Poet’s Challenge: Fear No More the Heat of The Sun

It’s Tuesday the 20th of May, Anno Domini 2014. Having set myself a poet’s challenge, I present here my finished work. The challenge was to write a new poem based on Shakespeare’s “Fear No More the Heat of the Sun.” The rules in this challenge are simply that you must use the first line of a famous poem, and write your own poem as following from that line. Partly this is just to make sure that I keep writing and bust through my dreadful writer’s block, and partly it is to try something new to hone my skills. Also, I think it would be a lot of fun to see what other people come up with.

Without further ado:

Fear no more the heat of the sun;
Thou and I and he have done.
Thou, my kismet; I, thy fate
mute must pass to Misty Gate
up and down these steep defiles
speeding the shrouded Misty Miles.

Light can never penetrate
slowly though we try to run:
we go between the whens and whiles –
too dead for fear, too quick for sun.

Did anyone else try this? Post your results in the comments section.

The challenge for two weeks from today (June 3 2014) is to write a poem based on E. A. Poe’s “Annabel Lee.” The first line reads: “It was many and many a year ago.” That is sufficiently vague to give us a lot of play, but the implied rhythm should be fun to work with.


  1. Here are my three other, less successful attempts:

    1. Fear no more the heat of the sun
    nor cold of winter dread;
    thou shalt fear nothing any more –
    not even being dead.

    2. Fear no more the heat of the sun:
    the right of steeper, brighter light,
    the dread of deeper, darker flames
    in course beneath him you have won;
    have passed elimination games
    must try to scale a vaster height.

    3. (from Eve to Adam on his death)
    Fear no more the heat of the sun
    that made thy scalp a cap of pain
    that roasted red thy bod’ly sheath
    and steamed the water in thy breath.

    To shade how eagerly they run,
    thy sons, and shout when comes the rain.
    Cold are the clods you lie beneath,
    death’s tiller become the crop of death.


    • I was afraid to try. Bravo to you!

      It is an exercise worth doing, keeping the poetic sense sharp. but more than that too: you discovered some things you didn’t know you knew, or thought, or felt – no?

      I lean toward “less successful #2, but I haven’t stopped reading yet. And now I think i am going to exercise. . .

      Liked by 1 person

  2. And to be clear just how far short we fall, here is Shakespeare’s flawed but brilliantly poignant original:

    Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
    Nor the furious winter’s rages;
    Thou thy worldly task hast done,
    Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
    Golden lads and girls all must,
    As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

    Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
    Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke;
    Care no more to clothe and eat;
    To thee the reed is as the oak:
    The Sceptre, Learning, Physic, must
    All follow this, and come to dust.

    Fear no more the lightning-flash,
    Nor the’all-dreaded thunder-stone;
    Fear not slander, censure rash;
    Thou hast finished joy and moan:
    All lovers young, all lovers must
    Consign to thee, and come to dust.
    No exorciser harm thee!
    Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
    Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
    Nothing ill come near thee!
    Quiet consummation have,
    And renownèd be thy grave!


    • If Will himself were part of our group, I would have suggested that he change the last line to read “And blessed be thy grave.” Otherwise – another gem! (I hadn’t seen this poem before. Thanks for posting, Alana!)


      • Yes, it is a very unmodern sentiment, to imagine that the honor or dishonor of someone’s burial should matter. For instance, in the Bible there’s a proverb threatening that if your eye mocks your parents, the scavengers birds in the desert would pick that eye out. Far from being the prototype of horror movies, this proverb simply says that children who had contempt for their parents would, in that society where family was government, probably die a criminal’s death and thus remain unburied. (Bit of hyperbole there, no doubt.)

        The whole idea of Gehenna, or Hell, in fact is based on this sentiment. The Valley of Hinnom was a mass-grave where the victims of battle and criminals would be thrown, along with trash. The valley was perpetually filled with worms eating flesh and fire would constantly burn there, consuming the trash. It was a dishonorable grave, and that is the point of Gehenna, which was named after Hinnom and explicitly compared with it by Jesus among others.

