Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Poem

"Then still a purpose enclosing all, and over and beneath all, ever since what might be call’d thought, or the budding of thought, fairly began in my youthful mind, I had had a desire to attempt some worthy record of that entire faith and acceptance to justify the ways of God to man... which is the foundation of moral America... to formulate a poem whose every thought or fact should directly or indirectly be or connive at an implicit belief in the wisdom, health, mystery, beauty of every process, every concrete object, every human or other existence, not only consider’d from the point of view of all, but of each. While I can not understand it or argue it out, I fully believe in a clue and purpose in Nature, entire and several; and that invisible spiritual results, just as real and definite as the visible, eventuate all concrete life and all materialism through Time." - Walt Whitman, fully Walter "Walt" Whitman

"To name an object is to deprive a poem of three-fourths of its pleasure, which consists in a little-by-littler guessing game; the ideal is to suggest." - Stephane Mallarme, born Étienne Mallarmé

"A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape and significance of the universe, helps to extend everyone's knowledge of himself and the world around him." -

"The poem... is a little myth of man's capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see - it is, rather, a light by which we may see - and what we see is life." - Robert Penn Warren

"Life, for all its agonies of despair and loss and guilt, is exciting and beautiful, amusing and artful and endearing, full of liking and love, at times a poem and a high adventure, at times noble and at times very gay; and whatever (if anything) is to come after it--we shall not have this life again." -

"A poem is something sacred. Let no one take it for anything except itself." - José Martí, fully José Julián Martí Pérez

"To make a single poem we need to kill. We must kill many things. Shoot, murder, poison many of the things we love." - Tamura Ryūichi

"A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth." -

"A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape and significance of the universe, helps to extend everyone's knowledge of themselves and the world around them." -

"The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps… so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash, or thunder in." -

"The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it." -

"A poem is never finished, only abandoned." -

"A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape and significance of the universe, helps to extend everyone's knowledge of himself and the world around him." - Dylan Marlais Thomas

"Could Hamlet have been written by a committee, or the Mona Lisa painted by a club? Could the New Testament have been composed as a conference report? Creative ideas do not spring from groups. They spring from individuals. The divine spark leaps from the finger of God to the finger of Adam, whether it takes ultimate shape in a law of physics or a law of the land, a poem or a policy, a sonata or a mechanical computer." - Alfred Whitney Griswold

"A poem should not mean, but be." - Archibald MacLeish

"The noble person tries to create harmony in the human heart by a rediscovery of human nature, and tries to promote music as a means to the perfection of human culture. When such music prevails and the people’s minds are led toward the right ideas and aspirations, we may see the appearance of a great nation. Character is the backbone of our human nature, and music is the flowing of character... The poem gives expression to our heart, the song gives expression to our voice, and the dance gives expression to our movements. these three arts take their rise from the human soul, and then are given further expressions by means of musical instruments." - Confucius, aka Kong Qiu, Zhongni, K'ung Fu-tzu or Kong Fuzi NULL

"The poem is the dream made flesh, in a two-fold sense: a work of art, and as life, which is a work of art." - Henry Miller, aka Henry Valentine Miller

"The great poem and the deep theorem are new to every reader, and yet are his own experiences, because he himself recreates them." - Jacob Bronowski

"The world’s history is a divine poem of which the history of every nation is a canto and every man a word. Its strains have been pealing along down the centuries, and though there have been mingled the discords of warring cannon and dying men, yet to the Christian philosopher and historian - the humble listener - there has been a divine melody running through the song which speaks of hope and halcyon days to come." - James A. Garfield

"He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much: Who has gained the respect of intelligent men, and the love of little children: Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task: Who has left the world better than he has found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem or a rescued soul: Who has never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty or failed to express it: Who has looked for the best in others and given the best he had: Whose life was an inspiration: whose memory is a benediction." - Bessie Anderson Stanley, fully Elizabeth-Anne "Bessie" Anderson Stanley

"The true poem is the poet’s mind." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The only gift is a portion of thyself. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"It should be of the pleasure of a poem itself to tell how it can. The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The figure is the same as for love." - Robert Frost

