Books, Poetry


I thought I’d hunt up a few of my favorite poems in the public domain and post them for you to read. Fortunately, most good poetry is oldish.
I personally don’t like free verse. I once heard someone say that it lead to sloppy thinking. That can be true, but I think it’s more common these days as a sign of sloppy thinking. Most free verse (which contains nearly all poetry written nowadays) is equivalent to incoherent prose minced into irregular lines. Not that all free verse is quite that bad, but that seems to be the main idea. Real poetry, with meter, takes some effort to write. As for rhyme, I prefer it but it’s not necessary. I used to think that blank verse and free verse were the same. Silly me. Anyways, a great deal of the greatest poetry (Just to reel off a few; The Odyssey, The Iliad, the Aeneid, Beowulf) was written in meters that don’t use rhyme.

Apart from all that… you must, must, MUST read this poem. It’s called “All That’s Past”, by Walter de la Mare, and I read it for school recently. It’s one of my favorites. Read it aloud, and reread it often. Poetry should be read aloud as much as possible, actually. It’s possible to get music out of it by mouthing it, but new things seem to appear if you read it aloud.
I can’t leave without mentioning the author. Walter de la Mare compiled a perfectly lovely anthology of poems called “Come Hither”. Don’t be put off by its being a children’s anthology. I have the impression that he had similar ideas as Tolkien on the subject of so-called “children’s literature” (see Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories”, which I highly recommend). It’s superb.

All That’s Past

Very old are the woods;
And the buds that break
Out of the brier’s boughs,
When March winds wake,
So old with their beauty are—
Oh, no man knows
Through what wild centuries
Roves back the rose.
Very old are the brooks;
And the rills that rise
Where snow sleeps cold beneath
The azure skies
Sing such a history
Of come and gone,
Their every drop is as wise
As Solomon.

Very old are we men;
Our dreams are tales
Told in dim Eden
By Eve’s nightingales;
We wake and whisper awhile,
But, the day gone by,
Silence and sleep like fields
Of amaranth lie.


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