        But what do you make of “as chimneysweepers”? Bit of a stretch?


        • I think it may be a bad little joke – they come to your house to remove the “dust” that ashes make (?) – a leaning toward comic relief?
          Or perhaps he’s reminding us that youth, whether poor or privileged, eventually share the same conclusion.


          • A “bad little joke” – so the double meaning would not have to involve any paralellism. Well, it makes sense. And it is bad and little. Ironically though, the instant I see it that way I seem to see the man behind the poem, and suddenly his tendentious wordplay is endearing and a little funnier.


      • No, I hadn’t listened to that before. It’s astonishing and ravishing – equally melancholy and consoling. And through going in another direction, it is somehow so entirely without the impassioned, beard-tearing protestation that is the one flaw of Gerald Finzi’s version, which is otherwise magnificent. But I can’t think how to describe that direction. “Inward” doesn’t seem to come at it, because that implies (to me at least) a veiling of true feeling that I don’t sense here. And yet there’s a serenity that one usually associates with contemplation and introspection.

        The feeling is Tolkien’s feeling. I don’t know what to call it. It is a specific way, a pure way, of experiencing the loss of something higher than oneself. What is lost is beyond pity; but the relationship between it and oneself was fragile. Perhaps it is the feeling that a man has as he watches his saintly mother fade and die.


  3. Cool poem! I wish I was more up on my Tolkien because I’m unsure of the exact significance of the Misty Gate, but I know a ring wraith when I see one. 😉 (I think!)


    “Weaning My Daughter”

    Fear no more the heat of the sun,
    nor the warmth of water’s flow
    to wake again the swift response
    her mewing cries first made you know.

    Those things which once called milk to run
    and skin to swell (and joy to grow)
    are powerless upon you now-
    and do you weep, who willed it so?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m impressed: you found a way to let it mean something other than death. And how beautifully intimate. In the second verse especially, the rhythm (something that goes beyond meter) is just so speaking. Well done! Can I suggest “will” or perhaps “might” instead of “to” at the beginning of the third line?

      As for my poem, I didn’t have anything in mind other than a generic trip-to-Hades scene, but you’re right, it does feel kind of Lord of the Rings-ish.


      • Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. I was nervous about posting at first, but then I thought, what the heck. I think you are right about “will” rather than “to” in that third line, in which case the “nor” in the second line should also be changed to “or”, I believe? Probably an improvement all round.

        The reason I thought yours was about a wring wraith is because I assumed the Misty Gate and Misty Miles had to do with the Misty Mountains and we were in Middle Earth. Then I read through the poem a few more times, hunting mentally through the list of characters I knew of meanwhile for a likely candidate as speaker, before settling on the one I did. Then I read it through a few more times imagining a ring wraith “speaking” it, and it seemed so perfect I assumed that was what you intended, although the poem obviously has a wider significance. I like it either way.

        I also admired the second of the ones you posted here in the comments. Seemed a bit more theological while the first is more atmospheric. Anything in the nature of river of fire theology is deeply interesting to me lately. It seems so much more like actual existential truth than something you are forcing yourself to believe (or trying to) because it’s In The Book.

        Anyway, this was fun and I’m signing myself up for the next fortnight’s challenge as well. 🙂


        • I’m glad you did pluck up courage and post it. 🙂 And yes, I think you would have to change “nor” to “or.”

          I totally understand why “the Misty X” formula should recall Tolkein and also that I probably depended on the association for my atmospheric effect, at least in part.

          Re: “river of fire” and so forth, I understand your feeling. I am not convinced in an intellectual sense, of how exactly I should interpret the scriptural passages regarding Hades, Gehenna, and the Lak of Fire, or what I should do with the mass of Christian history involving an insistence on eternal punishment. I know that my spirit cannot accept that insistence. Charles Williams has some good writing on that subject.


