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.

Grimm Heritage

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

pure surface;
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.

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