Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

This poem marks a couple of momentous moments.  One was the loss of our dog, who had gotten out of her yard and disappeared only to be found later dead on the road.  The other is the composition of my first villanelle.  The villanelle is one of the most challenging verse forms in the language: six triplets in iambic pentameter rhyming ABA, etc., until the last stanza adds an extra A line to end in a couplet.  The catch is that lines one and three have to be substantially repeated as the final lines of the following triplets, alternating until they come together in the last stanza as the final couplet.  In one way it’s easy.  When you finished three lines, you already have a third of the rest written!  But the trick is to make the repeated lines sound like they would completely naturally have been there anyway.  Now that is hard!

The advantage is that if you do it well, there is an intensity bound by rigid limits that lends itself to containing otherwise uncontrollable emotion.  The best example of this use is Dylan Thomas’s famous villanelle on the death of his father, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”  This one is not lacking in a certain similarity to that one.

Farewell to Snoopie: A Villanelle (No. 1)


The once lithe body lay too large, too long:

The proportions were off, the head’s angle strange;

Something about it certainly was wrong.


Something about the way the limp legs hung

Boded less wandering, a shrunken range.

The once lithe body lay too large, too long.


Never before had I seen her without a song

Of bugle-haunted greeting in glad refrains;

Something about it certainly was wrong.


The silk ears once in gay abandon flung

Were still, and their position did not change:

The once lithe body lay too large, too long.


A fly crawled slowly undisturbed along

The nose; fur rose in wind foreboding rains.

Something about it certainly was wrong.


And standing there, I felt no longer young

And thought age no great bargain in exchange.

The once lithe body lay too large, too long;

Something about it certainly was wrong.


Remember: for more poetry like this, go to and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

 Donald T. Williams, PhD


About gandalf30598

Theologian, philosopher, poet, and critic; minister of the Gospel who makes his living by teaching medieval and renaissance literature; dual citizen of Narnia and Middle Earth.

Posted on May 11, 2015, in Donald Williams, Poetry and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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