(Poem #706) Villanelle
It is the pain, it is the pain endures. Your chemic beauty burned my muscles through. Poise of my hands reminded me of yours. What later purge from this deep toxin cures? What kindness now could the old salve renew? It is the pain, it is the pain endures. The infection slept (custom or changes inures) And when pain's secondary phase was due Poise of my hands reminded me of yours. How safe I felt, whom memory assures, Rich that your grace safely by heart I knew. It is the pain, it is the pain endures. My stare drank deep beauty that still allures. My heart pumps yet the poison draught of you. Poise of my hands reminded me of yours. You are still kind whom the same shape immures. Kind and beyond adieu. We miss our cue. It is the pain, it is the pain endures. Poise of my hands reminded me of yours.
1935. Empson's blend of emotion and intellect is very reminiscent of John Donne, and like Donne, his poems, though dense and impenetrable at first, reward the reader willing to explore their intricacies. Today's poem is as metaphysical as they come: the central conceit  is reinforced and given depth by the precise use of terminology , yet not so much as to detract from the essentially human feeling that gives rise to it. The choice of form is equally inspired - the strict constraints of the villanelle, like Donne's convoluted syntax, work to harness the flood of emotion that would otherwise sweep the poet away. Wonderfully done. thomas.  "Better living through chemistry!"... errm... maybe not.  chemic, purge, toxin, salve, infection, poison... a Physick's Delight of jargon. [Minstrels Links] Poems by John Donne: Poem #330, "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" Poem #384, "Song" Poem #403, "A Lame Beggar" Poem #465, "The Sun Rising" Poems by William Empson: Poem #202, "Missing Dates" Poem #233, "Let It Go" Poem #351, "The Teasers" "The Teasers" has an Empson biography attached; "Missing Dates" includes an assessment of his contribution to twentieth-century poetry and criticism. Villanelles: Poem #38, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night", Dylan Thomas Poem #202, "Missing Dates", William Empson Poem #393, "Villanelle (minimalist): One Drunken Night", Peter Schaeffer Poem #639, "One Art", Elizabeth Bishop Poem #677, "Villanelle", W. H. Auden Poems that use the word 'chemic': Poem #568, "Especially When The October Wind", Dylan Thomas