States of Poetry Series Three - ACT | 'The Four Seasons' by Paul Munden

(Il Cimento dell’ Armonia e dell’ Inventione)
                    after Vivaldi
                                   for Nigel Kennedy and the Orchestra of Life


Sonnet in E Major (Spring)
allegro – largo – allegro

Ushered in by a noodling guitarist,
the birds are in full swing; for the soloist,
with this music in his veins, it’s a lark.
In his Villa shirt he chirps and chirrups
while tight, bright buds unfurl to improvise
a canopy of leaves. His supple wrist
whips up a storm then settles for reprise.

A trance … he drifts off, sprawled under the trees
among daisies and meadow buttercups,
with a sampled, softly murmuring breeze
and the viola's monotonous bark.

Bring on the cheerleaders, goat skins and pipes,
revelry that breaks into yelps and whoops …
The dogs are out – Yeah! A bump of the fist.


Sonnet in G Minor (Summer)
allegro non molto – adagio – presto

Scorched pines. A sweltering stasis. The heat
has pressed the air almost to silence. Note
follows note like stuttering beads of sweat
but there – in the bow's quick tilt – the cuckoo,
followed by a warbling dove and the trill
of the finch, those fingers thrillingly close.
Breezing triplets flutter against a beat
the north wind blasts to hell – and there’ll be more.

A fly-infested lull, a fractious growl
itching for a livewire scare. So why not –
with a stack of Marshalls to hand – let loose

the thunder and lightning for real? … One ... two
mississippi three mississippi four …
The cornfields are all trashed by golf-ball hail.


Sonnet in F Major (Autumn)
allegro – adagio molto – allegro

Jazz trumpet? It’s a party! – the harvest
gathered in. The drinking is in earnest
with flagons of claret and ale on tap;
they drink at the gallop, drink till they drop,
nod off ... only to get that second wind
and party on full pelt into the night.

Passed out, they enter a parallel realm –
a kaleidoscopic haze in which time
is an elasticated, weightless dream
in the autumnal cool – sleeping till dawn

when it’s hip flask, hunting horn, horse and hound.
One poor terrified animal must run
for its life – their sport. It gives up the fight.
Job done, they saddle up and trot back home.


Sonnet in F Minor (Winter)
allegro non molto – largo – allegro

Frost ... snow ... layers of ice. The wind has bite.
We’re shivering in its grip, a cold snap
like nothing we’ve known ... brrrrrr ... We run, and thump
our numbed, gloved hands together, stop and stamp
our snow-deep frozen boots on frozen earth.

Later, feet up, in a chair by the hearth,
I hear the pizzicato rain outside,
a soporific, intimate reprieve

before we’re back on the shifting ice, slide
and slip with skittering strings that believe
they can negotiate the cracks. The slap-
stick of our fall is what hurries our flight,
and if the wind howls through the house despite
battening it down, it's a shrill delight.

Paul Munden

(literal translations of the Four Seasons text provided by Anoushka Munden)

Paul Munden

Paul Munden

Paul Munden has published five collections, most recently The Bulmer Murder (Recent Work Press, 2017) and Chromatic (UWA Publishing, 2017). He was reader for Stanley Kubrick from 1988–98, and has been Director of the UK’s National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) since 1994. He has worked as conference poet for the British Council and edited Feeling the Pressure: poetry and science of climate change (British Council, 2008). In 2015 he took up a position as Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Canberra, where he is also Program Manager for the International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI), running the annual Poetry on the Move festival. He is Associate Editor of Axon: Creative Explorations and the literary journal, Meniscus, and co-editor with Nessa O’Mahony of Metamorphic: 21st century poets respond to Ovid (Recent Work Press, 2017).

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