A Poem Should Not Mean, But Be

 

Archibald Macl
Archibald MacLeish (1892 – 1982)

Sonnet

by Archibald MacLeish

O too dull brain, O unperceiving nerves
That cannot sense what so torments my soul,
But like torn trees, when deep Novembers roll
Tragic with mighty winds and vaulting curves
Of sorrowful vast sound, and light that swerves
In blown and tossing eddies, branch and bole
Shudder and gesture with a grotesque dole,
A grief that misconceives the grief it serves,
O too dull brain, — with some more subtle sense
I know you here within the lightless room
Reaching your hand to me, and my faint eyes
See only darkness and the night’s expanse,
And horribly, within the listening gloom,
My voice comes back, still eager with surprise.


 

Ars Poetica

by Archibald MacLeish

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,
Dumb
As old medallions to the thumb,
Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—
A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.
                         *
A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,
Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,
Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind—
A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.
                         *
A poem should be equal to:
Not true.
For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.
For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—
A poem should not mean
But be.