Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Poetry Corner: David Shulman

Take the constraints of a sonnet, and make them even narrower …

One of the iconic images of the American Revolution was actually painted 75 years later: “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” painted by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze in 1851, shows George Washington leading his troops in boats across the Delaware River, in preparation for a Christmas surprise attack on Hessian mercenaries camped out near Trenton, in what is now New Jersey, in 1776.

In the 1930s, poet David Shulman was moved by the painting to write a sonnet. Now, the form of the sonnet is difficult enough. Shulman made his own task all the harder by making each line of the sonnet an anagram of the title. Yes, the result is not necessarily great poetry, and sometimes descends to doggerel. Still, one has to applaud Shulman for actually pulling it off at all – much as Washington is to be praised for pulling off his daring surprise attack.

Washington Crossing the Delaware
David Shulman

A hard, howling, tossing water scene.
Strong tide was washing hero clean.
"How cold!" Weather stings as in anger.
O Silent night shows war ace danger!

The cold waters swashing on in rage.
Redcoats warn slow his hint engage.
When star general's action wish'd "Go!"
He saw his ragged continentals row.

Ah, he stands - sailor crew went going.
And so this general watches rowing.
He hastens - winter again grows cold.
A wet crew gain Hessian stronghold.

George can't lose war with's hands in;
He's astern - so go alight, crew, and win!

Oh, did somebody say something about football?

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Blogger O Docker said...

Remarkable achievement of puzzle solving, if maybe not poetry.

I have a warm spot for the famous river crossing, having scored a personal victory at Washington's Crossing, 199 years after the general's.

Christmas, 1975, was on the eve of the Bicentennial celebration that was being heavily hyped around the country, but especially along the east coast where most of the events of the Revolution had occurred.

A local actor, St John Terrell, known for being something of a bombastic showman, had been re-enacting Washington's crossing of the river in longboats every Christmas day for a number of years - long enough that no one much cared anymore.

But, thinking this would tie in with the upcoming Bicentennial celebrations, and knowing Christmas day is a notoriously slow news day, I decided to cover the 'event' in my new job as UPI Trenton photo bureau chief.

Because of the timing, and because the AP neglected to cover, the photo got huge national play. Another help was that it was foggy and the photo ended up looking a lot like the famous painting.

I think the publicity may have resulted in a rebirth of interest in the annual re-enactment. Only a handful of spectators were there that day, but now several thousand show up, and the event, which had been Terrell's invention, has been taken over by the Washington Crossing State Park.

Wed Dec 29, 02:36:00 AM MST  
Blogger Baydog said...

And the park is in constant danger of being shut down due to the lack of interest from National Park visitors. Can you imagine? Such a victory by an underdog on such a night! The park has got a great feel to it, and just to walk the Continental Trail, regardless of how accurately traced it is, is a treasure to be held by all Americans.

My backyard is history defined.

Wed Dec 29, 10:17:00 PM MST  

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