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Sonnet Reversed -- Rupert Brooke

Guest poem submitted by Sunil Iyengar:
(Poem #589) Sonnet Reversed
 Hand trembling towards hand; the amazing lights
 Of heart and eye. They stood on supreme heights.

 Ah, the delirious weeks of honeymoon!
    Soon they returned, and, after strange adventures,
 Settled at Balham by the end of June.
    Their money was in Can. Pacs. B. Debentures,
 And in Antofagastas. Still he went
    Cityward daily; still she did abide
 At home. And both were really quite content
    With work and social pleasures. Then they died.
 They left three children (besides George, who drank):
    The eldest Jane, who married Mr. Bell,
 William, the head-clerk in the County Bank,
    And Henry, a stock-broker, doing well.
-- Rupert Brooke
Another Georgian poem. We normally acquaint Brooke with sober patriotism
("The Soldier") or English nostalgia ("Grantchester"), and his reputation as
a WWI poet who died at 28 obscures his sense of humor. A lover of Donne,
Brooke reveled in irony and metaphysical conceits, although here we have
plain old wit on the order of Byron. This sonnet starts from the "supreme
heights" of the conventional final couplet, then descends into mundane
realities: the daily commute and family tree, both anticlimactic. I'm
unclear about the references in lines 6 and 7, but the context is
sufficiently developed to secure enjoyment of the poem.

Sunil Iyengar.

[thomas adds]

Balham: district in Wandsworth, Greater London.
Can. Pacs. B. Debentures: securities or bonds in (possibly) Canada Packers.
Antofagastas: Antofagasta is a city in Chile.

Actually, I think Can. Pacs. is more likely to be the Canadian Pacific
Railway, one of those gigantic engineering projects which the Victorian Era
was famous for. Antofagastas, meanwhile, are probably a slang term for South
American government bonds. (Bond market terminology is a fascinating beast:
you have Treasuries in the USA, Gilts in the UK, Tresors in France, Bunds in
Germany... then there are Yankees, Samurais, Kangaroos... ).


54 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Martin DeMello said...

The more I read this poem, the more brilliant I find it. Yes, it is ultimately
a poem that depends on a single, novel idea - a gimmick, if you wish - but
thinking up the gimmick required a flash of pure inspiration, and Brooke's
execution is flawless.

Parenthetically, 'three children (besides George, who drank)' amuses me in much
the same way that Ezekiel's

One is Sales Manager,
One is Bank Manager,
Both have cars.
Other also doing well, though not so well.
Every family must have black sheep.

does - as much for its perceptiveness as for its humour.

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