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The Art of Poetry

by John Lars Zwerenz

Since the days of Sappho in ancient Greece, and long before, the rhyming word has functioned as a primary means of artistic expression for the human family. Indeed, passages of The Bible are clearly poetic in structure and tone, such as King Solomon's Song of Songs which praises the beauties and the virtues of romantic love. Poetry, or rhyme, at its best is an effluent stream of verbal music which exposes the reader to uncommon vistas, to powerful emotional and mental states, and ideally to ultimate beatitude. The poet dips into his well of visions, empirical narratives, and mystical states in order to create for the sake of his audience new ways of seeing and comprehending.

The focal point of most poets over the centuries has been to capture the physical, ethereal and spiritual beauties of life through the use of carefully crafted words, words which flow and usually constitute rhyming stanzas. Meaning has often been conveyed through verse, yet the importance of expressing beatitude, the beauty of love, of God, of nature, of men and women, of the human race, has been the most sought-after crown of achievement in the realm of poetry since the days of Chaucer, to Shakespeare, throughout the ages, and into the 21st century.

And beauty is almost always entwined with ardor and love, in life as well as in verse. As the beloved says of her lover in The Song of Songs: "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine." This is a simple but sweet phrasing of inner feeling and emotion which has been repeated in many similar expressions of romantic love by so many lauded bards. Edgar Allan Poe was no stranger to the profundity of love and its incomparable depths when he wrote his famous "Annabel Lee". Nor was Lord Byron when he wrote his legendary "She Walks In Beauty."

The Victorian poets in both England and The United States were obsessed with the link between love, truth, and beauty. This combination indeed was their approach to discovering objective truths about the nature of existence. John Keats illustrated this poetic pursuit well when he wrote: "Truth is beauty, and beauty is truth." It was at this time, in the 19th century, in France as well, after the period now termed as "The Enlightenment" faded into disillusion that beauty was once again thought to be a gift of God, as it was in The Middle Ages, rather than the result of purely human reasoning and perception.

Conveying meaning without music in verse is like drinking wine without experiencing the cooling, refreshing streams which should always accompany words of wisdom, or simply words of expression. And ultimately, it is the beautiful element of the eternal that is sought after in the poet's most inspired lines. Edgar Allan Poe brings all of these essential poetic qualities together quite remarkably when he says of his deceased loved one at the end of his "To One In Paradise" - When he writes:

"And all my days are trances,

And all my nightly dreams,

Are where thy dark eye glances,

And where thy footstep gleams,

In what ethereal dances -

By what eternal streams!"