larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (disappeared)
[personal profile] larryhammer
For Poetry Monday, another sample from an Elizabethan sonnet cycle:

Sonnet 61 from Idea, Michael Drayton

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 wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou might’st him yet recover!

(See also this performance.)

Drayton was possibly the best of the second-tier Elizabethan/Jacobean poets, a thoroughly professional writer who turned his hand at every poetic genre of the day, handling all of them with solid craft and a deft ear. He spent most of his life working as secretary to various patrons, never especially high ranking ones.

What I especially like about Idea, especially in its final form (Drayton revised it extensively over 25 years, and this sonnet first appeared in the last edition), is that he rarely loses sight of the ostensible purpose of the sequence -- namely, to seduce, and most of its sonnets are acts of rhetoric trying to convince someone of something: his beloved, himself, his audience. This gives the poems a dramatic tension that's lacking in far too many of his contemporaries. I wouldn't want him as my lover, not acting like this, but it makes for damn fine poetry.

---L.

Subject quote from "Break It Down Again," Tears for Fears.
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