Next Line, Please

The Mood of Doom, Where Guns Are Snug

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By David Lehman

January 26, 2016


 

Angela Ball takes the honors this week. Choosing the Wordsworth-based opening line (which I mistakenly attributed last week to John Keats), Angela suggests this second line:

Guns fret not at their chamber’s narrow doom
Snug in our amber mood, we take too little care of what they do.

Angela explains that line two is adapted from the end of one line and the beginning of another in Shakespeare. Note that the first word in her line (“Snug”) is an anagram of the first word in line one (“Guns”). Not to mention that “doom” returns as “mood.”

Second place: Berwyn Moore, for her line based on Keats’s wonderful poem beginning “This living hand, now warm and capable”)

Guns fret not at their chamber’s narrow doom,
warm and capable in the icy license of the tomb.

The line conjoins part of Keats’s first line with the phrase “and in the icy silence of the tomb.” It adds to the pleasure that “license” is an anagram of “silence,” the word Keats uses.

Bronze medal: Patricia Smith for a line adapted from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”:

Guns fret not at their chamber’s narrow doom
They delight in the rush of the streets

Whitman’s line is “The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hillsides.”

Honorable mention to Millicent Caliban:

The road of excess leads to the bliss of solitude:
Alone, alone, all all alone with wine upon my couch.

The first half of the line is taken from Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” while the prepositional phrase concluding the line alludes to the couch in the first line of the final stanza of Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as Cloud,” from which “the bliss of solitude” comes.

I am grateful for the votes that one of my own entries received:

The road of excess leads to the bliss of solitude
And breeds the fine delight that fathers thought

Much of the line is lifted from Gerard Manley Hopkins: “The fine delight that fathers thought; the strong.”


For next week, we need an apt third line. The task is to lift a line from an admired poem of the past, then to change that line in an interesting way, with extra points if your line includes an anagram of a word in the previous line. Even better if line three were to rhyme with either “doom” or “do.” We are traveling in the unknown with this exercise. Let’s have fun and see what we can build.

Deadline: Noon, January 31, 2016.


David Lehman is a poet and the general editor of The Best American Poetry series. He teaches at The New School in New York City.

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