Gwendolyn Bennett's "Some things are very dear to me"
Introduction and Text of Poem, "Some things are very dear to me—"
Gwendolyn Bennett's sonnet, "Some things are very dear to me," resembles the Elizabethan sonnet with the rime scheme, ABABCDCDEFEFGG, in its three quatrains and couplet.
(Please note: The incorrect spelling, "rhyme," was erroneously introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson. For my explanation for using only the correct form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")
The poet, Gwendolyn Bennett, was a versatile artist of the Harlem Renaissance. Her sonnet carries a variable meter, unlike the steady beat of the English sonnet's iambic pentameter.
The theme of the piece is a simple love drama. The speaker dramatizes the uncomplicated joys that the speaker has come to appreciate in life. The poem cascades to an unexpected conclusion.
Some things are very dear to me—
Some things are very dear to me—
Such things as flowers bathed by rain
Or patterns traced upon the sea
Or crocuses where snow has lain ...
the iridescence of a gem,
The moon’s cool opalescent light,
Azaleas and the scent of them,
And honeysuckles in the night.
And many sounds are also dear—
Like winds that sing among the trees
Or crickets calling from the weir
Or Negroes humming melodies.
But dearer far than all surmise
Are sudden tear-drops in your eyes.
First Quatrain: "Some things are very dear to me"
The speaker is addressing a beloved friend, perhaps even a spouse. She begins to name things that "are very dear to [her]." She adores, for example, "flowers bathed by rain." Endearing to her also are "crocuses where snow has lain."
The speaker claims, "patterns traced upon the sea" also please her. While it is reasonable and clear that flowers after rain and crocuses in the snow give joy to her, it is less obvious what "patterns traced upon the sea" entails. One's view of the sea is limited.
Viewing the ocean from an airplane, the observer might, indeed, see "patterns," but one wonders who has "traced" those patterns in the poem. Perhaps the speaker has been influenced by a painting of the sea on which some artist has etched patterns. The speaker's claim here remains imprecise but charming and credible nonetheless.
Second Quatrain: "The iridescence of a gem"
The second quatrain simply continues the catalogue of items that are very dear to the speaker. She loves the glow of precious gemstones. She enjoys the "cool opalescent light" of the moon. She appreciates the fragrance of "azaleas," and it goes without saying, that they also please her eye.
The speaker also takes pleasure in "honeysuckles in the night." She has listed many natural things that please the senses of vision and smell, but those things also afford her a sense of well-being and intellectual richness.
That the speaker has been afforded the opportunity to engage these things not only makes them very dear to her, but they also enrich her life by motivating her to capture them in a sonnet.
Third Quatrain: "And many sounds are also dear"
In the first and second quatrains, the speaker catalogues the things that please her eye, nose, as well as her intellectual and creative life. In the final quatrain, she lists things that please her auditory sense. She enjoys many "sounds," and they are "also dear" to her.
The speaker enjoys hearing "winds that sing among the trees." She delights in listening to "crickets calling from the weir."
The word "weir" might have been chosen chiefly for its rime with "dear." It is an ambiguous term for the location of crickets. The speaker also takes delight in hearing "Negroes humming melodies."
Couplet: "But dearer far than all surmise"
While the speaker enjoys so many things and holds them "very dear" to her heart, the one thing she holds "dearer far" is seeing "sudden tear-drops in [her beloved's] eyes." She takes special pleasure and endearment in observing strong emotion in her beloved.
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© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes