Poet's Quotes (displaying: 1 - 30 of 57 quotes )
You can't argue with someone who believes, or just passionately suspects, that the poet's function is not to write what he must write but, rather, to write what he would write if his life depended on his taking responsibility for writing what he must in a style designed to shut out as few of his old librarians as humanly possible.
The following obituary appeared in the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph of Sept. 16, 1958: A GREAT POET died last week in Lancieux, France, at the age of 84. He was not a poet's poet. Fancy-Dan dilletantes will dispute the description "great."He was a people's poet. To the people he was great. They understood him, and knew that any verse carrying the by-line of Robert W. Service would be a lilting thing, clear, clean and power-packed, beating out a story with a dramatic intensity that made the nerves tingle. And he was no poor, garret-type poet, either. His stuff made money hand over fist. One piece alone, The Shooting of Dan McGrew, rolled up half a million dollars for him. He lived it up well and also gave a great deal to help others."The only society I like," he once said, "is that which is rough and tough - and the tougher the better. That's where you get down to bedrock and meet human people."He found that kind of society in the Yukon gold rush, and he immortalized it.
The genius of a composer is found in the notes of his music; but analyzing the notes will not reveal his genius. The poet's greatness is contained in his words; yet the study of his words will not disclose his inspiration. God reveals himself in creation; but scrutinize creation as minutely as you wish, you will not find God, any more than you will find the soul through careful examination of your body.
She was not happy--she never had been. Whence came this insufficiency in life--this instantaneous turning to decay of everything on which she leaned? But if there were somewhere a being strong and beautiful, a valiant nature, full at once of exaltation and refinement, a poet's heart in an angel's form, a lyre with sounding chords ringing out elegiac epithalamia to heaven, why, perchance, should she not find him? Ah! How impossible! Besides, nothing was worth the trouble of seeking it; everything was a lie. Every smile hid a yawn of boredom, every joy a curse, all pleasure satiety, and the sweetest kisses left upon your lips only the unattainable desire for a greater delight.
Who will believe my verse in time to come, If it were fill'd with your most high deserts? Though yet, heaven knows, it is but as a tomb Which hides your life and shows not half your parts. If I could write the beauty of your eyes And in fresh numbers number all your graces, The age to come would say 'This poet lies: Such heavenly touches ne'er touch'd earthly faces.' So should my papers yellow'd with their age Be scorn'd like old men of less truth than tongue, And your true rights be term'd a poet's rage And stretched metre of an antique song: But were some child of yours alive that time, You should live twice; in it and in my rhyme.
Another grave limitation of language is that it cannot, like music or gesture, do more than one thing at once. However the words in a great poet's phrase interinanimate one another and strike the mind as a quasi-instantaneous chord, yet, strictly speaking, each word must be read or heard before the next. That way, language is as unilinear as time. Hence, in narrative, the great difficulty of presenting a very complicated change which happens suddenly. If we do justice to the complexity, the time the reader must take over the passage will destroy the feeling of suddenness. If we get the suddenness we shall not be able to get in the complexity. I am not saying that genius will not find its own way of palliating this defect in the instrument; only that the instrument is in this way defective.
Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art! Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes. Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart, Vulture, whose wings are dull realities? How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise? Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies, Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing? Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car? And driven the Hamadryad from the wood To seek a shelter in some happier star? Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood, The Elfin from the green grass, and from me The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?
Through this atmosphere of torrid splendor moved wan beings as richly upholstered as the furniture, beings without definite pursuits or permanent relations, who drifted on a languid tide of curiosity... Somewhere behind them, in the background of their lives there was doubtless a real past, yet they had no more real existence than the poet's shades in limbo.
Tis true my garments threadbare are, And sorry poor I seem; But inly I am richer far. Than any poet's dream. For I've a hidden life no one. Can ever hope to see; A sacred sanctuary none. May share with me. Aloof I stand from out the strife, Within my heart a song; By virtue of my inner life. I to myself belong. Against man-ruling I rebel, Yet do not fear defeat, For to my secret citadel. I may retreat. Oh you who have an inner life. Beyond this dismal day. With wars and evil rumours rife, Go blessedly your way. Your refuge hold inviolate; Unto yourself be true, And shield serene from sordid fate. The Real You.
That perhaps is your task--to find the relation between things that seem incompatible yet have a mysterious affinity, to absorb every experience that comes your way fearlessly and saturate it completely so that your poem is a whole, not a fragment; to re-think human life into poetry and so give us tragedy again and comedy by means of characters not spun out at length in the novelist's way, but condensed and synthesized in the poet's way--that is what we look to you to do now.
To evade such temptations is the first duty of the poet. For as the ear is the antechamber to the soul, poetry can adulterate and destroy more surely then lust or gunpowder. The poet's, then, is the highest office of all. His words reach where others fall short. A silly song of Shakespeare's has done more for the poor and the wicked than all the preachers and philanthropists in the world.