Forerunner

Forerunner

‘Forerunner’ originally meant those who ran ahead of a royal progress to mark with white chalk the doors of houses to be requisitioned for the royal entourage.  In his poem ‘The Forerunners’, George Herbert (1593-1633) uses this meaning as a...
A poet on poetry

A poet on poetry

A surprising combination of qualities to look for in fine poetry (and other writing). Hard to think of poetry which comes closer to embodying all three than the meticulous, mysterious and fresh-voiced verse of George Herbert. ‘The three qualities I admire in the...
Behither

Behither

An old word for ‘barring’ or ‘short of’ or ‘save’, used in George Herbert’s poem ‘Holy Baptism (II)’: ‘Let me be soft and supple to thy will, / Small to my self, to others mild, / Behither ill.’  ...
Ever-present goodness

Ever-present goodness

Sir Philip Sidney suggests that poetry can ease the pain of our ‘death-dealing sins’ by providing the consolation of ‘never-leaving goodness’, which I’ve chosen to call ‘ever-present’. In any case, it can provide us with...
All-encompassing flow

All-encompassing flow

The cadence of this metaphor has the abundance and freshness of clear, flowing water. It likens Virgil, whom Dante views as the poet who taught him how to write, to multiple sources of inspiration: spring, well, fountain and river. This liquid idea cascades naturally...
Of facts and poetry

Of facts and poetry

Having also tried various neat distinctions which inevitably crumble in the face of precise examples that don’t fit, I liked Thoreau’s conclusion that a ‘beautiful fact’ can’t easily be excluded from a notebook on poetry. For similar...
Zeus dispenses with practicalities

Zeus dispenses with practicalities

Zeus here neatly rebuffs his daughter Athene’s requests. I like his suitably arch reaction, which puts all supplicants in their petty place, even gorgeous goddesses, allowing the god of gods to just hang out on Olympus undisturbed. ‘Child, I am God, Please do...
Hopelessly insane: Homer fans

Hopelessly insane: Homer fans

Here Christopher Logue highlights the sheer vital durability of Homer and the magnitude of such sustainability, kept alive through a hard core of ‘Unprofessional Ancient Greek Readers’. I don’t know if I qualify, since the UAGR could refer only to...
Instinct with poetry

Instinct with poetry

A fine and subtle way to depict a look which appears to express more than the person looking is capable of feeling. And I’ve always been struck when I come across commonplace proverbs and phrases in their original setting, and see how readily they are used by...
Shorter but longer

Shorter but longer

This pithy summary of the difference between prose and poetry is as much as Orlando gleans from the convoluted accounts of a poet to whom he has opened his home, larder, wine cellar, purse and poetic aspirations, in the hope of some helpful guidance.  Not forthcoming....
The modesty of genius

The modesty of genius

Humility comes through Keats’ letters, though he was also quietly conscious of having something the future would acclaim, even when subjected to scathing reviews (who remembers the reviewers now?). ‘I am three and twenty with little knowledge and middling...
Beautiful thoughts

Beautiful thoughts

When Laurie Lee was starting out in life, and was far from being yet an ‘author’, he had some poems published.  This was the appreciative reaction of his landlord. ‘Is it really you?’ he asked fastidiously.  ‘I wasn’t aware you had such beautiful...
Ugly birds and beautiful plumes

Ugly birds and beautiful plumes

An odd image this.  Gleaming helmets topped with bobbing plumes of beautiful birds can create mirages of battlefield glamour, building the height and perceived power of the warrior.  But vultures feed off dead bodies and have a hungry, predatory look to them.  You...

Pin It on Pinterest