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The Unsent Letter


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The whole darn world was ours to cherish,

and damsels in distress! ours to defend.

The future ours, while all our foes would perish;

there was a time! And you, my trusted friend.

 

We took no time to think, ran to discover

what lay ahead of us, just past the bend,

a great adventure! or, perhaps, a lover?

 

Now we fend off our friendship’s end

with letters . . . which we write . . .but seldom send. ~~~ might edit line to: "...with letters--which we write, but--seldom send."

Edited by waxwings
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waxwings,

 

First time to come across this "sonnet", though "sonnet" gives me an impression that it has to have 14 lines. But you said it is, I then believe it is, it must be a different type of sonnet that requires me to do a further research.

 

Knowing nothing about this type of poetry, I dare not put my finger on it but I find it different than other sonnets mainly in the number of lines and the content. First read, I find there are too many "ours" in S1, three "ours" in the first three lines, plus one "our" in the third line... same words put too close together. Further reading leads my to realize you got a pattern there--parallel structures and a poetic device of repetition.

 

There is a rhyme, meter, and the concluding couplet. And the content is not of usual theme of love, nature, praise etc.

 

Thank you for sharing this form of poetry to us.

 

With my limited understanding,

 

Lake

Edited by Lake
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waxwings,

 

First time to come across this "sonnet", though "sonnet" gives me an impression that it has to have 14 lines. But you said it is, I then believe it is, it must be a different type of sonnet that requires me to do a further research.

 

Knowing nothing about this type of poetry, I dare not put my finger on it but I find it different than other sonnets mainly in the number of lines and the content. First read, I find there are too many "ours" in S1, three "ours" in the first three lines, plus one "our" in the third line... same words put too close together. Further reading leads my to realize you got a pattern there--parallel structures and a poetic device of repetition.

 

There is a rhyme, meter, and the concluding couplet. And the content is not of usual theme of love, nature, praise etc.

 

Thank you for sharing this form of poetry to us.

 

With my limited understanding,

 

Lake

 

Thanks for your kind reply, Lake.

 

As for the form, there was a debate circa the 18th and 19th centuries, or more specifically, during what is known as Enlightenment, if the dramatic overall structure of a sonnet (exposition, development, crisis and resolution) could be done in less than 14 lines. The Latvian poet Rainis lived in exile around Lausanne, Switzerland, where many of the east European inteligentsia gathered to find refuge from persecution by the Russian monarchy and other ruling powers.

 

Rainis' developed this 9 line form where the quatrain, tercet and couplet, try to mimic the phases of the Petrarchan and/or the Shakespearean sonnet ( octave cum sextet or 2 first quatrains in lieu of octet] 3rd quatrain, couplet).

 

What is attractive is that the quatrain can be rhymed either alternately (abab) or envelope-wise (abba), but the tercet is preferably cdc, the couplet dd. However the middle rhyme chosen for the tercet may be either a or b. It is preferable to have the couplet and tercet rhyme linked, but many good transgressions have been written.

 

And then there is the issue of repeated words. The big NO-NO is to repeat end rhymes. Repetition of words in middle parts of lines should be as unobtrusive as is possible. Lines started with the same word are a must in list poems. Some repetition is OK if used for emphasis. All in all, it is up to the poet and the reader whether repetition works to please or not. I will have to think about how it does in this poem. Thanks for pointing it out.

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Thanks so much for this fine example of the RAINIS SONNET, Ikars, and for the additional background information on its developer. I plan to read THIS article on Rainis when I finish my reply.

 

The two minor imperfections I've detected are metrical; the first and eighth lines are short a foot. I'll provide a couple of examples to illustrate what the lines would read like if they contained the extra necessary metrical foot. The first would read like this:

 

 

The prehistoric world was ours to cherish,

 

 

and the eighth would read like this:

 

 

Now we reckon with our friendship’s end.

 

 

Okay, the first example's word choice is ridiculous, but I'm using it for illustrative purposes as to meter and rhythm. As they stand now, L1 and L8 are iambic tetrameters, while the rest are strict iambic pentameters (acceptable substitutions throughout, strict because there are no anapests).

 

In any case, this is a fine work; the content itself complements the form. I just raised these metrical quibbles, because I think if you tweaked the lines, the poem would be perfect.

 

I am surprised at your use of the exclamation points in lines four and seven, because I know you usually don't favor such indulgences. But I myself like them; I think they add to the magic of poetry.

 

You now have me excited about the Rainis sonnet. Look for one from me soon. ( Uh-oh I hope I can live up to that promise ... :rolleyes: )

 

Tony

 

PS -- I saw your fine replies in Literary, and I hope to get to them soon.

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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Thanks so much for this fine example of the RAINIS SONNET, Ikars, and for the additional background information on its developer. I plan to read THIS article on Rainis when I finish my reply.

 

The two minor imperfections I've detected are metrical; the first and eighth lines are short a foot. I'll provide a couple of examples to illustrate what the lines would read like if they contained the extra necessary metrical foot. The first would read like this:

 

 

The prehistoric world was ours to cherish,

 

 

and the eighth would read like this:

 

 

Now we reckon with our friendship’s end.

 

Okay, the first example's word choice is ridiculous, but I'm using it for illustrative purposes as to meter and rhythm. As they stand now, L1 and L8 are iambic tetrameters, while the rest are strict iambic pentameters (acceptable substitutions throughout, strict because there are no anapests).

 

In any case, this is a fine work; the content itself complements the form. I just raised these metrical quibbles, because I think if you tweaked the lines, the poem would be perfect.

 

I am surprised at your use of the exclamation points in lines four and seven, because I know you usually don't favor such indulgences. But I myself like them; I think they add to the magic of poetry.

 

You now have me excited about the Rainis sonnet. Look for one from me soon. ( Uh-oh I hope I can live up to that promise ... :rolleyes: )

 

Tony

 

PS -- I saw your fine replies in Literary, and I hope to get to them soon.

 

Thanks for the attention to detail. I am not against using anything, including punctuation, esp. the kind I think might make a poem too officious-like-prosy, but I urge everyone else (hoping I too succeed) to try to be wise/clever when it comes to departures from or the breaking of the so called 'rules'.

 

As for meter and rhythm, again, one has to be sure not to get enslaved for sterile, theory-wise metrics. It is, in myview, the rhythm, not the obeisance to metrics that counts. Here is my way of scanning the poem, and you do not have to agree to every instant of placing stresses or caesuras. I am using an apostrophe to mark the stressed vowel or foot when marking the vowell obscures the existence of a next, unstressed syllable. In such cases, I omit the slash that marks the end of a metric foot, esp. if that end falls in the middle of a word. Please note comments after.

 

The who'le/ darn wo'rld / was o'urs / to che'rish, ~~~ The fifth foot is theoretically incomplete, as seen w/feminine rhymes .

and da'msels in / distress! // o'urs to /defe'nd. /

The fu'ture ours, // while a'll our fo'es would pe'rish; ~~ again, feminine rhyme.

the're was / a ti'me! // And you, my tru'sted friend. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I am ambiguous re if the last syllable/word is stressed or not.

 

We too'k / no ti'me / to think, // ra'n to / disco'ver ~~~~~~ Extra unstressed a syllable, again due to a feminine rhyme

what la'y / ahe'ad / of us, // just pa'st the be'nd,

a gre'at / adve'nture! or, // perha'ps, // a lo'ver?

 

No'w / we fend / o'ff // our friend'ship’s e'nd / ~~~~~~~~~~~~ the first foot is typical of a well recognized headless iambic pentameter.*

with le'tters . . . which // we wri'te . . .but sel'dom send.

 

We must agree (as is generally done) that pyrrhics and trochees are valid substitutes for a iamb unless the line looses the dominance of a iambic meter.

 

Some lesser pundits argue that feminine rhymes are not permissible in iambic lines, but I have seen poems by at least one, perhaps two past masters who do. Besides, that would mean that poetry must suppress significance of plain, simple, natural words and the ensuing content/sense/feel, which I cannot believe is right.

 

It is my contention that certain 'oddities' within a iambic line can make it more appealing than a blind conformance to 'rules'. It seems that, if alternate lines, or more than just one line of a poem show the same 'odd' pattern, a balance may be achieved such that the rhythmic appeal is enhanced and not destroyed.

 

* You mention a headless (? broken back) iamb, but it is not certain it is restricted to the middle of the line as your discussion in Literature seems to hint.

 

I do appreciate your comments. Seems, I have tried too hard to force the timing/pauses, esp. the exclamation point in L7 (I have moved the caesura in the above rendition) and the ellipses in L9.

 

Do not hesitate to offer any counterpoints to my reasoning, because, though I may think I offer an educated opinion, nothing says it is unassailable.

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The who'le/ darn wo'rld / was o'urs / to che'rish, ~~~ The fifth foot is theoretically incomplete, as seen w/feminine rhymes .

