guess why I used it in both 🙂

  5. nice..i love the flow within the form…not an easy thing but sounds very naturally..and love how it sounds because of the sounds you use..almost a bit off-beat within the regular scheme and that makes for a great contrast

    • That’s interesting Claudia – thank you for feeding back your sound impressions.

      • yours the eyes that ever hold –
        betwixt my thighs a humid hum recalled….love this…

  6. poemsofhateandhope permalink

    great great form!!…and expertly written- with so much intricacy that my limited historical knowledge has probably missed something vital…this felt so completely traditional but wit the odd word usage that still gives it a modern flavour…my fave lines-

    ‘yours the eyes that ever hold
    betwixt my thighs a humid hum recalled’

    • Thanks Stu – not sure I’ve seen you write a sonnet.. do you? I’ve been reading Hilary Mantel’s latest.. and yes, I liked those lines too 🙂 See you mid-air then 🙂

  7. Your the king of the castle and i’m a dirty Pascal
    (ickle philosophy joke there for all the wagists out there)

    when you write you Blaise (i’m still at it!)

    “beTWIXt my thighs a mars bar!” cried Marianne 😀

    this set is excellent becky… feels V. proper but maintaining personality and zest

    you got verve and vim for sure! 😀

  8. Beautifully done–Expert use of form coupled with wonderful word choice

  9. my favorite line is the pearl line, so i like the first one better because it’s in the middle and not given away as quickly…

    such beautiful words

    spaceship tanka

  10. A lovely write, Becky.

  11. Beyond my scope you have written an aspiring piece. Thanks.

  12. Such musicality, wit, and sense of characterization all within the corset of form. Bravo indeed!

  13. hedgewitch permalink

    Both ending couplets are just killer, Becky, and while I tend to find the first sonnet easier listening, with the more regular rhyme scheme (more like a sung lyric) both are exquisitely crafted and amazing bits of poetry either of which I wish I’d written–just fine stuff, and all the right historical notes are like the little pearls on those stiffened bodices that made Elizabethan gowns into pieces of sculpture. Sumptuous as a Tudor feast.

  14. Thanks everyone.. I truly appreciate all your thoughtful comments and I’ll be around to read yours a little late this week. Just hopping across to the UK for 10 days of stimulation at the Hay Festival.

  15. hypercryptical permalink

    Superbly done Becky – history comes to life. Just love:

    “Your fingers played my pearls with slurs and rests
    composing futures won awhile from him,
    yet skin to skin proved insufficient, dimmed,
    out-flanked by sceptre, Henry’s manifest.”

    Lovely, lovely!

    Anna :o]

  16. Well, I would like you to know that I have spent quite a bit of time reading this. (tonight and on other occasions)

    I thought about what I felt and what to say, what I liked and didn’t like and generally this process (or sometimes -this process) causes me to have a closer look at everything and if the poem is good enough, it will change my original thinking.

    Originally I thought you had to many meter aids acting as modifiers so that this story seemed a bit artificial in certain places. Now I think that you need some space between ‘recalled’ at the end of the second quatrain and the line about pearls in the third quatrain.

    I think that would be helpful because that is such a striking line about arousal and it makes me think about that area (hahahahahaha ha.) and then when you talk about the pearls I’m still thinking about vaginas and somehow connecting that to a clitoris. hey, I know you guys only have one but whateva.

    I don’t mean to be a jerk- I seriously think that the poem would benefit from a bit of space.

    Also: a – thingumy. (would be useful).

    Triumphantly I draw the gaze of all,
    redeemed as regal, trailing cloth of gold,
    anointed, te deum repels the cold
    that creeps across my fairness – purple pall.

    Mark Smeaton, Henry Percy, Norris – thralled –
    and brother George, complicit player, bold.
    Sweet Wyatt, yours the eyes that ever hold –
    betwixt my thighs a humid hum recalled.

    _________________________________
    Your fingers played my pearls – with slurs and rests
    composing futures won awhile from him,
    yet skin to skin proved insufficient, dimmed,
    out-flanked by sceptre, Henry’s manifest.

    Originally the poem was too cluttered for me, but one of my friend’s favourite quotes is that ‘great poetry needs great audiences.’

    this is true, and so -rather- I say that your poem takes a while and it took this person a good while to learn how to read it.

    Generally (even with old time shit) I hate seeing words shortened; your couplet is heavily modified and I wanted to change that but now- in the end, i like it. When form matches meaning or intent or action and all that gunk, it’s a beautiful thing and so I like the way those last lines are heavily crowded. Full of meaning.

