Pied Beauty, etc.

Pied Beauty
1           Glory be to God for dappled things—  
2             For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;  
3        For rose-moles in all stipple upon trout that swim;  
4    Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;  
5      Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough:  
6        And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.  
7            All things counter, original, spáre, strange;  
8              Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?)  
9               With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;  
10           He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change:  
11                                            Práise hím.

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1	Orpheus liked the glad personal quality
2	Of the things beneath the sky. Of course, Eurydice was a part
3	Of this. Then one day, everything changed. He rends
4	Rocks into fissures with lament. Gullies, hummocks
5	Can’t withstand it. The sky shudders from one horizon
6	To the other, almost ready to give up wholeness.
7	Then Apollo quietly told him: “Leave it all on earth.
8	Your lute, what point? Why pick at a dull pavan few care to
9	Follow, except a few birds of dusty feather,
10	Not vivid performances of the past.” But why not?
11	All other things must change too.
12	The seasons are no longer what they once were,
13	But it is the nature of things to be seen only once,
14	As they happen along, bumping into other things, getting along
15	Somehow. That’s where Orpheus made his mistakes.
16	Of course Eurydice wanted to vanish into the shade;
17	She would have even if he hadn’t turned around.
18	No use standing there like a gray stone toga as the whole wheel
19	Of recorded history flashes past, struck dumb, unable to utter an intelligent
20	Comment on the most thought-provoking element in its train.
21	Only love stays on the brain, and something these people,
22	These other ones, call life. Singing accurately
23	So that the notes mount straight up out of the well of
24	Dim noon and rival the tiny, sparkling yellow flowers
25	Growing around the brink of the quarry, encapsulates
26	The different weights of the things.
27	                                     But it isn’t enough
28	To just go on singing. Orpheus realized this
29	And didn’t mind so much about his reward being in heaven
30	After the Bacchantes had torn him apart, driven
31	Half out of their minds by his music, what it was doing to them.
32	Some say it was for his treatment of Eurydice.
33	But probably the music had more to do with it, and
34	The way music passes, emblematic
35	Of life and how you cannot isolate a note of it
36	And say it is good or bad. You must
37	Wait till it’s over. “The end crowns all,”
38	Meaning also that the “tableau”
39	Is wrong. For although memories, of a season, for example,
40	That stalled moment. It too is flowing, fleeting;
41	It is a picture of flowing scenery, though living, mortal,
42	Over which an abstract action is laid out in blunt,
43	Harsh strokes. And to ask more than this
44	Is to become the tossing reeds of that slow,
45	Powerful stream, the trailing grasses
46	Playfully tugged at, but to participate in the action
47	No more than this. Then in the lowering gentian sky
48	Electric twitches are faintly apparent first, then burst forth
49	Into a shower of fixed, cream-colored flares. The horses
50	Have each seen a share of the truth, though each thinks,
51	“I’m a maverick. Nothing of this is happening to me,
52	Though I can understand the language of birds, and
53	The itinerary of the lights caught in the storm is fully apparent to me.
54	Their jousting ends in the music much
55	As trees move more easily in the wind after a summer storm
56	And is happening in lacy shadows of shore-trees, now, day after day.

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Interested in Robert Hass’s identification of the Georgic as a form.

1.   We don’t have a useful vocabulary for poems of information and instruction or the way the formal imagination might work in them, partially because, beginning with the romantics, poets came to feel that poetry had different work to do from the work of the expository, idea-synthesizing intelligence, and they stopped writing didactic or instructive poems. […]

4.   They were translated by John Dryden at the end of the seventeenth century—his versions are still very readable, if you have a taste for their sound—and for a period there was a vogue in English for a poem of instruction and information. It corresponded roughly with the rise of the new science and an appetite for practical knowledge. Readers, at least some readers, seemed to feel that it was more pleasant—it was the age of the rhymed couplet—to get one’s information from poetry than prose. […]

6.   When I was first compiling these notes for the forms class, it didn’t occur to me to include the georgic because it seemed both out of the way and extinct. Three things made the form suddenly interesting to think about. One was the emergence of an environmental poetry and efforts toward a critical ecopoetics, reflected in Janet Lembke’s sense of the contemporaneity of the poem. Another was the emergence of documentary poetics. And another was the work of my Berkeley colleague Kevis Goodman, a scholar of eighteenth century poetry, who has had interesting things to say about the genre and why it disappeared in her book, Georgic Modernity and British Romanticism.

Her basic argument is that when the romantics redefined the nature of poetry by claiming that it was not a pretty and musical way of dressing up knowledge, but itself a form of knowledge, it made poetry seem the opposite of practical instruction, and the georgic disappeared, or rather the role of information and practical instruction in poetry went underground.

9.   There aren’t many sharp boundaries in nature, and ecologists have a word to describe the transition zones between grassland and forest, sea and shore. They call them ecotones. And it strikes me that a lot of poems inhabit the ecotone between elegy and satire, ode and georgic. The ecotone between elegy and satire: Aimé Césaire’s Notebook of a Return to a Native Place comes to mind, also interestingly, an experiment in mixing verse and prose.

11.   That is, the philosophical poem, if it takes up the question of what the proper work of poetry is, and what kinds of language, what uses of metaphor constitute it, is doing a sort of exploration of poetic husbandry. Interestingly, like Virgil’s poem Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction [it] is written in four parts, each taking up a proposed aspect of its subject.

(A Little Book on Form, 336-340)

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