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September 1, 2003 by AK

Midnight ramblings

A good acquaintance of mine, a highly intelligent, well-educated young man who is a native English speaker and an avid and successful student of a few other languages, once confided to me that he did not understand poetry or find it moving. “As if it were written in a foreign language.” Unless we agree that only our mother tongue can reach to the farthest nooks within, it should remain a paradox.

But even if poetry is as foreign to you as to him, do me a favor and visit Aaron Haspel‘s ‘favorite poem’ post if only to read the comments. Aaron terms Wordsworth “inferior” to Dickinson (and Shelley, to Wordsworth, it seems). ED is incomparable and inimitable, so I wouldn’t apply a prosodic yardstick there. This disposed of, I must admit I am fond of Wordsworth. I suppose so were Coleridge and De Quincey, whose writings I am fond of, too. (Now I have at least one line of defense.)

Four love threads among the warps and wefts of post-antiquity Western culture. The story of love un-shared (Petrarch). The story of love prevented from fulfillment by hindrances far beyond the lovers’ reach (Tristan and Isolde, Eloïse and Abelard, Romeo and Juliet). The death of the beloved one (Wordsworth; Petrarch falls under this category, too, and Poe, into this and the previous one). Finally, love as a fatal spell (La Belle Dame sans Merci). Of course, there are many more examples, and many more story lines.


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