Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Literature, Poetry, and Books

The Music

I was reading into Roger Rosenblatt's slight volume, "Unless It Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing," thinking it is never to late to learn.  Anyway, there are some good passages in the book, but the best, by far, is the following, from a chapter entitled, "A Fine Frenzy":

There is also something less threatening about poetry.  It seems to be conjured up and conceived in a space so removed from the world that the world, however admiring of it, does not take it seriously.  Thomas Hardy said that if Galileo had announced in a poem that the earth moved, the Inquisition might have let him be.  And yet poems of the ages go on and on, differentiated from prose by an ethereal quality derived from elliptical thought and their deliberate avoidance of understanding.  A poem should be at once clear and mystifying--in Shelley's terms, "the words which express what they understand not."  Prose, on the other hand, strives to be understood, especially in its own time, which accounts for both its strength and its weakness.  In that same poem, "Preface," in which Milosz conceded the power of prose, he said nonetheless that "novels and essays serve but will not last," as compared to the weight of "one clear stanza."  It may be that poetry is favored by my students, including those who do not write it or intend to, because it seems like history's protectorate, kept safe for no other reason than its aim of beauty.  In ancient Ireland, poets were called The Music.  When one king would attack another, he instructed his soldiers to slaughter everyone in the enemy camp, including the opposing king.  But not The Music.  Everyone but The Music.  Because he was The Music.

Discussions - 1 Comment

Cool. Although I'd add that some features of classic epigram-based prose, such as you find in Pascal, can obtain a staying power similar to, if not as potent as, poetry.

And over at Postmodern Conservative, I've begun a new series about the most prominent "The Music" of our time, the rock starts.

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