Negative = Positive: Only If You Want

In his grand return to fiction, Bass (Why I Came West) summons—with a lyrical style befitting his best nature writing—Arkansas and backwoods.

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  • 10 Greatest Poems Ever Written | Society of Classical Poets?
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The relevance of this poem stretches all the way back to the pilgrims fleeing religious persecution in Europe to the controversies surrounding modern immigrants from Mexico and the Middle East. While circumstances today have changed drastically, there is no denying that this open door was part of what made America great once upon a time. I met a traveler from an antique land Who said: Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed: And on the pedestal these words appear: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away. In this winding story within a story within a poem, Shelley paints for us the image of the ruins of a statue of ancient Egyptian king Ozymandias, who is today commonly known as Ramesses II. This king is still regarded as the greatest and most powerful Egyptian pharaoh. The image of a dictator-like king whose kingdom is no more creates a palpable irony.

But, beyond that there is a perennial lesson about the inescapable and destructive forces of time, history, and nature. There are yet more layers of meaning here that elevate this into one of the greatest poems. In terms of lost civilizations that show the ephemeralness of human pursuits, there is no better example than the Egyptians—who we associate with such dazzling monuments as the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid at Giza that stands far taller than the Statue of Liberty —yet who completely lost their spectacular language, culture, and civilization.

If all ordinary pursuits, such as power and fame, are but dust, what remains, the poem suggests, are spirituality and morality—embodied by the ancient Hebrew faith. What men or gods are these? What struggle to escape? What pipes and timbrels? Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare; Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve; She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! Who are these coming to the sacrifice? What little town by river or sea shore, Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel, Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn? The art on the Grecian urn—which is basically a decorative pot from ancient Greece—has survived for thousands of years. While empires rose and fell, the Grecian urn survived.

Musicians, trees, lovers, heifers, and priests all continue dying decade after decade and century after century, but their artistic depictions on the Grecian urn live on for what seems eternity. This realization about the timeless nature of art is not new now nor was it in the s, but Keats has chosen a perfect example since ancient Greek civilization so famously disappeared into the ages, being subsumed by the Romans, and mostly lost until the Renaissance a thousand years later.

Further, what is depicted on the Grecian urn is a variety of life that makes the otherwise cold urn feel alive and vibrant. Indeed, the last two lines can be read as the urn itself talking: Thus, we can escape ignorance, humanness, and certain death and approach another form of life and truth through the beauty of art. This effectively completes the thought that began in Ozymandias and makes this a great poem one notch up from its predecessor. Tiger Tiger, burning bright, In the forests of the night; What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies. Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand, dare seize the fire? And what shoulder, and what art, Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee? Tiger Tiger burning bright, In the forests of the night: What immortal hand or eye, Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? This poem contemplates a question arising from the idea of creation by an intelligent creator.

The question is this: If there is a loving, compassionate God or gods who created human beings and whose great powers exceed the comprehension of human beings, as many major religions hold, then why would such a powerful being allow evil into the world. Evil here is represented by a tiger that might, should you be strolling in the Indian or African wild in the s, have leapt out and killed you. What would have created such a dangerous and evil creature?

Everything you need to write a poem (and how it can save a life) - Daniel Tysdal - TEDxUTSC

To put it another way, why would such a divine blacksmith create beautiful innocent children and then also allow such children to be slaughtered. The battery of questions brings this mystery to life with lavish intensity. Does Blake offer an answer to this question of evil from a good God? It would seem not on the surface. The answer comes in the way that Blake explains the question.

This indirectly tells us that the reality that we ordinarily know and perceive is really insufficient, shallow, and deceptive. Where we perceive the injustice of the wild tiger something else entirely may be transpiring. What we ordinarily take for truth may really be far from it: Thus, this poem is great because it concisely and compellingly presents a question that still plagues humanity today, as well as a key clue to the answer.

