Seeing is Believing



For our final writing assignment in my World Literature class this semester, we were allowed a little room for creativity. Because we had already displayed our abilities in writing literary analyses, Dr. Kevorkian gave us the option to put on Dante's shoes by writing either a canto in terza rima or a sestina. After mulling over the two options, I chose to take on the sestina challenge. For those of you who aren't familiar with a sestina (fear not, I wasn't until I did this assignment), it is a 39-line poem consisting of six stanzas followed by an envoi of three lines. All the stanzas contain the same six words at the end of each line rotated in a set pattern, as shown below:

I ended up writing mine in iambic pentameter also, which proved to be less of a constraint or burden and more of an aid in helping me mold my ideas into more concise statements, as well as providing an inherent rhythm. I used my last essay on the role of sight in Dante's journey as the groundwork for my sestina. Here is the finished product:

A Slave to & Saved by Sight
He often relies purely on his sight,
thus emotions are born in his eyes.
Trapped in the afterlife, trapped in a gaze,
blinded by that which he chooses to see.
Within Dante's gape-awed, mesmerized stare,
his eyes and his soul agree to believe.

Dante's doubts certainly make one believe
that there is no sign of hope in clear sight.
But dare to delve deeper into his stare
and you will find within those transfixed eyes
an ability far beyond to see.
The twinkle of his mind lies in his gaze.

Distractions often inspire such a gaze,
but these are the kind that make one believe.
For what he observes is all he can see,
and gladly he relishes in his sight,
for these realms host a full feast for his eyes
with angels, light, and truth causing his stare.

What is contained in the ducts of these stares?
"Heavy grief is wrung" in his steadfast gaze,
but richer feelings emerge from his eyes
as vision portrays what he may believe.
Truth unfolds. It's captures by Dante's sight.
Once blinded by the light, now he can see.

Horrified, amazed by what he can see:
it triggers his so captivated stare
that reveals faith burgeoning through his sight
and the might and strength within his held gaze.
Indeed he proves to see is to believe:
"Fixed upon wheels of heaven" are his eyes.

Knowledge travels to his mind from his eyes.
Aware he has control of what he'll see,
he carefully selects, so I believe
that power and strength drives his awestruck stare.
Reading others and himself through his gaze,
his expression "most clearly shown" through sight.

This heavy dependence on the sense, sight,
perhaps shows weakness exists in his eyes.
But blaming artists for their natural gaze
is blaming an eye because it can see.
Seekers and creators are bound to stare;
observations beget what they believe.

Curiosity drives Dante's mad eyes
into a wild storm of thought as his gaze
gives birth to a witness of faith--Dante, the one who sees.

Though this may be of little meaning to you if you're unfamiliar with Dante's Divine Comedy, I thought I might share my latest piece of academic writing anyway. Not to mention, I was excited for a blog post that mostly entailed simple copy and paste action out of sheer laziness .

My professor was just as delighted to see someone actually took on this endeavor as he was with the piece itself. I was pleased to have a solid finish to my first semester which started with tears as I left this class, daunted by the stack of books I didn't think was possible to read in a semester's time. And here we are today, nine books later, and I think I did a little more than survive. I came out with a portfolio of essays which clearly mark significant progress, and now a final piece that grants me the privilege of claiming myself a part-time poet.

My quest to master classic literature continues next semester as we leave the epic behind and embrace the novel, starting with Don Quixote (bracing myself for that one!), later The Magic Mountain and others. Both my peers and world class professor challenge me in the best way possible in this course, and I look forward to seeing what the spring has in store. But, for now, I'll delight in my current accomplishment of completing The Divine Comedy in record time and having some of my own work to prove it.


Amy said...

again, molly... that is incredible. i could never write anything like that. mom even said if she had a gun to her head, she couldn't do that. you are a very gifted writer sister!
good luck on exams, and we will see you soon!

Carolyn said...

agreed with Ames. Very well done! One of the best sestinas I've seen! ;)