A Poem on the Uselessness of Poems
(A Parody/Pastiche of Pope’s “An Essay on Criticism”)
“If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the inquisition might have let him alone.”
I steal Prometo’s flame, in form of phrase,
To faze with fire, what made fire blaze.
I don’t invoke the muse; I know she knows
We are to blame for nonsense we compose.
Our story starts when man invented speech,
To organize his mind, to learn and teach.
He made up words to express his simple thoughts,
To entertain, impress or call the shots.
In time, his simple life got mixed with cants,
His rough, coarse shouting turned to tribal chants.
The tribes expanded and gave rise to cities,
The people chose professions, formed committees.
Order, culture, intellect were prized.
In sooth, that’s how the folks were civilized.
From this event, arose a mighty chain
Of basic roles that most, still, remain:
The architect’s a geometric seer;
From what he’s jotting down, titans appear.
The thinker spends long years to read, construe,
In hope he write one sentence that is true.
The scientist, with discourse clear and terse,
Writes models that explain the universe.
The engineer invents; the doctor heals,
And the chef cooks us delicious meals.
But then, the poets, like the phoenix rise,
To waste our time and fill our heads with lies.
For centuries, verse was heart of culture’s heat,
Till songs and lyrics made it obsolete.
The poets who still readership demand,
Are those who can’t find friends to form a band.
‘Tis not a noble deed, and ill advised
To mock a thing by Nature satirized.
The throng of poets, once a mighty race,
Got marred in time and lost their former grace.
For once, Augustus sought what they could write,
And through their art, affirmed his sovereign might.
They strode with pride in courts of kings and queens,
And generous patronage secured their means.
‘Twas a virtue just to read their verse,
To copy, learn by heart, recite, rehearse.
Sometimes, like Bede, struck by Caedmon, awed
So much, their verse was deemed the voice of God.
But now, the poet is a creature poor,
Neglected, sad, behind a closéd door,
Indulged in weakness, wanting clear notion
With vague speech, exposing vague emotion,
With style so lame, and ideas so few
“I Press Enter,
Or if his taste’s antique, he throws a show,
Repeating rhymes of thousand years ago.
Some, every chance they get, promote their ditty;
Perchance a friend would read it out of pity.
Some send them to some journal no one sees
Except their staff and other wannabees
Who hope to taste whate’er their ilk have brew,
To ape their style and publish something too.
Some win awards by chance or strong rapport;
They think themselves neglected act no more;
Their name might float around till they are dead,
Forsooth, the volumes still remain unread.
But those who hate to see themselves ignored,
Or long to be, by public eye, adored,
They sell their soul for seconds of applause,
And turn themselves to servants of a cause.
They hunt for headlines, heed the talk of day
And set their song to every tune they play.
An artist’s worst offense is lack of pride .
When art is sold, ‘tis Art Undignified.
But brace yourselves, the worst is yet to come;
O god of expectations, roll your drum;
I sing of “Death of Art”, a shameful fad,
A ritual worse than those that Aztecs had;
The foulest con in age of artful scams,
I sing of competitive Poetry Slams,
Where left-wing youngsters, acting as a sage,
Discharge their empty rage upon the stage.
They rant, they curse, without a trace of craft,
They sing (they mewl!) of subjects trite and daft,
With grace of actors in a high-school play,
The audience claps to wash the cringe away.
But ‘tis not fair to fight a verbal round
With rivals who are plastered on the ground.
Let’s back away to times of glories past
When sun of age on them no shadows cast.
Let’s censure verses of the bundled best,
The Homers, Virgils, Wills and all the rest.
A Critique of Homer and Epic Poetry
“Achilles’s wrath, to Greece, the direful spring
Of woes unnumbered, heavenly goddess, sing!”
And thus begins the song of war of Troy
A sad affair, expressed in mood of joy.
The muse is asked to praise the cause of pain
Of thousand Greeks, by sinful hands, slain.
This sight, to human sense, must seem so crude,
But Homer snares our sense in servitude;
Where we should feel disgust, we feel delight,
For measly words make light of human plight.
We praise Ulysses for his clever ploy
To pass, with Trojan horse, the walls of Troy.
But feel the weight: how precious Troy was trashed,
How dames were ravished, infant skulls were smashed,
How trust and peace were breached by gross foul play,
How innocent blood was wildly shed that day.
