A Few Plain Thoughts on Poetry

A Few Plain Thoughts on Poetry


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An essay first published in the March 1837 issue of “The Knickerbocker” magazine in which the virtues and value of poetry are lauded in a most elegant style. Says the “Knickerbocker” writer:

Take from us the belief in a future existence, and Poetry is shorn of her beams; but let her discuss those subjects connected with our immortal destiny, and she assumes an appearance of inexpressible glory; she strips us for a time of our earthly garments, that we may follow her to the pure river of life, and like the repentant tear which the Peri conveyed to the angel, removes the crystal bar which binds the gates of paradise.

And also:

Poetry is the appropriate handmaid of Religion; and says Wolfe: ‘The homage of Voltaire to the muse’s piety remains a bright memorial of her allegiance to Christianity.’ When the powers of hell seemed for a time to prevail, and his principles had given a shock to the faith of Europe, the daring blasphemer ventured to approach the dramatic muse; but no inspiration would she vouchsafe to dignify the sentiments of impiety and atheism. He found that no impassioned emotion could be roused—no tragic interest excited—no generous and lofty feeling called into action, where those dark and chilling feelings pervade.

Of course this assumes that all could write poetry. Yes, if only I were a good poet and not merely a mediocre hack in that department. Well, I will not judge myself too harshly. The forms of poetry may be good or bad. It is the divine thought or the hissing snake that makes the difference, as one might imagine.