Edward Lear

Edward Lear and John Milton:  Truth in Poetry

I love Edward Lear because he makes me laugh.  I care for John Milton because he takes me deep inside human beliefs.  Both Edward Lear and John Milton wrote genuine poems.  A poem may be a fictional construct, but the feeling it springs from and the intelligence which informs it have to be true.  This does not  mean that a poem has to be solemn.  To be true, to be genuine, a poem may be drawn from the deepest  most sincere  feelings and thoughts  of the human spirit, as in John Milton’s epic achievement.  Poetry may, like most of Edward Lear’s work, be thoroughly playful.  In either instance, the poet needs the right words, and the poet also needs the genuine impulse which gives it heart, which makes it live.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Poetry may, like most of Edward Lear’s work, be thoroughly playful.  I love Edward Lear because he makes me laugh.  I admire John Milton because he invites me deep into human beliefs which matter to thousands of people. Thing is, each poet is masterful in composing the kind of poem he chose to write, and neither poet, I feel certain, would be able to express himself in the form chosen by the other.  Even the thought of Milton trying to write a Lear limerick makes me laugh.  Impossible!  And as for Edward Lear attempting an iambic pentameter epic?  Ridiculous.

Edward Lear:   as genuine a poet as John Milton

But when they play in their own backyard, compose their own kind of poem, they are equally successful because, I think, they are equally genuine.  One of my own favorites:  Edward Lear’s “On the top of the Crumpetty Tree / The Quangle Wangle sat, /But his face you could not see/ On account of his Beaver Hat” and the rest of it.  Now this, to my mind, is an immortal poem, and I bet Edward Lear was laughing when he wrote it.  And I bet Milton, on the other hand, was not smiling when he wrote:  “Of Man’s First Disobedience, and the Fruit of that Forbidden Tree /Whose mortal taste brought Death into the World/ And all our Woe” and so on.  A master of language, he pulled those words out of his strongest beliefs.  Both of the examples are fictions.  Both of these are poems.  Both are immortal.  And by reason of their words, so are Edward Lear and John Milton, poets.

Edward Lear:


Edward Lear

So what’s the difference?  And there certainly is a world of difference.


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