I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Villanelle For Doomed Youth

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, ché la diritta via era smarrita. DANTE

It was at Christmas that he left for good
The Pinyon pines, drafted for Vietnam,
For a strange country and a darker wood.

And now his grandson proves his own manhood,
If this is what it is to be a man.
It was at Christmas that he left for good

To do what his dear country felt he should
For Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan,
For a strange country and a darker wood,

Crossed valleys of tears, rivers of blood,
Heard the cries of the children of Islam.
It was at Christmas that he left for good,

Killing from fear, and just because he could,
Not that self-sacrifice had been the plan
For a strange country and a darker wood,

Where bone fragments and deadly missiles scud.
How to survive he thought he'd understood.
It was at Christmas that he left for good
For a strange country and a darker wood.

9 comments:

Rachel Fox said...

I like your 'darker wood'.

I always have AB rhymes in the last section (ABAA)... never done one with all As like this.

x

Ruth said...

Oh Robert, this is incredible. First, it's good to see you back. But this. This villanelle is remarkably good. The refrain lines are very effective and evocative, and build with weight and meaning. The words "strange" and "darker" are so poignant, and they leave me with a melancholy soaked in beauty.

Great job. And welcome back.

The Solitary Walker said...

Rachel - I must admit it. I unintentionally cocked up the strict form. Any ideas, anyone, for a better, more formally correct pre-penultimate line?

Thanks, Ruth. I wrote this (inspired by your own wonderful villanelle) in a couple of quick bursts before I went away, and, to be honest, was not that pleased with it. But then, when I got back and reread it, and altered a few things, it didn't seem quite as bad as I feared. Often the way, isn't it?

George said...

Loved the villanelle, Robert! Very poignant — so many consigned to these endless and meaningless wars. Structurally, this is superb. Without getting into the requirements for a villanelle, about which I know little, I like the rhythm and repetition in this poem, both of which create a deep resonance.

Rachel Fox said...

I did wonder if it was a... cock-up. But don't new things often come from mistakes..?
I'm quite sure you can come up with another line yourself... if you want one.
If you're going to lose an A rhyme I'd drop the scud line. It feels wrong to me (and I'm sure you like it but sometimes it's the bits and rhymes you're most pleased with that have to be sacrificed in the end... for the greater good) .
x

Friko said...

This is very good. Very powerful. In spite of the 'cocked up' pre-penultumate line.
It is so good to see decent poetry on a blog.

ksam said...

Well, simply as a reader and appreciator...terrific, very moving. I haven't a clue how you poets do what it is you do, I'm just grateful for what ever it is that moves you to do it. I've no talent that way, just know that I like it and need it! The only thing I've got in common with a poet is sharing a birthday with Emily Dickinson. So a long way round to saying thank you, Robert and all the rest of you poets!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Rachel, astute as always - you are quite right. Deep down I was woried about the last quatrain. Will rethink.

Tramp said...

Welcome back,SW.
Like ksam I'm not sure why, but this has a very powerful message for me which works well. Something of the sureness and awareness of putting one foot in front of the other but not understanding the whole behind it.
...Tramp