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The Poets

April 13, 2010

Kierkegaard Parable: The Poet

What is a poet? An unhappy man who in his heart harbors a deep anguish, but whose lips are so fashioned that the moans and cries which pass over them are transformed into ravishing music. His fate is like that of the unfortunate victims whom the tyrant Phalaris imprisoned in a brazen bull, and slowly tortured over a steady fire; their cries could not reach the tyrant's ears so as to strike terror into his heart; when they reached his ears they sounded like sweet music. And men crowd around the poet and say to him, "Sing for us soon again"—which is as much as to say, "May new sufferings torment your soul, but may your lips be fashioned as before; for the cries would only distress us, but the music, the music, is delightful.

Any thoughts ....

Selected from one of Kierkegaard's more well known works, Either/Or.

8 comments:

evision said...

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John W. May said...

Thanks, evision ... that means a lot! Do you have a blog yourself?

PJ said...

Well... Like any other artist it goes better when they're unhappy. With that said, it doesn't mean that a poet need to be any sort of unhappy to write good. It depends on what the poem is about. Have something good happen in his/her life recently? Then he/she is probely happy and if he/she sits down to write it turns out to be happy poem.

There is more feelings going around when you're feeling bad, though. It's more to write about. And in life most of the people feel bad more then they feel good. I feel good most of the time, but I have just lived 17 years.

John W. May said...

Great explanation ... I agree: sorrow doesn't need to be the catalyzing prinicple for poets to produce good works ... elation and mystical joy are just as potent a cause for poetic creativity as melancholy is. The problem, like you said, is that sorrow is something we humans are all too familiar with, and when we write while in a mode of sorrow it invariably manifests itself in what's produced.

Thanks for the response, PJ.

John W. May said...

Happy birthday, buddy ...

Ruth said...

I was discussing tragedy in drama with another teacher in December. We were chatting about why we deal with such tortured stuff with our kids (in South Africa a play called "Tshepang" is part of the curriculum, and it is about the rape of a baby). Never mind "Oedipus" which they hit in Grade 10. And we decided that we can expose kids to this chilling part of the human psyche because there is beauty and triumph in it, as well as the agony of evil. Then I found this Kierkegaard quote, which sums up everything we said. I love your site!

David C Brown said...

Intriguing. I'm not convinced that this has to be the case. But if I had more poetic anguish would I write better poetry?

Jim said...

Some Frenchman said, "Happiness writes white." End of story.


Jim Irons

As of April 9th, 2010