Sonnet, after Shakespeare’s Fifty-Fifth
Not copper, touched by sea, how time will coat,
Nor prince at play, his folly fresh in mind,
Will subjects be when verses care to dote
On each aspect of you I lovely find.
When statues of my peoples’ pride shall fade,
Crumbling their final scraps of liberty,
And Mars his sword for blink of fire does trade,
My words will long gift you infinity.
If all the nations destined be to burn,
Leave this to clay the future may decode,
That once the world held beauty, they would learn
Through how I etched simply what you were owed.
So, till the judgement in favors shall spread,
Let live your heart where it my own had led.
On Revisiting the Songs of my Country
I look into the Old which once was New.
I hear a voice singing with youthful glee
That hums from memory when all was free
In thoughts of childhood; little I knew
Of cost that saw countryman’s lives accrue -
How absent song had caused me not to see.
Now, I’m enthralled in it. These songs of thee,
America! why shed thy passion true
To take us up, and filter forth through land
Our driving souls for change? Look! there’s the pilgrim,
His feet are splashing foamy froth ‘pon sand;
And pioneers, with wagons full to brim,
At night encamp; their fires how hot they brand
Spirit alive and well - though verse runs slim.
Ryan P. Tunison is a poet devoted to the investigation of traditional versification, and the perfection of his craft. He holds a Bachelors in English Literature from Caldwell University, where he worked as editor for the campus literary magazine, Calyx. His poetry has appeared in Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing and The Minisons Project. Many of his poems can be read on his Instagram page, @ryanptunison.
Outstanding work, Ryan!
Thank you! Both poems have faced their fair share of rejections, so I’m happy they finally have a place at Grand Little Things.
Ryan: As a fellow scribbler who, like you, keeps battling with the sonnet form (see my two efforts in the April 12 posting), I recognize and appreciate craftsmanship. While your poem riffs really well thematically off Sonnet 55, I’m left uncertain if in one crucial place your meter holds up. In particular the first line of the concluding couplet. No matter how I scan it, I’m still left with a tetrameter. Can you help me out here, because I feel I must not be placing the stress where you intend it. Otherwise an admirable and skilful piece of work. Cheers, Robert Graham
I’m glad you see merit in the poem, Robert! Thank you for your insightful feedback, it’s great that my choices in meter are not going unnoticed. Composing this sonnet, I scanned that particular line “So TILL, the JUDGEment IN FAvors shall SPREAD”, a seemingly straightforward line of iambic pentameter, but with a trochaic substitution in the fourth foot. However, there’s some modulation going on with the steady rise in stresses of the first foot (much like Shakespeare’s) that brings emphasis to “JUDGE-“. In the third foot, I let the stress fall on “in” because it followed the lighter syllable of “judgement” but it does become overshadowed by the heavier stress of the first syllable in “favors.”
I hope this helps with your question. Many of the variations in meter that I employ are discussed in Timothy Steele’s book “All the Fun’s in How you Say a Thing”.
Best regards, Ryan
Ryan: Thank you for your explanation. I suspect a Kenneth Branagh would read this the way you explain and do this line justice in any recitation; I was saying the line with the heavy stress on So, which made the first foot a dactyl. This still retains the heavy stress on Judge and the trochaic substitution and it’s this emphasis that I think creates the tetrameter. As in many metric instances, there’s more than one way to have fun. Thanks, mate. Robert