A Sonnet on the Reluctant Giving of Advice

To celebrate the United States' National Poetry Month, I decided to write an English sonnet.

On the Reluctant Giving of Advice

These words are stones that weigh my tongue upon,
To answer earnest pleas without a heart.
Some mask or domino should I then don
To feign a false concern with cunning art?
Yet peril lurks within each stiff façade,
A sameness found in eye, in cheek, in brow;
No wink nor frown, no grin nor simple nod
Revealed to others' gaze will it allow.
Away, false skin! No veil do I require;
The benefit of lies is but fool's gold.
No cruel deceit or rudely trimmed attire
Need cloak these thoughts within illusion's fold:
    To freely give advice mayhap's unwise,
    As Honesty seeks for herself no prize.

As sonnets go, I consider this decent for a first attempt. Its subject wouldn't be foreign to William Shakespeare, nor would most of its language. ("Fool's gold" is an anachronism, however, dating from 1872. Ach!) However, even though it possesses a few good turns of phrase, the meaning of the sonnet isn't particularly clear. Is it about having the rectitude to give advice that might be hard for the receiver to accept, or is the poem a warning against dissembling? The opening and closing argue the former, while the middle supports the latter. The sonnet ends up being a conjunction of two related but not identical ideas, which leaves it a bit of a muddle.

Last updated 1 May 2001
All contents ©2001-2002 Mark L. Irons