What is your opinion on poetry? Love it? Hate it? Ever really thought about it? Our journal this week was to explore this part of our brain and to include a copy of our favorite poem, explaining why we chose it. Here is my rant. Enjoy! 🙂
Poetry. It is a magical thing. It is language in its most beautiful form, serving a myriad of noble purposes: preserving history, expressing moods and ideas, making us laugh, and glorifying God.
Like a painting immortalizing a moment in time,poetry captures history. This is what the Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Longfellow’s ‘The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere’, and Tennyson’s ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ do for us.
Like musical composition giving tangibility to a mood, poetry is a thing that captures thoughts. The sonnets of the Renaissance, Elizabeth Browning’s famous ‘How Do I Love Thee?’ demonstrate this well.
But other sensations besides romance are expressed through verse. Thomas Gray ruminated on death in ‘Elegy in the Churchyard’. Stevenson in ‘The Swing’ and Whittier in ‘The Barefoot Boy’ (both personal favorites) describe the simple ecstasies of childhood.
Like the Scaramouche in a play delivering his lines just so, poetry amuses us. Proverbs says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine,” and it has been scientifically proven correct. Some of my favorite poems to read aloud are ones that that make me laugh. I love rhymes by Shel Silverstein and have fond recollections of Mom reading my siblings and me Jack Prelutsky’s ‘The Pancake Collector’.
Poetry is memorable, sticking in your mind. It is melodious, striking your “audial aesthetic” (I made it up). It is something incredibly difficult to translate into any other language, to find other words that express the original, fit the meter and rhyme, and conjure similar sensations in the ear and heart. It is, I believe, one of the most beautiful and glorious uses of language in the history of mankind. Yes, it can be, like any good thing, misused and abused for sinful reasons, as Marx exemplified in his ‘Oulanem’ (the title being an anagram of Emmanuel).
However, it can also be used to the adoration and exaltation of the Giver of all languages, the Word Who became flesh and dwelt among us. This is what Moses and David and hymn writers through the ages have done (check out my psalm on this).
One of my favorite poems is actually one of these, the ancient Celtic hymn ‘Be Thou My Vision’ allegedly by Dallan Forgaill:
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
I love poetry. I love reading it and hearing it read. I also love memorizing it, from ‘The Caterpillar’ by Christina Rossetti (the first poem I memorized in first grade) to ‘Elegy in the Churchyard’ (my pick for my siblings and my random poetry memorization project a couple summers ago), it is a simply thrilling thing to recite a magical arrangement of words, something akin to chanting a spell. That is what poetry is: a magical spell.