  4. Shakespeare was too intimsdating for me to try but my wife is working on one.

    Since Anabelle Lee was a favorite of mine when young that I still have mostly in memory, I’ll give it shot next week.

    All of the ones so far are good to read. Thanks to all for sharing.


    • The challenge has no expiration date, so your wife is welcome to submit her poem at any time. We look forward to seeing both her work and yours, Michael!


  5. Fear no more the heat of the sun.
    For your brand new life has just begun.
    No longer in darkness must you walk,
    No more the fresh warm blood to stalk.
    Your victims strewn from town to town, 
    Countless hunters sought to bring you down. 
    Yet it was not a hunter, but a gentle dove, 
    Who changed your path and showed you love.
    The beautiful lady you found one night,
    Who touched your soul with her incredible light.
    The soul you thought you no longer possessed,
    She touched with her light in every recess.
    You looked at her and saw love, so true.
    She reached out her arms and cradled you. 
    Just as she had once held her dying son, 
    She held you so close, as if two were one.
    It was in that moment to her you appealed.
    Oh Holy Mother, is it too late to be healed? 
    In her loving voice she said “Never my son “.
    The evil that possessed you has been undone.
    Your prayer has been heard, and forgiveness given.
    Your soul is healed, you are restored to the living.
    Once again fully human, and in our care.
    You belong to God now and need not fear.
    Seek out the faith of the three bar cross.
    The Risen Christ’s gain is the devil’s loss!
    By Merry Bauman

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you’ve joined us, Merry! I think you’ve made a good beginning here.

      So far we’ve had a couple of lyric poems (mine and Leah’s), a parody (my rejected #1) a dramatic poem (my rejected #3) a humorous or ironic verse (Albert’s) and failed metaphysical poem (my rejected # 2.) I was already beginning to be surprised by the variety of poem types inspired by this single line, and now you’ve brought something completely different.

      It’s a little difficult to say what sub-genre this poem of yours belongs to. It has strong elements of narrative poetry. But because the opening line more or less required you to write in 2nd person, you ended up “telling the story” to the person who experienced it! Of course this could have been a problem, but you solved it by bringing in a strong rhetorical element. You aren’t so much telling the story to the person it happened to, as you are reflecting on the meaning of the story and urging to a new attitude, while rhetorically (and not really) addressing the subject of the narrative. The invisible third-person listener is strongly implied. I think that’s a fairly elegant way to solve your difficulty. And I can sense, in the poem, the genuine feeling that prompted you to use this story as the basis for your poem.

      So now we have a narrative-rhetorical cross – our seventh type of poem inspired by a single line. Very cool!

      And since we aren’t all about technicalities here, I’m going to suggest that you change “heat” to “light” in the first line, since that seems to be more in line with the idea of your poem.

      “…blood to stalk” could easily be changed to “blood must stalk” with “you” being the understood subject, carrying over from the previous line. It would make the line more elegant (improve the diction.) There are a few more places where your diction might improve, and one way to do this is try switching around word-order, or looking at replacing an ordinary adjective with something more precisely expressive. (I often use this site: http://thesaurus.com/browse/incredible)

      But I’ll leave you to take a second look at that yourself.

      The only other thing I want to mention is the image of Mary holding her dying son. I think this was a slip of the tongue, so to speak, because unfortunately she never was able to hold the Lord’s body until after he already had died. It is solemn to realize that the famous image of the Pieta ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Michelangelo%27s_Pieta_5450_cut_out_black.jpg ) depicts our Holy Mother holding the Lord’s slain body, after death. Because that image is now implicitly present in every cultured mind, bringing it into your poem was a genuinely poetic impulse, I think.

      I think the line should be easy to fix. “the body of her crucified Son” comes to mind, or “the corpse of her only son.” There are many possible variants of this line that you could choose from. Of course, you will want to choose the one that makes the best comparison – that highlights the tenderness (or whatever other aspect you want to highlight) with which our Lady holds the erstwhile criminal in her arms.

