An older piece: a sonnet redouble in Shakespearean style…

This poem was written in May of 2007, as an entry into a poetry contest for the medieval re-creation group I’m part of. The form is a sonnet redouble, which is also called a “sonnet of sonnets”. Where a sonnet is a 14 line poem consisting of alternating rhyming lines with a rhyming couplet at the end, a sonnet redouble is fourteen sonnets, each of which begins with the last line of the sonnet before it, and a fifteenth sonnet that is composed of the final lines of all the sonnets that preceded it. Many sonnets start with a question, with the following lines exploring the question posed and the final couplet answering said question. Likewise, the first part of this sonnet redouble asks a question, to be debated and then answered in the final sonnets.

I. THE QUESTION

When asked why I would want to be a knight,
One day while arming up in maille and plate,
I paused, and did my eldest son invite,
To sit and hear my thoughts on that estate.
A knight, I said, is pure and good and true,
And likewise strong in spirit and in arm,
Where he would ride, know justice would ensue,
And innocents, he’d keep from every harm.
And one day, son, I’d like to be that man,
Exemplifying that which I believe,
And though my sword is made of but rattan,
A knight is more than what one’s eyes perceive.
And then he asked, his mind alert, awake,
“If I would be a Knight, what would it take?”

II. PROWESS

If I would be a knight, what would it take?
And then I knew the spark within him burned,
I’d have to tell him all, with no mistake,
And feed the need for chivalry that yearned.
For one, I said, a knight must have great skill,
In deeds of arms, he must a name be made,
For there, where spectators are given thrill,
And fighters meet with spear or mace or blade,
‘Tis there that in the fires of battle fair,
I will, as steel on anvil, take my form,
Where every hammered blow may thus repair,
My faults, and thus in battle may perform,
And show my worthiness upon the field,
To prove my Prowess with a blade and shield.

III. COURAGE

To prove my Prowess with a blade and shield,
However strong, will not a knight create,
‘Tis but one virtue that a man must wield,
If he would deem to reach a Knight’s estate.
For I must be in bravery unmarred,
No questions must exist that I would flee,
No matter what I face, or how I’m scarred,
A solid wall of courage must I be.
For though my mind may tremble at a sight,
My heart must be a calmly sleeping child,
In lulled sleep, when once it would take fright,
I must be solid, when my thoughts run wild,
And when the armies charge, and others quake,
With Courage stand, where lesser men would break.

IV. DEFENSE

With Courage stand, where lesser men would break.
But stand not still, nor shatter ‘neath the blow,
Instead, an active effort must I make,
To shield the innocent from battle’s flow.
For skill and bravery are worthless things,
If not applied to help the poor and meek,
In hollowness, their lack of effort rings,
When not brought forth defending all the weak.
Indeed, some battles fought are not with swords,
But waged instead in words woven of hate,
And I must stand against these wordy hordes,
Engaging them in fiercely held debate,
And with my will alone to be my shield,
Defend my ground, and never think to yield.

V. JUSTICE

Defend my ground, and never think to yield,
But temper that with wisdom, this I must,
For villainy, when finally revealed,
Do not defend, but show it pure disgust.
For there are many whom, with silvered tongue,
Manipulate the hearts of those naive,
Speaking to all they can, both old and young,
Delighting at each soul that they deceive.
To be a knight, a man must seek the truth,
He must be sure of those he would defend,
Investigating all, a stalwart sleuth,
Lest base beguilers do his image rend.
I must, when liar’s words my heart would stain,
For Justice stand, and ever true remain.

VI. HONESTY

For Justice stand, and ever true remain,
But what is justice, if I know not truth?
‘Tis but a mockery, at which to feign,
A stumbling farce, impure, unclean, uncouth.
Thus truthfulness itself must show in me,
Integrity must course within my veins,
No half-truths passed or white lies let there be,
Discarding all, till only truth remains.
Aye, naked truth, as harsh as it is bare,
Must be the lantern, guiding with its light,
That scatters lies that fall beneath its glare,
I’ll bear it well, if I would be a knight.
The path of Chivalry is intertwined,
With Honesty, both in my heart and mind.

VII. FAITH

With honesty, both in my heart and mind,
I realize that I must overcome,
The wavering uncertainty I find,
Within my soul, to which I may succumb.
To beat the doubting demons in my head,
Will take conviction of the strongest sort,
To banish fear and courage keep instead,
I must in credence find my first support.
For confidence can make the nightmares flee;
Belief, a weapon stronger then the sword,
And when frustrations taunt and torture me,
At bay are kept, assurance as my ward.
To be a knight, my spirit must be trained,
To keep the Faith, and from my doubt abstain.

