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.

From: https://mypoeticside.com/show-classic-poem-17972

Date: 1926

By: Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982)

2 Comments to “Ars Poetica by Archibald MacLeish”

  1. You’ve never done a poem by McLeish before?! His most famous one, and a great poem, is “You Andrew Marvel”

    You, Andrew Marvell BY ARCHIBALD MACLEISH And here face down beneath the sun And here upon earth’s noonward height To feel the always coming on The always rising of the night:

    To feel creep up the curving east The earthy chill of dusk and slow Upon those under lands the vast And ever climbing shadow grow

    And strange at Ecbatan the trees Take leaf by leaf the evening strange The flooding dark about their knees The mountains over Persia change

    And now at Kermanshah the gate Dark empty and the withered grass And through the twilight now the late Few travelers in the westward pass

    And Baghdad darken and the bridge Across the silent river gone And through Arabia the edge Of evening widen and steal on

    And deepen on Palmyra’s street The wheel rut in the ruined stone And Lebanon fade out and Crete High through the clouds and overblown

    And over Sicily the air Still flashing with the landward gulls And loom and slowly disappear The sails above the shadowy hulls

    And Spain go under and the shore Of Africa the gilded sand And evening vanish and no more The low pale light across that land

    Nor now the long light on the sea:

    And here face downward in the sun To feel how swift how secretly The shadow of the night comes on … Maybe you avoided it because it’s so famous.

    Then there’s Louis McNiece. If you haven’t done him, I suggest

    The Sunlight on the Garden

    Louis MacNeice

    The sunlight on the garden

    Hardens and grows cold,

    We cannot cage the minute

    Within its nets of gold,

    When all is told

    We cannot beg for pardon.

    Our freedom as free lances

    Advances towards its end;

    The earth compels, upon it

    Sonnets and birds descend;

    And soon, my friend,

    We shall have no time for dances.

    The sky was good for flying

    Defying the church bells

    And every evil iron

    Siren and what it tells:

    The earth compels,

    We are dying, Egypt, dying

    And not expecting pardon,

    Hardened in heart anew,

    But glad to have sat under

    Thunder and rain with you,

    And grateful too

    For sunlight on the garden.

    On Thu, Jul 29, 2021 at 9:33 PM From Troubles of The World wrote:

    > flusteredduck posted: “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 motion” >

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