Paint all this carnage with the eyes of brain,
Hear every scream and soak up all the pain;
Up close, this sight would break the staunchest heart,
In verse, who cares? “This trickster’s mighty smart!”
The Epics, by their lofty grand design,
Make heinous deeds and conducts seem benign.
Their so called heroes: villains well-disguised,
Their crimes revered, their vices idolized.
The poets, though, through no fault of their own
Make angels out of devils by their tone.
This tone, by nature, empathy-abound,
Makes Satan seem a saintly king uncrowned.
How can Laertes’s son be cursed, despised,
When Odyssey makes him thoroughly humanized?
Although by Roman troth to Trojan pride,
In Aenid, they the “cruel Ulysses” chide,
The hero they applauded in his place,
The “pious Aeneas”, is not a better case.
In Carthage, he was bound to Dido’s heart,
With a hint from gods, the bond was torn apart.
But ‘tis the habit of us earthly clods;
What we can’t know, relate to faith and gods.
He FLIED from there in manner most unkind,
What kind of hero leaves his love behind?
By this unkindness, Dido pricked with scars,
Unleashed a curse that caused the Punic wars.
So Dido’s suicide, as Romans thought,
And thousand deaths, in wars they later fought,
Were all the fruits of one man’s disregard,
“But he’s a hero,” quoth the Roman bard,
And that he is and that he shall remain,
For ethics die in place where poets reign.
Why Vikings killed and pillaged, seeking fame?
In hope that Skalds eternalize their name.
How Germans turned vindictive, moral-blind?
With Wagner’s music, Wessel’s words in mind.
How Persian men turned soft and aimless Rends?
By message and the vibe that Hafez sends.
Let’s not forget: how Iskander’s bloody quest
And empty dream, for sake of glory’s zest,
Were caused by taking Homer as his guide,
In sooth, he slept with Iliad by his side.
The poets, though, are mimics in disguise,
They mirror what their cultures idolize;
In epics, they’re repeating myths, ‘tis true;
Retaining lies is what they really do.
Our brain is rich with different retinues,
Some occupied, some dormant in disuse;
The retinues, by culture, reinforced,
Are strengthened and by people’s heart, endorsed.
If poets choose one retinue to grow,
That retinue will form the status quo.
And so, when Homer idolizes war,
And treats Achilles as a superstar,
The warlike, brutish spirit he displays,
In form of dream, in Grecian psyche, lays.
Until, one day, in course of many years,
A driven man, just like Achilles, appears;
They deem him a messiah sent from skies,
To realize the dream, the people rise,
Not knowing they’re being duped and played like toys,
They cheer their leader as he kills, destroys.
Sometimes, the poets, heed the vice they bring;
And based on reason, say the moral thing.
Thersites cries: “what cause we have to fight?
One man is wronged; should thousands feel the plight?”
He should be viewed as shepherd guiding sheep,
Instead he’s made a lame and ugly creep,
Who by Ulysses’ scepter’s brought to tears,
Whilst the stupid crowd scorns and jeers.
The poet knows what righteousness ordained;
But lets it pass, perversion’s, thus, maintained.
Sometimes the poets’ deeds their words impeach;
They practice vice and virtue’s what they preach.
Take Edmund Spenser, master of sublime,
With verse so pure, but life stained with crime.
He penned the loftiest lines the world had seen,
To venerate a vain and murderess queen.
He wrote a tract on how to subjugate
By force and ethnocide, the Irish state.
He turned the Essence of the artist’s dream,
To sycophantic, money-grubbing scheme.
This happens oft, take Sadi or John Donne
Whose moral stance and credit’s made undone
By dirty lines their dirty minds produced,
Who knows what dirty acts their minds induced?
In age of “reason”, poets were obsessed,
With Classic writers, so they set a quest
(Which, in hindsight, seems like a senseless chore),
To mimic feats that they achieved before.
They censured poetasters of their time,
Shared lightweight wisdom, wrote some witty lines.
They trapped their rage inside from all their tussles,
And fed on hatred, built satiric muscles;
Then used their verbal prowess to upset,
Each Dick and Jack and John and Tom they met.
When might of polished pens can topple kings,
Why waste your talent on such petty things?
In poets’ realm, hypocrisy’s a must.
So lofty claims they make, we cannot trust.
