The above Sonnet for an English Lady was written for me by my husband on a blank page of a book, Knights, which he gave me for Christmas during our engagement. This and other sonnets written by Stan got me interested in the form. Before that I had tended to write free verse poems, which I now generally dislike. I have come to believe that the discipline of structure -- at least with regard to metre -- produces better poetry.
To date I have written six sonnets, all of them Shakespearean (fourteen lines, with an abab/cdcd/efef/gg rhyme scheme), the first four of which were published in The Mythic Circle. The first, The Lady Answers, was written in response to Stan's sonnet for me. It takes as its theme Stan's practice of telling me stories.
The Lady AnswersIn you, the deeds of time's sepulchral days
Shake off their shroud. Your storyteller's art
With humblest words incants the highest praise
And proves the honour of a knightly heart.
From childlike tales you conjure tomes of good:
As tears of figureheads anoint the breasts
Of spellbound ships, as weavers of the wood
Catch leaves in threads of fate, and eagles' nests
And elk-borne antlers dare the starblazed height
Where crippled souls with healing fire are shod,
And belted hunters of the winter night
Aim shafts at bells to toll the fame of God.
So you from my one meagre golden tress
Have spun a silken hoard of blessedness.
(©1986 by Angelee Sailer Anderson)
My next two sonnets were written for my two sons that have died. The first, a natural son named Gareth, was born prematurely and lived only a few hours; when I lost him I also lost my ability to have more natural children. For him I wrote Sonnet for a Mystical Son.
My second son, Greyson, was adopted, and died at two months old of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. His sonnet, Sonnet for a Blessed Son of Grace, refers among other things to his birth mother -- whom I brought flowers in the hospital after Greyson's birth, and who brought me flowers at his funeral -- and to a dear woman named Virginia who made both Greyson's christening gown and his tiny casket's funeral pall.
To read further about my lost sons and my reflections on grief, visit Via Dolorosa.
Sonnet for a Mystical SonChildren skipped from stone to granite stone
Around the grave, where, marked with Cross of earth,
Your gentleness was laid, when Glory shone
At morn upon you, crown of my art's birth.
Epiphany-conceived, as once the Star
That steered the Magi to a brighter Son,
You came too soon; you fled my arms too far,
Because your Father's business must be done.
And I must yield to ebb that follows flood
So nearly, reaping one for Heaven meant;
For strength is mine to bear the sundering Blood.
And I must trust your Lord in His intent
That death, which reigns where did abide my womb,
Is life's own King who lifts you from the tomb.
(©1988 by Angelee Sailer Anderson)
Sonnet for a Blessed Son of GraceTwice thirty suns of measured bliss, you danced
Within my arms to shanties of the sea,
To chants of Gregory; till dawn's light lanced
My eyes with your departing -- suddenly.
My eyes that at the font beheld sin's death
In you, by priestly arms encirclèd,
Beheld you on a lambskin void of breath,
The Agnus Dei imaged o'er your bed.
As her that bore you, at your birth I graced
With flowers, so at your burial graced she me.
As she that sewed your christening gown in haste
So stitched your pall, in holy symmetry,
Together with your brother, Glory-shod,
You dance, my son, within the arms of God.
(©1989 by Angelee Sailer Anderson)
On a lighter, though no less loving, note, my fourth sonnet was written for my dog, Strider, whose faithfulness helped me survive the loss of two children. If writing a sonnet for one's dog does not seem preposterous to you, be sure to visit Strider's page, Wisdom from the Kennel.
Sonnet for Strider
(A Chocolate Labrador Retriever)
From nose to velvet ears to proud tail-tip,
In one hue, teddy bear-like, you're arrayed:
Sans argument, you are (even your lip)
The brownest thing that God has ever made.
Your artlessness -- (we see you wondering now,
"Why doodle with a poem, when we could play?) --
Is what we cherish best; or is it how
You kneel (almost) between us when we pray?
No dog, we're sure, is set so large a chore
Of ministering with tireless tongue to eyes
Thus long bemused by tears; O surely your
Glad faith with ours to its reward must rise.
And our one flesh will laugh to see you stride
More golden streets than these still at our side.
(©1990 by Angelee Sailer Anderson)
My fifth sonnet was written in response to a re-reading of one of my favourite books by one of my favourite authors -- Don Rodriguez: Chronicles of Shadow Valley by Lord Dunsany. To peruse an essay of mine on the subject of Dunsany's writing, visit Lord Dunsany: The Potency of Words and the Wonder of Things.
Now does his heart beat quick as castanet,
When, sharp like sun off his Castilian blade,
Rodriguez sees her eyes of Spanish jet
Flash toward him, by the dusk's last fire betrayed.
Does Serafina's hand like tambourine
Hard trembling, by him sleeping place a rose
Where 'neath her balcony, 'midst perfumes keen
Of night-breathed blooms, her dream within him grows.
As does his cunning, canny mandolin,
Returned from war across the mountains' bone,
Conspire with him one Doña's hand to win,
To please her that its Don must be her own --
So does Dunsany, words his instrument,
Make my heart quick and in his hand content.
(©1997 by Angelee Sailer Anderson)
My sixth sonnet is a companion poem to my musical suite, The Sunrise Path. Each of the sonnet's fourteen lines, in order, refers to the subject of one of the suite's fourteen musical pieces.
