Cecil Day Lewis.
“Then Speech was mannerly, an Art,
Like learning not to belch or fart:
I cannot settle which is worse,
The Anti-Novel or Free Verse.”
Doggerel by a Senior Citizen
by W. H. Auden
Come, Live With Me and Be My Love
by Cecil Day Lewis
Come, live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
Of peace and plenty, bed and board,
That chance employment may afford.
I’ll handle dainties on the docks
And thou shalt read of summer frocks:
At evening by the sour canals
We’ll hope to hear some madrigals.
Care on thy maiden brow shall put
A wreath of wrinkles, and thy foot
Be shod with pain: not silken dress
But toil shall tire thy loveliness.
Hunger shall make thy modest zone
And cheat fond death of all but bone –
If these delight thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.
There is a unique pleasure in reading a poem whose rhyme and meter is perfectly tuned to our English tongues. Auden’s wonderful indictment of free verse above is humorous because he wrote some of the most beautiful free verse poetry of his generation. But free verse devoid of the beauty of language is not poetry in my book. I have no time for most of the free verse that dominates the poetic universe today, it has the feel of nattering of immature writers who would have been better off leaving it off the page and on the canvas of their inner mind or in their unpublished work book.
In my view, most free verse poets have become lazy. They fail at least one of three rules by which I hold all poetry accountable.
1). Never write boring poetry.
2). Paint a picture, create an emotion or foster an idea. Create a reaction in your reader, don’t write poems that sit like dead fish on the page.
3). Create beauty, using words like notes in a song. Write an ear-worm, with at least one line in the poem, that will stay with the reader for more than 2 minutes.
“And love’s best glasses reach, no fields but are his own.”
That Night When Joy Began
by W. H. Auden
That night when joy began
Our narrowest veins to flush,
We waited for the flash
Of morning’s levelled gun.
But morning let us pass,
And day by day relief
Outgrows his nervous laugh,
Grown credulous of peace,
As mile by mile is seen
No trespasser’s reproach,
And love’s best glasses reach
No fields but are his own.