Posting this for Martin, who's currently offline:
(Poem #872) The House on the Hill
They are all gone away, The house is shut and still, There is nothing more to say. Through broken walls and gray The winds blow bleak and shrill: They are all gone away. Nor is there one today To speak them good or ill: There is nothing more to say. Why is it then we stray Around the sunken sill? They are all gone away. And our poor fancy-play For them is wasted skill: There is nothing more to say. There is ruin and decay In the House on the Hill They are all gone away, There is nothing more to say.
Not, perhaps, a poem about depression, but certainly a depressing poem. Arlington, here, doesn't attempt to overcome the intrinsic limitations of the villanelle; rather, he uses the repetition and the choppiness to reinforce the images of passing time, death and decay. The theme is, in fact, very reminiscent of Hardy, if not handled with the latter's skill. Arlington's keenly observant eye, very much in evidence in his character-based poems, seems to have deserted him here; the images don't quite ring true, or evoke the mood the poet is trying for. Indeed, the main reason I like this poem is as an example of how clever wordplay, meaning twists and grammatical tricks are not necessary in order to write a villanelle, nor is any sort of self-reference, humour or allusion to the form. 'The House on the Hill' is a straightforward use of the form - the repeated lines are simply repeated, with no apology or workaround. And if this isn't that good a poem, the fault is in the content, not the form. -martin. Biography: poem #234 Links: Compare Hardy's 'During Wind and Rain' for a better treatment of the theme: poem #96 And Thomas's 'Do Not Go Gentle' for the canonical example of a villanelle that works both around and with the form: poem #38 See, also, the archive for several better poems by Robinson: [broken link] http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/index_poet.html