January’s theme was decidedly dark. From romantic struggles, to social complacence, to haunting memories, each of the four poems used the theme of blood and wine to clean some skeletons out of our collective closets.
While discussing what the theme could be for this month, Jessie had the bright idea to just use the mascot of the Super Bowl winner as the theme. So congratulations to the New England Patriots; you are the subject (sort of) of a poetry theme. Also, congrats to my friends in Boston. I didn’t really have a horse in the Super Bowl race, but I like that two all-time great coach-player tandems have won championships in the waning years of their runs (Belichik-Brady, and Popovich-Duncan of the Spurs, who won the NBA championship in 2014). We’re on to the poetry!
Urban Dictionary’s primary definition of patriot is interesting, as it compares the word’s recent confluence with Nationalist, and implies criticism of how a Nationalist views his/her country:
Originally, a patriot was someone who loves their country and supports it, but won’t blindly follow whatever their country’s government does. These days, it is synonymous with Nationalist, which is someone who blindly follows whatever his country’s government does, and lacks his own ability to think and reason for himself.
Who better to use as our patriotic archetype than Mel Gibson, who brought us Braveheart and The Patriot. Each movie plays fast and loose with historical rebellions (the Scottish Wars of Independence and the American Revolution, both against the English, those quintessential villains of American cinema) to romanticize the ideals of patriotism, freedom, and innate human rights — and present them in blood-soaked glory.
While “freedom” (from English rule) is the term most often used in Braveheart, patriotism is implied tangentially throughout the film, and then directly used in the final scene:
“In the Year of our Lord 1314, patriots of Scotland – starving and outnumbered – charged the fields of Bannockburn. They fought like warrior poets; they fought like Scotsmen, and won their freedom.”
I happen to enjoy both movies, but the idealism of both William Wallace’s and Benjamin Martin’s worlds (Gibson’s characters in Braveheart and The Patriot, respectively) drenches these movies with its romanticized vision of bleeding for a cause.
Still, the idea of patriotism can be a touchy subject, in part because patriotism is most closely associated with service in the military — serving the common good by putting oneself at risk. In this sense, patriotism can be boiled down to a sense of responsibility to one’s own community. This is in no way a meaningless sentiment. I would even argue that this is the highest cause to which one can devote oneself — service to the community. However, this then begs the question: how do you define “the community”?
That is the idea that I want to explore with this month’s theme.
Rodeau: the Rustic Form
For this purpose, we will turn to a personal favorite poetic structure. The rondeau is derived from a lyric form commonly used in Medieval French courts. Its traditional themes of romance and spirituality seem to meld with the patriotic theme well.
The rondeau consists of three stanzas — a quintet, a quatrain, and a sestet. The first line of the first stanza comprises the rentrement, which is repeated as the last line of the second and third stanzas. The rhyme scheme uses alternating couplets, with R representing the rentrement: aabba aabR aabbaR. See the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae for a poignant, modern version of the rondeau.
I like the rondeau because its structure is not overtly complex. Listening to or reading a rondeau is like hearing a lullaby as a child; it allows for simplistic storytelling with emotional depth.
So, what is a patriot to you? How is a patriot different from a nationalist, or are they the same? Is Mel Gibson’s William Wallace the ultimate patriot? Share your ideas with us: redstringpapercuts.@gmailcom.