Poet's Quotes (displaying: 1 - 30 of 256 quotes )
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.
A poet’s freedom lies precisely in the impossibility of worldly success. It is the freedom of one who knows he will never be anything but a failure in the world’s estimation, and may do as he pleases. The poet is a man on the sidelines of life, sidelined for life. He belongs to the aristocracy of the outcast, the lowest of the low, below the salt of the earth. A member of the most ancient regime in the world. One that cannot, it seems, be overthrown.
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.
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.
To what temptations, to what extremities does lucidity lead! Shall we desert it now to take refuge in unconsciousness? Anyone can escape into sleep, we are all geniuses when we dream, the butcher the poet’s equal there. But our perspicacity cannot bear that such a marvel should endure, nor that inspiration should be brought within everyone’s grasp; daylight strips us of the night’s gifts. Only the madman enjoys the privilege of passing smoothly from a nocturnal to a daylight existence: no distinction between his dreams and his waking. He has renounced our reason, as the beggar has renounced our belongings. Both have found a way that leads beyond suffering and solved all our problems; hence they remain examples we cannot follow, saviors without adepts.
For if in careless summer days In groves of Ashtaroth we whored, Repentant now, when winds blow cold, We kneel before our rightful lord; The lord of all, the money-god, Who rules us blood and hand and brain, Who gives the roof that stops the wind, And, giving, takes away again; Who spies with jealous, watchful care, Our thoughts, our dreams, our secret ways, Who picks our words and cuts our clothes, And maps the pattern of our days; Who chills our anger, curbs our hope, And buys our lives and pays with toys, Who claims as tribute broken faith, Accepted insults, muted joys; Who binds with chains the poet’s wit, The navvy’s strength, the soldier’s pride, And lays the sleek, estranging shield Between the lover and his bride.
The engineer’s ready capitulation, however, did not hide from the poet’s mother the sad realization that the adventure into which she had plunged so impulsively--and which had seemed so intoxicatingly beautiful--had no turned out to be the great, mutually fulfilling love she was convinced she had a full right to expect. Her father was the owner of two prosperous Prague pharmacies, and her morality was based on strict give-and-take. For her part, she had invested everything in love (she had even been willing to sacrifice her parents and their peaceful existence); in turn, she had expected her partner to invest an equal amount of capital of feelings in the common account. To redress the imbalance, she gradually withdrew her emotional deposit and after the wedding presented a proud, severe face to her husband.
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.
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.
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.