7.4.11 | By: Megan Langham

Breezes of Poesy

...so, it would seem that today is Poetry Day. Unofficially so, I believe, but that's no reason not to join in. I am very fond of poetry (not all poetry, of course, just as a genre) and my mind has been too dazed and confused lately for a long and thoughtful post, so why not? My very dear friend Abigail inconsiderately used my first choice in her posting today, so I have been forced to choose two other poems that I adore.

This first one is by John Milton. I confess I have never made it all the way through Paradise Lost, but does it count that I memorized this? Though the whole poem is bursting with truth and beauty, the first verse is my favorite.

Is It True?

Is it true, O Christ in Heaven,
That the highest suffer the most?
That the strongest wander furthest
And more helplessly are lost?
That the mark of rank in nature
Is capacity for pain?
That the anguish of the singer
Makes the sweetness of the strain?

Is it true, O Christ in Heaven,
That whichever way we go
Walls of darkness must surround us,
Things we would but cannot know?
That the infinite must bound us
Like a temple veil untent,
Whilst the finite ever wearies,
So that none therein's content?

Is it true, O Christ in Heaven,
That the fullness yet to come
Is so glorious and so perfect
That to know would strike us dumb?
That if ever for a moment
We could pierce beyond the sky
With these poor dim eyes of mortals
We should just see God and die?

--John Milton

My second poem is really only an excerpt, as I haven't got the heart or the time to give you all of "In Memoriam". Well, it's two excerpts. Well -- no, I'll stop myself. Two excerpts:

From "In Memoriam"

“More than my brothers are to me,”—
Let not this vex thee, noble heart!
I know thee of what force thou art
To hold the costliest love in fee.

But thou and I are one in kind,
As moulded like in Nature’s mint;
And hill and wood and field did print
The same sweet forms in either mind.

For us the same cold streamlet curl’d
Thro’ all his eddying coves, the same
All winds that roam the twilight came
In whispers of the beauteous world.

And so my wealth resembles thine,
But he was rich where I was poor,
And he supplied my want the more
As his unlikeness fitted mine.


Dear friend, far off, my lost desire,
So far, so near in woe and weal,
O loved the most, when most I feel
There is a lower and a higher;

Known and unknown, human, divine;
Sweet human hand and lips and eye;
Dear heavenly friend that canst not die,
Mine, mine, for ever, ever mine;

Strange friend, past, present, and to be;
Loved deeplier, darklier understood;
Behold, I dream a dream of good,
And mingle all the world with thee.

--Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Perhaps it is a depressing poem -- and indeed, it must be, since it is drenched in the anguish of death -- but at the end there is hope and even a sort of painful joy. Tennyson here does not gloss over grief; he lets the pain take him to the lowest level of despair and then back again to the light of understanding and acceptance.

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