Monday, November 24, 2008

The Form and Content of Poems

Right now, I am reading a book which my ancient literature teacher recommended called “Realms of Glory,” by Leland Ryken. The book is about how literature is to be understood in light of a Christian worldview. And while I do intend to write more on the Rushdoony book (which I still need to continue reading), I wanted to share my notes on the chapter on Poetry. The first section of the chapter is called “The Form and Content of Poems.”

The Form and Content of Poems
In the field of classical literature, poetry is often forgotten. However, it should be read and enjoyed just as much as stories. The greatest mistake in reading a poem is to read it like a story. Poems, however, are radically different from stories. The first obvious difference is that they are shorter. Poets have less time in which to describe the human experience, as all literature does to some extent. While a story gives more of a comprehensive picture of life, poetry gives more of an idea or a feeling. It can be meditative or assertive, reflective or emotive.
The basic pattern for poetry is “theme-and-variation.” The theme is the dominant idea or feeling that unifies the poem. The variation is where the poet develops the theme by different means. In Psalm 23, one of the most well-known poems ever, the poet’s theme is providence and God’s provision for his creatures. The variations are the “progression of images that picture a shepherd’s daily activities.” In the variations, it is shown “how” the shepherd provides. So the variations then are examples that support the theme.

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