This was the first post I published for Stella’s Place, on November 13, 2015. Happy Birthday to us!
What is the purpose of poetry? Why do we write in verse, when we could say directly what we have to say much more easily?
What has been said about the subject? I found the following quotes:
When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses, for art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstones of our judgment. The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state. The great artist is thus a solitary figure. He has, as Frost said, “a lover’s quarrel with the world.” In pursuing his perceptions of reality he must often sail against the currents of his time … John F Kennedy
A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep……Salman Rushdie
Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar….Percy Bysshe Shelley
Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement . . . says heaven and earth in one word . . . speaks of himself and his predicament as though for the first time….Christopher Fry
Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat…Robert Frost
Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things….T.S. Eliot
Poetry is all of those things but, to me, reading a poem is often just the delight in the words themselves, and the way in which they weave in and out, rise high and scoop low, the way they slide off the tongue, whisper and shout!
I was looking for a poem to showcase today, and when I found this one it literally took my breath away. A well-loved poem that had been set aside for many years, and rediscovered today. When I saw it on my computer screen, I took a deep breath, and said, “Oh, Yes! This one!”
The Windhover: To Christ Our Lord
I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.
Even it’s technical description is wonderful: “Falling paeonic rhythm, sprung and outriding”. The Windhover was written by Gerard Manley Hopkins who once described it as “the best thing I ever wrote.” It is a very fine thing. I also saw it described as “a poet’s love poem to life.” Yes, indeed. Hopkins was a Jesuit priest who died at the age of 44. He had felt the tension between his religious and literary callings throughout his career.