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Collected Sonnets

This page holds my collected sonnets. I have come to like the sonnet as a form. As you can see, I play a bit with the form. Most of them use the rhyme scheme abba rather than the traditional abab scheme. One of them even uses 4 iambs to the line rather than 5!

My poems are commoners; they have no titles. There is an index of first lines if you want to skip around.

index

Poetry is a form of self expression and yet, somehow, it isn't. The words that speak the memories are not the memories.

If words could hold the measure of my life
As though I were an actor in a play
I'd choose some scenes to write and not the strife
Some memories that glow amidst the gray

That moment when the man became a child,
A laughing boy who ran beneath the sky
Milady's face by which I was beguiled
And tears that fell when lovers said goodbye

The fireplace by which I read a book
A glass of wine I sipped, a lover's kiss
Regrets about the roads I never took
A bit of that, a little bit of this

A blooming rose, my friends that I have known
All caught in verse like flowers carved in stone

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This is a moderately savage commentary on humanity, its relationship to the Earth, and the ecological cataclysm we are engaged upon.

This Earth we share was never made for us
It isn't ours; we never paid the bill
We eat the world with appetite voracious
As though each living thing were ours to kill

The forests fall; we mine them for their wood
The greedy folk deplore each other's greed
They kill and say it's for the common good
And all the while the breeders breed and breed.

We mourn the little birds who've passed away
They sang in woods we've cut and used as fields
We cry for what we've slain and still we slay
The helpless Earth, to eat the life it yields

This Earth and all the life it holds, we steal
To fill our mouths, to eat the endless meal

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Think of this as a comment on the transient nature of web sites.

The living seek to cheat the grave
To leave their names on book and stone
The immortality that they crave
Is of the living and not their own.

The dead, they feel no human want
All mortal hunger is at an end
It is eternity the dead confront
The endless dark without a friend.

The dead will never hear their name.
Their ears are stuffed with mortal clay.
They have no need for human fame;
They never see the light of day.

So reputation matters not
For in the grave you only rot.
index

This is a bit more formal than most of my poems. It's a pastoral sonnet of sorts.

I came and saw, as tourists come and see,
A land of moors, of sky and green, somewhere,
An English scene and I a stranger there
Who'd strayed and did not know where he might be
No field, no fence, no mark of human kind
I saw except a church in weathered stone -
Its congregation one of birds alone.
Its folk were gone; their church was left behind.
There was no grandeur here, just hallowed stone;
The dust of ages lay upon the place.
But Christ was on the cross with anguished face
And saints in glass still glowed when sunlight shone.
The steps were worn by other feet than mine
The feet of folk who'd left no other sign.
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As sonnets go this is both strange and complex. It is a traditional thought in fantasy that elves and the old enchantments fade away. But if they are truly immortal they may not; instead they may bend with the times in unexpected ways.

In times of yore immortal elves once sang
In halls of green within enchanted glades.
When men arrive the old enchantment fades;
Their foundries smoke where sylvan airs once rang.

The glades, the groves surrender to the plough.
And cities stand upon the sacred hills.
The halls once green are choked with sewage spills.
The past must change to be the here and now.

The sewer elves still play the ancient tunes.
They call enchanted rats to madly dance.
And scattered here and there as if by chance
The rusty pipes now bear the elven runes.

The magic never dies. It must return.
The elves abide. Their flame will ever burn.

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Warning: You may find this one disturbing. It's supposed to be. It was written for that effect. It may be just a bit upsetting.

I dare not sleep for fear that I might dream
And wake to find I know not who I am
Nor where nor who it is that I must damn
To take my place within the silent scream.

For when I dream I'm in that other place
Where jagged time doesn't quite connect.
My crystal tears and metal blood reflect
The ribboned thought that trickles down my face.

The knives that weep caress the empty child.
My hands are bound with lambent chains of snot.
I dance alone in fields where puppies rot
And sing a hymn that God himself defiled.

Come play with me and giggle while I weep.
Come play with me and pray I never sleep.

index

This is drawn from images in SF novels which were, no doubt, drawn in turn from the Gothic.

A castle stands beside the moonless sea.
No plan nor scheme betrays its endless halls
Of marbled stone. The cloths upon its walls
Relate some tales of that which men might be.