      I hope you will stick with us as we continue to talk about, read, and share poetry! Thanks for joining us.


      • I was a bit surprised at where it took me too, as the words seemed to flow thru me.
        I was actually starting with the concept of a vampire, who had done something really good and been given another chance as a human. Since vampires burn up in the heat of the sun. Your suggestions are good. I have not written much for many years now.
        This was fun. Interesting note, one of my sons related it to me, and my own journey.
        I had a son die too. At birth. Back then they did not let you hold them and I have always regretted it.


        • Ah! Though I did feel at first reading that the mother was somehow you, I ultimately misunderstood – I thought I recognized the story behind the poem as one I had previously read… something about a highwayman in Russia who was converted like Paul on the road, by an appearance of the mother of God.

          I can see, though, how the line would suggest the classic dillema of the vampire, though it didn’t occurr to me! Very clever.

          This comes with a prayer of remembrance for your dear son. I’m so sorry you didn’t get to hold him. I know what a difference it makes.


    • Hi Merry, nice work! (not really work though, was it). Like Alana, I misread, or read too fast. That’s why I like discussions like these. It helps me reflect.

      Also, I like re-reading. When I did that a couple of times here, I kept wanting to stop halfway through, because then I could indulge my romantic tendencies. That is, until I got to the “dying son” I felt so pleased to be reminded that a woman’s love could rescue a man from his dark behaviors and urgings. (I never made the connection with vampires. I guess I am so used to letting metaphors work on me that I didn’t take the reference to blood literally.) Any ay, what I said above about being rescued is pretty much what happened to me, so maybe I was conditioned to read the poem that way. The second half of your poem works for me also. I just like to read the two separately–for now.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you! No, it really wasn’t what I would call work. Interesting you realized that. I started to write one thing, and it took on a life of it’s own, and went a totally different place. When I reached the last two lines, they were very strong, and came with the feeling that this was written for someone who would read it. Alana is right in that I should have made it her “Crucified Son”, but that is not how the words came. I, too, am a romantic, and my original concept was a vampire that was redeemed by the love of a woman who saw him for who he really was, and he was restored to humanity thru her.
        I was as surprised as you when it went to the Holy Mother. She has been known to do many miracles for individuals, and this was what she would have done I believe. Her love is very well known to me, on a personal basis. Another long story. lol At my age, I have a lot of those!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. What I find interesting is that no one that has read it picked up the vampire element of the character. Michael says I am unique. lol, and it seems that is my style here as well.
    I had not thought of changing it and correcting things, but you have made me consider doing that. As it was not being published, but just for fun in here, I did not think about it. I think I will now, just to make it better. I was challenged by Michael talking about you and your site and how it was helping him understand poetry. I took up the challenge on this line because I just wanted to try it and see where it went. Even I was surprised.
    The last two lines were something that came to me in exactly that form. Something said to me that somewhere, someone will find something in this that they need. I hope so.
    That is the real beauty of poetry for me – to write something that “speaks” to someone else in a way that they need to hear it. Each person “hears” something different in every poem I believe, and poetry speaks to the soul as much as to the mind.


  7. Merry,

    It is funny, isn’t it? Especially since you mentioned blood. I did see the clues. I noticed that “fresh warm blood” seemed to indicate appetite. But I passed it off as a re-used metaphor, “Blood-thirsty.” Just a savage killer, basically. I think I assumed that a really religious poem wouldn’t have a vampire in it but I guess I would re-consider that assumption. Other than that… perhaps I could suggest “ambiguity” which is something I struggle with a lot as a poet.

    As for revising, it depends on how much you care about poetry – whether it was just a one-off for fun, or part of a larger desire to invest some effort into becoming a more accomplished poet. I myself am an incorrigible reviser, though I have little to no hope of ever being published. I made several alterations to my poems here even after posting them.

