The necessary rose

The necessary rose

What Wallace took
           from Emerson
that the beautiful rests
           on the foundations
of the necessary
           the poet’s fidelity
to his office
           to the announcement
and affirmation
           of the beauty of things

All form is an effect
           of character
all condition
           of the quality of life
The soul is the form
           that makes the body
: the beauty of a rose
           is not arbitrary
it is the embodiment
           of a truth and only as such
does it enter our spiritual world
           and love is the higher beauty
to which our human souls
           necessarily aspire

John Lyons

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson

He who in his later years 
           attended Longfellow’s funeral
and muttered : « That gentleman
           was a sweet beautiful soul
but I have entirely forgotten
           his name »

He who at the age of thirty
           had called on Coleridge
in Highgate and described him
           as a short stout old man
with bright blue eyes
           and a fine clear complexion
and noted his addiction to snuff
           of which during the visit
he partook freely
           presently soiling
his cravat
           and his neat black suit

The poet is the sayer
           the namer of things
without impediment

A poem by one who knows
           and tells with thoughts
passionate and alive
           so that its spirit
has an architecture
           of its own

John Lyons

 

Observations

Observations

The shadow of this world
           felt and lived
by the palpable soul
           by the other me
that lies deep within

vocal with speech
           the energies of action
and the energies of thought
           experience transformed
into eloquence and wisdom
           at least that is the desire
all fear dissipated
           fear of being oneself

life moments culled from the air
           by the angel of wisdom
thoughts of the mind
           raised and transfigured
truth incorruptible
           the ebb and flow of the sea
desire and satisfaction
           day and night
all nature in undulation
           from mulberry leaf
to the finest silk

thought is function
           character above intellect
to observe the demands
           of our task
to catalogue the stars
           of the human mind

John Lyons

Out of Emerson

 

Out of Emerson

Poetry repairs the decay of things
: the filaments of the flower

stand proud for all time
in the words of the poem

which creates a new self
standing apart from the poet

a ripeness of thought and feeling
detached and fearless and sleepless

and deathless that becomes fixed
in the heart of the reader

a clamorous song with a melody
that steeply ascends and leaps

in rough odes or seamless sonnets
that pierce into the ageless infinite

John Lyons

Ralph Waldo Emerson – The Poet

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the seminal essays on the central role of poetry in society was written by the American poet and lecturer, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882). In his essay, entitled simply “The Poet,” and published in 1844, Emerson passionately defends not only the poet’s artistic vocation but places poetry at the heart of cultural life. His central thesis is that human society is incomplete if it lacks cultural expression: “For all men live by truth, and stand in need of expression.” Man is only half himself, the other half is his expression; words are actions, actions are words!

By extrapolation, Emerson’s arguments can be applied to all forms of artistic expression including music, theatre and the plastic arts. The artist is representative not of his individual wealth but of the commonwealth. Below, is an edited extract from Emerson’s essay, the complete text of which can be accessed at http://www.bartleby.com/5/110.html. It follows from this that poetry, and the arts in general, should be central to the curriculum of young people and should be given pride of place in our schools.


The poet (an adapted extract)

The poet is the sayer
           the namer
and represents beauty
           He is a sovereign
and stands at the centre

For the world is not painted
           or adorned
but is from the beginning
           beautiful
Beauty is the creator of the universe
           Criticism is infested with a cant
of materialism which assumes
           that manual skill and activity
is the first merit of all men
           and disparages such
as say and do not
           overlooking the fact
that some – namely poets –
           are natural sayers
sent into the world to express

The poet does not wait
           for the hero or the sage
but as they act and think primarily
           so the poet writes primarily
what will and must be spoken

For poetry was all written
           before time was
and whenever we are so finely organized
           that we can penetrate
into that region
           where the air is music
we hear those primal warblings

Poets of more delicate ear
           write down these cadences
and these transcripts though imperfect
           become the songs of nations
For nature is as truly beautiful
           as it is good or as it is reasonable
and must as much appear
           as it must be done or be known

Words and deeds
           are quite indifferent modes
of universal energy
           Words are also actions
and actions are a kind of words

Ralph Waldo Emerson