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Delmore Schwartz - The Poet

The riches of the poet are equal to his poetry 
His power is his left hand
      It is idle weak and precious
His poverty is his wealth, a wealth which may destroy him
   like Midas Because it is that laziness which is a form of impatience 
And this he may be destroyed by the gold of the light
   which never was
On land or sea.
He may be drunken to death, draining the casks of excess
That extreme form of success.
He may suffer Narcissus' destiny
Unable to live except with the image which is infatuation
Love, blind, adoring, overflowing
Unable to respond to anything which does not bring love
   quickly or immediately.

...The poet must be innocent and ignorant
But he cannot be innocent since stupidity is not his strong
   point
Therefore Cocteau said, "What would I not give
To have the poems of my youth withdrawn from
   existence?
I would give to Satan my immortal soul."
This metaphor is wrong, for it is his immortal soul which
   he wished to redeem,
Lifting it and sifting it, free and white, from the actuality of 
      youth's banality, vulgarity, 
      pomp and affectation of his early 
      works of poetry.

So too in the same way a Famous American Poet 
When fame at last had come to him sought out the fifty copies
of his first book of poems which had been privately printed 
by himself at his own expense.
He succeeded in securing 48 of the 50 copies, burned them 
And learned then how the last copies were extant, 
As the law of the land required, stashed away in the national capital,
at the Library of Congress.
Therefore he went to Washington, therefore he took out the last two
copies
Placed them in his pocket, planned to depart 
Only to be halted and apprehended. Since he was the author,
Since they were his books and his property he was reproached
But forgiven. But the two copies were taken away from him 
Thus setting a national precedent.

For neither amnesty nor forgiveness is bestowed upon poets, poetry and poems,
For William James, the lovable genius of Harvard 
spoke the terrifying truth: "Your friends may forget, God
      may forgive you, But the brain cells record 
      your acts for the rest of eternity."
What a terrifying thing to say!
This is the endless doom, without remedy, of poetry.
This is also the joy everlasting of poetry.

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Added: Feb 20 2003 | Viewed: 2876 times | Comments and analysis of The Poet by Delmore Schwartz Comments (1)

The Poet - Comments and Information

Poet: Delmore Schwartz
Poem: The Poet
Year: Published/Written in 1954

Comment 1 of 1, added on December 16th, 2005 at 2:04 AM.

I can't find the actual poem (Delamore Schwartz, The Poet) on this webpage - what do I have to do to simply read the poem??

hanna thompson from United Kingdom

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