la muse et la petite mort – a sonnet

la muse et la petite mort


i sometimes wish I didn’t love you yet

so much that I do I do for you but

nothing ever works for us both, and words mistook cut

us up and out of our connection, when we let them.
i always love the way you never get

stuck on stuff – some folk would fall into a rut

when hard and heavy tribulations put

their lives on hold – thoughts mired like fish in a net.
but you, you seem to blithely slip

through that wide open ocean of freedom

from all the drifting flotsam pains you ever met
setting sail on a climactic far-out trip

through wine-dark heavens, where you and all our friends can come –

loving, yet somehow wishing we didn’t love you, yet…

       April 2017


  1. Didn’t Homer talk about a wine-dark sea??

  2. James Wood says:

    This sonnet has an informal tone and a rushing, headlong, run-on rhythm, appropriate to its subjects.
    The poem’s essential meaning bifurcates in the opening line, where the word ‘yet’ may be read in both its adverbial, temporal sense (“I wish I didn’t love you already/hadn’t loved you already”), as well as conjunctionally (“I wish I didn’t love you, yet nevertheless…”)

    The first sense supports the thought that the build-up to, and moment of, “la petite mort” is far more pleasurable and self-extinguishing than its post-orgasmic aftermath. In the same way, the experience of many lovers is that the headlong pleasure and self-fulfilment with the loved one, in the initial phases of love, can often be succeeded by a feeling of let-down when reality intrudes and mundane matters resume their sway over the lovers’ lives.

    The second sense places a stronger emphasis on the poet’s frustration with the loved one (or muse), but also a stronger focus on the aspects about the muse or loved one that the poet particularly loves or admires.

    This bifurcation of the poem’s meaning holds true through to the final line, where again both meanings can be read. That sets up a tension between the two potential interpretations which the poem does not resolve, but maintains.

    Applying the “stock Homeric epithet” of wine-dark to the heavens, rather than the sea, supports a new idea, that “the little death” may not be utterly distinguishable from actual physical death, a fresh layer of metaphysical meaning.

    Another interpretative layer is added with the title, “la muse et la petite mort”, which suggests that the narrative is as much about poetic inspiration as it is about sexual pleasure and love, and which permits me to ask the poet, “which of the muses are you addressing in this sonnet?”

  3. Freddie says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, James, it’s appreciated.

    Regarding my choice of Muse, it’s Erato! I shall respond to some of your other comments, as well as the topic of muses and inspiration, in more detail separately.

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