In Thee, these features, five, my eyes they saw,
Count with me, in the mirror over there:
One set of star-filled eyes beyond compare.
View, too, the smile da Vinci could not draw,
Etched on the lovely face without a flaw.
The fourth, the long and flowing flaxen hair.
The fifth, the form dimensioned without err.
Heed this, my Love, Thou leavest me in awe!
Yea, I know that similar praise, and more,
Hath seen Thine eyes too many times before,
Except in mine is hidden what I mean,
As clouds hide rain that make the grasses green.
Read down the left, ere Thee and poem part,
The message lies in each line, at the start.
(I COVET THY HEART)
07.09.94 – 01.31.95
Copyright by Minh Tan on listed dated of completion
and published in Perspectives, ISBN 0-9686250-0-2.
Notes to this poem…
Man! January 1995 was some poetic month for me now that I look back upon it!
Aside from 006 being one of my favourite poems and definitely one of my favourite one stanza poems, Sonnet IV was a simple sonnet I loved which I turned into a song ten years later. I also liked A Prayer for Light, but as the month closed, I topped it off with this sonnet that, really, if I had to pick one poem that represented the lot I wrote, I would have been this.
I’m almost ashamed to admit it to be a little technicality on play with form, but that was the extra I was able to squeeze into a sonnet form that said what I wanted, and the extra bit conveyed that message. That extra bit was the message at the end, I COVET THY HEART, which could be seen if you read the message formed downward by the first letter of each line, that appeared in caps conveniently enough. That message I wanted to convey that was more than just the ones of comparative beauty the subject had heard before was the hidden message, it was hidden just like the sonnet said, rhymed nicely as a 15th line, and was essentially what separated me from the others who brought compliments to the maiden.
Of the compliments, the only one someone might not get is the smile (Leonardo) da Vinci could not draw, being in reference to the Mona Lisa smile that is generally regarded as being perfect, but not as good as the subject’s since da Vinci could not draw it. The face and hair was pretty generic comparison, but the form without err took a lot of thinking to find that way to say it so it would fit the rhyme and meter of the sonnet, not to mention starting it with a certain letter to suit the end message in caps. Being a typical Myers-Briggs iNtuitive, of course, I had the idea right from the get go before I even started the sonnet. I can’t believe I was such a pompous poet to try such a thing in light of all the horrible poems I composed in 1994 almost just to squeeze out poems and get some poetry writing experience, but which ended up so horrible from being forced that I couldn’t even bring myself to list their titles in the Notes to Unshared Poems Completed in 1994.
Anyway, the sonnet closed out to basically set the subject up for the hidden message that I claimed would distinguish myself from those brought by other suitors, and a few personal qualities with that like one of being a superior poet. In this was also another challenge, the simile in line12, As clouds hide rain that make the grasses green. Finding that metaphor almost gave me an aneurysm and it was the reason this sonnet took months to finish. I had most of the rest of it done within the July I started in 1994. Much of the rest of the time until the end of January 1995, when I thought of poetic ideas or worked on poems, I always started with looking for what could have gone in that line, often without success before moving on to other poems. I swear, some days, it nearly drove me nuts!
All that struggle was worth it, though, because in 1999, I entered it in the Poetry Institute of Canada‘s Thoughts for the Millennium national competition and was awarded a Fourth Prize Medallion for it. While no poetry prize or another can make a poet “legitimate”, so to speak, I’ll admit it did make me feel accepted and affirmed my belief I could be a poet beyond the capacity of just writing some shallow rhymes or trite emotional outpouring that I had pretty much regarded myself to that point with my heavy science and math background over the years.
For what little that medallion might be worth, because I haven’t let it get to my head that it’s of any value to anyone but me, in my own world, it’s one of my most cherished possessions, right up there with my 2007 Boston Marathon Finisher’s Medal that I finally attained running my 20th marathon… something else I never thought I would ever be good at, either.
So with what I thought was my best poem being written here, does that mean the rest of the collection just goes downhill? Well, no. Of course, not. There are other poems good in other ways, at least I think so, and one always has to hold out hope eternal that the best is yet to come. However, I think I can safely say that whatever the best that is yet to come, it would have to be measured on some criteria other than form because form wise, I think this is about as good as it would get from me. I just don’t have this much patience for form any more. I still have lots of patience to finish the poem on concept, thought or details other than form, but not form. That’s why you’ll see the sonnets run out at 10 but that the One Stanza Poems proliferate to this day well beyond 100.
Oh, yes. Of course, I have to address the matter of the subject. Again, it was nobody in particular. I don’t even recall thinking about someone as a subject I didn’t know well so as to be perfect in my eyes and mind for the poem inspiration. I probably just thought of whoever came to mind each time I thought about the poem and worked on it to try, but no memories remained if they existed at all. So tragic. I was leading such a nerdy looser life in the chemistry program I knew I would not continue that I couldn’t even feel I could write a poem like this and give it to some girl and have her appreciate it.
I don’t know if you believe in that adage that says you have to be depressed to write poetry, or at least sad, but I do. Considering how I felt and how I felt about the quality of the product which came of it that was this poem, you should be able to understand why I believe it. I’m pretty happy with life now in Oct 2007 as I write this, and probably not coincidentally, I don’t write a lot of poems, with expectations I had already expressed I would never be able to duplicate work of this quality in form, at least.
Thinking about that, ironically, makes me a little sad.
Please click here to see the only ten sonnets I have ever written.