Poetry is a form of
literature that uses
aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of
sound symbolism, and
metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the
Poetry has a long
history, dating back to the
Epic of Gilgamesh. Early poems evolved from folk songs such as the Chinese
Shijing, or from a need to retell oral epics, as with the
Gathas, and the
Homeric epics, the
Iliad and the
Odyssey. Ancient attempts to define poetry, such as
Poetics, focused on the uses of
comedy. Later attempts concentrated on features such as repetition,
verse form and
rhyme, and emphasized the aesthetics which distinguish poetry from more objectively informative,
prosaic forms of writing. From the mid-20th century, poetry has sometimes been more generally regarded as a fundamental creative act employing language.
Poetry uses forms and conventions to suggest differential interpretation to words, or to evoke emotive responses. Devices such as
rhythm are sometimes used to achieve
incantatory effects. The use of
irony and other
stylistic elements of
poetic diction often leaves a poem open to multiple interpretations. Similarly figures of speech such as
metonymy create a resonance between otherwise disparate images—a layering of meanings, forming connections previously not perceived. Kindred forms of resonance may exist, between individual
verses, in their patterns of rhyme or rhythm.
Some poetry types are specific to particular
genres and respond to characteristics of the language in which the poet writes. Readers accustomed to identifying poetry with
Rumi may think of it as written in
lines based on
rhyme and regular
meter; there are, however, traditions, such as
Biblical poetry, that use other means to create rhythm and
euphony. Much modern poetry reflects a critique of poetic tradition, playing with and testing, among other things, the principle of euphony itself, sometimes altogether forgoing rhyme or set rhythm. In today's increasingly
globalized world, poets often adapt forms, styles and techniques from diverse cultures and languages.
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard is a poem by
Thomas Gray, completed in 1750 and first published in 1751. The poem’s origins are unknown, but it was partly inspired by Gray’s thoughts following the death of the poet
Richard West in 1742. Originally titled Stanza's Wrote in a Country Church-Yard, the poem was completed when Gray was living near St Giles'
parish church at
Stoke Poges. It was sent to his friend
Horace Walpole, who popularised the poem among London literary circles. Gray was eventually forced to publish the work on 15 February 1751, to pre-empt a magazine publisher from printing an unlicensed copy of the poem.
The poem is an
elegy in name but not in
form; it employs a style similar to that of contemporary odes, but it embodies a meditation on death, and remembrance after death. The poem argues that the remembrance can be good and bad, and the narrator finds comfort in pondering the lives of the obscure rustics buried in the churchyard. The two versions of the poem, Stanzas and Elegy, approach death differently; the first contains a
stoic response to death, but the final version contains an epitaph which serves to repress the narrator's fear of dying. With its discussion of, and focus on, the obscure and the known, the poem has possible political ramifications, but it does not make any definite claims on politics to be more universal in its approach to life and death.
The poem quickly became popular. It was printed many times, translated into many languages, and praised by critics even after Gray's other poetry had fallen out of favour. Later critics tended to praise its language and universal aspects, but some felt the ending was unconvincing, failing to resolve the questions the poem raised; or that the poem did not do enough to present a political statement that would serve to help the obscure rustic poor who form its central image.
|How Huineng became the 6th patriarch of
Zen Buddhism: a poetry contest, with works by
Shenxiu and by
身是菩提樹， The body is a Bodhi tree,
心如明鏡臺。 The mind a standing mirror bright.
時時勤拂拭， At all times polish it diligently,
勿使惹塵埃。 And let no dust alight.
菩提本無樹， Bodhi is fundamentally without any tree;
明鏡亦非臺。 The bright mirror is also not a stand.
本來無一物， Fundamentally there is not a single thing —
何處惹塵埃。 Where could any dust be attracted?
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