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Untitled -- Vikram Seth

Guest poem sent in by Vikas Kedia
(Poem #1566) Untitled
 Dark night, and silent, calm, and lovely,
 That stills the efforts of our lives,
 Rare, excellent-kind, and behovely
 No matter how the poet strives
 To weave with epithets and clauses
 Your soundless web, he falters, pauses,
 And your enchantment slips between
 His hands, as if it's never been.
 Of all times most inbued with beauty,
 You lend us by your spell relief
 From ineradicable grief
 (If for a spell), and pain, and duty.
 We sleep, and nightly are made whole
 In all our fretted mind and soul.
-- Vikram Seth
        (from "The Golden Gate")

I had never thought I would be able to appreciate a novel written completely in
verse. But after having read a couple of poems by Seth on Minstrels, I decided
to take up the challenge. And now in last couple of days I have spent
innumerable precious hours (precious because I am in middle of end terms)
devouring it.

Unputdownable has become a cliched word in recent times due to unjudicious use
on the cover of paperback fictions, yet it seems as if the word was meant for
this book. I have found it to be a surprisingly light read, very contemporary
(even though written in the 80's) and at places even profound as this sonnet
illustrates. Being an aspiring computer scientist and student of logic,
I revel in paradoxes. Therefore the paradox in this verse, of a poet trying to
express the enchantment of the night by admitting his inadequacy to do so,
appeals to me in more than poetic sense.

Loneliness seems to be a recurring theme in the writings of Seth, if I can make
that judgement from the poems I have read on Minstrels and this book. But this
book is written in a lighter and humorous vein as compared to poems like "All
You who Sleep Tonight". Word play, alliteration, puns abound. Couple of gems
I have so far come across are "Monday's mundane", "Cultural and haughty and
hortycultural". This book has turned out to be an excellent introduction to the
art of verse for a novice like me.

regards
Vikas

49 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Mallika Chellappa said...

In 2000, I had the good fortune to attend a lecture by
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I had just completed the
introductory "Art of Living" course, courtesy my
son, and this included a visit to the ashram.
It happened to be Navarathri and Sri Sri expounded
on the meaning of the word. (Literally nine nights, is
what I had always thought)
Sri Sri explained that night - ra-tri - was the three-
fold rejuvenation of body, mind and soul, and nava
was new, not nine! There was more, but I'm afraid I
didn't take notes.
I thought this was in line with the poet's thoughts!
Mallika

Penney Mark said...

There's so much to say about this one. Thank you for sharing it!
For starters, in part the poem is about the inadequacy of language to
capture experience. Even the very effort to attach language to
experience changes the experience itself: "And your enchantment slips
between / His hands, as if it's never been." For this reason, language
is not only inadequate, but impossible as a means of conveying an
idea--in this case, the enchantment of the night. (This takes a page
from Jacques Derrida's postmodernist playbook.) And yet we keep trying,
as the poem so wonderfully points out.
I love, too, the fact that this quasi-sonnet (note tetrameter rather
than pentameter) has a different rhyme scheme for each quatrain (abab
aabb abba); it gives the poem a sort of "shifting" feel, as if Seth is
trying several different angles at his subject, all of which fail to
capture its essence. Only the final couplet "makes whole" and puts to
rest this shifting. Form fits function!
And then there's the delightful use of two different meanings of the
word "spell." Two of the chief features of the night for the speaker
are captured therein: enchanted, and temporary.
I could easily go on, but I won't.
--Mark.

viagra online said...

I remember we analyzed this poem in Literature class. My teacher used to say that the dark knight means many things.

Busana Muslim said...

I love, too, the fact that this quasi-sonnet (note tetrameter rather
than pentameter) has a different rhyme scheme for each quatrain (abab
aabb abba); it gives the poem a sort of "shifting" feel,

Jasa Penerjemah Tersumpah | Jasa Penerjemah | Penerjemah Resmi said...

in this case, the enchantment of the night. (This takes a page
from Jacques Derrida's postmodernist playbook.) And yet we keep trying,
as the poem so wonderfully points out.

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Anonymous said...

Seth is wonderful, but you can hardly appreciate this fully without some familiarity with Byron. He called his similar stanza 'pony-sonnets' and also obtained that shifting, multi-angled feeling. Seth seems to be drawing on both the Spenserian stanza of Childe Harold and the half-somber, half-daffing tone of Don Juan.

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