224

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

A POLEMIC

On the Origins of Post-Modern Criticism

For David Hume

David Hume

(The radical Empiricism of the Endarkenment entails treating the Good as an abstraction, rejecting Truth for fact, and reducing the Beautiful to a subjective response.  Thus it undercuts the docere of Literature, leaving us only with a truncated diligere.  This epistemology applied to Art can only lead to Aestheticism, which inevitably degenerates into Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, and Deconstruction.  Once the actual Values of the Sages have thus been destroyed, they can now be replaced with Marxism, Feminism, Freudianism, or whatever other Ism we wish to impose on Texts left defenseless by the death of Truth.  To get beyond this impasse, we must abandon the skeptical philosophy that produced it as question-begging Nonsense.)

 

That skeptic, David Hume,

Gained philosophic fame

Committing to the fume

Of metaphoric flame

Whole libraries of pages

By metaphysic sages.

 

Unless it could be measured

By his empiric wit,

It never could be treasured,

And so, away with it!

Mere sophistry, illusion,

Divinity ( ! ), confusion.

 

Augustine and Aquinas,

Isaiah, Moses, Paul,

Nothing but a minus;

Better burn them all:

The penalty for treason

Against enlightened “Reason.”

 

Erasmus, Calvin, Luther,

Dante, Milton, Spenser:

What could be uncouther,

More worthy of a censor?

Life seen through the prism

Of rank empiricism.

 

To keep them as purveyors

Of just imagination

Is but to be betrayers

Of all their conversation:

Dead, white, oppressive pigs

For mere aesthetic prigs.

 

Good critics can’t arise

From bad philosophy.

It should be no surprise

That we have come to be

Despisers of the True—

Of Goodness, Beauty, too.

 

If only what the senses

Can see or smell or feel

Is able to convince us

That it is really real,

How’d the sensation grow

That tells us this is so?

 

We’d really like to know.

Dr. Williams being unimpressed by Hume’s arguments.

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

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CXL

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

He who would write traditional poetry in this degenerate age treads a lonely path.  One finds oneself looking for companionship in the past.  At least there one can find actual Poets instead of purveyors of fractured prose!

TO MY PREDECESSORS

Sonnet XLV

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

Their glory has not faded!  Though the years

Have been kind to barbarians, and, worse,

Have yielded to their hands the realm of verse;

Though students cannot scan; though I have fears

That Keats may cease to be read by my peers

Except as an assignment and a curse;

Yet still this melody I will rehearse:

I come to sing the English sonneteers.

Portrait-Milton

Their glory cannot fade!  My tongue repeats

The words with wonder, hour after hour,

Of Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Keats,

Of Wordsworth, Hopkins—tastes within their bower

Rich viands, cates, and soul-sustaining meats:

Each line a world of wit compressed to power.

Hopkins
Hopkins

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

VII

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on “the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

The great abysm of ignorance out of which we have to crawl to become civilized human beings is no less astounding than the almost equally great abysm we still occupy after we have done the crawling of which we are able.  We confront two inescapable but somewhat paradoxical facts:  We are truly capable of learning and knowing real truths, and one of the most important truths we learn (as Socrates realized) is the depth of our ignorance.  Because my love affair with the sonnet is one of the central facts of my poetic history, and because if I skipped only one of them it would appear rather strange, it cannot be hidden:  There was a time when I did not know that fourteen lines of iambic pentameter do not a sonnet make (especially when one of them is trying awfully hard to be tetrameter!).  Nevertheless, the unfortunate title I see in my notebook forces me to admit that I thought this was my first attempt.

SONNET no. I

The clouds are troubled, bubbled, boiling steam,

Scarce a foot above my head, it seems.

And the almost sunlight seems to bestow

Upon the windblown, futile-falling snow

A forlorn sense of loneliness, betrayed

By robust wind, who with his unseen blade

Cuts the clouds asunder to reveal

A fleeting ray of sun that makes me feel

One moment of warmth to contrast with a day

Of all-too-often Indiana chill.

(Don’t think I don’t enjoy the stormy touch

Of wind and cloud and snow upon my soul.

But e’en a healthy man takes just so much

Before he runs the risk of catching cold!)

Several of the earlier poems are certainly more successful, even if we discount the fact that this one fails to be a sonnet—neither Shakespearean nor Petrarchan nor Spenserian.  The archaic “e’en” to make the scansion work is cheating in a modern poem that has no reason or excuse for Elizabethan diction, and the change of tone in the last quatrain is anticlimactic.  I will do better.  I promise.

Donald T. Williams, PhD