There is no fifth foot in this line. There's a fourth ... with a feminine ending:

 

/ the WHOLE / darn WORLD / was OURS / to CHER / ish

 

/ iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb / ^ (hypermetrical, or feminine ending)

I'm not sure if you're pronouncing "ours" and "world" as one or two syllables (I pronounce both words as one syllable each), but even if you pronounce both words as two syllables (and you end up with anapests in the third and fourth feet), you still have only four feet -- tetrameter. And that's okay, if that's what you want. But I fail to see why you would want that when the rest (except L8) are iambic pentameters. (I'll address what you said about "oddities in the iambic line" later on, below.)

 

 

The fu'ture ours, // while a'll our fo'es would pe'rish; ~~ again, feminine rhyme.

Yes, feminine rhyme/ending/hypermetrical again. But this time, it's in a line of iambic pentameter:

 

/ the FU / ture OURS / while ALL / our FOES / would PE / rish

 

/ iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb / ^

 

I urge you to compare this line with L1. Yes, both have feminine endings, but this one has eleven syllables; L1 has only nine. This one is iambic pentameter (with a hypermetrical), L1 is not.

 

 

the're was / a ti'me! // And you, my tru'sted friend. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I am ambiguous re if the last syllable/word is stressed or not.

It's definitely stressed.

 

 

We too'k / no ti'me / to think, // ra'n to / disco'ver ~~~~~~ Extra unstressed a syllable, again due to a feminine rhyme

what la'y / ahe'ad / of us, // just pa'st the be'nd,

Yes, again the feminine rhyme. Like L3 (but not like L1), this line has eleven syllables (with the hypermetrical). Therefore, it's iambic pentameter:

 

/ we TOOK / no TIME / to THINK / RAN to / disCO /ver

 

/ iamb / iamb / iamb / trochee / iamb / ^

 

The line also contains a trochee, which is a commonly used substitution within a line of iambic pentameter.

 

 

a gre'at / adve'nture! or, // perha'ps, // a lo'ver?

This one's another perfect iambic pentameter with a feminine ending:

 

/ a GREAT / adVEN / ture OR / perHAPS / a LOV / er

 

/ iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb / ^

 

Notice it has eleven syllables, not nine like L1 (or to be shown next, L8). (Also note: the "or" is "promoted" resulting in a stressed syllable.)

 

 

No'w / we fend / o'ff // our friend'ship’s e'nd / ~~~~~~~~~~~~ the first foot is typical of a well recognized headless iambic pentameter.*

This line does not contain a headless iamb. A headless iamb occurs only at the beginning of a nine-syllable line of iambic pentameter when every other foot is an iamb. When, in my poem Prudhoe Bay, I wrote,

 

whirling 'round the north star's steadfast light,

 

the result was a line containing nine syllables and a headless iamb:

 

/ ^ WHIR / ling ROUND / the NORTH / star's STEAD / fast LIGHT /

 

/ headless iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb /

You urged me to lose the contraction 'round in favor of the word around. I adopted your suggestion and the result was this:

 

/ WHIRling / aROUND / the NORTH / star's STEAD / fast LIGHT /

 

/ trochee / iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb /

 

I implemented your suggestion because I concluded (for various other reasons) that it made the poem better. But, both versions of the line are perfect iambic pentameters; the former contains nine syllables and a headless iamb, the latter contains ten syllables and a trochee. These are the standards in use today.

 

What you have in L8 is a line of tetrameter:

 

/ NOW we / fend OFF / our FRIEND / ship’s END /

 

/ trochee / iamb / iamb / iamb /

The only way this could be an example of a headless iamb used properly, is if you pronounce "our" as two syllables. In that case, we would have this:

/ ^ NOW / we FEND / off O / ur FRIEND / ships END /

 

/ headless iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb /

 

The pronunciation of "our" as two syllables is another matter. While "ours" in L1 may lend itself to this pronunciation, because of your multiple use of the word our/ours in the poem, the reader expects the word to be pronounced the same way each time, either with one syllable or two. There are several places where a reading of the line (and even your own scansion) does not support a two-syllable pronunciation.

 

 

* You mention a headless (? broken back) iamb, but it is not certain it is restricted to the middle of the line as your discussion in Literature seems to hint.

The headless iamb only occurs at the beginning of a line of iambic pentameter. In iambic pentameter, when a foot that resembles the headless iamb occurs in the middle of a line (typically in the third foot), it's referred to as a "broken-backed pentameter." The headless iamb is very common. Everybody uses it, from the masters on down. Heck, I use it all the time. The broken-backed pentameter (as discussed in LITERARY) is much less common. I don't think I've ever used one.

