Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Subject Of The Sonnet


Tris looked up from his desk. "Yes, dear."

Isolde appeared at the door, leaning against the jamb, her legs partly crossed, a lock of hair partly veiling her eye, looking as lovely as ever. She saw the basket filled with crumpled paper, and Tris with chestnut pen in hand, a few lines jotted on a fresh sheet. "Tris, what on earth are you up to?"

"Oh, I tell you, Iz," he said. "I'm trying to work on a new sonnet, you know. Not much luck with it, I should say. What is it?"

"Well, I thought we might pop out for a walk in the park -- such a nice day for winter. Actually, the crocus are in bloom, the daffodils are pushing up, and the gardens are showing other faint stirrings of life."

"Well, I suppose I should," Tris said. "Might help clear my head." Thereupon, he scratched, his head. "I've been struggling, really, with a subject for this. I seem to have run through the normal things: you know, northern clime horticulture, the evils of usury, and the labour movement -- that sort of thing. But, nothing seems to be catching on -- I suppose it's the season or the economy or something -- not that we can afford to be complacent about such things."

"Well," said Iz, her finger pressed to her lips in contemplation, "What about something different? Say, friendship?"

Tris leaned back in his chair and lit his meerschaum, it's bowl carved in the likeness of some forgotten poet. "Hmm," he said, puffing once or twice. "Fascinating. Well, that certainly would be a challenge. I mean, of course, I have my acquaintances -- good chaps, to a man -- but," he continued, straightening up and removing his pipe, "It's seems such a technical topic -- nothing like, say, the application of manure or caps on interest rates."

"Well," she said, moving closer, leaning now on the far corner of the desk, "I rather meant the notion of affection for someone."

Tris frowned. "Well, I mean, in the sense of an attribute, especially a contingent or alterable quality or property, a condition, a bodily state, such as figure or weight. Well, I hardly think that would be stuff of poetry -- hardly stand the test of time, do you think?"

"No," she said, brushing back her hair, "I mean in the sense of like, or more, for a person."

Tris again puffed. "You know, Iz, I just don't see it. Like, of course, is used in a simile -- a common sort of literary device -- but, it would hardly serve as a subject or theme."

Iz moved still closer, half-sitting on the desk, her hands gripping the edge. "Oh, dear," she said, "I'm afraid I haven't expressed myself clearly enough. I meant a deep and abiding closeness, a bond -- so to speak -- a present and pressing wish to be near another, to be next to another."

Tris looked puzzled, putting down his pen and stroking his chin for time, the Cavendish smoke curling upwards as a kind of incense. Then, his countenance changed slightly, and he wagged his finger very slowly. "You know," he said. "I think I've heard of such a thing.... Yes, I am certain that somewhere, sometime, I've heard that described, you know. But,... I'll be hanged if I know from where or whom, or what is was called."

While Tris spoke, Iz had picked up the chestnut quill and scratched out a few lines. "Here," she said, holding up the paper. "Listen to this."
Lo, doth man wander, through deserted parts,
O'er mountainous crags, through desperate vales,
Verily lost, confused, blinded by gales,
Ended only by guide of entwined hearts.

Tris took the sheet from her, and read it. "Well, Iz, I say -- this is wonderful start. Yes. It does begin to capture what you were saying -- a kind of marriage of elements -- though, I must say that I'm not sure about the emphasis on the initial letters of each line."

Suddenly, Iz leapt into his arms. "Oh, Tristan," she said, "Thy ignorance is so sweet to me." Then, closing her eyes and thrusting her lips to his, she said, not without emphasis, "Kiss me!"

Tristan, somewhat taken aback, said, "Well, old girl -- look, I've just had this jacket pressed and you seem to be crushing the lapel. But,... if you say...."


Blogger Gone Away said...

Delightful. Very amusing and also very English. A clever way to get us to read some sonnets, too, you sly old dog, you... ;)

2/13/2005 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

How DOES he manage? Here I am, trying still to devour Rhetoric 101 - First Day, and I need a couple of more weeks. Pass me the salt, please.

2/13/2005 07:32:00 PM  
Blogger Ned said...

The stuff of legends. Delightfully amusing and so apt to the day before us. Well Donne.
I wrote a sonnet once myself on a blog far far away but it could not compare to the excellent choices you have selected for us.

2/13/2005 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger Remainderman said...

"Whereon the stars in secret influence comment..."

2/13/2005 09:13:00 PM  
Blogger Hannah said...

To me, this one is mere proof that men, when it comes to romance, are extremely thick.

2/13/2005 11:45:00 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

Read Chapter 16 again, Hannah. ;)

2/14/2005 06:38:00 AM  

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