Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Sonnet and Free Will

"How can I explain it to you? Oh, I know, in your language, you have a form of poetry called the sonnet."

"Yes, yes," Calvin said impatiently. "What's that got to do with the Happy Medium?"

"Kindly pay me the courtesy of listening to me. Mrs. Whatsit's voice was stern, and for a moment, Calvin stopped pawing the ground like a nervous colt. "It is a very strict form of poetry, is it not?"

"Yes."

"There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic pentameter. That's a very strict rhythm or meter, yes?"

"Yes." Calvin nodded.

"And each line has to end with a precise rhythm pattern. And if the poet does not do it exactly this way, it is not a sonnet, is it?"

"No."

"But within this strict form the poet has complete freedom to say whatever he wants, doesn't he?"

"Yes." Calvin nodded again.

"So," Mrs. Whatsit said.

"So what?"

"Oh, do not be stupid, boy!" Mrs. Whatsit scolded. "You know perfectly well what I am driving at!"

"You mean you're comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?"

"Yes," Mrs. Whatsit said. "You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you."

***

"To speak analogously is to admit that you can't say it directly; you really can't say it at all; it's outside the realm of provable fact. But it is not a coincidence that some of the greatest poetry in the English language is in the form of the sonnet. The haiku is one of the most popular forms of poetry today: what could be more structured?"

***

"Without our structure, we would be an imprisoned, amorphous blob of flesh, incapable of response. The amoeba has a minimum of structure, but I doubt if it has much fun."

~ Madeleine L'Engle

2 comments:

JESSICA RENSHAW said...

Yes, the freedom within the structure! It makes meaningful life possible. We are heirs of a creative God!

JESSICA RENSHAW said...

Oops, scratch that and replace it with:

Or, to say it haiku-ly:

Freedom in structure:
meaningful life possible:
our creative God.

Or ignore all three posts!