December 29, 2017

Max’s Musings

By Max Molleston

Late last year I was working through what I generally do, poetry by certain poets. I exclaimed “recognition for most poets finally arrives.” If we readers and listeners understand words in lines and a pleasant speaking style, that’s a plus.

A ‘lousy’ poem spoken in such a style to make the work pleasing is called  presentation, and presentation is very important. You and I view the Victorian drama produced for  British TV, brought to America, then  played back on our TVs. This month my column is concentrated on  “Minor Victorian Poets” edited by John Cooke in 1928. It includes Elizabeth Barrett Browning with Sonnets from the Portuguese (did she disguise herself as a major poet), Robert Lewis Stevenson, best  known  for his prose, and  a couple of  long poems by Rudyard Kipling. Edward  Fitzgerald’s The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, composed in one-hundred-quatrains, four line stanzas, in 1859. Dust on its book cover, “undiscovered”  until fellow poets Rossetti and Swinburne found it in a book-stall. The seventh quatrain follows.


Come , fill the Cup , and in the fire of Spring

Your Winter-garment of repentance fling;

The Bird of Time has but a little way

To flutter— and the bird is on the Wing.


Whether at Naishapur or Babylon, 

Whether the cup with sweet or bitter run, 

The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,

The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one .


(most quoted, the favorite , I believe)

A  Book of Verses underneath the Bough ,

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread— and Thou

Beside me singing in the Wilderness—

Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

Was it high-placed poetry snobbery in 1859? Dismay over repeated  emphatic, then questioning punctuation? Is that a reason to penalize such an expansive  invention in poetry? It is no longer than a great share of Victorian  poetry “doozes” page after page. Did a tremor on poetry line structure and outspoken emphasis, and Roman Numerals creep higher and block this and other poetry with style and power? About those longer poems;  “Yah gotta keep ‘em goin’. ”

Perhaps major poets distain kept The Rubaiyat hidden before the chance it was picked from the book-stall? I mention to folks who accept my poetry or  prose, “It will wait for you.” If you choose, now you  can  say  “I read a couple or three stanzas in the Quad-Cities edition of 50+ Lifestyles that I felt were interesting.” You readers are my customers and will remain, as you choose.

We will gather in February.

Filed Under: History, Personal Growth