The Ship Remembers Her Life
at the Moment of Her Dying
Shipwright fresh, I chased the sunrise-path
'Cross lonely isles, new-armed to greet their king,
Through maelstrom, and becalmèd aftermath,
Where wyrmish scales, claw-stripped, fell clattering.
From tomb of ash, a mouse-fit craft I raised,
Behemoth's coils of crushing ardour quelled;
And sodden death as wealth I misappraised,
And mage's witless charges unbespelled.
I sailed past dreams of torture come alive,
Found firebird-song, and bound a starry bride,
Felt water sweet, on which merpeople thrive,
And lilies, press my port and starboard side.
Home west I turned, Lion-Light my stern upon:
Now turn, my prow, to clasp His hem of Dawn.
(©1997 by Angelee Sailer Anderson)
In the House of Good Fortune(Herewith doth follow one of the legends of Brindle Valley.
Men also speak of it as The Story of Day and Night.)
In the House of Good Fortune there dwelt a serving-maid
Whose hair was of the colour of ripening grain,
Whose eyes were like the bright blue flax-blooms,
And her heart merry as the golden sunflowers that open themselves fully
To the branching beams of the Father of lights.
The maid was fair.
Yet though she served in Fortune's House by day,
She was not fortunate in her lot of love.
And she would go a'wandering,
To woo to her and win the nameless fulfilling
For which her heart yearned now as it had long.
The Day-maid went wandering
To where a sheer-cut cliff overlooked the ocean;
And she watched the emerald waves where they leapt and rolled,
Came to cherish the constancy of the tides drawing away and returning,
Was enamoured of the fathomless vastness surging.
Yet though the sea won her in love,
Her heart's peace could not reside in it wholly.
The maid wandered on.
In the midst of a highland meadow she came upon a tall oak tree,
Whose strength was as a tower of refuge in the face of enemies.
She revelled in the roughness of its bark and in its sturdy branches,
In the shadows thrown by its leaves when the wind moaned softly through them.
Yet though the tree won her in love,
Her heart's trust could not remain in it always.
And Day wandered still,
Till in a forest at dusk she met with a snow-white owl just coming awake.
His wisdom seemed to her like Solomon's in his majesty.
She was smitten by his vision's breadth and by his deep discerning;
Yet neither was he the right keeper of her confidence and rest.
The owl flew from her, and left her alone in the forest.
Night fell, and Day was afraid.
In the House of Good Fortune there lived a serving-man
Whose hair was of the colour of the furrowed earth,
Whose eyes were like the green grasses springing,
And his soul constant as the created lights that express the thought
Of the Artist-Father in His firmament of stars.
The man was true.
Yet though he served in Fortune's House by night,
He was not fortunate in his lot of love.
And he would go a'wandering,
To pay his court and cleave to the unsung transfiguring
For which his soul longed still as it had ever.
The Night-man went wandering
To where a mountain lay bare to the clasp of skies;
And he searched the cloudless sapphire where it joined with the horizon,
Came to prize the purity of the Eden-fresh airs that formed his breath,
Was enraptured by the boundless brightness burning.
Yet though the sky paid court to him in love,
His soul's desire could not rest within it wholly.
The man wandered on.
In a park, he happened on a small red squirrel gathering stores of nuts.
Her industry to him was like the Proverbs' virtuous woman's.
His heart was rent by her artless playfulness and her merry chattering,
By her humble, happy innocence and her feet so lightly dancing.
Yet though it cleaved to the squirrel in love,
His soul could not bide in her dancing always.
And Night wandered still,
Till in the midst of a desert at dawn he stumbled on a gilded flower,
Whose warmth was like that of amber wine to the downcast spirit.
He delighted in the delicacy of its petals and in its honeyed scent;
Yet neither was it the right singer of his soul's desiring song.
The flower withered, and left him for lost in the desert.
Noon rose, and Night was in pain.
Where Day wandered in darkness,
The stars sprang up in the field of heaven
And shone pale, cold, remote, bringing her no comfort,
Their shafts caressing her yet chilling her to emptiness.
Through night, unto the House of Good Fortune Day returned and remained.
Where Night wandered in stark light,
The sun burst to its zenith like a ready harvest
And shone blinding, blistering, too stifling near, lending him no courage,
Its rays stroking him yet searing him to shapelessness.
Through day, unto the House of Good Fortune Night came home to rest.
In the House of Good Fortune at an hour not reckoned by time,
By the light of dawn nor dusk but of the Father of each,
In a conjunction not shaped by fortune but molded by destiny,
The serving-man and the serving-maid embraced.
Day beheld the powerful mystery of the abiding stars which had escaped her,
Saw the constancy, wisdom, vastness, and strength
Of the Father of every light in the lights of His evening.
Emptied to receive their forth-giving, she was comforted to her fulfilling --
Night became to her her heart's fair confidence and rest.
Night beheld the joyous love of the most radiant of stars which had eluded him,
Saw the purity, warmth, and bounty in the Dance
Of the Father of all lights in the light of His morning.
Unformed to receive its shaping, he was emboldened to his transfiguring --
Day sang to him his soul's desire made true . . .
. . . the desire of a serving-man
Paying court to a maid,
The soul of a serving-man
Cleaving unto his wife
In the House of Good Fortune,
In Mansions of Love's Destiny
Within the Father's House
(©1984 by Angelee Sailer Anderson)
Most of the poetry I have written is in the form of song lyrics. To read some of them, visit The Dreams that Came.