Name this light a kind of tinting
Between dark and day, a mauve
Interwoven with blue heaven
Hovering over the yew grove.

Always did we keep this hour
Special in our home: your chair,
My chair, sherry on the table
By the gabled window there…

We would look out on new tulips
Then the trumpet vine and phlox
Then nasturtiums and then nothing
But white winter as we talked.

Souls we shared and spoken truly,
Trusting we could lay them bare
In the care of cherished friendship
Which was ours rich and rare…

But a sadness lurks in twilight
Seeks a help to see it through
Wants a lullaby for dying
Needs a loving rendez-vous.

So I shudder now at gloaming,
Gloom and dusk–one and the same,
Same two chairs, one glass for sherry
And an ache without a name.




Séadna: ” Irish poetry form. Syllabic. Quatrains of alternating octosyllabic lines with disyllabic endings, and helptasyllabic lines with monosyllabic endings. Lines 2 and 4 rhyme; line 3 rhymes with the stressed word preceding the final word of line 4. There are two cross-rhymes in the second couplet. There is alliteration in each line, the final word of line 4 alliterating with the preceding stressed word. The final syllable of line 1 alliterates with the first stressed word of line 2. The poem (not the stanza) ends with the same first syllable, word, or line with which it begins.” –Turco, Handbook of Poetics

36 responses »

  1. beautifully sad – sadly beautiful… this one really tugged at me

    I’ve always thought crepuscule was such clinical sounding word for something so wonderful – it just never seemed to suit the moment, but I’m pleased as punch to see someone using it 🙂

  2. This is incredibly clever in my opinion Cynthia. I would have o attend classes again for a week to understand those notes on what this form is all about. Putting all that aside this is a beautifully moving, sad yet very gentle poem and is so very much a Cynthia poem. I am starting to recognise your poetic voice so well. You nearly always leave me speechless and some would say rhats impossible 😊

    • You? Speechless? Impossible, indeed. I do understand, and agree, that as we continue to blog and get to know and enjoy each other’s work, commenting starts to sound repetitive. I ask myself….how can I say that I truly appreciate without it’s losing the oomph that I meant the first time, and still truly mean….

  3. Oh Cynthia–this is exquisitely beautiful in its haunting song of longing. Knowing that it’s not “just a poem”, but real experience, makes it difficult to click “Like”–but that’s all technology can afford, I s’pose. Thanks, also, for teaching us an Irish poetry form. Blessings on your day.

  4. Journeyintopoetry preempted my comments so all I can add is “ditto’ and “ditto” again. Thank you for this moving piece. The Séadna is so complex that even after I read your explanation I was unable to decode it. This didn’t matter as the poem sings to it’s own poignant rhythm. Marvelous!

    • Thanks, Jane. My own poem follows many of those complex rules, but not all. Our English forms are accentual-syllabic which gives our typical iambic meter, but those Irish (and Welsh) forms count only syllables, not accented beats. Maybe that’s what gives an Irish “lilt” to them…that and all the alliteration…after a while, you feel possessed by the ghost of Dylan Thomas!

  5. A beautiful poem. We do so many things in one life time, but somehow it seems we have not done enough, we have not seen enough. In the past something was done, and we are unable to do it like we did before. Things change, people change. We long for a few things, we want to forget a certain thing. We have stories to tell, that is all.

  6. I suppose this almost-impossible form is suitably demanding for the almost inexpressible thoughts you were wrestling with. What a task Cynthia; what a success! I found the opening two stanzas especially beautiful.

    • I believe you’ve said it more than once, John–something to the effect that tough forms help us to deal with tough subjects, and I think that’s true…at least for some of us. I’m glad you especially like the first two quatrains; they were the toughest. And thank you for calling this a success, which I hoped it would be, in some way.

  7. Am I the only one to note the risks you take by using diction considered quaint and poetic, risk cheated of danger by the rawness of the confrontation of grief at its most humiliating. A bravura performance.

    • Perhaps things waited for you to come along and say it! Perhaps “quaint and poetic” are as much choice as happenstance–choice of truth to natural temperament rather than what anyone might consider more à la mode. I like the quaintness of the word “quaint;” almost as much as I like the word “quiddity.” And there is a vast difference between “being humble” and “being humiliated”. Arcane uses of the English language are not my interest…which is probably why I see no “risk” in using it as I speak and read it when I walk up and down, among my fellow English speakers, on this earth.

