It's just poetry, it won't bite

In Memory of Edith Wharton

08.12.09 Posted in dedication, today's words by

Wharton died on August 11, 1937 in France. Wharton was an American
writer whose specialty was charting the treacherous currents of elite
society, the dynamics of money and class, the tension of the individual
railing against the collective. She is associated particularly with
early 1900s New York society as its era was ending. Her particular gift
lay in the balance between her keen eye and her deep compassion: she
skewered her characters in a deft but loving manner. Her books evoke a
time long gone, almost willing the scenes to life, almost daring the
reader to get lost on her city streets. Wharton is lesser known for her
poems, but they were published in popular magazines and in collections
as well. This poem speaks beautifully to the age-old insecurity of the
artist. No matter if your instrument is your keyboard, your pen, your
guitar, your accordion, your pointe shoes, your paintbrush … you have
wondered once or twice where you get the audacity to carry on in the
presence of the greats. So do what Wharton did: doubt, but create

The Sonnet
By Edith Wharton
(first published in Century Magazine, 1891; 43[Nov]:113)

Pure form, that like some chalice of old time
Contain’st the liquid of the poet’s thought
Within thy curving hollow, gem-enwrought
With interwoven traceries of rhyme,
While o’er thy brim the bubbling fancies climb,
What thing am I, that undismayed have sought
To pour my verse with trembling hand untaught
Into a shape so small yet so sublime?
Because perfection haunts the hearts of men,
Because thy sacred chalice gathered up
The wine of Petrarch, Shakespeare, Shelley–then
Receive these tears of failure as they drop
(Sole vintage of my life) since I am fain
To pour them in a consecrated cup.

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