Nancy writes: "Where this is apt (Eliot invents ways of saying what he
needs), it is true of all great poets. . ."
Actually, also of a large number of minor poets. Bishop King is hardly a
"great poet," but no great poet has written anything more apt than (from
But hark, my pulse, like a soft drum,
Beats my approach, tells thee I come;
And How'er long the marches be,
I shall at last lie down with thee.
Or (from memory: have I got the line breaks correct?):
Western wind, when wilt thou blow,
Christ, that my love werein my arms
And I in my bed again.
Or even very minor poets indeed. Dorothy Parker:
I'd rather flunk my Wasserman test
Than read a poem by Eddie Guest.
Or a great poet writing a mere epitaph:
Nature, and nature's God, lay hid in night,
God said, let Newton be, and all was light.
Or another great poet making a casual observation on a student late to
Striding along as if o'er tasked by Time.
Or another a minor poet indeed:
Where the brown fields their fallow Sabbath keep.
Eliot could achieve great precision, but less frequently (if bulk makes a
difference) than either Marianne Moore or Pound.
But these comparisons of poets as though poetry were the playoffs for the
state basketball tournament are silly. And poems are not enhanced by piling
up complimentary phrases for the man or woman who wrote them.
And the prosaic (i.e., actual prose) is not to be sneered at: "...men have
died from time to time and worms have eaten them, but not for love.'
That he or she finds ways to express what is needed is not a high compliment
to a writer but merely states the minimum expected!