Collected Poems of Robert P. Tristram Coffin

Collected Poems of Robert P. Tristram Coffin

Collected Poems of Robert P. Tristram Coffin

Collected Poems of Robert P. Tristram Coffin

Excerpt

The Elizabethan poet thought and felt in whole designs. He loved the round, vast subjects: death and time and the sufficiency of man. Being a poet meant, to him, being a trafficker in universals. Universals often seem archaic today. The Elizabethan sureness and richness are gone from the world. Yet I think there is still the possibility of a poet's being a reaffirmer of life and a believer in certain compact and lasting fundamental patterns that it is the salvation of mankind to believe in. In my own poetry I have come to believe in them more and more. So I wish to put down here some very elementary thoughts on the ancient art which I practice as a modern. I run the risk of appearing naïve to some modern critics. But I am willing to take the risk.

If I had to set down in just a few words what I believe poetry to be, I think it would be in some such words as these: Poetry is saying the best one can about life. This best would include metrics, surely, for rhythm in phrases and lines, rhyme, alliteration, and assonance are some of the best things words can possibly say. I discovered this years ago when I found that my own children loved the sound of mediaeval Latin hymns long before they knew much about the English language. This definition of mine would not exclude Oedipus and Macbeth, for pity and sorrow are sometimes the finest things poets can shape out . . .

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