In shadowed rooms the sightless weavers weave
Their tapestries with all the threads of life.
They're dyed with summer love and winter strife;
They show the truth and not what men believe.

The dead await the Lord that never calls.
Their weary souls no longer heed their names.
Like great eyed moths they dance around the flames
Of torches lit in niches in the halls.

A silence rules this castle of the dead.
A silence rules and even hope has fled.

index

The image of the religious retreat is a commonplace of religious thought. But what of the man who goes to the mountain or the monastary to find God or Enlightenment or that which such men seek? They go; they stay; they live; they die; and all that was dies with them as though it never was.

A bramble grows where once a garden stood.
Beneath the rose there lie the scattered bones
Of he who raised this hut within the wood.
All bare of flesh, they lie between the stones.

The hermit in this hermitage was just
A common man. No crown nor gold was lost
To him when first he gave his soul in trust
To God's sweet love and reckoned not the cost.

No kin nor other folk betrayed this place.
A saint, he dwelt alone with plant and beast.
Upon the world's fame he left no trace;
God's love, God's good were all his soul's feast.

No other touch of human life was there
God's endless love had spilled on empty air.

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In feudalism the mansions of the lords are the concentration of the labor of many people. Among bees the honey combs are the concentration of the labor of many bees. If people were honey bees feudalism would be a fine system.

In County Kent the tenants till the soil
In County Kent the bees perform their dance
In County Kent the Baron keeps his manse
In County Kent all wealth is won by toil

Each morn the worker bees set out from home
To gather nectar from the floral blooms
Which, drop by drop, will fill the waxy rooms
With golden honey in their honey comb

Each morn the tenants leave their squalid huts
To work the land, to plant and till the fields
To wrest from dirt the Baron's rent which yields
To him the finest wines and choicest cuts.

The endless work of bee and man is spent
To raise the wealth that's found in County Kent.

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This poem is quite sacrilegious and un-PC. Be warned.

My master took me to the holy place
He had some doves for sale in sacrifice
The temple priests and he would split the price
And I, a guard, would seek a woman's face

I met her long ago in Galilee
My master owed her man a minor debt
A quiet lass, her manner shy, and yet
Her glance was bold; it promised love for free

The holy rites engaged her man and son
Which left her free to dally with a guard
Her flesh was hot and sweet and I was hard
We loved until our passion's need was done

Pregnant again, her beautiful feet unshod,
A wonderful lay, Mary, mother of God.

index

The sonnet above stirred up a certain amount of ruckus when I posted it amidst a collection of sonnets. In response I composed a version (with the same last lines) which respected religious sensibilities.

The Angel of the Lord hath said to me
That I must wed and be the virgin's groom.
She bore the Son of God within her womb
So wed we were beneath the Cherry Tree.

They came, angels, shepherds, and wise men three
To see the holy child in its crib,
This Son of God that came from Adam's rib,
Conceived, no doubt, beneath the Cherry Tree,

The Jesus babe would be what he must be
But mortal man must live a human life
The virgin maid and I were man and wife
So we made love beneath the Cherry Tree

Pregnant again, and beautiful feet unshod,
A wonderful lay, Mary, Mother of God.

index

This is a rather prenatural sort of sonnet.

In the palace of the prenatural king
The jeweled robes of magisters sing.
The flowers dance throughout the night;
They'll turn to ash with morning light.

A three headed goat on a silver throne
Is eating porridge made of stone.
With every bite it chips its teeth,
The two below and one beneath.

A calico cat and a purple frog
Are eating cheese with a purple dog,
And orange mice with purple tails
Are having tea with purple snails.

Chickadadadada, beware of the sun.
Chickadadadadee, my pome is dun.

Index Of First Lines

If words could hold the measure of my life
This Earth we share was never made for us
The living seek to cheat the grave
I came and saw, as tourists come and see
In times of yore immortal elves once sang
I dare not sleep for fear that I might dream
A castle stands beside the moonless sea
A bramble grows where once a garden stood
In County Kent the tenants till the soil
My master took me to the holy place
The Angel of the Lord hath said to me
In the palace of the prenatural king

Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 2009 by Richard Harter
This page was last updated April 8, 2009.