some for the measure of a poet’s song…

If I have a favorite poem out of my many favorites, it is the sonnet by Countee Cullen that begins “Some for a little while do love…” I first memorized it in high school, and while I cannot for the life of me ever remember whether its title is actually “Song” or “Sonnet,” it is the poem that best encapsulates my heart’s philosophy. I’ve programmed it into more than one church service, and I want it at my funeral.

Which brings up a question for all y’all: are there particular poems you’d like people to think of in association with you when the time comes? Or that have struck you as especially appropriate at other people’s memorial services? For instance, two of the readings that immediately come to my mind are Cavafy’s “Ithaca”, which Maurice Templesman read at Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s funeral, and one of the characters in Four Weddings and a Funeral reciting Auden’s “Stop all the clocks …”.

My head is full of rhymes and rhythms this week, in part because I’m working on some sonnets and villanelles, and also because I’m at Christmas school. Although I specifically picked a non-speaking part in the mummers’ play, I fear I have nonetheless given myself away as a rhyming fool, since I couldn’t refrain from making suggestions during this afternoon’s review of (first draft) opening lines, resulting in exchanges along the lines of

ALEX (emoting as St. George):
It is I, the great St. George,
and yada, yada — nothing rhymes with George —

PEG (perkily):
Forge, gorge…

ALEX (roaring):
Shut up!

LEADER (grinning):
Hah! You should do it just like that in the actual play!


HOBBY-HORSE: …something about saying “neigh” and profit and greed…

PEG: “Taxpayer” rhymes with “naysayer”…

[Ed. note: A mummers’ play is sort of a melange of Christmas caroling, busking, SNL-style parody, and Monty Python-esque hijinks. In couplets. The one for Christmas School raises funds for attendee scholarships, and this year’s characters include the Big Three automotive companies, Sarah Palin and John McCain (each played by a kid of the opposite gender), and doctors representing competing healthcare systems…)]

One thought on “some for the measure of a poet’s song…

  1. I’ve never really thought about what poem would be quintessentially me in that context, but now I’ll have to. I do love that Auden poem.

    The mummer’s play sounds awesome!

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