the aching, endless hollow he had felt
at sight of seeming death's too-soon decay,
the slackened neck, stilled hand, and blood-soaked belt--
but duty, pitiless, called him away.
Else, statue-like, he waiting would have knelt
beside his broken heart, would weeping stay
until his grieving bones did even melt
as did his eyes; his weary head would lay
down in the dust where then his brother's dwelt.
Folly seemed like wisdom then: why not pray,
sacrifice self to shuffle the hand dealt--
Not the first time tried, but first time failed: who
could admit such great defeat? And so, "I knew."
Notes: The last line has an extra syllable--mea culpa. "Thus" just didn't work in place of "and so". But the fun thing about having a set metrical/rhyme-scheme is that it forces you to write stuff you probably wouldn't have otherwise, just because there's only so many things that rhyme with "felt", and then it becomes a challenge to see just how many of them you can fit into the poem. Except there's the rhyming couplet at the end, and I went through so many ending rhymes, guys, it's kind of ridiculous. It took almost as long as all the rest of the sonnet together.
And here's two lines that got cut when I shifted from octaves to pentameter, but I liked too much to throw away:
not pain, but empty blank: the world
yawned vast and friendless all about,