But Patience, to prevent That murmur, soon replies: They also serve who only stand and wait. His eyesight gradually worsened and he became totally blind at the age of To put it simply, Milton rose to the highest position an English writer might at the time and then sank all the way down to a state of being unable read or write on his own. The genius of this poem comes in the way that Milton transcends the misery he feels. First, he frames himself, not as an individual suffering or lonely, but as a failed servant to the Creator: While Milton is disabled, God here is enabled through imagery of a king commanding thousands.

This celestial monarch, his ministers and troops, and his kingdom itself are invisible to human eyes anyway, so already Milton has subtly undone much of his failing by subverting the necessity for human vision. This grand mission from heaven may be as simple as standing and waiting, having patience, and understanding the order of the universe. Thus, this is a great poem because Milton has not only dispelled sadness over a major shortcoming in life but also shown how the shortcoming is itself imbued with an extraordinary and uplifting purpose.

Tell me not, in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream! For the soul is dead that slumbers, And things are not what they seem. And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul. Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, Is our destined end or way; But to act, that each tomorrow Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting, And our hearts, though stout and brave, Still, like muffled drums, are beating Funeral marches to the grave. Be a hero in the strife! Let the dead Past bury its dead! Act,—act in the living Present! Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time;—.

Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait. In this nine-stanza poem, the first six stanzas are rather vague since each stanza seems to begin a new thought. Instead, the emphasis here is on a feeling rather than a rational train of thought. Longfellow lived when the Industrial Revolution was in high gear and the ideals of science, rationality, and reason flourished. From this perspective, the fact that the first six stanzas do not follow a rational train of thought makes perfect sense.

The last three stanzas—which, having broken free from science by this point in the poem, read more smoothly—suggest that this acting for lofty purposes can lead to greatness and can help our fellow man. We might think of the entire poem as a clarion call to do great things, however insignificant they may seem in the present and on the empirically observable surface. That may mean writing a poem and entering it into a poetry contest, when you know the chances of your poem winning are very small; risking your life for something you believe in when you know it is not popular or it is misunderstood; or volunteering for a cause that, although it may seem hopeless, you feel is truly important.

Thus, the greatness of this poem lies in its ability to so clearly prescribe a method for greatness in our modern world. Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the milky way, They stretched in never-ending line Along the margin of a bay: Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. The waves beside them danced; but they Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: A poet could not but be gay, In such a jocund company: I gazed—and gazed—but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought:.

For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils. First, the poem comes at a time when the Western world is industrializing and man feels spiritually lonely in the face of an increasingly godless worldview. The daffodils then become more than nature; they become a companion and a source of personal joy. Second, the very simplicity itself of enjoying nature—flowers, trees, the sea, the sky, the mountains etc. Any common reader can easily get this poem, as easily as her or she might enjoy a walk around a lake.

Third, Wordsworth has subtly put forward more than just an ode to nature here. This, coupled with the language and topic of the poem, which are both relatively accessible to the common man, make for a great poem that demonstrates the all-encompassing and accessible nature of beauty and its associates, truth and bliss. One short sleep past, we wake eternally And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Death is a perennial subject of fear and despair. But, this sonnet seems to say that it need not be this way. First, sleep, which is the closest human experience to death, is actually quite nice. Second, all great people die sooner or later and the process of death could be viewed as joining them. Third, Death is under the command of higher authorities such as fate, which controls accidents, and kings, who wage wars; from this perspective, Death seems no more than a pawn in a larger chess game within the universe.

10 Beautiful Poems About Death

Fourth, Death must associate with some unsavory characters: They must make unpleasant coworkers! You can almost see Donne laughing as he wrote this. The sixth, most compelling, and most serious reason is that if one truly believes in a soul then Death is really nothing to worry about. Further, this poem is so great because of its universal application. Fear of death is so natural an instinct and Death itself so all-encompassing and inescapable for people, that the spirit of this poem and applicability of it extends to almost any fear or weakness of character that one might have.

