If ever two were one, then surely we. If ever man were loved by wife, then thee; If ever wife was happy in a man, Compare with me ye women if you can. I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold, Or all the riches that the East doth hold. My love is such that rivers cannot quench, Nor
poems & poets
Where in the church of the mind,
the mind’s sawn down trees,
where hardwood’s stacked up,
quartered and milled where under the nave
the painting is placed,
in the left-hand side aisle,
the viewpoint from which one approaches the altar
do the putti recover us
poetry: An inexplicable (though not incomprehensible) event in language; an experience through words. Jorge Luis Borges believed that “poetry is something that cannot be defined without oversimplifying it. It would be like attempting to define the color yellow, love, the fall of leaves in autumn.” Even Samuel Johnson maintained, “To circumscribe poetry by a definition will only show the narrowness of the definer.”
Poetry is a human fundamental, like music. It predates literacy and precedes prose in all literatures. There has probably never been a culture without it, yet no one knows precisely what it is. The word poesie entered the English language in the fourteenth century and begat poesy (as in Sidney’s “The Defence of Poesy,” ca. 1582) and posy, a motto in verse. Poetrie (from the Latin poetria) entered fourteenth-century English vocabulary and evolved into our poetry. The Greek word poiesis means “making.” The fact that the oldest term for the poet means
Poetry that speaks to the enduring and irreversible coordinates of human fate—love, striving, fear of pain, hope, the fleeting nature of things, and death-leads us to believe that the poet is one of us, and shares in that fate. "We," the subject of such poetry, is determined neither by nation nor by class. But it would not be quite right to claim that its theme is therefore an eternal human nature, for as our consciousness changes, we humans try to confront ultimate things in new and different ways. In Wislawa Szymborska's poetry the "we" denotes all of us living on this planet now, joined by a common consciousness, a "post-consciousness," post-Copernican, post-Newtonian, post-Darwinian, post-two-World-Wars, post-crimes-and-inventions-of-the-twentieth-century. It is a serious and bold enterprise to venture a diagnosis, that is, to try to say who we are, what we believe in, and what we think.
Szymborska's "I" is an ascetic "I," cleansed not only of the
lament: A poem or song expressing grief. The lament is powered by a personal sense of loss. The poetry of lamentation, which arose in oral literature alongside heroic poetry, seems to exist in all languages and poetries. One finds it, for example, in ancient Egyptian, in Hebrew, in Chinese, in Sanskrit, in Zulu. A profound grief is formalized as mourning, as in Lamentations 2:10:
The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence: they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground.
The poetry of intense grief and mourning, such as the Lamentations of Jeremiah or David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan, has its roots in religious feeling and ritual. The Hebrew Bible is filled with both individual laments (a worshiper cries out to Yahweh in times of need) and communal laments, which mourn a larger national calamity.