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This article is taken from PN Review 88, Volume 19 Number 2, November - December 1992.

Boyd's Sonnet Thom Gunn
Fra bank to bank, fra wood to wood I rin,
Ourhailit with my feeble fantasie;
Like til a leaf that fallis from a tree,
Or til a reed ourblawin with the win.
Twa gods guides me: the ane of them is blin,
Yea and a bairn brocht up in vanitie;
The next a wife ingenrit of the sea,
And lichter nor a dauphin with her fin.
Unhappy is the man for evermair
That tills the sand and sawis in the air;
But twice unhappier is he, I lairn,
That feedis in his hairt a mad desire,
And follows on a woman throw the fire,
Led by a blind and teachit by a bairn.
Mark Alexander Boyd (1563-1601)


'LITTLE-KNOWN and previously unanthologized' - that's how a reviewer in the TLS recently characterized Boyd's sonnet. On the contrary, I had always thought that for an isolated poem it had done rather well. I can get my students to read it because it's in the Norton Anthology of Poetry, for better or worse the most widely used anthology in the world; and I first came across it in the old Oxford Book of English Verse, bestseller anthology of the first half of this century. Clever 'Q', to have discovered this poem, which was certainly little-known before he took it up in 1900! But once he had done so, first Ezra Pound made much of it, and ...


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