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Editor's Selection of Poems
The God Called Poetry

by Robert Graves

Now I begin to know at last, 
These nights when I sit down to rhyme, 
The form and measure of that vast 
God we call Poetry, he who stoops 
And leaps me through his paper hoops 
A little higher every time. 


Tempts me to think I'll grow a proper 
Singing cricket or grass-hopper 
Making prodigious jumps in air 
While shaken crowds about me stare 
Aghast, and I sing, growing bolder 
To fly up on my master's shoulder 
Rustling the thick strands of his hair. 


He is older than the seas, 
Older than the plains and hills, 
And older than the light that spills 
From the sun's hot wheel on these. 
He wakes the gale that tears your trees, 
He sings to you from window sills. 


At you he roars, or he will coo, 
He shouts and screams when hell is hot, 
Riding on the shell and shot. 
He smites you down, he succours you, 
And where you seek him, he is not. 


To-day I see he has two heads 
Like Janus--calm, benignant, this; 
That, grim and scowling: his beard spreads 
From chin to chin" this god has power 
Immeasurable at every hour: 
He first taught lovers how to kiss, 
He brings down sunshine after shower, 
Thunder and hate are his also, 
He is YES and he is NO. 


The black beard spoke and said to me, 
"Human frailty though you be, 
Yet shout and crack your whip, be harsh! 
They'll obey you in the end: 
Hill and field, river and marsh 
Shall obey you, hop and skip 
At the terrour of your whip, 
To your gales of anger bend." 


The pale beard spoke and said in turn 
"True: a prize goes to the stern, 
But sing and laugh and easily run 
Through the wide airs of my plain, 
Bathe in my waters, drink my sun, 
And draw my creatures with soft song; 
They shall follow you along 
Graciously with no doubt or pain." 


Then speaking from his double head 
The glorious fearful monster said 
"I am YES and I am NO, 
Black as pitch and white as snow, 
Love me, hate me, reconcile 
Hate with love, perfect with vile, 
So equal justice shall be done 
And life shared between moon and sun. 
Nature for you shall curse or smile: 
A poet you shall be, my son." 
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