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The Chart of Tenderness

by michwo 

Posted: 03 October 2016
Word Count: 89
Summary: This is a virelai as opposed to a Vera Lynn. I'm not ashamed of it exactly, but it's far too mincing and serious. I really need to lighten up to stay on this website...

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                                                 The Chart of Tenderness
                                    On all the charts devised by mariners
                                    Past oceans crossed by Phaeton’s carriers
                                    Lie lands which, like Atlantis, are unknown,
                                    Before which fearless seamen have been known
                                    To turn about, afraid to be alone
                                    In nameless seas, tormented by the moan
                                    Of nameless winds and ghosts.  And so too I
                                    Flee far from the Terrae Incognitae
                                    Which on my Chart of Tenderness do lie,
                                    Barring the way to Love Explorat’ry.
                                    We must content ourselves with Common Sense
                                    Yet founder not in Lake Indifference.

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Comments by other Members

Cliff Hanger at 15:07 on 03 October 2016  Report this post
Hi Michael

There's no need for you to lighten up at all. As far as I see it this group is for all kinds and forms of poetry and I'm sure other members will agree. The point being to get feedback to help in the crafting process. I don't have time just this minute to look at this in detail but on a first quick reading it is thought provoking and interesting. 


AlanRain at 17:08 on 03 October 2016  Report this post
Lighten up? Michael, you haven't read the full range of my poetic subject matter (cannibalism, menstruation, death by fast food, possession by spirits, castration etc, not to mention my serious poems)
Not every poet writes about falling leaves and sunrises.

FelixBenson at 20:11 on 03 October 2016  Report this post
Just agreeing with the others, Michael. There is no theme or limit to this group. We all write different stuff, and experiment too. I hope you don't feel limited in any way on theme or style of poetry - we welcome all.

I have not commented on your work so far but that's only because some of the pieces have moved quite quickly out of the group after publishing,  you're one of the writers  in the group just now who seems to be able to write quickly (of which I am deeply envious). All your work so far has been refreshing and interesting though. I am a bit slow to comment sometimes. Partly from lack of time, partly because sometimes I need time to formulate an opinion or make a useful comment. I shall certainly endeaour to give this a few reads and try and come back with a few thoughts though.

James Graham at 20:09 on 05 October 2016  Report this post
Michael, everyone is rightly ticking you off for saying your work is too serious and you need to lighten up. I reiterate: all kinds of poetry are welcome, including the most serious. In 2014-15 we had a number of poems about WW1 – grim scenes and very sad circumstances. And of course we welcome all forms: free verse and traditional forms too.

As a matter of fact, this poem doesn’t strike me as overly serious. We begin with historic maps showing as yet uncharted land and ocean, then move on to the idea of uncharted territory in the narrator’s love life. There are places he cannot go, moves he is afraid to make. This is a witty rather than a serious idea, and the expression 'Love Explorat’ry' is extremely witty.

I’ll follow up with another comment, and have more to say about the poem.


V`yonne at 15:18 on 06 October 2016  Report this post
I find it tongue in cheek myself and there is no limit to style in this place and you will write things you never dreamt you would if you stay here with us!

James Graham at 20:31 on 06 October 2016  Report this post
I like this poem. This is in spite of my preference for writing in a 21st century idiom which doesn’t call the Sun ‘Phaeton’s carriers’ (do you mean the Sun?) or use such forms as ‘founder not’. Having said that, if we accept the slightly (not excessively) archaic idiom, the poem is full of interest. First, the vivid lines about ships turning about when they enter uncharted seas. Most readers know something about the ages when parts of the world were unknown, and also there’s a sense in which we relate to the connotation of fear in the inscription ‘Here be monsters’ on historic maps: when we travel, even though we know that the seas (and airways) are well charted, I think we still feel that sense of venturing into the unknown. We don’t expect ghosts or monsters, but there’s still a strangeness about longer-distance travel.

All this, of course, becomes in the poem an extended simile: my ‘Chart of Tenderness’ is like the ancient maps. This I think is the strength of the poem: the description of sailors turning about is good, but the transition to ‘Chart of Tenderness’ and ‘Love Explorat’ry’ is excellent – ‘witty’ in the 18th century sense. There is of course a telling pun in ‘Exploratory’, linking territorial and amorous exploration. In the amorous sense it might mean exploring relationships – striking up relationships in order to ‘explore’ them – or it might refer to the physical explorations of sex. I hope you intended this latter meaning; it may be just the way my mind reads it! It has just occurred to me that those first two lines of the last stanza could almost have been written by Donne.

Finally we have the last two lines, bringing us back to our senses as it were. Your juxtaposition of ‘Common Sense’ with ‘Lake Indifference’ (the latter incidentally taking us back to ancient voyages) is as witty as anything else in the poem. Oonah finds it 'tongue in cheek' - well, maybe it could be seen that way; I think playfully witty is the expression for it.

Now, I need to ask you about the virelai. I think I knew something about the musical virelai (Guillaume de Machaut etc?) and thought it had to have a refrain. But if it’s not intended to be set to music, perhaps it doesn’t need one? Is that right? And the rhyme scheme AABBBBCCCCDD – is that traditional?



‘Lake Indifference’ – Odysseus might have found his way there, and at least temporarily lost motivation to reach home.

michwo at 22:55 on 06 October 2016  Report this post
To put me on a par with John Donne, even for the space of two lines, is praise indeed, James!
I lapped him up during my teenage years, especially those brilliant intros, e.g. Batter my heart, three-person'd God..., Busy old fool, unruly Sun..., I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I did till we loved..., At the round earth's imagined corners.., etc.  What a very very potent poet he is!  ... I, lest thou enslave(?) me, never can be free,
                                                                               Nor ever chaste, except thou ravish me.
You'll have me thinking I''m good before you've finished!

michwo at 06:52 on 07 October 2016  Report this post
I've looked up 'virelai' in Wikipedia and have started to wonder now whether what I've written can really be described as one!  The word in that closing couplet of John Donne's Holy Sonnet 14 is 'enthrall' rather than 'enslave'.

James Graham at 20:28 on 07 October 2016  Report this post
It doesn't have to be a virelai. It's just a poem with the rhyme scheme you've chosen.


Mickey at 10:41 on 11 October 2016  Report this post
I don’t know what a virelai is, but what this enchanting piece put me in mind of was the mythical siren-like German Lorelai of whom George and Ira Gershwin wrote:

'Back in the days of knights in armour
there once lived a lovely charmer
swimming in the Rhine.
Her figure was divine'

The Lorelai tempted sailors to their deaths.  An ex-girlfriend of mine sang this to me once, and the bit I remember best was:

'Each affair has a kick and wallop.
What they crave I can supply.
I wanna be like that other trollop
The lovely Lorelai'

I really like this poem.  Well done mate

Cliff Hanger at 12:13 on 11 October 2016  Report this post
Have you read James's 'Revenant'. It's in his archive and worth a look.


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