Sonnet to Russell Cheney

Justin Hatfield reading H. Phelps Putnam's poem to his friend (and Philip Blackburn's great-great uncle) Russell Cheney, the painter. Russell brought Put out from Yale in 1917 to Cragmor to recover from asthma in the Colorado climate. They were together until 1919. This poem celebrates the 10th anniversary of their friendship in 1927 (published in Trinc); the same year that Put had an affair with Katherine Hepburn and uncle Russell painted her portrait.

Christ never rose again, but you arose,

My ribald saint, out of a deathly bed

To snatch my insubstantial life from those

Despairs and poisons which had made me dead.

How dark and delicate you are, and yet

How full of blood, and I am only caught

In irony, a nervous vulgar net.

We were a sturdy differential fraught

With an unlikely mirth, and hand in glove

Between strange-sorted friends and gay disdain;

But all the time, beyond my scope of love,

Lonely you prowled the inward vaults of pain,

Seeking, beyond harsh loyalty, some rest

From bearing the vague misery of quest.