Wednesday, March 18, 2015

For Philip Sidney

For Philip Sidney
As I mentioned in a previous post, it was Donald Justice who first planted in my mind the idea that I might find the sestina form of interest.  Justice published three sestinas in his New and Selected Poems.  I enjoyed all of them.  One of the sestinas is ‘Sestina on Six Words by Weldon Kees’.  In that sestina Justice takes the six endwords that Kees uses in a sestina written by Kees and then uses them as the basis for his own sestina.  I was intrigued by that idea.  I thought it a good way to approach the sestina form.  So I tried out using the endwords of other poets in the same way that Justice uses the endwords of Kees’s sestina for his own.  It reminds me of composers who write a series of variations on a theme written by another composer.

Philip Sidney (1554 – 1586) wrote one of the earliest sestina in English.  It is titled ‘Ye Goatherd Gods’.  It is written as a dialogue between two people.  Interestingly, it is a double sestina consisting of twelve six-line verses and a three-line envoi.  The cycle of endwords is repeated twice.  It is skillfully done and a pleasure to read.  I decided to compose a sestina using Sidney’s six endwords as a way of expressing my appreciation for the gifted poet.

For Philip Sidney

I like to journey into the mountains
Far above the bustle of the valleys,
Even above the realm of the forests
Where sky, rock, and air share divine music,
Where the sun sings the song of the morning
Where the moon sings the song of the evening.

We retreat to our homes in the evening,
Even when our homes are in the mountains;
Then we will leave our homes in the morning,
We’ll have a busy day in the valleys
With a break or two for songs and music
While we gaze upon the distant forest.

In a dream I wandered through a forest,
In the dream it was a moon-lit evening,
In the dream I heard some distant music,
In the dream the shadows cast by mountains
Completely covered the entire valley,
Then the light dissolved them in slow morning.

I lit incense at my altar, I was mourning.
Crowds of memories were dense like a thick forest.
I decided to stay away from the valley
And held a static vigil for the whole evening,
A vigil that felt to me like climbing mountains
Against a wind that thoroughly drowned all music.

The world is silence, the world is music,
You can hear both of them in the morning.
The world has deserts, the world has forests,
Above them both there’s a range of mountains.
The world has plains and the world has valleys,
Both of them are covered by the evening.

At times I take shelter in the valley
Listening to contrapuntal music.
At times I watch the day become evening,
At times I’ll watch as night becomes morning,
At times I need the solace of the forest,
Sometimes I need the silence of the mountains.

Mountains and valleys resemble music,
Melodies from an ever present forest,
A chorus heard at the turn of morning and at the turn of evening.

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