Friday, August 25, 2006

4 | "The earthworm crawls"       [sestina]

Again night falls
the summer lates
the world has walls
the mind has gates
the earthworm crawls
we find our fates

So many fates
so many falls
again one crawls
as evening lates
don't bar the gates
the ears have walls

Because of walls
because of fates
because of gates
because of falls
our season lates
the soul yet crawls

Whoever crawls
across the walls
his journey lates
encountering fates
weird waterfalls
deluge the gates

Unbar the gates!
the seeker crawls
whatever falls
encounters walls
they rue their fates
as evening lates

The sojourn lates
I espy no gates
we bear our fates
heart ebbs and crawls
wind wears down walls
love's water falls

What lates soon crawls
past gates and walls
through fates and falls


This is the first of my sestinas wherein the Envoy (final tercet) properly follows the (allegedly orthodox) pattern recommended in this (excerpt from a certain) Handbook to Literature. In point of fact however, it seems that many poets (who give every impression of being serious about the sestina) follow various alternative patterns for the Envoy. It was, anyway, good enough for Rudyard Kipling; but not quite followed by John Ashbery (though fairly close), and less by Anthony Hecht. [Further investigation shows the pattern to have been observed by Arnaut Daniel -- which rather settles the matter for me. See note & link below.]

One finds a prolix repository of sestinas here. The website of the Academy of American Poets has a decent discussion and (limited) survey of the form. The sestina is said to have been invented by that most beloved of Proven├žal singer-songwriters, Arnaut Daniel.


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