20 March 2011

The Usefulness of Poetry

"She went to bed thinking more about another person than about herself. This goes to prove that even minor poetry may have its practical uses."
Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night, chapter 18

Here is what I like about this quotation. It is always a practical good to be thinking about the good for another person rather than about oneself. Good poetry does this. (This is why I think that so much Romantic poetry is not good -- beautiful perhaps, but not good. The poem in question is more in the line of the metaphysical poets.) Anything good does as well. Self-absorption is the essence of sin; self-gift is the essence of virtue. We need to be giving ourselves away, even in our thoughts. Of course, any desire to possess or control the other is really about self. Good art (or anything) draws us out, not in.


CeeCee said...

Interesting! I want to know what you think about this. Please share?

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, in matters of faith,
poetry or even just poetic language can explain beliefs better in some
cases than the language of brilliant
theologians(at least for me). It
took Hopkins for me to understand
how grace works. St. Augustine and
St. Paul helped me to understand its
importance but beautiful language
drove the point home.

The poetic language of Pope John
Paul II's encyclicals matched the
beauty of the teachings he was
expressing. Some would be critical
of his style because seemed to
take a while to get to the point
but for me he was weaving words
together to help us appreciate the
depth and mystery of what others
would see as dry dogma.