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dVerse — imitation practice — Grace Transformed

One of my favorite poems even before I began to write poetry is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “A Psalm of Life.” It’s one I’ve turned to many times when I’ve needed a jolt of encouragement, and it has worked every time. Aside from the positive, life-affirming message, the idea that somewhere along the way I could serve to encourage another sealed the deal for me. I’ve never dissected the poem to understand what it is beyond; that which makes it so alive each time I visit it. Frank, thank you for this exercise as it is giving me the opportunity and then challenging me to use the tone, literary devices, and poetic devices to compose one using the same ones Longfellow used.

I turned to Literarydevices.net for help. The literary devices in Wadworth’s poem include allusion, assonance, imagery, personification, anaphora, consonance, paradox, parallelism, and alliteration. The poetic devices he used are nine stanzas of four (quatrains), with a rhyme scheme of ABAB, with end rhymes. I also noticed that the syllable count is 8787.

This will be a long post but I want to do it right. First I’ll post Wadsworth’s poem without identifying the devices, then my poem without the devices, then both of the poems again with devices noted.

A Psalm of Life
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
*Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

* * *

My poem, Grace Transformed

From the time I was in swaddling.
Borne from two without a clue
Marked for sorrow, not for coddling
Starting point for tale that’s true

Overfeeding replaced cuddles
Filling lines in baby book
Potty chair for nine-month puddles
Being first whate’er it took

Six years old I was a diva
Only in the lecher’s eyes
Kissing lips with welcomed evil
Logic screams, deranged soul cries

In my young mind’s twisted logic
Cast adrift, alone at sea
Parasitic world that’s toxic
I’ll survive. It’s up to me.

Vroom Vroom Vroom this fine-tuned engine
Roaring down the darkened streets
Never slowed for real affection
Shorn each race of golden fleece

Faux pearls worn by demon beckons
Dimming gaslit halls of shame
“Stay and die,” a small voice reckons
Rallied, sprouted wings became

Lifting up, lifting on, away!
To a place, an eagle’s keep
Where angels land and spirits play
A place where souls sleep and heal

I dreamt her arms a cradle mine
Salamander soul regrew
I’d never felt so much alive
Twisted logic came unscrewed

Now I drift and am a message
Proof there’s shelter from the storm
Shriveled mem’ries but a vestige
Miracle of grace transformed

* * *

Wadsworth’s poem, with devices noted

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,      Allusion
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.      Paradox

Life is real! Life is earnest!      Anaphora; parallelism
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.      Personification

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,      Alliteration
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;      Imagery

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,      Consonance
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
*Still achieving, still pursuing,      Assonance; parallelism
Learn to labor and to wait.

* * *

My poem, with devices noted

From the time I was in swaddling.
Borne from two without a clue
Marked for sorrow, not for coddling      consonance; alliteration
Starting point for tale that’s true     consonance; alliteration

Overfeeding replaced cuddles
Filling lines in baby book      allusions
Potty chair for nine-month puddles      allusions
Being first whate’er it took

Six years old I was a diva
Only in the lecher’s eyes
Kissing lips with welcomed evil      assonance
Logic screams, deranged soul cries

In my young mind’s twisted logic
Cast adrift, alone at sea
Parasitic world that’s toxic
I’ll survive. It’s up to me.

Vroom Vroom Vroom this fine-tuned engine      anaphora
Roaring down the darkened streets      imagery
Never slowed for real affection
Shorn each race of golden fleece      allusion

Faux pearls worn by demon beckons
Dimming gaslit halls of shame
“Stay and die,” a small voice reckons
Rallied, sprouted wings became

Lifting up, lifting on, away!      Parallelism
To a place, an eagle’s keep
Where angels land and spirits play
A place where souls sleep and heal

I dreamt her arms a cradle mine
Salamander soul regrew
I’d never felt so much alive
Twisted logic came unscrewed

Now I drift and am a message      paradox
Proof there’s shelter from the storm
Shriveled mem’ries but a vestige
Miracle of grace transformed

* * *

Frank Hubeny is today’s host of dVerse.  Frank says:
The prompt today is to identify some poetic technique, theme or style that you enjoy and would like to try yourself by imitating it. Let us know what it is you are trying to practice or imitate. Some of us may want to try imitating it ourselves after seeing what you find enjoyable in a poem.

graphic:  “Eyrie” by Steve Henderson

44 thoughts on “dVerse — imitation practice — Grace Transformed

  1. I think you nailed the structure, but also the heroic feel of it. His is much more broadstroke, but you bring it down to the intensely personal – what would this mean, what does it mean to live like this?

    There’s something very satisfying about creating a poem that is so tightly structured, I think. Sometimes the structure imposes itself and takes you in a slightly different direction, and opens up a new truth.

    Liked by 1 person

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