1954The riches of the poet are equal to his poetryHis power is his left handIt is idle weak and precious
His poverty is his wealth, a wealth which may destroy himlike Midas Because it is that laziness which is a form of impatienceAnd this he may be destroyed by the gold of the lightwhich 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 lovequickly or immediately....The poet must be innocent and ignorant
But he cannot be innocent since stupidity is not his strongpoint
Therefore Cocteau said, "What would I not give
To have the poems of my youth withdrawn fromexistence?
I would give to Satan my immortal soul."
This metaphor is wrong, for it is his immortal soul whichhe wished to redeem,
Lifting it and sifting it, free and white, from the actuality ofyouth's banality, vulgarity,pomp and affectation of his earlyworks of poetry.So too in the same way a Famous American PoetWhen fame at last had come to him sought out the fifty copies
of his first book of poems which had been privately printedby himself at his own expense.
He succeeded in securing 48 of the 50 copies, burned themAnd 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
Placed them in his pocket, planned to departOnly 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 himThus setting a national precedent.For neither amnesty nor forgiveness is bestowed upon poets, poetry and poems,
For William James, the lovable genius of Harvardspoke the terrifying truth: "Your friends may forget, Godmay forgive you, But the brain cells recordyour 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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