The Poems You Have Lost

Diposkan oleh alexandria joseph | 20.36


Saturday is Poetry Day, and tonight’s selection is “Missing Dates”, by the 20th-century English poet and critic William Empson.

Empson is best known for Seven Types of Ambiguity, his acclaimed work on literary criticism which he published at the age of twenty-four. In his poetry he practiced what his criticism preached, adding layers of ambiguity to tease the reader with multiple possible meanings.

“Missing Dates” is a villanelle, in the traditional form with nineteen lines and the required double rhyme scheme. Empson extended the villanelle form and made it more interesting in “Aubade”, excerpts from which have been used as inscriptions in previous Gates of Vienna posts about Europe.

“Missing Dates” is an acquired taste, and definitely not for everyone. However, I’ve found that the older I get, the better I seem to understand it.


Missing Dates
by William Empson


Slowly the poison the whole blood stream fills.
It is not the effort nor the failure tires.
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.

It is not your system or clear sight that mills
Down small to the consequence a life requires;
Slowly the poison the whole blood stream fills.

They bled an old dog dry yet the exchange rills
Of young dog blood gave but a month's desires.
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.

It is the Chinese tombs and the slag hills
Usurp the soil, and not the soil retires.
Slowly the poison the whole blood stream fills.

Not to have fire is to be a skin that shrills.
The complete fire is death. From partial fires
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.

It is the poems you have lost, the ills
From missing dates, at which the heart expires.
Slowly the poison the whole blood stream fills.
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.






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