THERE is no doubt that the many people are firmly convinced that they do not care for poetry. They have no use for it, they tell you. Either it bores them, as a fantastic, high-flown method of saying something that, to their way of thinking, could be better said in plain prose, or they look upon it as the sentimental nonsense of the moonstruck, lovesick young; a kind of intellectual “candy.”
There are many who really love poetry without knowing it, many who think they do not care for poetry, — either because they have contracted a wrong notion of what poetry is, or because they have some time or another made a bad start with the wrong kind of poetry.
Poetry is that impassioned arrangement of words which embodies the exaltation, the beauty, the rhythm, and the pathetic truth of life. Human life, in the main, is unconsciously poetical, and moves to immortal measures of a mysterious spiritual music. It is this impassioned exaltation, this strange rhythm, this spiritual beauty, — ” the finer spirit ” of life, — which the poet seizes on, and expresses therewith, also, that pathos which seems to inhere in all created things. We read the poet because he gives that value to life which we feel belongs to it, but for which we are unable to find the words ourselves. Poetry reveals and interprets the varied beauty and nobility of life.
A better way than theorizing to show the “use” — the sweet uses — of poetry is to call up the names of some of the great poets, and ponder what they have meant, and still mean, in the life of humanity, — Dante, Milton, and Wordsworth for example; and to them we might add Tennyson, Browning, Matthew Arnold. And, mention of such names as Goethe, Byron, and Shelley carries with it their tremendous significance in the “practical” life of the world.
The realm of poetry is as wide as the world. But not all poetry is for all readers.The thing is to discover the poetry that is meant for you. One of the best ways of finding poetry that resonates with you is to utilize this resource, Poetry Explorer.
What is the use of poetry? It is just the whole use of living.
- Richard LeGallienne