Petrarchan Sonnet on a Bouguereau

"Elegy" by William Adolphe Bouguereau

For Kith & Kin

Patriot lost, mourned by no country, but

a wife and infant attend in tearful

elegy—all grief is personal—Full

as these heroes’ lives, too young they die, glut

Death with his impatient hosts. Who knows what

change each war can bring? Our headlines are full

of patriotic verve . . . Who’s this to fool?

A soldier dies for kith & kin. One may strut

to war with flag and chin held high, duty

filling heart and mind, but when the killing

begins, Life’s instinct shrugs nobility

aside so the panicked heart can beat. Thrilling

to war is the place of mad men—zealotry

a tyrant more evil than any despot king.

David M Pitchford

Picture: “Elegy” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1899
Comments invited.

6 thoughts on “Petrarchan Sonnet on a Bouguereau

  1. Nicole,
    Thanks for your comment. I meant to reply much earlier.
    Yes, it is dedicated to our American soldiers. Most certainly to those of the current war. And also to every soldier in every war – and every family who sacrificed one of their own for . . . whatever reason.
    It’s also meant to honor the spirit of the warrior, an archetype we sometimes tend to forget when philosophizing over the virtues/vices of armed conflict. The poet writes poems because he is a poet. The warrior goes to war because he is a warrior. Each is much more than that primary roll.
    Thanks for your comment!

  2. Without zealotry for kith and kin, there would have been no American Revolution. Without zealotry there is no resistance to evil. Remember the words of Edmund Burke, the patriot:
    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
    Just a few words from the other side of the coin…

  3. Linore,
    Thank you for the point of view.
    I agree with Burke.
    But evil triumphs as well when good men do the wrong thing for the wrong reason and brainwash their youth into polarizing and dehumanizing an enemy based on a single or a few differences which can be overcome without the savagery of war.
    I believe that in the relationships of nations, evil is a political stance. War itself is evil. Actions are evil. Motivations are evil. Persons and nations are seldom evil; they are a mix of right and wrong.
    The American Evolution had nothing to do with good and evil. It was about liberty and democracy. Purely political.
    “Evil” is a chimera used to hypnotize ignorant people into zealotry against a political stance.
    All that aside . . . and I’m fine with it if you disagree . . . the point in the poem was that zealotry itself is tyranical, that the grief of loss is one most keenly felt by individuals, and that the soldiers on the ground (worthy as they are of our respect and recognition) very often fall for reasons much more banal than the lofty patriotic ideals their leadership convinced them was their cause worth dying for.
    Thanks for the comment. I, too, love Bouguereau.

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