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.”

A seldom seen form utilized by Gerard Manley Hopkins in “Pied Beauty” is the “curtal sonnet.” It’s a shorter, more compact version of the Italian sonnet, with groups of six and five lines instead of the traditional octave and sextet.  So you have eleven lines of iambic pentameter rhyming ABCABC, then DBCDC, with the last line cut off to only one or two feet.


One of the effects to which the curtal sonnet lends itself is the powerful concentration of meaning you can get in that last, short line, if you set it up properly.  Let’s see if I did it here.




Curtal Sonnet # 4


Things are not always what they seem:  We drove

The spikes through wrist and ankle bones to bind

The criminals upon the cross.  We spliced

Their flesh to wood with iron; thus we strove

To make secure what fates the gods had twined—

And generally that view of things sufficed.


But that last Jew clean put me at a loss

To tell what held up what.  Have I gone blind?

No!  I would swear that, when he paid the price,

I saw the world suspended by the cross

From Christ.


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.


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