Too long I’ve sat in silence in this cell.
Come, guards, unlock the door: it’s way past time
To step into the searchlight beam and tell
The truth, confess the catalogue of crime
I have committed in the name of duty:
Twisted my mother tongue, made her a liar,
Robbed her at gunpoint of her strength and beauty,
Stripped her of virtue, put her up for hire.
I just did as they told me; but excuses
Rehearsed through time unmeasured will not clean
The slate, absolve me of my vile abuses;
My fingerprints still dot the dreadful scene.
Pray God, the Queen and Shakespeare may forgive:
The humble English poet has to live
And find a way, according to his lights,
To hold to truth, yet set aside his joy
In craft and meaning; bend his back to plough
A barren soil; and wonder as he writes
What fear compels his masters to employ
So many words to say so little now.
In the middle of a long work jag, hence not much to see here lately. I’m working on some big corporate projects, which is death by a thousand clichés, but a man has to live. And whatever torments I visit on our long-suffering language in the name of making a buck, it’s nothing to what the suits get up to if left to themselves…
As so often, I’m indebted to Tom Davis for the impetus behind this poem – my first attempt at a tailed sonnet. The sonnet itself is, of course, your basic Shakespearean (a creature of habit, I) but with a few feminine endings sneaked in by way of variety. The coda is a simple abcabc, which may not be right, but I had to start somewhere! I like the couplet ending on the Shakespearean sonnet – it has the satisfying feel of a heavy door slamming shut when you finally get it – but I found the tail gave an opportunity to keep exploring, take ideas a bit further, and finish in a more contemplative mood. It’s not perfect, but right now, I’m just happy to be writing. N.