13 April 2017

Poetry Thursday - revisiting a sonnet

Five years ago, April 2012, I was making work in the book arts course on the theme of memory. One thread was a series of sonnets, written and over-written as part of the memorisation process. Today when looking through the "101 Sonnets" book, which had emerged from one of the book towers beside the desk, I found a familiar sonnet by Michael Drayton, published in the 17th century, and I remembered having memorised it (and could foretell the next line, here and there - but not word perfect, oh no, not after five years!). 

Was it like meeting an old friend, this encounter with the memorised poem? No, it was more like an encounter at a train station, the friend on the opposite platform, and being about to wave and shout Hello ... then their train comes in, and you're left with the memory of the circumstances of other meetings.

What follows is the post from five years ago.

The first in what is intended to be a book of well-known sonnets is "Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part",written by Michael Drayton (1563-1631). It was published in 1619 and is reckoned to be the only great sonnet among the 150 that Drayton wrote. 

The format of my page manifests a method of memorising poetry - start at the end and work forward. So I wrote the last line, then over it the penultimate and, on the line below, the last line again; then the last three, and then four, and on from that ... which makes the top line very dense, because it consists of the entire poem, layered so that the first line is on top (not that you'd notice!). I'm quite familiar with the end of the poem by now, but cannot confidently recite the entire thing.

Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part,
Nay I have done, you get no more of me,
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free;
Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of love's latest breath,
When his pulse failing, passion speechless lies,
When faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And innocence is closing up his eyes,
  Now if thou would'st, when all have given him over,
  From death to life thou mightst him yet recover.


Olga Norris said...

How moving.

Kathleen Loomis said...

I had not known this poem before. Very clever -- I sort of guessed what was going to happen in the end, but it made me laugh out loud when we got there!