Lately several of my favorite bloggers have posted about poetry. I generally tell people I don't like poetry--I got burned out on it in my long-ago years as an English major in college. I don't read it as a leisure activity. Yet at times of high emotion or tragedy, I've found myself writing poetry. Poetry is the highest expression of the art of language, and good poets are the most skillful users of language. Perhaps at times that have intense meaning for us, we need to express ourselves within the discipline of poetry.
I recall several poems from my college years. My all-time favorite is "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold, which I reproduce here. (It's long out of copyright because Arnold died 120 years ago.) It's easy to find on the Internet; I got it from http://www.bartleby.com/42/705.html.
by Matthew Arnold (1822–1888)
The sea is calm to-night,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits;—on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch’d land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand.
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægæan, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.