"Poetry — No definition of poetry is adequate unless it be poetry itself. The most accurate analysis by the rarest wisdom is yet insufficient, and the poet will instantly prove it false by setting aside its requisitions. It is indeed all that we do not know. The poet does not need to see how meadows are something else than earth, grass, and water, but how they are thus much. He does not need discover that potato blows are as beautiful as violets, as the farmer thinks, but only how good potato blows are. The poem is drawn out from under the feet of the poet, his whole weight has rested on this ground. It has a logic more severe than the logician's. You might as well think to go in pursuit of the rainbow, and embrace it on the next hill, as to embrace the whole of poetry even in thought." - Henry David Thoreau, born David Henry Thoreau

"I've noticed a facinating phenomenon in my thiry years of teaching: schools and schooling are increasingly irrelvant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don't really teach anyting except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the instituion overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers to care and do work very, very hard, the instituion is psychopathic -- it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to a different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive from a common ancestor." - John Taylor Gatto

"I know of only one mystical poem that is satisfactorily successful, The Obscure Night of the Soul, by St. John of the Cross. In that amazing poem, what is said counts for almost nothing, but is sublimated into the purposed significance. The artist does not intend to go so far as that, but in seeking an incorruptible unity, he is always something of a mystic. Unlike the mystic, he clings to the world of things, though he transmutes it. He can never say the whole of what he means, but the mystic cannot say at all what he means; for his meaning is something singular and indivisible, something absolute in its inexpressibility. The simple lover in Cyrano can only say "I love you," but the poet Cyrano can say the same thing in a hundred elaborate ways." -

"No man ever raised a monument to a cynic or wrote a poem about a man without faith." - Louis L'Amour, fully Louis Dearborn L'Amour

"The major problem of life is learning how to handle the costly interruptions. The door that slams shut, the plan that got sidetracked, the marriage that failed. Or that lovely poem that didn't get written because someone knocked on the door." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

"A poem should improve on the blank page." - Nicanor Parra, bully Nicanor Parra Sandoval

"A poem is never finished, only abandoned." - Paul Valéry, fully Ambroise-Paul-Toussaint-Jules Valéry

"A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth." - Percy Bysshe Shelley

"History is a cyclic poem written by time upon the memories of man." - Percy Bysshe Shelley

"One day while studying a [William Butler] Yeats poem I decided to write poetry the rest of my life. I recognized that a single short poem has room for history, music, psychology, religious thought, mood, occult speculation, character, and events of one's own life." - Robert Bly

"Every poem is a momentary stay against the confusion of the world. " - Robert Frost

"A Faint Music - Maybe you need to write a poem about grace. When everything broken is broken, and everything dead is dead, and the hero has looked into the mirror with complete contempt, and the heroine has studied her face and its defects remorselessly, and the pain they thought might, as a token of their earnestness, release them from themselves has lost its novelty and not released them, and they have begun to think, kindly and distantly, watching the others go about their days— likes and dislikes, reasons, habits, fears— that self-love is the one weedy stalk of every human blossoming, and understood, therefore, why they had been, all their lives, in such a fury to defend it, and that no one— except some almost inconceivable saint in his pool of poverty and silence—can escape this violent, automatic life’s companion ever, maybe then, ordinary light, faint music under things, a hovering like grace appears. As in the story a friend told once about the time he tried to kill himself. His girl had left him. Bees in the heart, then scorpions, maggots, and then ash. He climbed onto the jumping girder of the bridge, the bay side, a blue, lucid afternoon. And in the salt air he thought about the word “seafood,” that there was something faintly ridiculous about it. No one said “landfood.” He thought it was degrading to the rainbow perch he’d reeled in gleaming from the cliffs, the black rockbass, scales like polished carbon, in beds of kelp along the coast—and he realized that the reason for the word was crabs, or mussels, clams. Otherwise the restaurants could just put “fish” up on their signs, and when he woke—he’d slept for hours, curled up on the girder like a child—the sun was going down and he felt a little better, and afraid. He put on the jacket he’d used for a pillow, climbed over the railing carefully, and drove home to an empty house. There was a pair of her lemon yellow panties hanging on a doorknob. He studied them. Much-washed. A faint russet in the crotch that made him sick with rage and grief. He knew more or less where she was. A flat somewhere on Russian Hill. They’d have just finished making love. She’d have tears in her eyes and touch his jawbone gratefully. “God,” she’d say, “you are so good for me.” Winking lights, a foggy view downhill toward the harbor and the bay. “You’re sad,” he’d say. “Yes.” “Thinking about Nick?” “Yes,” she’d say and cry. “I tried so hard,” sobbing now, “I really tried so hard.” And then he’d hold her for a while— Guatemalan weavings from his fieldwork on the wall— and then they’d fuck again, and she would cry some more, and go to sleep. And he, he would play that scene once only, once and a half, and tell himself that he was going to carry it for a very long time and that there was nothing he could do but carry it. He went out onto the porch, and listened to the forest in the summer dark, madrone bark cracking and curling as the cold came up. It’s not the story though, not the friend leaning toward you, saying “And then I realized—,” which is the part of stories one never quite believes. I had the idea that the world’s so full of pain it must sometimes make a kind of singing. And that the sequence helps, as much as order helps— First an ego, and then pain, and then the singing." - Robert Hass, aka The Bard of Berkeley