Thus, Donne leaves a powerful lesson to learn from: Thou art more lovely and more temperate: How then could this possibly be number one? After the bad taste of an old flavor to a modern tongue wears off, we realize that this is the very best of poetry. This is not pompous because Shakespeare actually achieves greatness and creates an eternal poem. It is okay to recognize poetry as great if it is great and it is okay to recognize an artistic hierarchy. In fact, it is absolutely necessary in educating, guiding, and leading others. The unabashed praise for someone without a hint as to even the gender or accomplishments of the person is not irrational or sycophantic.

It is a pure and simple way of approaching our relationships with other people, assuming the best. It is a happier way to live—immediately free from the depression, stress, and cynicism that creeps into our hearts. Thus, this poem is strikingly and refreshingly bold, profound, and uplifting. He wields such sublime power that he is unmoved and can instead offer remedy, his verse, at will to those he sees befitting. What an interesting enterprise, Evan? I have always loved lists. Thank you for taking the time to write out all of these insightful analyses. I believe it was something as blunt and as brazen as this: While my list may be different than yours I probably would add a Yeats and Millay or a Hardy , it would obviously be difficult to bench any of the all-stars you have in your present lineup.

What would make it easier, or more amenable to more great poems being subsumed in more lists, would be to narrow the scope of the lists. For what constitutes a poem? We are obviously excluding Epics. I have invariably been drawn to your brazenness though.

You know how to get a crowd into it…. I mention at the beginning that it is only short poems, not longer works or excerpts of longer works, so epics are out. If you want to make a top ten or five? I am contemplating one on war poems again, short poems, not epics or excerpts. This was the time of the Wild West and Manifest Destiny the pitfalls in expansion can be seen in Little House on the Prairie and that was 40 years later.

Doing things by the numbers would not have meant a healthy, expanding U. This also fits in with the recurring war theme since enlisting is a similarly risky proposition. Arabic poetry is the best in history, it has far more words for description and it has deep meanings. It was my first time reading the poem and I thought it meant the mournfully high number of people who say such things.

We may be reading too much into it. If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: In the words of Auden: I love this series of the ten best.

America, the land where the dead came back and were welcomed to life? In this data-rich period of the last years, we have seen myriads of lists composed, the top 10 vehicles of the last fifty years, the top 40 songs of the week, the top contributers to humanity of the last years, the richest people in the World this year, and so forth.

It is a way for us in mass society to make sense of all the information that comes our way. Another reason for compiling such lists is that it clarifies our own visions, artistic, scientific, philosophical, etc. However, all lists are at best provisional.

They are works in progress. The most popular meme this week might not be the most popular meme next week. Our favourite cuisine this season may not be our favourite the next.


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In fact, we are creatures of change. We thrive on variety. So it should not come as a surprise to anyone that even our own lists will alter over time. Evan Mantyk has done us a great service in posting his list of the 10 Greatest Poems Ever Written, not because he was right after all, who could be right?

De gustibus non est disputandum. Mantyk knows, by emphasizing poems of 50 lines or less not his exact requirement, but his example , one must exclude epics, poetic plays, narrative poems, dramatic monologues, didactic verse essays, satires and epistles, etc. One of the paradoxes of making a list of the greatest short poems ever written is in attributing greatness to the smaller works, when the very meaning of greatness implies a largeness of expanse, of vision, etc. Even he, I suspect, will change his list over time.

Here is his list. Daffodils William Wordsworth 4. On His Blindness John Milton 6. The Tyger William Blake 7. Ode on a Grecian Urn John Keats 8. Ozymandias Percy Bysshe Shelley 9. The New Colossus Emma Lazarus The Road Not Taken Robert Frost What is remarkable about his list is its specificity and his analyses, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. As I read his list, however, I kept thinking, but what about this poem, or that poem? Other Shakespearean sonnets are also in competition with Sonnet Sonnet for me has always had a special place, because in its delivery, Shakespeare even goes so far as to suggest that if true love does not exist, then he never wrote a thing.

