Blithe spirit

skylark

Blithe spirit

The poet and the poem
           the eye
and the landscape
           the painter
and the canvas
           are one

the field
           the campus
all over
           streaks and shreds
and flecks of colour
           an alphabet
of shape
           of gesture
all under the same
           heavenly stars

skylarks nest
           on the ground
their young sheltered
           in the dense undergrowth
until their muscles
           are fit enough
to bear them
           high into the air

they herald the dawn
           with an artistry
and complexity of song
           that suggest
true musicianship :
           the bird and the song
and the listener
           are one

John Lyons

To Ithaca and beyond

To Ithaca and beyond

Beware of metaphor
              beware of symbol
beware of slack simile
              that will fill your pages
to no good purpose

No one thing is like another
              and the truth is irreducible
to fragments
              just as love and beauty
are whole
              in and of themselves

Clarity is not a virtue
              it is the cornerstone
a sine qua non :
              the lark that soars
in the summer air
              the nightingale
the thrush that drinks
              from the garden pool—
these are not ciphers
              and they stand for nothing
but themselves
              their lives are their
intrinsic celebration

The beauty of truth
              and the truth of beauty
were what drove Keats
              and Shelley to poetry
the musical phrase
              that sustains the fancy
as they called it

Beware of death
              and those who espouse
death and those who
              condone death and those
who promote death

Pound’s late lament
              that he betrayed Dante
that he tried to make
              a paradiso terrestre
from the very muck
              of civilization
and that he failed
              to disown death

Admission at last
              that the cycle must be reset
that the ship must again
              be hauled down to the shore
to set forth once more
              upon the ungodly sea
so that Helen may be returned
              to her rightful home
and the golden fleece
              to its rightful place

John Lyons

A Defence of Poetry

Percy_Bysshe_Shelley_by_Alfred_Clint_crop
Percy Bysshe Shelley, by Alfred Clint

The British Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) wrote his celebrated essay, A Defence of Poetry, in 1821. It was published posthumously in 1840. It is not difficult to perceive in the tone and content of Shelley’s eloquent and passionate thesis, a reflection of the civic values of the French Revolution (Liberty, Equality and Fraternity) which so fired the imagination of the Romantic poets in England.

In the wake of the terrible atrocities perpetrated in Paris on 13 November, it is important to remain vigilant and to defend the core human, cultural values to which Shelley alludes in his defence of poetry. These universal, life-affirming values are enshrined in the liberties of the great French cultural tradition that has enriched the world’s heritage with timeless works across the whole range of the arts from poetry to painting to music to dance, liberties that should never be surrendered.


A Defence of Poetry (an adapted extract)

Poetry is indeed something divine
        it is the centre and circumference
of knowledge
        it comprehends all science
it is the root and blossom of all
        other systems of thought
it is that from which all spring
        and that which adorns all
and that which if blighted,
        denies the fruit and the seed
and withholds from the barren world
        the nourishment and the succession
of the scions of the tree of life
        It is the perfect and consummate surface
and bloom of all things
        it is as the odour and the colour
of the rose to the texture
        of the elements which compose it
as the form and splendor
        of unfaded beauty to the secrets
of anatomy and corruption
        What were virtue
love     patriotism      friendship
        what were the scenery
of this beautiful universe
        which we inhabit
what were our consolations
        on this side of the grave
and what were our aspirations
        beyond it
if poetry did not ascend
        to bring light and fire
from those eternal regions
        where the owl-winged faculty
of calculation dare not ever soar ?
        Poetry is not like reasoning
a power to be exerted according
        to the determination of the will
A man cannot say
        « I will compose poetry »
the greatest poet even cannot say it
        for the mind in creation
is as a fading coal
        which some invisible influence
like an inconstant wind
        awakens to transitory brightness
this power arises from within
        like the colour of a flower
which fades and changes
        as it is developed
and the conscious portions
        of our natures are unprophetic
either of its approach or its departure

Percy Bysshe Shelley