Too Young to Die

This is an attempt at a Cento, inspired by Samuel Peralta over at dVerse Poets Pub ‘Form for All’, in which Samuel writes brilliantly about this form as “Collage and the Art of the Cento“.

Too Young to Die

Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in your wisdom make me wise.

Remember this, that we shall ever
Bow our heads and fill with tears
Life’s cup of mercy; recall what sears
The heart, not dim their great endeavour.

Something it is which you have lost,
Some pleasure from your early years.
Break, you deep vase of chilling tears,
That grief has shaken into frost!

That loss is common would not make
My own less bitter, rather more:
Too common! Never morning wore
To evening, but some heart did break.

Old Yew, which grasping at the stones
That name the under-lying dead,
Your fibres net the dreamless head,
Your roots are wrapped about the bones.

Whose stolen duty marked by stope
For graves, but far too little memory
Of their names, rough cut in grey,
But for one, they leave us hope

That every day we take their lead
That we may see the need for us
To find a little courage, not fuss
On things that threaten not our needs.

O living will that shall endure
When all that seems shall suffer shock,
Rise in the spiritual rock,
Flow through our deeds and make them pure,

With faith that comes of self-control,
The truths that never can be proved
Until we close with all we loved,
And all we flow from, soul in soul.

Whereof the man, that with me trod
This planet, was a noble type
Appearing when the time was ripe,
That friend of mine who lives in God.


The 2nd, 6th and 7th stanza’s are from my own poem, “Twenty Nine”. The remaining stanza’s I selected from different parts of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s epic elegy, “In Memoriam A.H.H.” My own poem shared Tennyson’s rhyming structure and, of course, its elegiac theme. The rhythm of “Twenty Nine”, however, is in pentameter as opposed to Tennyson’s tetrameter, so I have edited my three verses to fit the metre. I don’t know whether it works as well as I’d hope, but consider this as work in progress. For the sake of consistency and flow, I have altered the more archaic words used by Tennyson, for example ‘thou’ becomes ‘you, ‘thine’ becomes ‘your’ and graspest becomes grasping. However, out of respect for the tradition of that era of poetry, I have capitalised the beginning of each line.

About PoetJanstie

“Life is short and art long, the crisis fleeting, experience penniless and decision difficult” ~ Hippocrates. As a young man, John was sporting and fit. It was then as much his recreational therapy as a cappella harmony singing, music, walking in the hills and writing is now. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines and ethos as that famous Scottish public school, Gordonstoun, where our own headmaster had been as a senior master. This gave shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life. His fitness was enhanced not only by playing rugby, but also by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, selling ice cream! His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family, pursuing a career and helping to pay the bills, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a writer of prose and poetry. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a fifty-two year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three a cappella harmony groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices and barbershop quartets. He is also a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (stage name of the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club), who, for the eighth time in 41 years, became UK Champions in 2019. He is also a would be (once upon a time or 'has been') photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man. What he writes is sometimes autobiographical, often political, sometimes dark and frequently pins his colours to the mast of climate change and how a few humans are trashing the Earth. In 2013, he published an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of poets, who met on Twitter in 2011. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle. His sort of strap-line reads: “ iWrite iSing iDance iChi iVolunteer ”
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8 Responses to Too Young to Die

  1. As a literary piece this works well alongside Braque’s and Picasso’s idea for the collage, where they mix other sources with their own work, as opposed to utilizing other sources exclusively. The flow works, and I appreciate the respect you had for the traditional rhyme and rhythm of Lord Tennyson’s work. Well done.


    • PoetJanstie says:

      Thank you for visiting and making your comment, which is valued, Samuel. Interesting that Braque and Picasso adopted this method of using their own work. I did this, simply because my original poem was inspired by a specific military event, but paid express deference to Tennyson’s poem, by virtue of rhyming scheme and elegiac theme.


  2. Jo-Anne Teal says:

    I agree, it fits together beautifully. What a wonderful poetic form.


    • PoetJanstie says:

      Thank you, Jo-Anne, you are kind to say so. I do think the flow between Tennyson’s and my own stanzas is not quite as I’d like it to be. Nonetheless, very satisfying and ennobling to be able to place the great man’s poetry alongside my own.


  3. brian miller says:

    dang…not only a cento but worked into the original form as well…very cool using your own alongside tennyson as well….i think adjusting your meter shows your respect to the original artist as well…it flows wonderfully…enjoyed…


  4. marousia says:

    Nicely done – the stanzas fit together well 🙂


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