The War Within:Poems & Essays:Poems & Essays


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The reader assumes, perhaps falsely, that the first voice is the wife, and the second, the husband. A writer Throughout history, regardless of changing contexts, individuals have employed various forms of art to effect political change and expose corruptions within society.


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In it, and its companion poem, The Odyssey , the happenings of the legendary Trojan War as well as certain events Auden is a scatological poem written in a strict form and with a serious tone. The poem resembles the mock-heroic genre of the 18th century in that it deals with a trivial subject matter in a neatly organized Whilst the poem might be read as an ode to human resilience in the face Much of early Greek poetry was transmitted by rhapsodes, or human reciters. The same was true of the lengthy historical narratives composed and memorized by the bards of Ireland and Wales, who were the official repositories of their peoples' histories.

This same phenomenon appears in cultures all around the globe. There is a very old saying, "Art is long; life is short. One American poet once said that a poem is "a time machine" made out of words, by means of which people in the past may speak to us and we may speak to people in the past, present, and future.

It is a famous conceit of poets that they have the ability to "immortalize" in verse their lovers, for instance. Consider this concluding couplet from one of Shakespeare's sonnets:. So long as men can breath or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. The urge to defeat death and escape the ravages of time is a basic motive underlying the creation of all art.

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Sooner or later it dawns on most poets that, happily, they have entered a vast, ongoing, and varied conversation that spans the centuries. Through their acts of creative composition they can join the great poet John Donne in saying, "Death, be not proud.

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Notice that in this particular bid for eternal fame, Shakespeare chose a rhymed iambic pentameter couplet to preserve his living words. Aside from the charm, musicality, and memorability verse lends to poetry, we expect great poetry to display qualities of invention and imagination. The word "poet" means, in Greek, "maker. The poet invented fables, fictions, myths, and stories that conveyed deep truths about the world and human life. The poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven, And as imagination bodies forth The form of things unknown, the poet's pen Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing A local habitation and a name.

Of course, the poet doesn't create out of "nothing" and make a world out of whole cloth.

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His compositions, to have any meaning, must have some relation to the world of human beings and to nature. Given that relation, however, the poet enjoys a great deal of creative freedom. Only the poet. The English Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge considered the faculty of imagination to be a repetition in our finite minds of the immeasurable creativity within the imagination of the infinite "I Am," or, God. If poets are human exemplars of this divine creative quality, it is little wonder the philosopher Plato stated, "A poet is a light and winged thing, and holy. A recluse in life, she found an immortal voice in short, powerful verses, such as her poem, "This Is My Letter to the World":.

We may note that these stories, legends, and fictions are never told in sweeping, hollow generalities, but the poet always hones in on specific, tactile details, pungent with sensuous imagery, all of which paint startlingly realistic portraits through the use of vivid, accurate language. Along with making use of lively detail, the ability of the poet to notice correspondences, similarities, and analogies and to employ these in constructing fresh and original metaphors lies at the heart of great poetry, and is part of its imaginative sweep.

The often sensuous, figurative language of simile and metaphor seems to appeal greatly to the human mind. The snow came down last night like moths Burned on the moon; it fell till dawn Covered the town with simple cloths. Here the magical beauty of the first snow is described against the backdrop of war, a contrast made more powerful by the simile comparing of falling snowflakes to dead moths.

Similarly, the seventeenth-century Welsh poet Henry Vaughan formulates a luminous simile and extends it at some length in "The World. We can be reasonably sure that we have risen above mere verse at this point and shifted into the higher plane of full-bodied poetry, where qualities of imagination, vision, and invention are seen coming clearly into play. And yet, we have still not touched on one final, vital ingredient of great poetry. In addition to qualities of memorability, musicality, imagination, and invention, we expect poetry to touch us at an emotional level.

