Poetry also exists, of course, in music. Mark Knopfler, of Dire Straights, is one of the most poetic musicians in word and melody I’ve ever heard.
From “Love Over Gold” (one of my favorite albums):
The second of this pair of often-confused poems.
Cruelty has a human heart,
And Jealousy a human face;
Terror the human form divine,
And Secresy the human dress.
The human dress is forged iron,
The human form a fiery forge,
The human face a furnace sealed,
The human heart its hungry gorge.
William Blake has two poems with very similar names, covering very similar subjects (two sides of the same coin), in a very similar structure and rhyme. “The Divine Image” can be construed as the poem that sees the beauty in mankind.
BY WILLIAM BLAKE
To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.
For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.
For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.
Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.
And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.
This touches on religious themes, as many poems from the past do. Nevertheless, the imagery, to me, owes almost as much to Valhalla and astronomy. A fitting introduction to the stories of those who served, and often died.
by Rudyard Kipling
BEYOND the path of the outmost sun through utter darkness hurled-
Farther than ever comet flared or vagrant star-dust swirled-
Live such as fought and sailed and ruled and loved and made our world.
They are purged of pride because they died; they know the worth of their bays;
They sit at wine with the Maidens Nine and the Gods of the Elder Days-
It is their will to serve or be still as fitteth Our Father’s praise.
‘Tis theirs to sweep through the ringing deep where Azrael’s outposts are,
Or buffet a path through the Pit’s red wrath when God goes out to war,
Or hang with the reckless Seraphim on the rein of a red-maned star.
They take their mirth in the joy of the Earth-they dare not grieve for her pain;
They know of toil and the end of toil; they know God’s Law is plain;
So they whistle the Devil to make them sport who know that Sin is vain.
And oft-times cometh our wise Lord God, master of every trade,
And tells them tales of His daily toil, of Edens newly made;
And they rise to their feet as He passes by, gentlemen unafraid.
To these who are cleansed of base Desire, Sorrow and Lust and Shame-
Gods for they knew the hearts of men, men for they stooped to Fame-
Borne on the breath that men call Death, my brother’s spirit came.
He scarce had need to doff his pride or slough the dross of Earth –
E’en as he trod that day to God so walked he from his birth,
In simpleness and gentleness and honour and clean mirth.
So cup to lip in fellowship they gave him welcome high
And made him place at the banquet board-the Strong Men ranged thereby,
Who had done his work and held his peace and had no fear to die
Beyond the loom of the last lone star, through open darkness hurled,
Further than rebel comet dared or hiving star-swarm swirled,
Sits he with those that praise our God for that they served His world.
I first stumbled into the Robert Frost poem because it formed the basis for one of my favorite short Science Fiction stories. The story had posited “what if” faster-than-light travel was actually something most races stumbled into at roughly medieval levels of technology, and we simply never figured it out?
Most cultures went a-hunting across the starry seas, while we developed electronics, missiles, and fighter jets. And then one day, they landed.
Much to their surprise.
A later story in the series posits that we too sat on our laurels of superior technology, and are caught nearly totally unprepared when another race repeats our performance.
One other thing this poem echoes for me: Every decision is final. Consequences, intended or not, are final. You can take the effort to undo, to trace back your steps, but this requires even more work. In the meantime, “way leads on to way”, and there are many, many more choices to make each day.
by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference