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Poetry Magnum Opus

The Prisoner


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There are seven pillars of Gothic mould,
In Chillon's dungeons deep and old,
There are seven columns, massy and grey,
Dim with a dull imprison'd ray,
A sunbeam which hath lost its way,


I hear the echoes of your rhyme

through the prism of broken time,

direct and urgent, the words condign,

sharp and clear in their design.


In your day you were all the rage,

a prisoner in a gilded cage;

sultry, arrogant, perhaps confused,

whispered about and roundly abused.


The first pop star, but very alone,

with surging heart and glance of stone,

your verse still reads quite pure and well,

but private life just went to hell.


They chain'd us each to a column stone,

And we were three—yet, each alone;
We could not move a single pace,
We could not see each other's face,
But with that pale and livid light
That made us strangers in our sight:
The girls, the ladies, the sneer and flout,
were not what you were really about;
that damned club foot was another thing.
the pain and anger that made you sing.
It's very hard to be who you are,
when nobody else is really a star;
you tried, I know, with other rhymers,
but turned away from social climbers.
Your death was good, fighting for Greece,
it was time to find quick final release:
romantic poets should die when young,
romantic heroes should always die young.

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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Interesting and made me ponder. Stop doing that! Dying young is way overrated, even for heroes. So is growing old. This poem will live in my shriveled head. Lord Byron would be proud.

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Fascinating comparison with the 'pop star guilded cage' culture of today. And you are right about his work that “still reads quite pure and well”. Your own well toned lines prompted me back to read The Prisoner of Chillon; and I thank you for your insight to a celebrated, if somewhat controversial giant of literature. B.

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Playful and profound, quite a feat! The tone is perfect, the reader's engagement quite spectacular.


Thanks Bren!



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David W. Parsley

As usual, if I don't dive in soon enough, Paco, Ben, and Doc get in all the juicy comments. I still might slip in ahead of Tinker and Tony.


As a tweenager, "The Prisoner of Chillon" was my favorite poem, period. I went back to it a couple years back, wondering if the late middle age version of myself would be disappointed. Not at all. The poem still brings a unique song to whatever dungeon you dwell - "I never saw his likeness more."


This is a respectful, though wry, tribute to the poem and its author, and perhaps a psychological find regarding the empathy felt by this memorable Romantic who "woke to find [him]self famous."


Thanks Bren,

- Dave

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