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Poetry Corner: Different Fools in Another Part of the Forest


Although I have been reading, reading about and commenting on poetry here, it has been some years since I last tried my hand at it myself. Recently, through a longtime friend, I came back into possession of a collection of verse that I wrote in the mid- to late 1970s. (My own copy has gone missing for a decade or so.) My reaction to rereading my delinquent juvenilia has been a mixed one, to say the least, and it may or may not eventually be gone into in more detail on these pages. 

Over this weekend, the combination of that old material and Mike Snider's ongoing sonnet project drove me to revisit a sonnet of my own, extemporized about ten years ago. I set about revising it, which is always harder than producing a first draft. Looking back over it, I thought that eight lines -- the first two quatrains in the original, rearranged somewhat here -- more or less held up, but that the remainder descended quickly into treacly greetingcardism. It still needs work -- I’m particularly dissatisfied with the closing couplet, which is only a mild improvement on its bathetic precursor -- but I’ve decided to post it in any case. 

To paraphrase Neil Innes: I’ve suffered for my verse. Now it’s your turn.... 

When Bottom bore the donkey’s head and brayed,
Titania wreathed his upstart ears with flowers
‘Til -- disenchanted, open-eyed, dismayed --
She cast him from the comforts of her bowers. 
Botanical elixirs were the tools
With which the weaver and his fellow rude
Mechanicals, with other mortal fools,
Were fuddled, led astray and misconstrued. 
Old Athens’ misty woods and fogbound lovers,
Her naiads, pixies, fairies, sprites and elves
Are gone; but surely Puck still grins and hovers
As modern men make asses of themselves. 
No spell but self delusion clouds their sight,
And leaves them pathless in the summer night.

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