    It’s good subject matter. I don’t think anybody celebrates those ups and then downs of life, it happens and we look – and hopefully learn from it, I think that makes life richer or more precious.

    To me this registers as a meaningful poem. Whole-heartedly, I enjoyed it.

    • Dan thank you for taking the time to unpack how you read this one. It’s wonderful that you spent that much time and I’m very grateful that you also spent time explaining how your response changed. I do enjoy writing within such tight confines, but I’m still learning how much the form can take, so everything you say is very helpful. Yes, I totally see what you mean about the longer pause there.. having the stanza break and change of rhyme scheme perhaps aren’t enough – and there’s no reason why a sonnet can’t be presented differently. So it’s great to think about that. Thank you.

  17. Truly regal. So glad you posted for the variation. Again a sort of karma triumphs out of these sad songs..Elizabeth, her daughter, would reign well and long – not getting to flaunt her sexuality but to be heralded as “the virgin queen”. That irony plays counterpoint here especially in the first.

    The music is beautifully played in both. I hear the strum and the melody as I read. Really exquisite poems, Becky.

    • Thanks, Gay. I enjoyed the challenge of the form, which felt just right for the Wyatt poem. Anne’s came later, but insisted it was going to be a sonnet.. even though I did also write a free verse version that has quite a different feel.

  18. l like the classic style of this sonnet – traditional, true to form with a great historic feeling to it

  19. “A ticking stratagem behind my eyes
    around my neck a tight’ning self-strung prize.” Perfect! What she wins despite her time bomb or bombing time or end of time, broken and not run down. I have not known how to empathize with the women who knew putting on the crown, gown, and pearls might be a play too dear for gamble.

    • Thanks for that interesting comment, Susan.. a dazzling prize that bore a weighty cost. What did it feel like in human terms? Just a toe in the water here to start thinking about that.

  20. Love this, Becky!

  21. you weave magic in your words, Becky! love it!

  22. Captures the tone of court politics where the prize is power not what glitters. The ‘high’ diction casts an ironic eye on the low politics this takes. And a good way to learn by writing on the subject both from different angles and in different forms.

  23. Subtly sensuous and very satisfying to read, Becky. Perfect use of form and, most important for me, it tells a story.

  24. i remember these….you make it seem so easy….just finished mine finally….oy….may never try that again…smiles…

  25. Such wonderful pieces to revisit, thoroughly enjoyable. I agree with John about the use of diction (though I’d call your style ‘intelligent’), that it enhances contrast and also modernizes form. I always appreciate how your voice and sensibility shine through your exploration of form, it’s inspiring!

  26. A lot of fun and very well done. I tend to like the first better, but they are both wonderful – but the sensuality and somehow quick, but very monologuesque, flow of the first works just so wonderfully.

    Reminds me a bit of “My Last Duchess”- Browning – different, etc. but this sense of character speaking is part of makes it so wonderful – that’s so strong that the sonnet part feels almost incidental though it gives a lovely music. k.

  27. Thank you all for these responses… wonderful to hear your thoughts and happy to know these work as poems first of all.

    Strangely, I hadn’t thought about the monologue effect, probably more dramatic and narrative than sonnets should be, but then, that’s what it’s all about.. pushing a little.

  28. Wow, that seems thick with meaning I wish I could grasp. It was fun to read both poems and then the link to your free verse version. Finally I had to look up Anne Boleyn. Wheew, that helped — still, without soaking myself a bit more in British Royalty intrigues, I am afraid the poems are difficult — I guess footnotes are too much to expect? Smile.

    Yet even without footnotes, the wording the allusions were (wow!) really fun reading for this historically naive non-poet. Thank you. Pretty amazing.

    • Sabio..thank you for your persistence! Sorry you had a run-around to unpack these poems… I accept they are very much placed in a specific historical context and that may be a limitation to how they are read and understood.

      Footnotes? I try to avoid them, hoping readers will pursue any allusions they are unfamiliar with – as you did – if interested enough. It’s really useful feedback, thanks for taking the time and I may well re-consider on the footnotes issue.

      • Wow, thanx for considering. As I see you are an accomplished teacher (and author), I am sure you have given extensive footnotes to help students in your classes and are well aware that most readers will glide over and miss most of what is available. I imagine that if you add footnotes, the number of readers who benefit will be HUGE. I wager, especially on poetry sites, that people feel asking is wrong or embarrassing (sensibilities you can see I am missing).

        I guess it all depends on why we write — for others, or for ourselves. I see this get confounded more in the poetry world than in the prose world.

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