In the classical traditions and history of every human culture, there was a belief in the divine and a deep reverence for it. This gave rise to poems or songs of praise, such as hymns, odes, and paeans. Today, praise of this kind is relatively uncommon outside of religions, but praise, celebration, and honor nonetheless continue unabated in our culture.
Let’s say you like something or someone and you want to say, “Hey, you’re great,” or “I admire that,” or “That thing looked so cool!” but you want to express it in some way that is more meaningful than those plain words. If that is the case, then poetry may hold the key. With very few materials, you can create a small artistic monument to whatever it is that has so moved you. It may be brilliant or it may be terrible, but undeniably it is special and captures something between you and it.
We begin with poems from famous 19th-century British poet laureate Lord Alfred Tennyson and the greatest American poet of the 20th century, Robert Frost, then move on to living poets who write in the style of classical poetry. In each, the poet praises his subject matter and tries to capture what it is that moved him in unique ways.
By Lord Alfred Tennyson
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.
A Passing Glimpse
By Robert Frost
I often see flowers from a passing car
That are gone before I can tell what they are.
I want to get out of the train and go back
To see what they were beside the track.
I name all the flowers I am sure they weren’t:
Not fireweed loving where woods have burnt—
Not bluebells gracing a tunnel mouth—
Not lupine living on sand and drouth.
Was something brushed across my mind
That no one on earth will ever find?
Heaven gives its glimpses only to those
Not in position to look too close.
The Winter Solstice
By Neal Dachstadter
Winter Winter cold and crass
Winter Winter old the grass
Fast we go across the field
Massed the snow and frost to wield
Night of rest abed when tired
Light and fest and sled and fire
By Mike Dashiell
I swish the stick
To watch a spread of bubbles gleam;
Free and delightful they float
Almost a dream.
This pristine orbs,
A fragile yet audacious batch
Seem hopeless until they reveal
A rainbow patch.
They move away
And occupy a placid realm
To demonstrate the physics of
I notice soon
A strange geography revealed,
A surface spin of nations or
That this existent play will stop
Makes any conclusion forgone
These orbs must pop.
As lovely eyes
They dare not recognize or wink
Because if excited they’re gone
Quick as a blink.
I stand and watch
Their glorious defeat, yet one
That wanders, hesitates then bursts
Succeeds to stun.
Shen Yun Performing Arts
By Evan Mantyk
I love the dance that can exalt
The human form without a fault,
Demeanor grand, inspiring pose;
They’re swift yet seem in sweet repose
And all my troubled thoughts they halt.
Then when as one they somersault
It’s like a mighty thunderbolt;
My heart entranced then clearly knows
I love the dance.
Their order raised from life’s tumult
Does with a higher power vault
Above to where true kindness grows
And tolerance like water flows,
And though it’s brief, as a result
I love the dance.
Evan Mantyk is president of the Society of Classical Poets (ClassicalPoets.org). He teaches literature and history in upstate New York. You may send your comments, feedback, and, of course, poetry to Submissions@ClassicalPoets.org