NaPoWriMo Day#8

Today’s prompt was to look at a twitter feed for an established poet and use a line, a phrase or even a word as inspiration. I viewed @percybotshelley and looked at some of Shelley’s lines. Since I teach his famous sonnet ‘Ozymandias’ for GCSE literature, I decided to write a sonnet on the theme of the difficulty of writing a poem, using part of one of Shelley’s lines to start my first line.

The Absent Muse

Regrets, vexations, lassitudes and more

Have plagued me since Calliope departed

In vain I think until my head be sore,

Until I tire and grow so weary hearted.

I search for rhymes; I study ancient lore –

My quest to pen a poem is barely started;

I think on love, on hope and death and war –

Yet inspiration has from my soul parted.

But though I cannot think of an apt subject

For my poem’s substance, this is no dilemma:

Let creativity become my theme.

I’ll write of how it suffers not to reject

A germ of thought born from despair’s slight tremor,

And turn this writing nightmare to a dream.

Like most of the other Romantic poets, Shelley was rather pretentious and I’ve tried to capture that in the above poem. However, what I really wanted was to take the first line of ‘Ozymandias’ – a sonnet which denounces the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses the Great and highlights the fleeting nature of power – and use that as the first line of a sonnet that has undertones of the middle Eastern folk tales in the ‘Thousand and One Nights’. Shelley followed some of the conventions of the classical sonnet in his poem – 14 lines, written in iambic pentameter – but deliberately ‘ruined’ it by using an irregular rhyme scheme – perhaps a subtle reference to his own power as the poet to create on his own terms. I have chosen to use the Petrarchan rhyme scheme with an abbaabbacdecde pattern and my poem follows.


I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said, “This carpet that I carry furled

Has carried me around the Eastern world

O’er silver seas, across the golden sand,

Past palm trees tall – these journeys were not planned:

I did but sit upon the patterns twirled

Upon the carpet; then my vision blurred;

The mat rose up; below me, vistas panned.

On this fair carpet, have I travelled far,

Yet now ’tis time for me to end those days:

I can no longer sustenance such deeds.

And so farewell to sand and sea and star:

I have relinquished my nomadic ways –

And yet the love of travelling in me bleeds.

In all honesty, I think I prefer writing non rhyming poetry, but I’ve tried to rise to the challenge of channelling Shelley by using poems with a set rhyme and rhythm. Iambic pentameter actually mimics the rhythms of natural speech – which is one of the reasons why Shakespeare and other playwrights used it for their plays – and is also easier to remember than lines written in prose. I’m not particularly satisfied with either of the above attempts, but I do like experimenting with form – so it will be interesting to see what Day 9’s challenge is.

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