a Spenserian sonnet by Thomas Davis
Albino does emerge from banks of snow
Into the moonlight of the winter night.
The sheen of silver from the ghostly glow
Of luminance stained from the full moon’s light
Spreads through the shadows where the snow’s soft white
Moves with the movement of the silent deer.
The maple trees begin to stir, a slight
Breath silent through a sky pristinely clear.
A huge tree cracks. A wave of startled fear
Jerks through the deer. A wind begins
To blow through barking trees, the atmosphere
Alive with movement as the moonlight spins
Light dancing through an empty field that flows
With running waves of ghostly silver does.
16 responses to “Flow of the Albino Does”
Oh Tom you have created such a wonderful whispery atmosphere here. I can feel the stealth and the wind. its wonderful.
I would have no idea where to start with a sonnet. ive never heard of a Spencerian one before.
There are several types of sonnets in English, Christine. The most common is the Shakespearean. The second most common is the Italian. The third is the Spenserian. There are other forms such as the sprung rhythm experiments of Gerald Manley Hopkins, but they are not used as often. I just described the Spenserian to Kathy Isaacson, so I’ll paste that for you:
A Spenserian sonnet is a sonnet form that is not as common in English poetry as either the Shakespearean or Italian sonnet. All sonnets have fourteen lines, and in English they are written with iambi pentameter, which is ten syllables long per line, with alternating emphasis on each syllable. The first line of this sonnet is scanned this way:
Al (not accented) bin (accented) o (unaccented) does (accented) e (unaccented) merge (accented) from (unaccented) banks (accented) of (unaccented) snow (accented). Another way of putting it is that there are five beats per line.
This poem uses all male rhyme schemes. That means that the accent is on the last syllable of the line that is to be rhymed. If I had allowed female rhyme schemes there would have been eleven, rather than ten, syllables per line.
The rhyme scheme for a Spenserian sonnet, named after Edmund Spenser, the English master poet who developed the form, is as follows:
a b a b b c b c c d c d e e
This is compared to a Shakespearean sonnet whose rhyme scheme is: ababcdcdefefgg.
We often have so little direct contact with nature ant its beauty. This is a beautiful reminder of what we are missing.
The wonderful thing about Door County in Wisconsin is that there are areas where nature still is present. This particular poem came about after a walk through Potawatomi State Park, which is about a mile from our house. I heard the trees barking and the snow running over the fields. There is a lot to be said about winter in Wisconsin. We still have several feet of snow on the ground. It is beautiful and some places are wild, but it’s also tough to live through sometimes. Thanks for coming here, Ben Naga. You helped me through a difficult time.
This is a beautiful description of a beautiful scene, Thomas. It is not simply a ‘lovely’ scene though, is it? There’s a disturbance and the presence of fear in Nature and you’ve caught that too.
Very nicely done!
Wonderful as ever, Tom. As John says, you’ve taken the sonnet, usually associated with love and beauty, and given it an edge, which is really effective and the sign of someone in full control of both the form and his material. I’ve always stuck (more or less) to the Shakespearian form, mostly because I find it easier than the Spenserian: I’m going to have to try this now, but you’ve set the bar pretty high!
Nick, I’m going to do an Italian next. I’m hoping to see a Spenserian from you, then an Italian. If we don’t stretch ourselves, Alzheimers might be in our future. Maybe John will join us: Spenserian, Italian, then the one we’re all three comfortable with: Shakespearean. The truth is that I can’t set the bar nearly as high as you two have set it in the past.
I have picked up your gauntlet, Tom…
Hi Thomas, that is a wonderful poem. I like the Spenserian sonnet and did a modest attempt 🙂 I shall try an Italian as well lol but not too sure I can.
Write well, Ina. I’m sure Nick will and that I will try. Welcome to the challenge!
🙂 Thank you. It was a nice puzzle to do, I have put a few sonnets on the blog.
You will laugh…..I first read “does” in the title and first line as the third person singular of the verb “to do”! I realized quickly, of course, my mistake. The sheer loveliness of your description throughout the poem is mesmerizing. The movement of the deer —those leggy lovelies–put me in mind of young ballerinas dancing a kind of gossamer dream sequence.
Then the tree cracks. Fear. Jerking. Barking. But it’s barking trees, not barking dogs. Is this to imply that fear lies in perception regardless of whether there is real or present danger? That tree cracking serves,as the “Volta””, or turn of the sonnet, I assume. It comes in a traditional Petrarchan location (line 9) though that rhyme scheme is not the one you are following and you’ve reversed the positions of octet and sestet, and eschewed the Spencerian variation of three Sicilian quatrains and a heroic couplet. So many variations there are on the sonnet—which makes the writing of them such a challenge to discipline and ingenuity. That “volta” business, though, which had less to do with rhyme patterns than with meaning in the poem, seems more often than not abandoned in our time, since the choice of subject matter is now left wide open. Beautiful poem, Thomas.
The volta in here is meant to be in the 9th line, Cynthia. I find the Spenserian more challenging than either the Italian or, of course, the Shakespearean. It ends with the heroic couplet, but, like all of my sonnets, at least, follows the meaning inside the poem to find the volta rather than strictly adhering to the classic ideas. As to the trees barking, the strange part is that Ethel and I were walking in the woods in Potawatomi State park, a loud bark occurred, a sudden wind gusted, and the trees barked as heavy ice fell off them to the ground. It was a strange experience. I am enchanted by your knowledge of poetry and especially of traditional verse. I write using traditional forms because it forces me to work for long stretches on a poem. Otherwise the words fall from my sleeve, as Frank Lloyd Wright once described the designing of Falling Water, his Pennsylvania masterpiece.
Ironically, the discipline of form can be very liberating. (Don’t tell anyone!)
Just beautiful, Thomas – again you inspire me. (Printing out….)
This piece just whispers to me, Thomas, with such grace.