Why Old Poetry Is Important

The light of love, the purity of grace,
The mind, the Music breathing from her face, [6]
The heart whose softness harmonised the whole –
And, oh! that eye was in itself a Soul!

Lord Byron, The Bride of Abydos, Canto the First.

There’s something so powerful about cracking open a book and reading through some of the best old poetry. In high school you’re often regaled, I use this word loosely, with some of the most popular poets. It isn’t until you’re in college that you learn about the amazing foundations poetry has. You learn what you love, like Burns or Yeats, and what you hate. You learn that poetry doesn’t rhyme always, but that there is a particular lilt to each word that you just can’t put your finger on. You iambic this and pentameter that. If you go to college for English, you find out all of this. More importantly, you find out what inspires you to create poetry.

For me it was Lord Byron. His personal life aside I have always been fairly fascinated with his writing. He wrote about…what he wanted. He wrote a poem for his dead dog. He’s written poems which infuriate my senses and at the same time lull me into a quiet moment of contentment. Without learning about these old poems it is genuinely hard to understand poetry now. Every type of poetry has merit. All art has merit, of course. Experiencing all of it will give you a better understanding of what works for you and what you absolutely can’t get a grip on. I, personally, am not a fan of modern poetry. These poems fail to capture my imagination, or even tell a story to be honest. With older poetry I often memorize favorite lines and feel inspired. With modern poems, it feels like reality television.

These are the type of poems I am asked to review for work at times. I give my input and judge what I read. It’s why I have such a great love of classic poetry. Old English poems are fascinating to dissect. So, if you have a fear of classic poems, don’t. Read them as you would a short story. To understand modern poems you have to go back.

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