Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday August 25, 2008

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 3:23 AM
For the Feast of
St. Louis

The concluding paragraph of Erich Heller's 1953 essay, "The Hazard of Modern Poetry"–

"'The poetry does not matter.' These words from Mr. T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets acquire an all but revolutionary significance if we understand them not only in their particular context but also in the context of a period of poetry in which nothing mattered except poetry. Against this background the Four Quartets themselves appear, in all their complexity, as the poetry of simple civic virtue– the poetry of a poet trying to read the writing of the law that has become all but illegible. This, you may say, has nothing to do with poetry. On the contrary, it is one of the few truly hopeful signs that this civic virtue could once more be realized poetically. For in speaking to the hazard of modern poetry I did not wish to suggest that the end had come for singers and skylarks. There will always be skylarks; perhaps even a few nightingales. But poetry is not only the human equivalent of the song of singing birds. It is also Virgil, Dante, and Hölderlin. It is also, in its own terms, the definition of the state of man."

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