love in nature, nature in love

More poetry w/ Dragon!

Sonnet XI

Not in a silver casket cool with pearls
Or rich with red corundrum or with blue,
Locked, and the key withheld, as other girls
Have given their loves, I give my love to you;
Not in a lovers’-knot, not in a ring
Worked in such fashion, and the legend plain–
Semper fidelis, where a secret spring
Kennels a drop of mischief for the brain:
Love in the open hand, no thing but that,
Ungemmed, unhidden, wishing not to hurt,
As one should bring you cowslips in a hat
Swung from the hand, or apples in her skirt,
I bring you, calling out as children do:
“Look what I have!–And these are all for you.”

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I have a particular weakness for sonnets.  To me, they are among the most beautiful forms that poetry can take.  They are short and elegant and truly artful; so much can be distilled into 14 lines!  It is easy to read many at once, or to linger over a special passage, lovingly reviewing the rhythmic lines, listening alternately for their meaning and their song in your mind’s ear.

I gave this poem to a boyfriend once, and he became mildly alarmed b/c of ESVM’s sapphic tendencies, and wondered if I was trying to tell him something.  I told him he had obviously missed the point.  For me, the context of a poem is often unimportant.  I think poetry is the form of writing that lends itself most to personal interpretation, perhaps b/c the subject matter of the poet is so often comprised of ephemera, whereas the meatier essays and full-length novels are trying to compel a reader to reach a logical conclusion (although obviously this is not the case for narrative poems). 

This sonnet represents what I consider to be the epitome of love: simple, unselfish, and wholsomely beautiful.  I have never been good at either offering or accepting grand gestures w/ grace.  I prefer quiet but consistent proofs of devotion.  And what a beautiful metaphor ESVM uses to draw this distinction!  Compare the stiff pomp of some bejeweled box (a “casket”, EVSM says, a word more suited to a funeral than a wedding), locked tight w/ a key, that may v. well contain nothing but stale air, to the vibrant image of the rosy-cheeked girl bringing abundant gifts of living sweetness: apples and flowers.  ESVM’s love is an uncomplicated joy, a precious–but not rare–commodity.  How wonderful it would be to be thusly enveloped in affection as warm and fragrant as a summer day; to be secure in the knowledge that all the warmth, fragrance, sweetness is for you.


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