I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day,
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light's delay.
With witness I speak this. But where I say
Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament
Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent
To dearest him that lives alas! away.
I am gall, I am heartburn. God's most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;
Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse.
Selfyeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see
The lost are like this, and their scourge to be
As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse.
Not your hearts-and-flowers kind of sonnet. He goes down and dirty as he explores his feelings of exile from God. In the middle of this alienation and self-loathing, he wakes up in the dark in more ways than one. He is yearning for the light of day, again in more ways than one. In the rest of the first quatrain, he talks about the “black hours” and the terrors he has experienced in this seemingly endless night. In the second quatrain, he says that where he has said hours he means years. In fact, his whole life has been lived in the dark of separation from God, yearning for the light of final union. All of his prayers to God have been like dead letters, sent to one who is distant but not delivered. This is your down-down-down-and-the-flames-grow-higher kind of sonnet.
This response nails it and helps me see it whole. He stares bare existence in the face but is always reaching for a sense of the creator. His mode of existing is to reach for higher meaning, so bitterness means that God would have him bitter. There is a strange loop built into this. Could we not say that this constant imperative to read for higher meaning feeds into his bitterness? This feeds the down-down-down-and-the-flames-grow-higher characteristic you speak of.
Well written gerard
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.I would like to translate this poem