Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Birthday card for Mr. Dickens--



In celebration of Charles Dickens and his 200th birthday--and I am very thankful that he was born, and have been so since I was very quite young--here's a poem.  As he is rather intangible these days, at least to my earthly sight, I wish to give him something likewise intangible. And he already has today's Google Doodle... so I think a poem in order.

This poem originally appeared in Electric Velocipede and is reprinted in my 2011 poetry book, The Throne of Psyche, and it's a tad strange. It may have originally been inspired by the Great Planetary Weight Gain, or about a trifle of old fogeyish distaste for some other changes, less fleshly! Dickens had a good many distastes for the ills of his world, which he turned into wonderful backdrops and catalysts for stories of comedy and drama, so it seems right enough: happy birthday, Charles Dickens.

(And if you click on the little envelope below the post, you may send a Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens card to a friend who likes Dickens or poetry or both!)


WHEN DEMONS RULED


This world became impossibly complex.
The people fattened but were small as toys
Inside--lazy and sour, as though a hex

Had taken hold. A woman's outer poise
Disguised an inner cowering of nerve,
And often sons remained forever boys.

I watched my daughters flower, only to swerve
Toward superstition, lies, and games of chance--
In other days our kind had vied to serve.

The demon brood condemned me for a glance.
A devil locked me in their fortressed towers,
But when they saw me try to sing and dance,

Tower changed to thimble, and life to hours,
Song to shriek in the Ministry of Powers.


Now you get an academic star if you recognize the elements combined to make the form of the poem. I will supply a ladder, but you will have to climb up and rescue the star from the Star Academy yourself.




Cover of: Our Mutual Friend (BBC) by Charles Dickens


I suppose this may be why Dickens is such a marvelous depicter of both shallow-but-lively and round characters:  he said:

"A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other."




18 comments:

  1. awesome, you put the goodle doodle to shame

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  2. Aw, thanks, Miss Susanna! Shall come see how Lacey's Spring is doing when I get some minutes. Have been overloaded for ages, alas.

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  3. :-) I get the star! I get the star!

    Were you meaning to riff on the Triumph of Life, or were you coming straight off Dante? Or from something else entirely? I wondered that when I first read this. I'm so soaked in Shelley I tend to see him everywhere.

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  4. Hah, I wasn't being nearly so specific! Though of course that is the right form...

    But I just mean the "technical" side of the form... And I haven't read Shelley in ages.

    But I give you a star all the same, even if I have neglected Shelley. And now I am very intrigued that you like Shelley so much.

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  5. That's very fine. I recognize Bleak House at the end, don't I?

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  6. Chapter 3 of "A Tale of Two Cities":

    A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this. No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved, and vainly hope in time to read it all. No more can I look into the depths of this unfathomable water, wherein, as momentary lights glanced into it, I have had glimpses of buried treasure and other things submerged. It was appointed that the book should shut with a spring, for ever and for ever, when I had read but a page. It was appointed that the water should be locked in an eternal frost, when the light was playing on its surface, and I stood in ignorance on the shore. My friend is dead, my neighbour is dead, my love, the darling of my soul, is dead; it is the inexorable consolidation and perpetuation of the secret that was always in that individuality, and which I shall carry in mine to my life's end. In any of the burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there a sleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in their innermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?

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  7. Robbi,

    But there is such of a muchness in "Bleak House," it is always a good guess!

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  8. Terza rima sonnets, I always think of the West Wind: it's written in those. If I remember right he was playing around with the form, getting ready to embark on the Triumph of Life.

    Oh, Shelley and me go way back. And I'm still dazzled by him, sometimes, technically -- how many people pull off rhymed dimeter and trimeter? But he didn't have a chance to grow up. I don't regret Keats: I think he was a full-grown poet when he died. But Shelley I regret: he had barely started, he was developing and changing really fast. And then -- splash.

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  9. Splash!

    My.

    Yes, I know what you mean--although I love Keats and would like more of him....

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  10. Don't waste your time on my sorry ass, you Abe beautiful poetry to write and literature to create. Your book is really very lovely Marly. I don't know if I really ever told you that.

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  11. Susanna, that is very sweet! Thank you very much. But I shall come see what the lively Susanna is doing all the same...

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  12. I am so happy to have made it to your page about my favorite author, before his Birthday is over. I love your poem.

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  13. Hello there, Chandra--

    I hope all the making of art and film is going well... I am very glad you paid me a visit!

    And thanks for talking about the book on FB. Such things are so helpful.

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  14. Susanna, please write me an email and let me know how you are.

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  15. aw, I'm fine. I always am. I just had a lot of life changing crap dump on me over the past couple months and it all came to a head recently like the "convergence of the twain"! I should really go back and delete all those horrible posts. They make me sound crazy.

    I am writng two articles for the Alabama Historical Association and got one turned in to the editor at Auburn. He told me I was a writing machine! hahaaa
    I told him not to speak to soon. I still had one more to finish. Hope the writng Gods shine favorably upon me!

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  16. Okay--was getting a tad worried...

    And good luck on the writing (and spelling, XD!)

    I seem to be coming down with something, so I'm going to go pile in under the covers.

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  17. I like terza rima, it isareally nice rhyming form. Lovely poem.

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  18. Thank you, Juliet! I am glad you liked it... I like terza rima as well--and terza rima sonnets.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.