 

If you want to pronounce "ours" as two syllables, you might be able to insist that your line contains a broken-backed pentameter:

 

/NOW we / fend OFF / ^ O / ur FRIEND / ships END /

 

/ trochee / iamb / broken backed pentameter / iamb / iamb /

 

But, as I said above, I don't think that method of pronunciation works consistently throughout your poem.

 

 

Some lesser pundits argue that feminine rhymes are not permissible in iambic lines, but I have seen poems by at least one, perhaps two past masters who do. Besides, that would mean that poetry must suppress significance of plain, simple, natural words and the ensuing content/sense/feel, which I cannot believe is right.

I think feminine rhymes are accepted by almost all. Shakespeare used them, and so did most everyone else.

 

 

It is my contention that certain 'oddities' within a iambic line can make it more appealing than a blind conformance to 'rules'. It seems that, if alternate lines, or more than just one line of a poem show the same 'odd' pattern, a balance may be achieved such that the rhythmic appeal is enhanced and not destroyed.

You raise an interesting contention. I've seen poets use four feet in a line when the other lines contain predominantly five, but (if I remember correctly), the preceding or following line contained six feet to balance the two lines out at ten feet ... like two lines of iambic pentameter. I believe Robert Lowell did this all the time in many of his sonnets, and he discusses your point a bit in THIS interview.

 

In any case, it's always a pleasure to share ideas. I hope these points are helpful.

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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Aleksandra

I wish I was more relevant to talk about the structure here :), waxwings, and to make a good review of this poem, as Tony did. Anyway, I like the poem as a poem itself with its sound, and sense. And always is nice to read different forms and good that you share another type of a poem.

 

Thank you.

 

Aleksandra

The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth - Jean Cocteau

History of Macedonia

 

 

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I wish I was more relevant to talk about the structure here :), waxwings, and to make a good review of this poem, as Tony did. Anyway, I like the poem as a poem itself with its sound, and sense. And always is nice to read different forms and good that you share another type of a poem.

 

Thank you.

 

Aleksandra

 

Thanks, Alex, for the nice reaction.

 

tonys and I have gotten into certain technicalities, to which there is no need to react. I hope that by reading them you may find more grist for your mill. Your poems are good, even though I feel like recommending certain uses of Englis semantics and ortography, and no poem is too sacred to not being able to bear some rewrite/recision and, hopefully, gain polish by that.

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Hi Ike, Thanks for writing a Rainis Sonnet. It is the first I have actually read, other than my own. I like the verse form because it seems to crytalize a thought without going on and on... which makes more of an impact on the reader.

 

I love it when you and Tony go at it discussing meter. I always learn something reading the discussion. My only technical comment is that the elipsis used in the last line seems overkill. I am sure they were meant for dramatic effect but I got the message before the last line and didn't need it to be pounded over my head. (well now my comment is a little overkill huh?)

 

I loved the content of this piece. It is so simple but so honest and refreshing. You captured the optimism of youth so beautifully in your quatrain and connected the dots between your dreams and the companion that shared them. I think this is a letter that should be sent...

 

~~Tink

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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Larsen M. Callirhoe

very intellectual write. i like this. your clever word usage enlightened me. this flowed had rythm and meter. what is not to love about this poem! and it is very interesting read also.

 

victor

Larsen M. Callirhoe

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Thanks,ticer, Juris and victor for your generous replies. Tink is right re those ellipses. Goes to show you that, being innovative as modern/younger poets try to be, very little 'trickery' is needed to create fresh ways of getting old thoughts across using form poems.

 

I especially appreciate the understanding that, while learning all kinds of ways of interpreting meters, we can get lucky sometimes and get satisfactory rhythms w/o cowrowing to metric 'rules'.

 

Thank you all very much, and it would please, I'm sure, tony and me if you were tp watch while he and I thrash out all the chaf and get to see how scansion can be used to see how to go beyond just meter.

Edited by waxwings
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goldenlangur

How lovely to read a different take on the sonnet form waxwing. I too have not read such version of the sonnet.

 

Your motif is quite traditional - friendship. The 9-line verse reads well and has a certain resonance in this age of electronic communications.

 

 

For what it is worth I don't think you need any ellipsis in your final line:

 

with letters . . . which we write . . .but seldom send. ~~~ might edit line to: "...with letters--which we write, but--seldom send."

 

 

I enjoyed this.

 

Thank you.

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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