In my writeup on my poem The Ploughman Plans
I spoke of how the poem was inspired by W. H. Auden
’s poem Musee des Beaux Arts
. About the same time I wrote that poem, I did another even more closely inspired by that Auden poem. If you compare the one below with Auden’s, you’ll see immediately what I mean.
This isn’t a parody—I am not trying to make fun of Auden’s poem nor use it to create a social commentary about Auden. I suspect he would approve of my sentiments. It isn’t a pure rip-off either—I am not trying to copy what Auden was saying, but I was interested in seeing what I could do if I followed his form closely. So I see it as a variation, rather like a musical variation. So, I have kept the tempo and structure (rhythm and rhyme scheme) for my own content.
This sort of thing is a frequent writer’s exercise. You learn a lot about poetic structure this way. And what you really learn, interestingly enough, is the freedom to be found in using a form.
with no apologies to Auden
About love they were often wrong,
the old stories: so pat they set us up
for hopeless endings, so tight their webs---
the white-armoured prince, and the thorns, and the princess
so cruel to those Evil who, active and passionate, scheme
towards their golden desire, while the Good simply lie
sleeping on silken couches, beautiful, waiting
for a kiss to propel them to life:
They always insist
that a queen's facile mirror reveals the truth complete
of beauty's mysterious call, that a magic wand
can veil the rags and pumpkins underneath, and that the perfect girl
needs only a glass slipper to be perfect wife.
But in Hansel and Gretel, consider: how the children turn
together into the forest: how the girlchild plans
salvation, how she slips the bone
to her caged, fattening brother: the fire cracks
in the oven, the witch peers in at the moment of
push: and the two scramble from gingerbread heaven and walk
back into the forest, no happily ever etceteras, just
the searching together for the long trail home.