When I received the above photo from Gerry, a photographer from Devon, Plymouth, UK of a dragonfly I was inspired to write this poem. I'm fascinated with the many names assigned to this loveable insect. The dragonfly or tantaboo as it is known by in Barbados rekindled the fires of my childhood years at Maycocks, St. Lucy. I recalled roaming the grassy pastures, gullies, the west coast beaches of St. Lucy; wading in ponds and picking wild flowers and firewood. The self-imposed woodland safari, sort of, around that charming sentinel, Harrison's Point Lighthouse whose beams lighted the chattel houses found in and around the rural dwellings before it became United States Navy Facility (NAVFAC) was a pleasurable undertaking. Maycocks is located one mile from Harrison's Point Lighthouse.
NAVFAC at Harrison's Point came to the island, if my historical facts serve me correctly, on October 1, 1957 about one month following the U. S. Naval Facility on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas; and to be more personal, I was fourteen years at the time of its arrival in Barbados, known as the Land of flying fish, whistling frogs and green monkeys. It was officially decommissioned on March 31, 1979 having been on the island of Barbados for twenty-two years. During the time the US Base at Harrison's Point operated, school kids and I was among the lot were showered with English Apples which rained down from Naval Base Trucks that passed through our village roads, much to our delight feasting, as it were on red, sweet, juicy apples from temperate lands. To this day, the English apple is my favourite fruit. The NAVFAC at Harrison's Point brought many beneficial activities to residents of Maycocks and its environs of Checker Hall, Husbands, Bromefield, and Friendly Hall long after Bromefield Sugar Factory closed its operations. When Barbados became an independent nation on November 30, 1966 much good, mixed with spots of the bad have taken place in this rural community. Not withstanding the prominent eye-sore for folks born and bred in Maycocks is the Arawak Cement Plant so much so that villagers cling to the saying: "what you can't cure you must endure" is lived out daily among nostalgic village folks who cling to their chattel houses only to see the rapid rise of million-dollar homes with all the modern amenities and infrastructure imaginable.
The demographic shifting of the population in St. Lucy, the northern-most area in the island of Barbados continues even as I write this blog. What is amazing to me is that St. Lucy was never considered to be a place one would want to live because southern dwellers on the island referred to it as "behind God's back". When I attended secondary school in the city of Bridgetown, classroom bullies would taunt us with such names as "country bucks" and such name calling required the retort of "town rats"; however our gifts of country-grown produce they never refused, Lol now. Well I live to see these words eaten by those same dwellers. They are flocking to St. Lucy in droves from every nook and cranny from across the island. Now this pride of northern living in the parish of St. Lucy is considered a luxurious way of living. The face-lift of this northern-most parish shows no immediate signs of subsiding much to the delight of the off-springs of indigenous folks of St. Lucy - probably in their consciousness, they get to enjoy both worlds - the world of the rich, super rich; the natural environment that must be protected with a vengeance and vigilance. My decision to lease my sub-urban cottage not far from Sunset Crest to return to Maycocks where I was born has lifted my spirits to a newer high. My return to Maycocks provides me with the ambience I need to muse and to share my rural home with friends who love the natural environment, creative writing, photojournalism and all aspects of Fine Arts pursuits.
Yes, I do admit that I have digressed a bit but it was worth it. And for that I do apologize. Now back to the question which I suppose has been circulating in your mind: What prompted the choice of Rhyme Royal for the poem, Dragonflies? I dare say, the free-spiritedness of this particular kind of beautiful, loveable, mystical insect, the many names it bears and the fact that I like traditional forms of poetry. Classical poetry allows me to select a particular form from it to match the musing moment, Lol! My second book of poetry, "Poetry for all Seasons: Poems, Forms and Styles" attests to this. Also, the fact that I write not only poetic support material for classroom instruction, this utility aspect of my creations is matched with the aesthetics for which poetry is known.
Rhyme Royal advocates the use of seven lines of heroic or iambic pentameter verses rhyming ababbcc. What I like about this rhyming structure is its versatility stemming from the fact that it can take on the form of a tercet and two couplets or a quatrain and a tercet. This allows the poet a great deal of flexibility when Rhyme Royal is used for longer narrative poems of which, no doubt, the Dragonflies poem qualifies.
Poetry archives do show that Chaucer first made use of the Rhyme Royal structure in his long poem, Troilus and Criseyde and Parliament of Fowles. He used it for four of his Canterbury tales as well.
My initial reaction to Rhyme Royal was to think of it as the preferred format for Kings and Queens who wrote poetry. My insight, was not too far-fetch if I may say so myself; for surely, the archives have stated that James I of Scotland used Rhyme Royal for his Chaucerian poem, The Kingis Quaire, hence the name, Rhyme Royal. Other historical icons who have used Rhyme Royal in their poetic creations come to mind: John Lydgate used it for many of his occasional and love poems. Shakespeare used it for the Rape of Lucrece. This form continued to be popular well into the 20th Century. It was used by W. H. Auden in his Letters to Lord Byron. Here is an extract of the last two stanzas of Auden's poem to Lord Byron
I know -the fact is really not unnerving -
That what is done is done, that no past dies,
That what we see depends on who's observing,
And what we think on our activities.
That envy warps the virgin as she dries
But Post coitum, homo tristis moans
The lover must go carefully with the greens.
I hope this reaches you in your abode,
This letter that's already fat too long,
Just like the Prelude or the Great North Road;
But here I end my conversational song.
I hope you don't think mail from strangers wrong.
As to its length, I tell myself you'll need it,
You've all eternity in which to read it.
However, I doubt very much that Rhyme Royal is popular in this internet age. Will someone prove me wrong?