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Poetry and Play (Part II): An Exegesis Mashup




as if it were a scene made-up by the mind, 
that is not mine, but is a made place,

—  “[Play] is a significant function–that is to say, there is some sense to it. In play there is something “at play” which transcends the immediate needs of life and imparts meaning to the action. All play means something.”  —

that is mine, it is so near to the heart, 
an eternal pasture folded in all thought 
so that there is a hall therein

—  “Play cannot be denied. You can deny, if you like, nearly all abstractions: justice, beauty, truth, goodness, mind, God. You can deny seriousness, but not play.”  —

that is a made place, created by light 
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.

—  “But in acknowledging play you acknowledge mind, for whatever else play is, it is not matter. Even in the animal world it bursts the bounds of the physically existent. From the point of view of a world wholly determined by the operation of blind forces, play would be altogether superfluous. Play only becomes possible, thinkable and understandable when an influx of mind breaks down the absolute determinism of the cosmos.”  —

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am 
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved 
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.

—  “The great archetypal activities of human society are all per­meated with play from the start. Take language, for instance­–that first and supreme instrument which man shapes in order to communicate, to teach, to command. Language allows him to distinguish, to establish, to state things; in short, to name them and by naming them to raise them into the domain of the spirit. In the making of speech and language the spirit is continually “sparking” between matter and mind, as it were, playing with this wondrous nominative faculty. Behind every abstract ex­pression there lie the boldest of metaphors, and every metaphor is a play upon words. Thus in giving expression to life man creates a second, poetic world alongside the world of nature.”  —

She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words 
that is a field folded.

—  “The formal elements of poetry are manifold: metrical and strophical patterns, rhyme, rhythm, assonance, alliteration, stress, etc., and forms like the lyric, the drama, the epic. Various as all these factors are, they are to be met with all over the world. The same is true of the motifs of poetry which, however numerous they may be in any one language, occur everywhere and at all times. These patterns, forms and motifs are so familiar to us that we take their existence for granted and seldom pause to ask what the common denominator is that makes them so and not other­wise. This denominator, which makes for the astonishing uniformity and limitation of the poetic mode in all periods of human society, might perhaps be found in the fact that the creative function we call poetry is rooted in a function even more primordial than culture itself, namely play.”  —

It is only a dream of the grass blowing 
east against the source of the sun 
in an hour before the sun’s going down

—   “[Play] is an activity which proceeds within certain limits of time and space, in a visible order, according to rules freely accepted, and outside the sphere of necessity or material utility. The play-mood is one of rapture and enthusiasm, and is sacred or festive in accordance with the occasion. A feeling of exaltation and tension accompanies the action, mirth and relaxa­tion follow. Now it can hardly be denied that these qualities are also proper to poetic creation. In fact, the definition we have just given of play might serve as a definition of poetry. The rhythmical or symmetrical arrangement of language, the hitting of the mark by rhyme or assonance, the deliberate disguising of the sense, the artificial and artful construction of phrases–all might be so many utterances of the play spirit. To call poetry, as Paul Valéry has done, a playing with words and language is no metaphor: it is the precise and literal truth.” —

whose secret we see in a children’s game 
of ring a round of roses told.

— “The affinity between poetry and play is not external only; it is also apparent in the structure of creative imagination itself. In the turning of a poetic phrase, the development of a motif, the expression of a mood, there is always a play-element at work . . . [The] writer’s aim, conscious or unconscious, is to create a tension that will “enchant” the reader and hold him spellbound.” —

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow 
as if it were a given property of the mind 
that certain bounds hold against chaos,

that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.

–Robert Duncan / Johan Huizinga

see: Poetry and Play: Part I