Thursday, October 06, 2016

National Poetry Day: The House of the Mind

Almost too late — but not quite — I have realised that today, October 6th, is National Poetry Day.  I haven't managed last year's effort suggesting ten poems worth reading, but instead, here is a poem whose eye-watering beauty and simplicity I came across the other day. 

It is the work of Joseph Beaumont (1616-1699) who, for all that he was Master of Jesus College, Cambridge, and then of Peterhouse, was content to distil into these four seamlessly-wrought quatrains quite a direct meaning, a quite uncynical, heartening idea.  And why shouldn't he have been?  He has not left in a single loose end or spare word, and yet it is not at all sparse or thin.  How moving, too, is that English restraint — a mode familiar and understandable to me — that he allows to give way to emotion only in the penultimate couplet, and in a way that is all the more moving for its quietness.

I think that this poem ought to be much better known.  Happy National Poetry Day!

The House of the Mind — Joseph Beaumont

As earth’s pageant passes by,
Let reflection turn thine eye
Inward, and observe thy breast;
There alone dwells solid rest.
That’s a close immurèd tower        
Which can mock all hostile power:
To thyself a tenant be,
And inhabit safe and free.
Say not that this house is small,
Girt up in a narrow wall;        
In a cleanly sober mind
Heaven itself full room doth find.
Th’ infinite Creator can
Dwell in it, and may not man?
Here content make thy abode        
With thyself and with thy God.

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