My friend Lauren Anderson has just posted about finding an old binder full of her juvenile writing, some of which she was brave enough to share, and it made me reflect on how much of this kind of writing there must be, lying in the neglected folders and binders and boxes of even the most accomplished writers. I found myself wondering what might happen if everyone were brave enough to share this kind of thing with each other, whether this might not encourage people to see writing and writers a little differently, a little more accurately, a little more humanly, and so I thought that I might also share some of my own highschool writing as a beginning to that end.
Now, my juvenile writing is certainly as horrible as Lauren’s, but it is horrible for all different reasons. Mine is horrible because I was reading far too much Coleridge and Wordsworth and Keats and Shelley and Shakespearean romance, and because I desperately wanted to be a Romantic poet, more than anything, which produced poetry of only the most painfully maudlin sort. Let me give an example from a poem called “The Prayer of Sir Gawain”. I am particularly fond of the affected archaisms and the constantly inverted, yoda-like, sentence structure:
A solemn vow to Knight of Green
I made before my King and Queen
That, if my stroke did fail to part
His mighty head and stop his heart,
Then when a year and day had gone
Should I my fullest armor don
And ride from Camelot away
To where that Knight doth hold his sway.
So reaching that unwelcome place
There give myself unto his grace.
So now I kneel ‘neath awesome fear
As quick the payment stroke draws near.
My mind does see the chapel there
That fearsome Knight’s most dreadful lair.
And in his hands an axe of steel
which on my neck I soon shall feel.
I see that helmless head before
My eyes, and here his roar
Forever ringing in my ears,
Forever playing on my fears.
Unfortunately, the melodrama of Sir Gawain seems almost restrained in comparison to these lines from the fabulously titled “I Hamlet Unto Thee Ophelia”:
These tears, great sobbing tears, adorn my cheeks.
Why did I stay away so long a time?
For Fate did take within those absent weeks
Your mind, soul, heart and very life betime,
Forever stole from me, your grace sublime.
Now my lament must seek to cleanse my soul
Of grief, deep seeded guilt which rends it now.
My inaction, only mine, made this bell toll
Which now decries dread Death upon your brow,
The icy grip of hell I did allow.
Now Death alone can give me my desire.
This life can never show to me your grace.
Right gladly will I face Death’s fearful fire,
For only in that dark and unknown place
May I look once again upon your face.
I could go on, but you get the point, or I hope you do, because I would be very pleased to have people share their own such youthful secrets with me in turn.