It is the Shakespearean sonnet that most moves me, so much so I recited it at the wedding of my college roommate many years ago. This shows one of the pitfalls of poetic placement; various poems may suggest more to us than others because of our own particular circumstances.

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One more example will suffice. What appeals to me in that sonnet is its unusual vantage point, its precision, the use of particular words, like steep, and its terse landscaping. Death thou shalt die. But for me, the John Donne poem that takes my breath away is A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, with its extraordinary conceit of love with a mathematical compass. It is a linguistic tour de force that sweeps me away with its idealism, its learning, and its paradoxically intricate simplicity.

For me, nothing like it in English poetry reaches such a refined, intellectual brilliance; and for a long time, it has seemed a worthy paradigm to emulate in my poetry. I agree with Reid McGrath that it would be difficult to bench any of the all-stars Mr. Edwards and the Spider, etc. And other poems come to mind: And Ezra Pound and T.

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O the bleeding drops of red, Where on the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead. This arm beneath your head! But I with mournful tread, Walk the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead. Critics such as Harold Bloom have suggested the Tyger is actually a gentle, playful creature. It is seen in his carvings as a smiling, toy-like beast. There was an error in Romantic literature that Satan was the hero of Paradise Lost but contemporary analysis suggests Adam is the hero, with Satan as an antihero. I had a lot of feelings.

Legaspi Somewhere someone rises …. Wright Whether or not the water was freezing. Cummings somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond…. The city is peopled… " Of Love: It is one of the " Five Classics " traditionally said to have been compiled by Confucius , and has been studied and memorized by scholars in China and neighboring countries over two millennia.

It is also a rich source of chengyu four-character classical idioms that are still a part of learned discourse and even everyday language in modern Chinese. Since the Qing dynasty , its rhyme patterns have also been analysed in the study of Old Chinese phonology. Early references refer to the anthology as the Poems shi. The Classic of Poetry contains the oldest chronologically authenticated Chinese poems. A final section of 5 "Eulogies of Shang" purports to be ritual songs of the Shang dynasty as handed down by their descendents in the state of Song , but is generally considered quite late in date.

The content of the Poetry can be divided into two main sections: Most of the poems were used by the aristocracies to pray for good harvests each year, worship gods, and venerate their ancestors.

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The author of "Major Court Hymns" are nobilities who were dissatisfied with the political reality. Therefore, they wrote poems not only related to the feast, worship, and epic but also to reflect the public feelings. Whatever the origin of the various Shijing poems as folk songs or not, they "all seem to have passed through the hands of men of letters at the royal Zhou court". All but six of the "Eulogies" consist of a single stanza, and the "Court Hymns" exhibit wide variation in the number of stanzas and their lengths.

Almost all of the "Airs", however, consist of three stanzas, with four-line stanzas being most common.

10 Greatest Poems Ever Written

Often the first or third lines would rhyme with these, or with each other. One of the characteristics of the poems in the Classic of Poetry is that they tend to possess "elements of repetition and variation". The works in the Classic of Poetry vary in their lyrical qualities, which relates to the musical accompaniment with which they were in their early days performed.

The songs from the "Hymns" and "Eulogies", which are the oldest material in the Poetry , were performed to slow, heavy accompaniment from bells, drums, and stone chimes. Nearly all of the songs in the Poetry are rhyming, with end rhyme, as well as frequent internal rhyming. The second and third stanzas still rhyme in Standard Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese , with the rhyme words even having the same tone, but the first stanza does not rhyme in Middle Chinese or any modern variety.

Such cases were attributed to lax rhyming practice until the late- Ming dynasty scholar Chen Di argued that the original rhymes had been obscured by sound change. Since Chen, scholars have analyzed the rhyming patterns of the Poetry as crucial evidence for the reconstruction of Old Chinese phonology.