On Desire

Dear lady fair, let me proclaim your worth—
Your charm, your beauty, excellence and grace—
So great it seems to me in all the earth
There’s not another woman with a face
I’d rather cast my eyes upon. Your smile
And your wit are fountains of delight;
Your dreaming gaze and contemplative sigh’ll
Never fail to quicken and excite
My longing to discern what’s on your mind.
Oh, I would love thee, and secure your trust—
Indeed though you may look you’ll never find
A match so perfect as the two of us.
.     And yet I have imagined this before,
.     So once I thought my current paramour.

Such fantasy I conjure! Such delusion!
To think the object of my longing would
In point of fact resemble the illusion
Longing has conceived. It is not good
To fantasize like this, remaking you
(Perfecting you) within my mind. I quite
Neglect so much of what you say and do—
And even if I don’t, it’s never right,
For at the very least you’d be your own,
Rather than existing just for me,
And having needs and wants and wishes known
To make me vexed and bring me certain grief.
.     For thus desire alters what it sees
.     To make it into anything I please.

So thus do I desire you, or some
Thing which resembles you, and expect
That you could even be for me The One.
In this I’m also fooled. We might connect
On several points, but planning lives that lead
In opposite directions. Or we’d seem
Attractive at the first, but maybe we’d
Have different thoughts on politics, and think
The other strange (and wrong). Indeed, we might
Be incompatible, but for the thrall
Of love. Or maybe worse: it’s even quite
Conceivable we wouldn’t match at all—
.     But I’d pursue you nonetheless, of course,
.     And so I’d sew the seeds of our divorce.

Is this the heart of man, that he should sigh
And pine, and want, but having once obtained
His hope decide it doesn’t satisfy?
Is this the mind of man, to be insane
With lust, and lusting for a figment of
His wants? To leave his promises and sunder
Bonds for his own sake and call this love?
Is this the appetite of man, to hunger
Without end or hope of satisfaction?
Such a heart and mind and stomach fits
An animal much better than the passion
Of a man. E’en so he must admit
.     Though he destroy the world, it is as naught,
.     Provided he’s obtained what he has sought.

Not I! I will not join the ranks of men
Who’d be Destroyers of the World. But how
Can I avoid this dismal ruin when
My habits are committed to it now?
Plato hoped that reason could control
The appetite and will—but that in me
Is also fallen and depraved. My soul
Requires greater aid than that to free
It from its slavery to sin. If there
Were but a way to die to avaricious
Self! To die and be reborn to wear
A better form than this! To that ambitious
.     End I humbly make this desperate plea:
.     Lord Jesus, save the world (and me) from me.


One response

  1. […] wherein each new sonnet is an exposition of the couplet that concluded the previous one. “On Desire” is an example of such a […]

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