  8. I am so impressed by your mastery of the old Irish form, Séadna, Cynthia, that I find myself in a state of amazement. I don’t seem to be able to write at all at the moment, but this is absolutely magnificent. The beauty of the language of twilight is sustained throughout, from beginning to ending line. The emotion of loss inside continuance captures living in a way that rings with emotional truth, letting the reader know of the complexity of life inside the simplicity of a moment:
    “Always did we keep this hour
    special in our home: your chair,
    my chair, sherry on the table
    by the gabled window there…”
    both past and present within the streams of time.
    Imbedded within the moment of the past are the signs of spring and new beginnings:
    “we would look out on new tulips
    then the trumpet vine and phlox
    then nasturtiums…”
    that lead to
    but white winter…”
    but inside the moments past of talk, of friendship, love, life.
    “…but a sadness lurks in twilight
    seeks a help to see it through
    wants a lullaby for dying
    needs a loving rendez-vous.”
    Then this summation of all-life in twilight, the need for help within continuance, the seeking for lullabies before we all face our own dying moment, and the need for a rendezvous of love beyond the veil that ends our journey.
    The last line punctuates the poem powerfully:
    “and an ache without a name.”
    This last line achieves the climax inside the poem’s internal tension in a way that aches into an emptiness that resonates into the place where language is no longer enough to express that which the poet cannot actually express.
    Using difficult forms forces us to dig into language and meaning, I think. The forms do not let us spill words on paper as if they are so many birds punctuated with markings derived from the top of our minds. I don’t think poets often understand what they have written. Sometimes they do, but more often than not, if the poem is true, there are depths that have been sought out that are not obvious as metaphor, simile, alliteration, rhyme, and rhythm explore the human past of both individuals and Jung’s collective unconscious in ways that are not on the surface, but are hidden even from the poet’s first sight. We may mean to achieve this or that, and maybe we achieve this or that, but in the end the flow and tension building to denouement are more nuanced and even fuller than our intention. We end up understanding our poem, but not fully understanding what we have written.
    This poem is pretty straight-forward, but it also achieves an emotional/intellectual depth that rises out of its music that seems greater than what is apparent when you first read it. Twilight, crepuscule, becomes a state of being where life swirls in a glass of sherry mixed with the past and a glimpse into the end of life. There is beauty and sadness and spring and winter and, most of all, continuance in the form of a single glass that joins the glass not there.
    You are quite a poet, Cynthia Jobin.

    • I very much enjoy your commenting, Thomas, especially what you say about forms’ forcing us “to dig into language and meaning” and explore the human past of both individuals and the collective; it really is all right there in the language, as it developed before us, and continues to do so today. I am reminded of what John Stevens has said about the help toward the inexpressible that may be had in traditional forms. I also think you touch upon something in Tom D’Evelyn’s “poetics” when you speak of a poem’s “rising out of its music” to something more than the apparent. What a wonderful phrase you coined there!
      When I am in a stuck place and don’t seem to be able to write, I remember William Stafford’s modus operandi and just write what comes out of my pen point (oh dear, am I the only one who still uses a pen?) until the sweet-spot occurs where language itself begins to speak. It almost always does—it gives something to work with, and often dictates a form I might have been considering. Bless you for your kind words; they give courage.

  9. Beautiful, indeed. You bring us through such a beautiful description of intimacy, friendship and love so that the end is sorrowful…I see it in my mind’s eye and feel it deep inside, absence and memory. Cherished love and all the places we remember sharing it in. Very powerful.

      • I recognized the title and the words were familiar. Here it is 2016 and here is my comment from two years ago. I think the poem has more meaning for me now, deeper, more layered, richer with sadness.

        • Yes! I have occasionally been posting some previously posted poems, since many of my current readers have never seen them… is so interesting how time changes not only the readership but also the outlook of some who have read the thing before. In these times of speed and disposability, I still maintain that poems do not have a “sell by” date, and should bear re-reading. I love that you came here to make your comment, Anna. I didn’t realize we had been fellow poetry bloggers for that long. Thank you so much!

    • Thank you so much, Patricia. These ancient Irish forms, maybe, don’t work quite the same in English…they’re difficult, but beautiful, I think, so I enjoy trying them…

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