    “Seek out the faith of the three-bar cross” – I think that may be the most poetic line in the poem and I can well believe it just “came to you.” It has the right rhythm and spacing and sonority – it is almost solemn. I compare it to the pacing of the original line (Shakespeare’s) and there you hear a pace that is like someone padding down the aisle or in a funeral procession. I think yours is close to that and only falls short by having one or two syllables too many, which quicken the sound. These are advanced considerations, so don’t take it negatively. It is partly just luck that Shakespeare had these words “fear” and “more” with the letter R’s which slow the pronunciation down, and all the long vowels. But you have some of that, too. The long e, the long a, the r’s at the end of the line. It is close.

    And it’s exciting when a level of inspiration starts to function.


    • “I myself am an incorrigible reviser,

      [me too–but that’s part of the pleasure of trying to make something that will survive]

      though I have little to no hope of ever being. . . ”

      STOP right there, Ma’am. Step out of your blog, please. May I see your poetic license? OK, it says here that you have been writing without a license since about the age of 14. And you made some mean poems? Well that’s almost enough for me to want to take you before the poetry judge. And what about all this juvie stuff? You figured the record has been expunged? Nope, sorry. You have to live with it. Now I don’t know what spiritual poems are, but they sound suspicious. As for the “mature” ones, well, everybody claims that, but the judge will have to sort all this out. See you in court.. . . Oh, by the way, I’ve got some poems here that I’d like you to look at, if you have time.


      • Hilarious, I’m sitting on my couch laughing.

        Well, what can I say? I can’t make editors like what I write. I write what I like, and that’s about the limit of it.

        But yes, my record is pretty defiant and unrepentant!


  8. It was really fun watching my wife work and getting to chime in about the poem during the process.

    Many layers to it that I’m not sure she was that conscious of while writing.

    This whole adventure is exciting!


    • I agree, it’s a delightful adventure! And the “layers one is not conscious of while writing” reflects the genuine, irreducable process of composition, as I think both Albert and I would agree…


  9. Still trying, although I have left the line behind and followed a new one.


    ”From the outermost border of heaven is His going forth. . . and there shall no man hide himself from His heat.” -from Psalm 18

    Fear no more–
    The heat of the sun
    Now gone, where?
    No. It will return.
    Believe– plan.

    You can
    Hope to see it through
    This night of cold
    Feel it burn
    This night of old

    And distant stars
    Know how it can turn
    Those yesterday clouds
    Away from storms far
    Off. Off. It will burn

    Off (when peering through)
    This mist and thickness—
    All tomorrows’
    Dawns or downs or
    Cold indifferent sorrows:

    These need return no more.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m working my way through the challenges now, so I’ll be posting mine here and there as I complete them. I’m sort of doing them in order, but I’m skipping the ones that don’t give me immediate inspiration and I’ll go back to them. This one inspired me instantly. Great way to start!
    It’s so much fun to read everyone else’s poems too. 🙂

    Fear no more the heat of the sun,
    Burning, blinding, bringing drought.
    We the daytime live to shun;
    Darkness, moonshine bring us out.
    Fair and cool, there we play.
    Come away, come away.

    Fear no more the light of the sun:
    Dwell amid the dew of moon,
    Dance where moonbeam rivers run,
    Read the constellation runes.
    Follow! Follow! We are fey.
    Come away, come away.

    Fear no more the work of the sun:
    Labor lives not where we go.
    Hear Diana sound her hunt!
    Soon that will be all you know.
    Nevermore to see the day.
    Come away, come away.

    There’s a bit of formatting it looks like WordPress isn’t going to catch: in the first stanza, the final line is italicized. In the second stanza, the second half of the penultimate line and the final line are italicized. In the third stanza, the final two lines are italicized.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alena, I think this is quite a fine poem, and a very good response to the initial line as well. I’m glad you were inspired by it.

