Seven Days of Valentines: Poem “Song for Autumn”

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Peasant Couple Sitting Under a Tree, Willem Basse, c. 1630/1660, via the National Gallery of Art, open access

For Valentine’s Day 2016 – the last Valentine’s Day before my wife and I married – I wrote this poem as a gift to my fiancé, including my attempt to develop a new poetic form to dedicate to her. The experimentation was a lot of fun, and in the time since, experimenting with poetic form has become my bread and butter. Following is an explanation of the form:

I started writing the poem in free verse, but then I started building. The point of this form is to be structured but also to create an easily flowing progression across the stanzas, something that I hope the reader sees as both effortless and tying together well.

In meter, the poem is basically free, but the words should have a kind of cadence to them that contributes to a smooth progression. I tried to do this by writing the lines as if they were the lines of lyrics for a song, whose melody I actually constructed.

The poem is made up of four, non-rhyming stanzas. Each stanza has twenty-one lines, and each stanza is divided into four parts:

    1. An introduction to the stanza’s idea, theme, etc. (four lines).
    2. The stanza’s main idea fleshed out and illustrated (eight lines).
    3. A conclusion drawn from the idea, or a result or explanation of the idea, or an action taken on the idea (four lines).
    4. The conclusion of the stanza’s ideas, themes, etc. (five lines).

As for the lines in each stanza, the second and sixteenth lines of each stanza are the same, the last part of the first three stanzas is reflected in the content of the stanza following that line, and each line must have a certain number of syllables:

    1. Part 1: 9, 8, 12, 8
    2. Part 2: 10, 6, 9, 9, 12, 6, 10, 7
    3. Part 3: 9, 8, 12, 8
    4. Part 4: 8, 8, 7, 7, 8

Each stanza has its own function, and each part of each stanza has its own function, but each stanza also contributes directly to the theme and progression of the whole poem. Each stanza has its own idea to develop, which is contributed to by each part of the stanza.

I wrote out the seven paragraphs above as I was writing “Song for Autumn.” Where I stray from my own guidelines, you can see my rush to complete the poem, which I had trouble doing in time for my Valentine’s Day date with my wife.

You may also notice that the first letter of each line is capitalized, which is different from some of the other poems I have posted on The Flummoxed. This is because, often, when I am experimenting like this, or when I am working with a formal poetic form, I like to capitalize the first letter of each line to provide myself with a sort of foundation of the past as I attempt to build into the future.

Pretentious? Sure. But I was really trying to show my fiancé how much I loved her by experimenting in such a fashion. How well did I succeed? Well, I’m not sure, but I know my wife enjoyed it!

Without further ado, here is my “Song for Autumn”:

“Song for Autumn”
By Ethan McGuire

When God looked down to His paradise
On the banks of the Euphrates,
Adam sat staring into the crystal fountain,
Stars reflected in its waters;
And the deer who approached the river’s edge
Lay beside him and drank,
And Adam smiled, but he was alone
As he looked into the forest,
For all of the animals had their companions
To love, but he had none.
He sighed and left the creature’s company.
As he stretched himself on moss,
The river’s clear, fresh, waterfall scents
Slowly lifted young Adam’s heart,
Though he felt he should have his arm around someone
On the banks of the Euphrates.
So as he slept, God took his rib
And fashioned the beautiful Eve;
And just so, as I prayed when
I was alone and lonely,
God looked down, and He sent me you.

The Lord above looked down in mercy,
Inner and outer drew me in.
He crossed our paths as we walked along our own ways,
Oblivious and new and young.
When two people meet who are meant to live
In love toward each other,
They feel contentment and energy.
I felt the same when our eyes first met.
Naive toward the principles of love and passion,
Your presence I flirted,
And I prayed that God would send the love my way
That I straightway found in you.
Growing love, how sweet it is, and pure.
Tenderly in its innocence,
Your conversation and your marvelous beauty
Inner and outer drew me in.
So one day as I sat with you,
As I lingered love at your touch,
I knew it true, then and there:
I would be lonely no more.
Our paths were intertwined for life.

Emerging fire, fanned by passion,
Nurtured by our adoration;
Our hearts danced through fire as our relationship grew,
Though we denied the full extent.
We laughed together and shared our own hearts,
And with each laugh and sigh,
We fell for each other more and more,
Drifting ever into each other
And into one another’s arms, borrowing our
Souls’ considerations,
With each smile and frown one more further step
Toward sweet intimacy.
Increasingly, I searched your presence
For indications of the same
Feelings growing slowly in my being, to be
Nurtured by our adoration.
Thanksgiving day, 2015,
The happiest day of my life,
When I, kneeling down on my knee,
Asked you to be my wife and
To hold your heart until I die.

If one day we somehow end up old,
I promise, dear, to hold your hand.
If, decrepit by time’s heavy hand, we find we
Need support for our daily tasks,
My desire is to wrap my arms around
Your body until we
Drift together off to loving sleep
And dreams bring us back to each other.
With beautiful eyes, we will stare until the sun
Sinks in its arc, western
Horizon adorning with Midas touch,
And burning orange flitting fast,
The light will illuminate your face,
And I will so tenderly kiss
Your wonderful lips; and, swinging on our front porch,
I promise, dear, to hold your hand.
Yesterday, I loved you. Today
My love, somehow, darling, increased.
With each new day, I believe
I could never love you more,
But I’m wrong. My love ever grows.

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