~ by William Meredith
Touching your goodness, I am like the man
Who turns a letter over in his hand
And you might think it was because the hand
Was unfamiliar but, truth is, the man
Has never had a letter from anyone,
And now he is both afraid of what it means
And ashamed because he has no other means
To find out what it says than to ask someone.
His uncle could have left the farm to him,
Or his parents died before he sent them word,
Or the dark girl changed and want him for beloved.
Afraid and letter-proud, he keeps it with him.
What would you call his feeling for the words
That keep him rich and orphaned and beloved?
“Because the hand was unfamiliar” here refers to an unfamiliar handwriting. Yet the illiterate man cannot decode any writing. William Meredith has written an unusual modern sonnet here, one that uses plain speech, yet by the final lines it achieves a rare exalted eloquence.