Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Poetry as a Means of Intellectual Culture - Furnishing the Mind


'Poetry takes first rank as a means of intellectual culture. Goethe tells us that we ought to see a good picture, hear good music, and read some good poetry every day.

...fine poetry need not be understood to be enjoyed.
...the youth who carries about with him such melodious cadences will not readily be taken in with tinsel.'

Formation of Character by Charlotte Mason



I've been thinking about the inherent power of poetry. It isn't something that is immediately obvious, but over a period of time, a regular diet of good poetry furnishes our minds with beauty and is a means of acquiring intellectual culture.
Good poetry (even if isn't understood), stored up in our minds, also provides a safeguard.
When we appreciate true beauty, when the rooms in our minds are well-furnished, we won't be taken in by counterfeits. If we have a storehouse full of good things we're not going to be tempted by junk.

The first couple of verses of Proverbs 24 speak to me about filling or furnishing our minds with this beauty.

By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled (furnished)
with rare and beautiful treasures.

Poetry has been called heightened speech; thoughts so charged with emotion that they spontaneously seek a rhythmic expression.
There have been seasons in my own life where I could only express my thoughts by writing poetry. I was looking through a book I kept during one of these times and I was surprised at the intensity of some of what I wrote. This is one of my poems that isn't as emotionally charged as some of my others, so I'm more comfortable sharing it!



I've read poetry and it has tugged on my heart for some reason that was inexpressible to me.
Poetry has lifted my eyes above everyday concerns and given me encouragement and hope. It has caused me to seek virtue and not settle for just following the crowd.
Was it Socrates that said that wisdom begins with wonder?

C.S. Lewis in Reflections on the Psalms said:

It seems to me appropriate, almost inevitable, that when that great Imagination which in the beginning, for Its own delight and for the delight of men and angels...had invented and formed the whole world of Nature, submitted to express Itself in human speech, that speech should sometimes be poetry. For poetry too is a little incarnation, giving body to what had been before invisible and inaudible.

Poetry...a little incarnation...it makes me wonder.




13 comments:

  1. Absolutely fantastic post, Carol! Poetry lifts us beyond everyday existence and allows us to see the beautiful and worthwhile. I don't read nearly enough of poetry and I read more than most. Thanks for this wonderfully inspiring post! If you don't mind, I may link it to my poetry review page.

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  2. Thanks Cleo. Feel free to link.

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  3. I love the "heightened speech" phrase, Carol. A perfect description! I have always loved poetry, and can get quite taken away by it. :) I am currently reading through the works of Emily Dickinson and am keeping my poetry commonplace close at hand while doing so. Love this post.

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    1. I do enjoy Emily Dickinson. She has a lovely, almost childlike quality to her work.

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  4. I love this post too. I've been trying to teach the concept of rhyming words to two 1st graders I work with. I've combed through several books of children's poetry for them and realized I've been starving my soul in that area recently. Thanks for reminding me to read more poetry.

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  5. There is something about poetry that one cannot quite put one's finger on. . . Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

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  6. This is a beautiful reflection. I couldn't agree more on the power of poetry--it truly does push us beyond everyday concerns, as you said.

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  7. So poetic Carol. Your poem is touching.

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  8. I think I made out your poem correctly and what lovely thoughts expressed so well. Thank you for sharing it with us. I have learned how to enjoy poetry properly in the last few years for myself and my children and I have shared many times together over poems. It is something that endures as Cindy Rollins used to share about her grown sons reciting poetry even while in the navy.

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  9. I love your connection between Proverbs and beautifying the mental space in which we live.

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