ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Billy Collins' "The Golden Years"

Updated on March 22, 2019
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Poetry became my passion, after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962.

Billy Collins

Source

Introduction and Text of Poem

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins composed his playful sonnet titled "The Golden Years" to contemplate with notion that a name does not always fit the entity that bears it. His sonnet form is the Elizabethan, famously employed in Shakespeare sonnets, thus also called the Shakespearean or English sonnet. Collins' little drama features the traditional three rimed quatrains, ABAB CDCD EFEF, and the rimed couple GG.

The tone of Collins' sonnet contrasts greatly with the seriousness often associated with the English sonnet form. He analyzes and overanalyzes the trivial but also makes a clever observation all seemingly for the main purpose of entertainment more than enlightenment.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

The Golden Years

All I do these drawn-out days
is sit in my kitchen at Pheasant Ridge
where there are no pheasants to be seen
and last time I looked, no ridge.

I could drive over to Quail Falls
and spend the day there playing bridge,
but the lack of a falls and the absence of quail
would only remind me of Pheasant Ridge.

I know a widow at Fox Run
and another with a condo at Smokey Ledge.
One of them smokes, and neither can run,
so I’ll stick to the pledge I made to Midge.

Who frightened the fox and bulldozed the ledge?
I ask in my kitchen at Pheasant Ridge.

A recitation of "The Golden Years"

Commentary

First Quatrain: A Recent Retiree

All I do these drawn-out days
is sit in my kitchen at Pheasant Ridge
where there are no pheasants to be seen
and last time I looked, no ridge.

The speaker, apparently a fairly recent retiree with much time on his hands, announces that lately his only activity is to "sit in [his] kitchen at Pheasant Ridge." Thus his days are long and drawn-out. He then reveals the tidbit of information that despite the name, Pheasant Ridge, the place where he is residing is not a ridge, and it has no pheasants.

Second Quatrain: Finding Something to Do

I could drive over to Quail Falls
and spend the day there playing bridge,
but the lack of a falls and the absence of quail
would only remind me of Pheasant Ridge.

In order to provide some other activity besides sitting in his kitchen at pheasantless and ridgeless Pheasant Ridge, he could drive over to Quail Falls. And at Quail Falls, he could play bridge all day. But the problem with spending the day playing bridge at Quail Falls is that there are no quail there and neither is there a falls.

These omissions would only remind the speaker of being at pheasantless, ridgeless Pheasant Ridge. Predicting that he would be thus reminded, he opts to continue sitting in his kitchen, musing on other wrongly named communities.

Third Quatrain: No Surprises

I know a widow at Fox Run
and another with a condo at Smokey Ledge.
One of them smokes, and neither can run,
so I’ll stick to the pledge I made to Midge.

By the third quatrain, the reader pretty much knows what to expect. So when the speaker says, "I know a widow at Fox Run / and another with a condo at Smokey Ledge," the reader can be fairly certain that there are no foxes and runs at the former nor smoke and ledges at the latter. However, the speaker twists things a bit to avoid the fault of total predictability.

One of the widows is, in fact, a smoker, but "neither can run." Leaving the reader to sort out which is which, the speaker then confesses that he has made some sort of pledge to Midge which keeps him located at his seat in his kitchen at Pheasant Ridge. How handy for the poet that his companion's name rimes with his retirement community's name.

Couplet: Dabbling in Clever Reparteé

Who frightened the fox and bulldozed the ledge?
I ask in my kitchen at Pheasant Ridge.

So while still sitting in his kitchen at pheasantless, ridgeless Pheasant Ridge, he proffers the question, apparently to the Midge, to whom he has pledged some sort of fidelity, "Who frightened the fox and bulldozed the ledge?"

The speaker suspects that the fox must have, at some point, scampered off, perhaps from fear, while the absence of a ledge at Smokey Ledge indicates the work of bulldozer. Collins' clever little drama offers a light-hearted, glimpse at the simple fun of non-serious musing.

Billy Collins speaking at the 2009 NWP Meeting

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Submit a Comment

No comments yet.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)