Poetry In The Secret Under My Skin

"There aren't a lot of poetry scripts. They all come from long ago. It only took me a few months to finish every one, but that doesn't matter. Poetry isn't like a story you only want to read once. Poetry reminds me of a jetty in St. Pearl. Every day, something new would float up on it. Sometimes things you'd want to find and sometimes not, but always something new. I read the poems again and again." The Secret Under My Skin, p. 13.

I love poetry and often try to work at least one poem into each book I write. This book gave me a chance to use more poems than usual.

Click on the following first lines to see the text of each poem:


  Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

    Had I the heavens embroidered cloths,
    Enwrought with golden and silver light,
    The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
    Of night and light and the half light,
    I would spread the cloths under your feet:
    But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
    I have spread my dreams under your feet;
    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
                                               -- William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet who was interested in the folktales and legends of his country. He was also active in politics and held some important political offices, including senator of the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1928. In 1923, he was awarded a Nobel Prize for literature.
    I saw this poem for the first time when a good friend sent me a copy after my daughter was born.


  Ode to the West Wind (Part V Only)

               Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
               What if my leaves are falling like its own?
               The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

               Will take from both a deep autumnal tone,
               Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce
               My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

               Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
               Like wither'd leaves, to quicken a new birth;
               And, by the incantation of this verse,

               Scatter, as from an unextinguish'd hearth
               Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
                Be through my lips to unawaken'd earth

               The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
               If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
                                                             --Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)

This is the last part of a much longer poem. The whole text seemed too long and complicated to put on this page. Shelly wrote "Ode to the West Wind"  after seeing a fierce autumn storm in a forest near Florence, Italy. It was written in 1819.
    I wanted to use this part of the poem in my book because the poet suggests that the entire forest is an aeolian harp in the winds of the storm. It seemed to fit with the scene when Blake meets Lem Howell and he shows her the aeolian instruments he has made.


  Sonnet XVIII

                                       Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
                                       Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
                                       Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
                                       And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
                                       Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
                                       And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
                                       And every fair from fair sometime declines,
                                        By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
                                        But thy eternal summer shall not fade
                                        Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
                                        Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
                                        When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
                                                So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
                                                So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
                                                                                        --William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

William Shakespeare is the greatest writer in the English language. He left us many plays, and a number of beautiful poems. We know almost nothing about what inspired him to write his poems. Some people think this is not a love poem, but a poem Shakespeare wrote after his son, Hamnet, died at the age of eleven.
   I picked this poem for Secret Under My Skin because the phrase "sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines" seemed to suggest global warming, and because the whole idea of ultra-violet radiation plays an important role in the story. I also think it's very beautiful.

    This poem and the one by Milton below are both sonnets. If you look at the patterns, you can see the similarities in form.

Sonnet XIX (On His Blindness)

 When I consider how my light is spent
      Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
      And that one talent which is death to hide
      Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
  To serve thererwith my maker, and present
      My true account, lest he returning chide,
      ‘Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?'
      I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
  That murmur, soon replies, ‘God doth not need
      Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
      Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best: his state
  Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed,
      And post o're land and ocean without rest;
      They also serve who only stand and wait.'
                                            --John Milton (1608-1674)

After Shakespeare, John Milton is probably the greatest English-language writer. His epic poems "Paradise Lost" and "Paradise Regained" inspired Philip Pullman to write his trilogy that begins with The Golden Compass. In Milton's lifetime, the king of England, Charles I, was executed and replaced by a republican government led by Oliver Cromwell. Milton was a republican supporter, and very outspoken about his ideas. This sometimes got him into trouble. By 1652, he was completely blind. This is one of his most famous poems.

    To learn more about Milton, visit Anniina Jokinen's John Milton web site .

Return to Secret Under My Skin Main Page

Return to Janet McNaughton's Main Page