Words That Could Change The World

Words That Could Change The World

As an aspiring linguist I’m fascinated by words. The way that a seemingly finite set of tokens can join together in a syntactic conspiracy to create an infinite amount of sentences is beyond understanding. To witness a poet or an author deriving the most beautiful imagery from something as ordinary as a Grecian urn opens up a door to wild, worldly pleasures to even the coldest of hearts. A simple wintery scene of snow and pine can conceive a complex projection of jubilation, opening our eyes to minutiae that we might have missed at first glance. What is it about poetry that is so satisfying? Is it just the words, the stanzas, the rhymes and the rhythm that so deeply occupy us, or is it the revelation that a poem is so much more than the sum of its components? I remember being awestruck when I first read Emily Dickinson. She had a way of weaving a beautiful tapestry of meaning from the simplest foundation. As someone once said, her charm was in “finding the extraordinary in the ordinary”. It’s wonderful when something commonplace is put under scrutiny by a poem, which, after a careful reading, arrives at revelations one wouldn’t have noticed before.

Sometimes a good poem is all we need to expand our horizons and arrive at new perceptions of the world. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that “we know more from nature than we can at will communicate”, which would imply that in our minds we store complexities that are waiting for a way out. A poem can open our creative channels just as a nasal spray unclogs our sinuses. Vivid metaphors and similes can pair thoughts and ideas that wouldn’t hold together were it not for the poet’s genius. That’s why we need poetry. We need poetry to help us expand our sympathy to the world in order to aspire to a higher level of understanding and knowledge.

But in today’s world, what else could poetry design of it than a macabre tale of horror and war? How would poetry treat global warming? What about terrorism and the fear of it? If poetry truly expands our view of something worldly, do we really want that to happen? Don’t we not know enough of disaster, war and terror to be perfectly satisfied in our limited understanding of it all? I’m sure a lot of people would find it distasteful and unsettling to read otherwise beautiful imagery of dead bodies scattered in the aftermath of modern warfare. It’s just too close to us. Reading Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” is a delight, because he so tactfully treats the last stand of the soldiers and glorifies their memory. But who could read a similar poem from Afghanistan or Iraq, no matter how heroically the men and women are described?

We need poetry today as a counterweight to that described in the former paragraph. Something simple, something elegant, something that’ll give us hope and a smile, as we’re brought before the truth that this is not the beginning of the end of the world. It might be idealistic, it might be naïve, but as the terrors of the world are on everyone’s lips and in the headlines, we might be forgetting that there’s still the same wonderful universe out there; the universe so masterfully depicted in the poetry of Wordsworth, Frost, Keats and the rest. I foresee that the old wordsmiths will come back into fashion. Their words might be old but their ideas are timeless. It’s about time we focus on all that’s good in the world. Bring back the woods in a snowy evening! Bring back the waves that break on the foot of the sea’s crags! Bring back the urn, the oven bird, the sonnet and the rose, and we can all forget ourselves and the world for a while. [tags]poetry, world, war, fear, hope[/tags]

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