We Call the Treasure Knowledge (Cento)

I have been happy, tho’ in a dream,
To follow knowledge like a sinking star
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.

Last night, the moon had a golden ring
And the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe,
And the flame of the blue star of twilight, hung low on the rim of the sky.
I saw pale kings, and princes too,
On a cloud I saw a child 
Clustered around by all her starry fays.

Here while I lie beneath this walnut bough,
Which is the bliss of solitude,
I am satisfied–I see, dance, laugh, sing
Oh! ’tis a quiet spirit-healing nook!
But I have promises to keep;
The fair and innocent shall still believe.

Take, if you must, this little bag of dreams
And dearer thy beam shall be.



This is my first attempt at a cento, Yeah Write’s poetry genre of choice for January. The title is a line from An Epistle Containing the Strange Medical Experience of Karshish, the Arab Physician, by Robert Browning. My friends at Yeah Write have been writing centos, too:

that cynking feeling: the stars in secret
raceful Press Poetry: Of the din and of the darkness

13 thoughts on “We Call the Treasure Knowledge (Cento)

  1. Ooooh. Such a tender piece…and I heard in my head, “and miles to go before I sleep,” which was kind of like an echo. How long did you spend on this? The lines are perfectly selected, in tone and subject. Thanks for sharing this. I think I can go to bed now. ❤

    • Your comment makes it all worthwhile! Honestly, I spent hours. Days. I started working on it last Friday and kept playing with the lines evey day. It helped that my son was home sick 2 days this week. I finally asked Nate on Tuesday if he could point out what wasn’t working then went back to replace a few lines yesterday. It was fun (with so many wonderful poems out there, as you said) but kind of all-consuming!

      • Your edits make me think my interpretation was on the right track. This flows so smoothly, and the gentle tone makes your point buoyant, I think. You’ve almost convinced me to try another cento using older works.

        • High praise indeed! I’m so pleased you think I made the right edits and better choices for those particular lines you had pointed out. Your edits were so helpful and exactly what I needed! Thanks again 🙂 And, yes, do try one with older works; it’s fun to piece them together.

  2. Beautiful dreamlike tone, and how perfectly your lines fit together. I hope you enjoyed creating it as much as I enjoyed reading it!

    • Hearing that it worked, I can say all those hours were worth it! I really enjoyed visiting my old favourites but I may have obsessed over this piece just a bit too much 🙂

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