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A Sonnet -- J K Stephen

       
(Poem #530) A Sonnet
 Two voices are there: one is of the deep;
 It learns the storm-cloud's thunderous melody,
 Now roars, now murmurs with the changing sea,
 Now bird-like pipes, now closes soft in sleep:
 And one is of an old half-witted sheep
 Which bleats articulate monotony,
 And indicates that two and one are three,
 That grass is green, lakes damp, and mountains steep:
 And, Wordsworth, both are thine: at certain times
 Forth from the heart of thy melodious rhymes,
 The form and pressure of high thoughts will burst:
 At other times--good Lord! I'd rather be
 Quite unacquainted with the ABC
 Than write such hopeless rubbish as thy worst.
-- J K Stephen
What could I possibly add to today's poem, save applause? Stephen has
perfectly captured my feelings about Wordsworth's poetry, the 'hopeless
rubbish' all the more disappointing in contrast with the sublime poems he is
capable of.

Returning to Stephen (there are several discussions of Wordsworth in the
archives already, without hijacking today's commentary to run another one
<g>) - he's one of the many delightful discoveries I've made while browsing
Steve Spanoudis' excellent 'Poet's Corner' website. Like many other
deserving poets, he was not destined for immortality, but his verse is
nonetheless well worth a read, and I'll certainly run a few more of his
poems in the future.

As for today's poem, while I have the vague feeling he's parodying something
specific of Wordsworth's, I can't place it. The general feel of Wordsworth's
poetry is certainly in evidence, especially in the first four lines.

Biography:

 (1859-1892) English Poetic Parodist, Royal Tutor, and International Law
 Scholar
        -- Poets' Corner

 The youngest and the shortest-lived of the three, James Kenneth Stephen,
 who, like Calverley, established himself in literature by his initials, had
 his chances marred in a manner even worse than that from which Calverley
 suffered, by his early death and the illness which preceded it. The variety
 and brilliancy of the talent shown in Lapsus Calami and the other too rare
 waifs of J. K. S.'s short life were altogether exceptional. Time and
 chance, with which no man can strive, arrested their development, but not
 before they had shown themselves unmistakably.
        -- http://www.bartleby.com/223/0615.html

Links:

 The J. K. Stephen poems at the Poets' Corner:
   [broken link] http://www.geocities.com/~spanoudi/poems/stephen2.html

 For another treatment of the two faces of Wordsworth, see Browning's
 brilliant 'The Lost Leader': poem #130

 We've run several Wordsworth poems on Minstrels, but rather unsurprisingly
 concentrated on the good ones. However, I did use one of the other kind to
 make a point - see poem #411

 And of course, if anyone has a good anti-Wordsworth rant just waiting to be
 unleashed (and preferably with examples to support it), feel free to send
 it in :)

-martin

33 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Suresh Ramasubramanian said...

> Two voices are there: one is of the deep;
> It learns the storm-cloud's thunderous melody,

> As for today's poem, while I have the vague feeling he's parodying something
> specific of Wordsworth's, I can't place it. The general feel of Wordsworth's

Try 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree' .... ;)

-suresh

Thomas Abraham said...

Here's the original:

'Thoughts of a Briton on the Subjugation of Switzerland'

Two Voices are there -one is of the Sea,
One of the Mountains; each a mighty Voice:
In both from age to age thou didst rejoice;
They were thy chosen music, Liberty!
There came a tyrant, and with holy glee
Thou fought'st against him; but hast vainly striven:
Thou from thy Alpine holds at length art driven
Where not a torrent murmurs heard by thee.
Of one deep bliss thine ear hath been bereft;
Then cleave, O cleave to that which still is left;
For, high-souled Maid, what sorrow would it be
That Mountain floods should thunder as before,
And Ocean bellow from his rocky shore,
And neither awful Voice be heard by Thee!

-- William Wordsworth

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