Monday, September 13, 2010


Been reading about Ted Hughes and Willie Yeats all evening. A common thread between them—and just about everyone who loves poetry, I suppose—was (and is) Shelley.

Matthew Arnold called him "a beautiful but ineffectual angel"—the latter judgement obviously erroneous, yet interesting mainly for being an early example of the resentfulness of the tin-eared, cloaked in the comforting illusion of intellectual superiority.

Shelley's reputation has been rehabilitated these past years, though his truly complete poems remain difficult to find, and I wonder sometimes how many sufficiently appreciate his genius, and legacy. The mention of his name is enough to quicken my pulse; yet above all, to me he is a poet not only of uncommon music and power, but of great light.

As I am among the Northern Tundra, nearing the brink of winter, here is a verse I will hold closely, the next few months—from Ode to the West Wind:

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened Earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind

(alas, good Shelley never lived in Michigan—good thing for poetry, else these ecstatic verses may not have been conceived)

(just kidding, of course)

(sort of)

No comments:

Post a Comment