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Ars Poetica Written By Archibald Macleish English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1022 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In the first paragraph, Macleish talks about how a poem should be “palpable and mute”(line 1). This means that poetry should be felt, and therefore is direct and should be able to engage readers. The poet uses many examples of imagery in this poem to be able to convey his idea about poetry. In the second paragraph, he talks about how poetry should be “dumb as old medallions to the thumb”(lines 3 and 4). In this line, the word “dumb” refers to silence, which again means that poetry should be silent, yet be able to communicate with readers. This is a constant theme throughout the poem, especially in the first three paragraphs. The reference to the senses is also evident, when the writer says “old medallions to the thumb”, as this refers to the sense of touch.

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“A poem should be wordless, as the flight of birds”(lines 7 and 8). The poet uses the image of a flock of birds flying to be able to convey his point about the tranquility of poetry. This image completely describes poetry, as it talks about how a flock of birds communicate but are silent as well. According to the poet, this is exactly how poetry should be.

The poem then begins to talk about how poetry should be “motionless in time”. The poet uses the image of the moon rotating around the earth, saying that the motion of the moon is not evident, even though it moves. According to the poet, poetry should be similar, in a way that it should be timeless, and therefore the meaning of any sort of poetry should not change as it is read over time.

In lines 11 and 12, he says “Leaving, as the moon releases Twig by twig the night-entangled trees”. These lines bring a lot of emotion to the poem, as it talks about the image of the moon rising up. The poet deliberately repeats the lines “A poem should be motionless in time, as the moon climbs”. This is so that the poet can emphasize his point about how the meaning and assumption of different poems should be the same every time a reader reads a particular poem.

The last few paragraphs of the poem begin with the lines “A poem should be equal to: Not true.” This, to me, means that poetry should only be considered with various emotion and senses, such as joy or sorrow, rather than basic facts.

At the end of the poem, the poet goes into emotions with images such as “an empty doorway”, describing grief, and “the leaning grasses and two lights above the sea”, which talks about love. The poem ends with the lines “A poem should not mean, But be”. These lines try to summarize the poet’s idea about how poetry should be interpreted. It means that poetry should not consider meaning, but should rather try to engage readers by expressing emotion.

In the article “Ars Poetica” and the Teacher, the writer, Victor P. Staudt’s interpretation is similar. He says, “The implication of the lines themselves he takes to be a condemnation of any attempt to “explain” or to “seek meaning” in a poem”. This shows the writer’s interpretation of this poem is that poetry should be wordless but with some particular meaning, as well as “a series of concrete images”. He also says “meaning” is not the quality of the poem, but is the poem” and “A poem does not possess the quality of Truth- a poem is Truth”. These lines support the idea that the meaning of poetry does not change very much as it is read over time.

Similarly, the poem “The old pond”, by Matsuo Basho also talks about aspects about poetry and how poetry is. This poem focuses more on the fact that there isn’t one correct literal translation between different languages. This basically means that there can be different interpretations to the same poem when it is translated into another language.

“The old pond” is a poem that was translated from Japanese to English by many different poets, with many different meanings to each translation, though each translation has a similar theme. This poem talks about silence and involves a sudden instant where there is calm and peace, just before “a frog jumps in”(line 2). A Haiku tries to express one single moment of any sort of emotion or feeling, and in this particular Haiku, there is one moment of noise from the water when the frog jumps into the pond. This ‘moment’ is described using the image and sound of a splash in the pond, and the use of this image complements the image of a calm old pond that gave a sense of tranquility just before the splash.

Both poets use extensive imagery to describe or explain their thoughts, and both use the theme of silence and a lot of emotion to be able to express their ideas.

In contrast to the poem Ars Poetica, however, The old pond focuses more about how the meanings of different poems might be different depending on the readers perspective on the poem, whereas in Ars Poetica, the poet tries to express what he thinks poetry should be.

In the article “Imagism; the New Poetry Forty Years Later”, the writer, Don Geiger, talks about imagery and the use of imagery in poetry since 1917. He says “Most of their poems tended to be pictorial and non-dramatic in character, a kind of imaginative reporting of objects, so that for a time it appeared that they had made a compact to split the world of poetic possibilities with another famous school”. This talks about the fact that imagery was used a lot in poetry during the time of Archibald Macleish and Matsuo Basho. Both writers incorporated such images into their poems. These images allow readers to be able to visualize the idea behind any particular poem.

In conclusion, each poet uses their own ideas about poetry, even though both poets use a similar theme of silence. Both poems involve a lot of emotion and the use of imagery to be able to express their opinions about poetry.


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