TO CERTAIN POETS

By Joyce Kilmer, author of “Trees“, as in:

I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree…


TO CERTAIN POETS

NOW is the rhymer’s honest trade
A thing for scornful laughter made.

The merchant’s sneer, the clerk’s disdain,
These are the burden of our pain.

Because of you did this befall,
You brought this shame upon us all.

You little poets mincing there
With women’s hearts and women’s hair!

How sick Dan Chaucer’s ghost must be
To hear you lisp of “Poesie”!

A heavy-handed blow, I think,
Would make your veins drip scented ink.

You strut and smirk your little while
So mildly, delicately vile!

Your tiny voices mock God’s wrath,
You snails that crawl along His path!

Why, what has God or man to do
With wet, amorphous things like you?

This thing alone you have achieved:
Because of you, it is believed

That all who earn their bread by rhyme
Are like yourselves, exuding slime.

Oh, cease to write, for very shame,
Ere all men spit upon our name!

Take up your needles, drop your pen,
And leave the poet’s craft to men!


Wow.  What, or who got under his craw? [#mixedMetaphor] I understand that Kilmer’s verse fell under some criticism for its simplicity and “traditional, conservative” nature, a criticism that continues to this day,  but after having forgotten about “Trees” for many decades, on my return I find it refreshingly honest in its simplicity. It also heartens me to see Kilmer striking back against his critics. Were they Free-Verse Nazis, disdaining anything with rhyme and meter, or did they object to his open love of God? Whoever they were, let’s hope they got the message and stopped leaving their slimy trails across the pages of Kilmer’s lovely verse.

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Beowulf, Dragons, and Bilbo Baggins

I have had the chance to listen to Heaney’s recording of his own translation. I’m afraid this is an abridged version, but I’ve heard it now two or three times. I had attempted to read the story, but failed to progress more than a few pages. Somehow, having it read aloud to me made it far, far easier. I have to agree with this assessment:

“Heaney’s performance reminds us that Beowulf, written near the turn of another millennium, was intended to be heard not read.” – audioBooks.com

Next time, I’ll have to find an unabridged copy, but I was astounded with what I did hear. Amazing to think how long ago it was written. I kept thinking to myself, this is a Christian example of an epic poem, in the tradition of Homer, but with just One God. I was also struck with the author’s description of the Dragon and his hoard, and how similar it was to J.R.R Tolkien’s description of the beast confronted Under The Mountain by his Bilbo in The Hobbit.

From Beowulf:

Over and over the breakers roll in and beat on the beach. On the grassy ground on top of the cliff stands a barrow, a hill built by people long ago for burying their great lord. The way in is hidden and narrow, but inside is a room heaped high with treasure. A dragon guards this hoard of gold. His scaly coils sprawl in the pile of precious things. There are rings and bracelets, gold plates and goblets, silver coins and helmets, and sword-hilts studded with jewels. In the dark underground the glow of the gold makes a strange light that glints in the dragon’s scales…

…For hundreds of years the dragon dozed on its pile, sleepy and slow, as dragons are when they are sure their treasure is safe. No one knew it was there. The barrow was grown over with grass and trees. The way in was hard to find.

Yet someone did find it. A man running away from his angry master spotted the tiny entrance. He thought it was a cave and he crawled inside. Soon he followed the dark winding passage to the heart of the barrow. He saw the heap of gold and the coils of the sleeping dragon. The man was afraid, but he wanted to please his master, so he reached out and stole a gold drinking cup. He would give it to his master as a present to soften his anger. The dragon stirred in its sleep – it sensed something was wrong – and the man crept away quickly. He fled down the slope to his master and his home.

When the dragon awoke it knew its treasure had been touched, that the gold cup was gone.

Beowulf for Beginners

And from The Hobbit:

His rage passes description – the sort of rage that is only seen when rich folk that have more than they can enjoy suddenly lose something that they have long had but have never before used or wanted.

— The Hobbit, J.R.R Tolkien

This transition is  seamless, but the similarities continue. I do not want to quote the full stories side-by-side here. Listen/Read them for yourself and you too will no doubt see the uncanny resemblance. Just when I was beginning to believe that nearly every modern story was stolen from Tolkien, I learn that he was not a Pure Original, either.

The Artist is Dead. Long Live the Artist.

The Internet is not a Sentient Being

The Internet is not a Sentient Being,
try though we might to make it so.

Granted billions of connections,
each cell backed by human will,
with its own demanded tap
into the capillaried web

(be it ‘lectron driven copper,
or dim fiber-optic light
or whatever else comes next
out from the technologic night)

the sum of these collective wills
might add up to One That Lives

and must survive,
that will defend itself,
and thrive,
and grow,
and multiply.

But not with merely borrowed will,
or so we vainly hope,
for who could teach a monster,
that neither thinks, nor breathes, nor feels,

the banquet of Survival feeds us,
Life and Death our meals.