Since their discourse is based on paradox,
Abiding them unfolds Pandora’s Box,
From which, the absurd impulse of the brain,
That consciousness oft rightfully restrain,
Is set upon the mind, with ready claws
To tear our thinking strengths to feeling flaws.
Not all the time the poets aim to preach
Or spray their lines with dull didactic speech;
In words of Sydney: poets cannot lie,
When nothing they affirm, and none deny.
Our hermeneutic brain is oft inclined,
To filter Nature through subjective mind,
That’s what some poets struggle to achieve
To imitate, with words, what they perceive.
Each object, concept, notion, law and norm
In earthly realm is shadow of its Form,
Which in perfection, in some abstract world,
Dictates some traits, defectively, unfurled.
This imperfection, filtered through our mind,
Is more diminished from what Form designed.
The poet molds perception into phrase
And thus, reduces Form to fog and haze.
So how can imitation be approved
When, from it, Nature’s Form’s thrice removed?
With every technique and device he knows,
The poet writes on beauty of the rose:
Compares its redness to the lover’s lips
Relates its withering to love’s eclipse.
Points how ironic is the rose’s thorn,
How Venus posed like rose when she was born.
The readers, beauty of these lines, adore,
Thinking they treasure rose more than before,
But ‘tis not rose they like, but lines themselves,
No Nature’s found in books inside our shelves.
True beauty of a rose just one man knows,
The man who dared to touch and smell that rose.
A Critique of William Shakespeare and Love Poetry
The men who by their pompous tender verse,
Invite a nation to a calm recline,
In secret, on their psyche, set a curse;
By Sophist means, all sins can seem divine.
The men who dote upon a younger male,
With lustful eyes, a husband’s wife, regard,
Once they get caught, are shunned or thrown to jail,
But when they versify, they’re called a bard.
‘Tis strange that people find that love is grand,
By words of Coleridge, Wilmot, Byron, Keats;
How grand this love can be when it is manned
By junkies, rakes, seducers and the dtiz’?
All love songs, both in free verse and in rhyme,
Are waste of paper and a waste of time.
Of all the sonnets, lyrics and the like
Composed from ancient times to modern age,
Or songs and tunes performed behind the mike,
By voice of sirens, hot upon the stage,
Of all the ways the “lovers” loved ones praise,
Comparing them to this and that and such,
How do they love them? Let me count the ways:
Tens, hundreds, thousands; ahh… ‘tis too damn much!
Of all this noise, the laughter and the cries
That lovers and their songs have left behind,
What mankind gained except for shameless lies
That made some callow youngsters deaf and blind?
Their pain is poets’ folly, for these liars
In guise of art, adorn our base desires.
O Elegy! Be my friend and charge my voice
As I repeat the words our lovers say:
“We art accursed with cruel unruly choice
‘Twixt love that hurts and love that fades away.
A fool we were to fill our faulty brain
With thoughts of love that poets promised man,
Of love that never dies, rewards our pain,
Shows us the light divine, like angels can.
We dared to love; to see this light through fire,
But we were shamed, ignored and ridiculed.
And those of us who reached their heart’s desire,
Saw slender rays, but then, the fire cooled.
What fancy craves should not be preached by pen;
What’s made for gods’ not fit for race of men.”
Now that my vision’s ships have set their courses,
Unlike a man I know, I cite my sources:
- Book 10 of “The Republic” by Plato
- “Can Poetry Matter?” By Dana Gioia
- “Poets have always been immoral” by John Sutherland
- “Thersites, the Iliad, and Not Knowing Your Place” by David Auerbach
- “What Does Hafez Say?” By Ahmad Kasravi
- “The Defense of Poesy” By Philip Sydney
- “The Language of Paradox” By Cleanth Brooks
- The Idea of “Anxiety of Influence” By Harold Bloom
- “Dominant, Residual, Emergent” By Raymond Williams
- Harold Bloom’s attack against Slam Poetry:
“I can't bear these accounts I read in the Times and elsewhere of these poetry slams, in which various young men and women in various late-spots are declaiming rant and nonsense at each other. The whole thing is judged by an applause meter which is actually not there, but might as well be. This isn't even silly; it is the death of art.”
- William Blake’s commentary on Paradise Lost:
“The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it.”
- Section 1, Chapter 1 of “Our Oriental Heritage” By Will Durant
- “A Modest Proposal” By Jonathan Swift (As a model for a text that is made of a long unbroken “sustained irony”)
- Philosophy of Stoicism