Wednesday, July 9, 2014

T. S. Eliot, Shelley, and Balzac, Sonnets #188, #189, #190

T. S. Eliot (Wyndam Lewis), Sonnet #190
He understood much: the hippo,
The lilac, the estaminet,
The look of strangers never met,
The evanescence of woe.
He knew the teacup's emptiness
And the pub's spilt pint and stale smoke,
The working girl, hungry and broke,
And love's sad cycle of distress.
A young man's grousing outlasted, 
Silenced by a shuttered marriage, 
The casked distillations of age --
He emotionally fasted.
A life spent mulling waste and mire,
Then rose-leaves and refining fire.

The Funeral of Shelley (Louis Edouard Fournier), Sonnet #189
Not yet feted, the poet drowned in mystery,
His small craft staved in by a much larger vessel.
His body washed ashore, his coat over his head,
With only one boot, as if he had tried to free
Himself of his heavy clothes, but lost the wrestle
With a sea that doesn't often release its dead.
The quarantine laws decreed that he must be burned
On the beach where he was found, and not interred.
The painter would have us believe that Lord Byron,
Leigh Hunt, and Mary Shelley, watched the immolation
With somber recollections and prayers, and verse
Muttered from poems of beauty, death, and solitude.
But I see flames and smoke, a bier makeshift and rude --
And Byron damning the world with a profane curse.

Nude Study of Balzac (Rodin), Sonnet #188
Described as impudent, short, pudgy, badly dressed,
And doused with noxious perfume in lieu of a bath,
He had bedded two duchesses at twenty five.
He wrote two dozen pages every day, obsessed
With sex, usury, and the fools that drove his wrath.
He wrought characters coffee-bingeing brought alive,
More than a thousand; in his Human Comedy,
He diagnoses evil with no remedy.
Rodin sees Balzac as a demiurge of earth,
A man of metal and clay, of arrogant girth,
His manhood, chthonic, juts from the underworld.
His impassive face is gnarled black burl.
He died (at fifty, quill pen empty) as Rodin
Molded him: arms crossed, defiant, in his coffin.

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