VIII. FRANCHISE

To keep the Faith, and from my doubt abstain,
I must, in others, inspiration seek,
For knightly deeds can be the anchor’s chain,
That holds one fast, when doubts would make one weak.
And as I take from others, I must give,
The same example through each step I take,
And through my actions, I must be the sieve,
That strains out bad impressions others make.
To be the one that others bring to thought,
When chivalrous displays they seek to know,
In outward deeds let chivalry be wrought,
And felt in truth, and not as just a show,
But more, that in me, chivalry’s refined,
Through Franchise, may my deeds others remind.

IX. LOYALTY
Through franchise, may my deeds others remind,
That there are others sharing in their Dream,
That they need not look far before they find,
A friend to hold in chivalry’s esteem.
And when a friend as such is found, embrace,
Yea, bring them close, and never let them part,
Nor let your actions bring to them disgrace,
Instead, to them, fidelity impart.
For without fealty, there are no knights,
But fealty is empty without love,
So love the ones you swear to, and by rights,
Keep to their expectations set thereof.
If e’er the accolade I wish to see,
In Loyalty, let I a stalwart be.

X. GENEROSITY
In loyalty, let I a stalwart be,
Within good faith, be giving to my friends,
And may I show good hospitality,
To strangers, to whom chivalry extends.
For reputations rest upon the lips,
Of those we meet, e’en for a passing glance,
Let not a stingy attitude eclipse,
One’s noble deeds, for therein lies the chance,
That all one’s goodness quickly be forgot,
Because, in greediness, you did impress,
The image of a miserly despot,
Instead of sharing all through good largesse.
I’d rather be the latter sort instead,
In Generosity, my heart to spread.

XI. COURTESY
In generosity, my heart to spread,
But wealth is not the only thing that’s shared,
For though ’tis good to see one’s guest well-fed,
‘Tis not, if without gallantry prepared.
For many are the chivalrous who lack,
The wealth by which to woo the stranger’s heart,
And yet, in reputation do not slack,
Showing a different wealth, ‘fore they depart.
For gracious deeds are worth their weight in gold,
And kindly words, many a soul will heal,
Solicitude, a salve that can’t be sold,
Civility, a trait of great appeal.
A knight should strive for geniality,
To show in deeds and words great Courtesy.

XII. NOBILITY
To show in deeds and words great Courtesy,
And yet, not as a sycophant or slave,
But done in truth, and with good dignity,
For that is how the chivalrous behave.
Uphold the standards of the gentle born,
And dabble not in acts of the depraved,
Keep not the company of those forsworn,
Lest to their reputation, be enslaved.
So hold yourself above the vile and rank,
Assisting others that would do the same,
And guard against the villains at your flank,
Who can, through wicked actions, taint your name.
Decry the fools, and nobly lift your head,
Shirking the base, to Nobly act instead.

XIII. HUMILITY
Shirking the base, to Nobly act instead,
But guard against the overzealous pride,
That can be formed, when holding up your head,
And let not modesty be thus denied.
For chivalry lives not amongst the vain,
Who act for but themselves, and they alone,
Who lust for glory, even should it stain,
What acts of goodness that they may have shown.
Sing not your deeds, but let you be content,
That you have done them, others then will sing,
If so inspired by the deed’s event,
If not, your song in hollowness would ring.
So I must try against my pride to fight,
And Humbly bow when deeds are brought to light.

XIV. SUMMATION
“And humbly bow when deeds are brought to light.”
Thus ended I my thoughts on chivalry,
And what was needed to become a knight,
All spoken to the child on my knee.
And there he sat, in silence, for a spell,
I swear, I heard the whirring of his brain,
I wondered, had I taught this lesson well?
I hoped that some small wisdom he’d obtained.
“So, do you understand these words, my son?”
I asked, and then he turned his little head,
And as I thought on how this had begun,
He looked at me, and smiling, this he said:
“I know the answer I could give as right,
When asked why I would want to be a knight…”

XV. THE ANSWER
If I would be a Knight, what would it take?
To prove my Prowess with a blade and shield;
With Courage stand, when lesser men would break;
Defend my ground, and never think to yield;
For Justice stand, and ever true remain;
With Honesty both in my heart and mind;
To keep the Faith, and from my doubt abstain;
Through Franchise, may my deeds others remind;
In Loyalty, let I a stalwart be;
In Generosity, my heart to spread;
To show in deeds and words great Courtesy;
Shirking the base, to Nobly act instead;
And Humbly bow when deeds are brought to light;
When asked why I would want to be a Knight.

 

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