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.