Original: Begun June-July, 1950. In later years, frequently re-worked and re-thought.
To A Muse Or To Amuse
It isn’t, though it does appear to be.
It’s not for you I write these words of love.
Before me is my dream of poetry.
To her by my desire I am wed.
And it’s our offspring here I’m thinking of.
The written word is only born if read.
A poem does not come to be alone.
A union with a reader gives it birth
And after that it takes on being of its own.
The infant being, naked and exposed
In meter and in rhyme upon your lap,
Of more than wordy matter is composed.
Its very form is pleasing to the eye.
It needs no hand to test it with a slap.
Though silent on the page you hear its cry:
“With such a healthy spelling, I’ll survive
“It’s true I must be nurtured, nursed, and read
“But I’m not letter dead on paper, I’m alive!”
Conceived in poetry and shaped by art
This infant comes to you in metaphor.
But free of parents now it sits apart
And plays another role, as children do.
Although it doesn’t crawl upon the floor
It draws the thought of what it is from you.
An image then is born in your behalf
As if from God it comes for only this:
To bring a smile upon your face, to make you laugh.
Raymond J. Clark
Bhé Nó Ní Do Bhé
Bhé Nó Ní Do Bhé
Ní hea é, cé gur air an chosúlacht.
Ní chugatsa an grá sna focail seo.
Seo romham, tá mo spéirbhean Filíocht.
Is le mo mhian, tá mé pósta léi.
Is ar ár n-ábhar dáin a smaoinímse.
Ní bheirtear scríbhinn ach má léitear é.
Is ní leis féin a thagann sé chun bheith.
De chaidreamh leis an léitheoir é a bhreith.
Uaidh sin amach, beidh aige beith dó féin ar leith.
I riocht a nochtaine an naíonán,
’Na shuí i d’ucht i méadar is i rím,
Is tá níos mó ná ábhar foclach ann.
Mar fhoirm féin, is lách le súile é.
Níl call le lámh tástála ar a dhroim.
Más tostach féin, is i do chlos a ghlao:
“Faoin litriú seo, beidh mé ar mo shó.
“Is fíor nach dtiocfadh cothú dom gan léamh
“Ach níl mé marbh i gcló gan anam, tá mé beo!”
Ag ealaín deilbhithe i bhfilíocht
An naí, a cheaptar ina mheafar duit.
Ach é anois amach ó thuismíocht
Sa bpáirt a dhéanann leanbh úr de ghnáth.
Ní shnámhann sé ach baineann sé a chruit
As cibé smaoineamh faoi a shamhlófá.
Sin íomhá úr a bheirtear le do leas.
Mar dhea ó Dhia, tagann sé d’aon ghnó
Ag tarraingt gáire ort mar mhaise ar a chleas.
Réamonn Ó Cléirigh
Version in Irish completed 15 February, 2004
Comment: This poem is probably where I first used the broken-rhyme form, It is now overlaid with several levels of thought that are hard to unravel. The lowest level has to do with the need a writer has for union with a reader.* On the next level, a fantasy world is introduced where a poet and his love for Poetry are producing a less than real being. The poet (for reasons we might suspect) sends this less than real being in written form to a human girl and asks her to unite with it as a reader. When she does, it takes on being of its own. It could be anything, That's the end of the first sonnet. In the second, the poet tries to get the reader to see the little being as an almost human child. (Note the introduction of Aristotle's 'matter, and 'form'.) With its meter and rhyme, it is pleasing to the eye. You don't have to test it with a slap. Even though it is in writing it speaks for itself. It has healthy spelling. It's alive. But it needs to be read. If she reads, she is like a parent, or at least a foster parent who nurses the child. In the third sonnet, the poet wants his reader to get past the idea that this child might only be a poet's metaphor. He wants the reader to experience an act that the independent child performs (but not just crawling on the floor). If her imagination works now, an image of the child will be born there. And when the child performs the act of making her smile or laugh, the poem child's reality is demonstrated.
That's as close as I can come to reconstructing what was going on in my head half a century ago. I never studied poetry. I didn't even like to read it. But I was studying philosophy in 1950. 1 think that is reflected in there. I had a notion that a poem acts independently of its author. I have a feeling I may have got that notion by being exposed to translating the poems of Horace during Latin class. I remember I was struck by the fact that almost 2,000 years after he died his neat, self-contained poems were still alive and fresh on die page and could make me imagine things today. For that reason, I will dedicate the above poem to Horace, that is, to Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65 - 8 B.C.
* I didn't seem to worry about 'union with a reader' for fifty years after this.