Take the passion out of poetry, and we are left with something dry and rather ridiculous. This is what impels human beings to break from silence into utterance. A poem may be admirable because it grants us an insight into some truth about ourselves or the universe we inhabit. It may engage in abstruse aesthetic projects or metaphysical speculations that are intellectually quite sophisticated. Conversely, it may be simple and direct, and those are often the most powerful kinds of poems.

Think, for instance, of how we might savor a sad blues song. One doesn't need advanced degrees to appreciate a line like, "I woke up this morning, blues all around my bed," or "Oh, I hate to see that evenin' sun go down. Consider this anonymously written fragment of English poetry from the early sixteenth century:.

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Western wind, when wilt thou blow That the small rain down can rain? Christ, that my love were in my arms, And I in my bed again! We don't know the full situation of the speaker here, but there is no mistaking the heartfelt longing for home in the voice. It is that unmistakable human passion that has caused this scrap of poetry to live for more than five hundred years. There is a fine line between the poem which makes an authentic claim upon the core of our emotional being and the poem which seems to wish to manipulate us, to play insincerely, or ineptly, upon our heartstrings.

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When dealing with emotionally charged matter, the poet faces the danger of lapsing into sentimentality or bathos, of buttonholing the reader and trading upon what has been called "unearned emotion. It is perhaps the commonest of faults among inexperienced writers, and even great poets are not immune to this kind of error. Consider this line by Shelley:.


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  8. The question arises, has Shelley gone too far into self-pity and sentimentality here? Many readers and critics tend to think he shows a momentary lapse of taste. Though quite real, self-pity is often considered an unlovely human emotion. Yet, because it is human and because nothing human is outside the scope of the poet's pen, a great poet like Shakespeare can examine it, even confess it, honestly.

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    Fortunately, in the following sonnet, he also points the way out of the emotional swamp of self-pity. Notice how, toward the end of the poem, there is a change in the direction of the thought, a swerving or veering, as if from a thesis to an antithesis, or from a problem stated to a resolution discovered. This shift is quite typical of the sonnet's structure, and is one of its traditional hallmarks. At the beginning the author is wallowing in self-pity, down on himself, and depressed.

    He discovers that the way out of his thoughts of self is to think on another, his lover, and the entire mood of the poem is lightened, ending on a note of celebration. When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,. I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself, and curse my fate, Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, Featured like him, like him with friends possessed, Desiring this man's art and that man's scope, With what I most enjoy contented least; Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, Haply I think on thee; and then my state Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate; For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

    If there are hidden laws of the operation and economy of our human emotions, no class of investigators or interpreters have studied and observed them more closely or with greater results than the poets. The founder of psychotherapy Dr. Sigmund Freud resorted time and again to the poets and playwrights to discover the terms with which to describe fundamental motives and workings of the human mind. Shakespeare's plays and poems alone constitute a veritable textbook on the inner workings of human behavior.

    Poets not only accurately describe and analyze powerful emotions, they also convey or evoke them. Sometimes, as in the following poem by William Blake, they seem to do both. Some inner laws of the operations of malice and vengeance are described, and the speaker finally embodies these emotions, which gives the analysis an added, high-voltage charge. I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow. And I watered it in fears, Night and morning with my tears; I sunned it with smiles And with soft deceitful wiles. And it grew both day and night, Till it bore an apple bright; And my foe beheld it shine, And he knew that it was mine, And into my garden stole When the night had veiled the pole: In the morning glad I see My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

    Emotion is also the motivating force of most poems of political protest and social criticism. The smarting wince we feel when we witness an injustice may turn quickly to anger, outrage, and indignation. The same cry against oppression and the abuse of power and wealth sounded by the Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah or Jeremiah can be heard throughout English and American poetry and down to the present day.

    The War Within:Poems & Essays:Poems & Essays
    The War Within:Poems & Essays:Poems & Essays
    The War Within:Poems & Essays:Poems & Essays
    The War Within:Poems & Essays:Poems & Essays
    The War Within:Poems & Essays:Poems & Essays

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