Poetry is a concentrated excess of language. Concentrated, because it always means more than it says. Excessive, because it always says more than it needs to say, because in many cases it need not be said at all.
Concentration: "The Lord is my shepherd" is a simple declarative sentence, but it unlatches a window on an alternative world, in which God is a shepherd, men are sheep, lives are pathways, providential discipline is a rod, and so forth.
Excess: Andrew Marvell could have said: "It's late, and we're going to die, so let's make love now." What he said was, "Had we but world enough and time,/this coyness, Lady, were no crime," and then went on to speak of the Ganges, the conversion of the Jews, worms and decaying corpses, and the cherubic (or Apollonian) chariot of time pressing close.
No wonder God chose to write so much of his own book in poetry.
Monday, July 26, 2010
From the Quodlibet section of the July/August issue of Touchstone (by Peter Leithart):