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Sonnet (Gull Flight)

Through long hours the flare rippled flame
On harbour waters shoaled with light
And filled with streaming silver fish; the wane
Of day, the flood of light, its torch-lit might,
Still left the white-wing gull aloft to round
That roar of red whose far-flung light spread fire
On hills above the harbour, bled the mound
Of cloud above and hid the pale moon lyre.
Their swooping silent glide like flight of moth
Around a window light, the gulls still flew
A ragged dance around the storm of wrath
At midnight; perhaps in to soul flame blew
Or why else at noon height in deep night fly
When one has shores where waves of calm do sigh?

Author's note: back in the 1970s, while I was still at high school, I struggled wretchedly to write a sonnet. The following rather uncertain exercise in iambic pentameter (more or less) is the closest I got to achieving the form. Not very close, really. The first line most definitely is not iambic pentameter, and the second line only has four feet. (Try as I might, I could not perform the surgery necessary to add the missing foot.) Anyway, I published the version shown above in 1976 (not a good year for the sonnet.)

Below (undertaken purely as an exercise in form) is a revised version dating from July 2003:-

Memory Flight

In memory the flare is rippling flame
On harbor waters gaudy with the light
Of burning oil; since then a thrifty wane
Has sapped the swollen torch of all its might,
While leaving still the gull aloft to round
The wilds that turned suburban; lost the fire
That roared from sea to summit where the mound
Of Vulcan waited, waiting for the gyre
Of time to waken rock to molten wrath.
And waits senescent still; the gulls that flew
Still fly, I guess, above the wasting sloth
Of quenched ambition; lost the flames that grew
When hope still planned above the stars to fly -
Indifferent, I will not waste a sigh.

Author's note: the "Memory Flight" version is rather better than the original "Gull Flight" version in that there is less waste space - fewer syllables thrown in, empty of meaning, simply to pad out a line of iambic pentameter. However, as sonnets go, this one still leaves quite a bit to be desired.

(One problem, which will not be apparent to the casual reader, is "Vulcan." The setting is a New Zealand setting, and Vulcan quite simply doesn't fit. Another is that "mound" is a soft, eroded word which does nothing to capture the dynamic volcanic upthrust of the mountain in question, Mount Manaia, which rises above the shores of Whangarei Harbor.)

The words most heavily freighted with meaning are "Indifferent, I will not waste a sigh" - I never conquered the sonnet form, but, at this stage of my life, I couldn't care less.

At this writing (July 2003) I am in my forties. When I was at university in my late thirties, I attempted (as an academic exercise) a rather more elaborate piece of

poetry in iambic pentameter

.... if someone needs to find an

iambic pentameter poem

then they might like to check this out. The same piece (the "iambic pentameter poem") could also be called a

blank verse sample

This site also contains an

analysis of two sonnets

and it also contains an exercise in

Shakespeare iambic pentameter analysis

Publication details: The first version of this poem was published under the title "Gull Flight" in Craccum on 1976 June 8. It was first published when posted on the Internet on 2003 July 05 Saturday, together with a revised version called "Memory Flight". Copyright © 1976, 2003 Hugh Cook. All rights reserved.

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