"Words, those precious gems of queer shape and gay colours, sharp angles and soft contours, shades of meaning laid one over the other down history, so that for those far back one must delve among the lost and lovely litter that strews the centuries. They arrange themselves in the most elegant odd patterns; the sound the strangest sweet euphonious notes; they flute and sing and taber, and disappear, like apparitions, with a curious perfume and a most melodious twang." - Rose Macauley, fully Dame Emilie Rose Macaulay

"One morning I went to a place beyond the Dawn. A source of sweetness, that always flows, and is never less. I have been shown a Beauty that would confuse both worlds. I won't cause that uproar. I am nothing but a head, set on the ground, as a gift for the Sun." - Rumi, fully Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rumi NULL

"Wash the dust from your Soul and Heart with wisdom’s water." - Rumi, fully Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rumi NULL

"Those who have never had a father can at any rate never know the sweets of losing one. To most men the death of his father is a new lease of life." - Samuel Butler

"Electra weeping for the dead Orestes. If we love God while thinking that he does not exist, he will manifest his existence." - Simone Weil

"A spiritual organization with a hierarchical structure can convey only the consciousness of estrangement, regardless of what teachings or deep inspirations are at its root.The structure itself reinforces the idea that some people are inherently more worthy than others." - Starhawk, born Miriam Simos NULL

"Ecological restoration, allied with the creation of ecosystem-scale wilderness reserves, represents the main hope that the organic quality of wildness may someday be resurrected in human souls and in all life-places on planet Earth." - Stephanie Mills

"For, if a good speaker, never so eloquent, does not see into the fact, and is not speaking the truth of that - is there a more horrid kind of object in creation?" - Thomas Carlyle

"Give me a man who sings at his work." - Thomas Carlyle

"There is no life of a man, faithfully recorded, but is a heroic poem of sort, rhymed or unrhymed." - Thomas Carlyle

"There is often more spiritual force in a proverb than in whole philosophical systems." - Thomas Carlyle

"There is only one real misfortune: to forfeit one's own good opinion of oneself. Lose your complacency, once betray your own self-contempt and the world will unhesitatingly endorse it." - Thomas Mann, fully Paul Thomas Mann

"We had warm, wet weather all spring. Now, white autumn is clear and cold. Dew frozen, drifting mists gone, bottomless heavens open over this vast landscape of clarity, and mountains stretch away, their towering peaks an unearthly treasure of distance. These fragrant woodland chrysanthemums ablaze, green pines lining the clifftops: isn’t this the immaculate heart of beauty, this frost-deepened austerity? Sipping wine, I think of recluse masters. A century away, I nurture your secrets. Your true nature eludes me here, but taken by quiet, I can linger this exquisite moon out to the end." - Ch'ien, fully T'ao Chien or Tao Qian, aka Tao Yuan-ming NULL

"The true gain is always in the struggle, not the prize. What we become must always rank as a far higher question than what we get." - W. J. Dawson. fully William James Dawson

"But thou, lorn stream, whose sullen tide No sedge-crown'd sister now attend, Now waft me from the green hill's side Whose cold turf hides the buried friend!" - William Collins