Sunday, July 18, 2010

M.K.. Joseph on Married Love (This is Not a Sex Post*)

Since I seem to be circling around the theme of married love, here is the first of a two-poem pair by Joseph. Since I also like John Donne very much, this particularly appeals.


Meditation on a Time-Piece

All things began in order, so shall they end, and so shall they begin again; according to the ordainer of order and mystical mathematics of the city of heaven.

As on a clock-face the artificer
Doth lay two hands which readily shall go
Turned by the cunning engine: the first one slow
Doth pace; th'other pursueth her
As in a race he runs, and passing on
Circles the dial twelve times to her one;
Nor shall they confer
At noon or midnight till the full race be run,

So are we two: for as at first we lay
Together on the noon-stroke, now I roam
Busily round the dial, while you at home
Pass (what the hour hand's hour is and) your day.
Now in these circlings we may daily meet
As hourly do the hands each other greet,
And can we never say
That time shall yet be ours, till all hours are complete.

Yet this our clock runs not on hours but years
Cycles and centuries, as measured are
By magian transposition of a star
Or no-map-marking Aztec calendars.
Upon eternity's still ceaseless ground
Plato's Great Year goes wheeling round
All minuted with prayers
That we together be when God's great midnight sound.

. . .

I really like sonnets of the shakespearean form, and the solid couplet at the end of this one is particularly satisfying:


She was content in the kitchen, hugging cheap dreams
Until that old woman, starting in a puff
Of ashes, clothed her in cobweb and moonbeams,
Conjured a coach from rats and kitchen-stuff.
At midnight the dress upon the dancing-floor
Lay dirt and glimmer, the slippers were ice-hard,
The clock-prince chimed along the corridor,
She fled him weeping through the palace-yard.
But the old witch had her way; the messengers
Went out to match the slipper to the true princess.
Dragged in her rags before the tittering courtiers,
Put to the question, she could only whisper Yes.
In glass-heeled slippers she minces towards the tomb
Beside her bridegroom ticking like a bomb.

. . .

Best to you all.

*Betty Duffy, I'm looking at you...


BettyDuffy said...

If this is not a sex post, I'm not sure I can read it.

Enbrethiliel said...


On Cinderella:

Fairy godmother and witch lie very close together, don't they?

The whole poem is very unsettling to someone who is still single, but I suppose married women see something else in it.

Otepoti, what made you choose this one?

Otepoti said...

I used to like the inversion of the fairy-tale, the clock/time/mortality business, and the idea that the whole show is being run by older women with their own agendas.

If I didn't know, I might think this poem was about Princess Diana. It's not - it pre-dates her marriage to Charles by many years. However, this girl is also part sacrificial lamb and part wish-fulfilment figure.

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, my! It does sound like Diana! With Camilla as "the old woman"? Queen Elizabeth? Or am I getting at the embarrassingly easy (and therefore wrong) reading? As you say, it pre-dates Diana's entry into the public eye. Then again, I've always been a postmodern fan of life imitating art.

I used to read the blog of a woman who wrote about the single life and how to live it with grace. She said she often received e-mails from other single women who were depressed about their state in life, and she always told them that being married doesn't automatically make everything rosy. Think of all the married women in abusive relationships, she said, and know that you are at least happier than they are because nobody is hurting you.

I wonder what she would think of this poem, which makes the dreary single life of the kitchen and "cheap dreams" seem rather nice.