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Expanding Notes

inspired by sentiments expressed by Roger Stuart Deakin, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, William Stanley Merwin, and John Ronald Reuel Tolkien


i)  Presence

Looking at you again, afresh,
just after making love – like Mars
looking at Venus in the flesh –
is purest joy. Do lucky stars
all gaze at this sweet prize I’ve won?
We ask if world enough and time
have brought us here. What’s done is done.
To love each other was no crime.
Do dusty scales not license snakes
to shun dull ruts and daily grooves,
see in the tracks of their mistakes
the living proof that this earth moves?
Essential beauty is divine;
truth is, I’m yours, and you are mine. 

ii)  Persuasion

We never saw the crisis coming. Why
should we have? Saying it was otherwise,
do you suppose your hindsight will disguise
our failure? Why should I be doing my
utmost to hide the truth? Why should I try
to let a pack of pretty-pretty lies
encourage me to edit and revise
the story of our love and say goodbye?
Beautiful as they are, these hearts that kiss
for ever, let them be the cards we pick
the next time we go chasing married bliss!
Useful concerns are what a lunatic
encourages; let blind vindictiveness
itself be proud to never miss a trick!

iii)  Prescience

Writing verse as often as I can
is not as simple as it sounds. To write
something worthy often takes all night.
I fumble in the dark without a plan,
know only this: it must both rhyme and scan.
Little else matters. Why, then, get uptight
about how much it weighs? Let it be light!
Less can be more. Why tyrannise a man
at work? Just let him do what he does best!
Some pieces are a wrench, yet still good fun;
times of woe are better met in jest
than rancour; I, at least, prefer to run
at them straight on, then turn as they protest.
Others are a doddle.
Like this one.

iv)  Precision

All this and more, yes, everything
that should enrich both you and me
is meaningless. Why give you three
gold bracelets? Why this diamond ring?
Does it convey I hope to sing,
not bind you? When we watch the sea
glitter with gems, we yearn to be,
not have: he does not strive to bring
all creatures great and small to heel.
Those jewels have not been made for slaves
who soon will die; the ocean’s waves
wander forever. When our graves
are plundered, let it be to steal
lost memories. These too are real.

Duncan Gillies MacLaurin


The four 14-word sentiments are embedded in each of the four sonnets as the first words in each line. The first is by Roger Deakin, from Notes from Walnut Tree Farm, 2008; the second by Goethe, as quoted by James Anthony Froude at the outset of his essay, “The Philosophy of Christianity”, 1851; the third by W.S. Merwin from an interview in The Paris Review, 1998; and the fourth by J.R.R. Tolkien from The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954.

 
If you have any comments on this poem, Duncan Gillies MacLaurin would be pleased to hear them.

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