Whenever I see roses that are red,
I think of violets that come in blue,
For they prompt sweet memories in my head
Of the time I first set my eyes on you.
And when I see roses that are yellow,
I think of cherry blossoms that smell sweet,
And I recall how all seemed so mellow
Just looking at you, having yet to meet.
But when I see roses that are pure white,
To mind comes thoughts of orchids that are wild,
For they remind me of the stunning sight
I saw when you first caught my gaze, and smiled.
From then on, I could no longer presume,
That Spring had come, when I saw flowers bloom.
04.17.94 – 05.04.94
Copyright by Minh Tan on listed dated of completion
and published in Perspectives, ISBN 0-9686250-0-2.
Notes to this poem…
My first true sonnet written and kept, in a way, because Beethoven and his Fifth Symphony wasn’t a “true” sonnet, having to rely on the title to make sense for some readers not aware of Beethoven’s music and life story.
This poem was obviously spawned from the eternally regurgitated “Roses are red, violets are blue” quattrain so popular in the English language, but that was the idea that got it started. Why not write a variation? Hopefully a more “distinguished” variation and hopefully a better sort of poem than those quattrains, but you can decide that. Certainly, though, I could write much more about a person with 14 lines than just the two afforded by those roses and violets quattrains whereby the first two lines were, of course, reserved for the informal form of those poems. Those were all the impetus for the ideas and creation of this sonnet.
I expanded the flowers beyond the roses and violets in two ways. I referenced other types of roses, of which the white was and still is my favourite, which was why I saved it for last. I also referenced a few of my other favourite flowers, of which wild orchids were my favourite and also why I saved it for last. And no, my favouring of wild orchids have nothing to do with the steamy 1990 movie, Wild Orchid. I had never, and still have not, seen the film. I have just had people ask me that a few times over the years so I thought I’d officially clarify that here.
This poem was fairly easy to write, and would have been written in three days instead of three weeks had it not been for the “clever” couplet required to end Shakespearean sonnets, so I was told in school, like this one. With exams ending just as I started this poem, I was able to devote a lot of brain power looking for that couplet the following two weeks after penning the first 12 lines. It nearly drove me crazy, I recall, but brought me a lot of joy and relief once I thought “bigger picture” to “spring” and not just trying to find something nice and/or common to the flowers mentioned for a couple of weeks… and you know, it’s not even that clever or anything. Just a nice touch to end the poem, which was really all I was seeking.
As for the subject of the poem, let me share a little love poem writing secret with you when you have to be very idealistic about someone, or when you don’t have someone to write the poem for as was my case with this poem and many other love poems I have penned. If I deem I need a subject to help me write a better love poem, or write it more efficiently, at least, I pick someone I don’t know well, but who seems to have a lot of attractive characteristics about them. It’s like getting the perfect muse. Real enough so it’s not just some movie, music, athletic or other type of star, close enough so if I needed to, I could go have a pleasant chat with them, but not close enough that I know much or any of their imperfections which we all have. That’s my secret.
In this case, the subject was a young woman my age who had been a year ahead of my in high school and was either the best friend, or very good friend, of a friend’s older sister. I had failed grade 3 because my teacher then thought my English development was not going to be good enough for grade 4, you see, despite having had the best report card in the class that year, so I was a year behind despite being the same age as this young woman. But that elementary school story is one that doesn’t need to be told here.
Stephanie Anne Hall was the name of the young woman who was my muse in this poem. To be honest, I had never even thought about Stephanie since I had left high school till when I wrote this poem at the end of third year university. It was only when I figured I needed a muse to draw out some genuine thoughts about an attractive person all around to help write a better poem that I thought and came up with Stephanie as someone who could fit my Secret Muse Criteria, if you want to call it by some silly name like that. Hmmm. I kind of like it, actually. I’ll have to use that term more often in the future. 🙂
Now, as for how Stephanie fitted my Secret Muse Criteria, she was a petite young woman about my height, beautiful eyes and smile, fairly soft spoken, quiet and nice with a charming demeanour and way of going about life the few times I’ve seen her around. Really, that was all the contact I’ve ever had with Stephanie. Enough to make a really good impression but not much more. I probably talked to her a couple of times, at most, but only very fleetingly because my friend Dave Lewis was there with his sister Jane and Stephanie was around Jane for some brief momentary wait for something or rather in high school. Other than that, I had not seen Stephanie since she had last been in high school so that would have been about 4 years to when I wrote the poem, and I don’t ever recall having seen her since, either. If I did, I might have tried to get her contact information to give her the poem as I like to give poems to people who helped inspire me to write them, in whole or in part, not as some romantic gesture out of the blue. But to my recollection, I’ve never given the poem to her or even mentioned I had it.
Please click here to see the only ten sonnets I have ever written.