      The concept of fey calling someone to come away with them, is a creative and new way to construe this line. I’m excited for how this will fit among the other poems in the book.

      The poem is formally very strong, and it has good music as well.

      A few of your lines are too prosaic. I think they could be made more poetic, while still saying the same thing and using the same end-rhyme. An example is the line, “soon that will be all you know.”

      What makes language poetic? I once made a list of antithetical qualities.


      I think the qualities on the left side of the stack are more natural to poetic writing, while the qualities on the right side are more natural to prose. The discipline of poetry involves a constant effort to move the writing leftward – away from the direction we are generally taught to write in school assignments! That’s the general comment.

      In the case of the line I mentioned, I find it could be denser, more imaginative, more unusual, more ornate, and more descriptive. You may find it helpful to keep doing the rhetorical challenge at the same time as these, just to get yourself more comfortable with writing in a wilder manner – and wildness is particularly helpful when representing the fey!

      Thanks for participating! I’m so glad to have you here.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Funny, I reread this poem earlier today and “soon that will be all you know” also jumped out at me as far too prosaic. I’ll get right to work.

        I think this is the first time I’ve ever been encouraged to lean into the imaginative, mysterious, intuitive side of writing. It’s always been what I’ve been drawn to (in poetry and prose, reading and writing) and what I’ve tried to imitate, but in the end I pull back because I fear it will be too dramatic for a reader. I love the dramatic–the deep, the descriptive, the aesthetic, the emotional. But I’ve had instilled in me a fear of being overdramatic. To be fair, as an immature writer I’m sure I often did and do fall off in that direction. But the solution is to keep trying, not to run away. Thank you for this. And I think I’ll adopt “wild” as my new objective. I like that.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’ve been thinking about this… I had a similar reaction to a lot of my early poetry. I do believe in writing for a specific audience, and not being misanthropic or leaving the reader behind. So it was perplexing. For myself I solved this quandary by choosing to write for people like myself.

          While not wanting to sound pretentious or self-congratulatory, I do know that my apprehension of aesthetic qualities is more sensitive, and my appetite for aesthetic effect more huge, than the vast majority of people. I crave intensity… and not the miniscule portions and bland flavors the establishment loves. It’s been hard to come to this conclusion, but I think this is simply an effect of what they call giftedness, rather than something to be ashamed of. I think the poetic establishment is largely composed of, or at least governed by, clever types rather than gifted types. Again, this is all awkward and difficult, but I consistently find a thin trickle of people who really respond to this kind of thing. And I know that’s my audience.

          Hope that’s helpful.

          Liked by 1 person

          • And I suppose I should add.. I find that ordinary people (those who don’t pretend either to cleverness or giftedness) are firmly on the side of the gifted. They love the intense, the dramatic, the heroic, and so forth. The see themselves in the great, not in the clever. In trying to understand why the clever alone should stand out in their desire for the bland and excruciatingly subtle, my only guess is that what they get out of literature is an exercise in detecting all the neat little things that other clever people do in their writing. Basically, exercising their cleverness and doing what it sets them up to do. We can’t condemn this, right? But we don’t need to submit to it, either. And it’s not the clever people who invented poetry, but the gifted and the prophetic. So to me, that kind of poetry is not as “real” as the our kind. It’s more like a side-stream that became the whole thing.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Here’s a revision.

              Fear no more the heat of the sun,
              Burning, blinding, bringing drought.
              This hate, this heat, we live to shun,
              Moonlight is what darkness wrought.
              Fair and cool, there we play,
              Come away, come away.

              Fear no more the light of the sun:
              Dwell amid the dew of moon,
              Dance where moonbeam rivers run,
              Read the constellation runes.
              Follow! Follow! We are fey.
              Come away, come away.

              Fear no more the life of the sun,
              Thrive in dark! Disdain the morn!
              Hear Diana sound her hunt—
              Forget the place where you were born.
              Nevermore to see the day,
              Come away, come away.


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