As I mentioned in my long post on last week’s EK Bardic Championships, my preparations for the final round included doing some timed sonnet-writing trials to make sure I was ready to write a poem on a theme in under 30 minutes. This is the poem I wrote in the final round of the competition, on the theme of “valor”:
Who showeth valor? He who sallies forth
With sword aloft, astride so bold in might,
And by his forceful prowess shows his worth
Thus riding home victorious in the fight?
Or is he still more valorous instead
Who in the desp’rate minute of the strife,
Seeing the cause is hopeless, unafraid,
Retilts the game by giving up his life?
And yet another valor have I seen
When one you love whose suff’ring brings you fear,
And you must still protect them, although keen
The pain, you do not hide or disappear.
In each of these is valor, you must heed.
You may decide of which we most have need.
Here are the practice poems I wrote in response to topics I solicited from friends, each of them in 25 minutes or less. (Warning: I was given a rather racy topic by one of my friends, but Mistress Zsof instructed me to share all the pieces, since she felt I had done well. For those who would prefer family-friendly material, I have put that last one on the second page to avoid offense.)
O child, whose nature sets my heart alight
Infected ever by your merry shout—
To see those eyes, so shining with delight
As peals of joy from lips come bubbling out.
Who teaches me the wonder of the world
Anew, as you adventure and explore;
Your limitless enquiries are unfurl’d,
And even as I answer, you ask more!
Who drowns my soul when I see sadness wrack
Your visage, never sure your source of pain;
O had I pow’r to fix it—but alack,
Mine is but to embrace, and take the rain.
If we neglect your dreams, then woe betide…
Our futures all upon your shoulders ride.
Theme: “loss of nationality, or more broadly, abandoning one’s homeland”
This land I love, and long here have I dwelt
But on Fate’s vessel must I hence depart.
How shall I soon endure the longings felt
When family and friends rise in my heart?
And how, in some new land, should I replace
The words and ways that I’ve accustomed grown?
Doth my mind have another anthem’s space?
Can I adopt new manners when I’m shown?
A man without his kingdom, what’s he left?
A penguin, treading on some tropic shore.
At best, sure I’m a vagabond, bereft
Of pride, of place, of nature evermore.
So then, new countryman of mine, canst thou
Solve me this riddle, please: who am I now?
Theme: “women in power”
[UPDATE: I will admit this topic stumped me for a 30-minute sonnet-writing exercise. I tried to approach it in what I believed would be an Elizabethan manner, framing it in terms of standard tropes about men vs. women which I do not personally hold, but also setting up the first two stanzas as a straw-man argument, which the final stanza and couplet would counter.
I wasn’t thrilled with the result, but at the time I wrote it I hadn’t planned on sharing it publicly. I have been informed that some readers have been interpreting this sonnet as reflective of my opinions or beliefs. When my Laurel asked me to share all my exercise pieces, I was so preoccupied with presenting the final poem without offense, that I didn’t consider how this one might be read. I neglected to provide context, which I offer now…with apologies.]
[UPDATE 2: I’ve posted further thoughts about this.]
Our ladies we endow not with command
For theirs are not the sentiments that serve.
Why, delicacy, sweetness? these won’t stand
When times call for decisiveness and nerve.
Nay, power best is served with manly strength
That never second-guesses its effect.
We covet it, pursued at any length!
Thus, ladies from command we must protect.
Still, mayhap in their natures ladies might
Decide such that compassion would hold sway.
To listen can be better than to fight;
To succor, not to punish or betray…
Yes, if I saw my fortune in the breach,
A lady in command would I beseech.
The final poem is on the next page. The theme is not family-friendly, so proceed accordingly.