The Village Atheist

Ye young debaters over the doctrine Of the soul's immortality, I who lie here was the village atheist, Talkative, contentious, versed in the arguments

Of the infidels.

But through a long sickness

Coughing myself to death

I read the Upanishads and the poetry of Jesus. And they lighted a torch of hope and intuition And desire which the Shadow,

Leading me swiftly through the caverns of darkness,

Could not extinguish.

Listen to me, ye who live in the senses

And think through the senses only:

Immortality is not a gift,

Immortality is an achievement;

And only those who strive mightily

Shall possess it.

The Surreal Poem. Such verse contains dreamlike or hallucinatory images. To illustrate, here is the fourth and last section of "Preludes" by T.S. Eliot:

His soul stretched tight across the skies That fade behind a city block, Or trampled by insistent feet At four and five and six o'clock; And short square fingers stuffing pipes, And evening newspapers, and eyes Assured of certain certainties, The conscience of a blackened street Impatient to assume the world. I am moved by fancies that are curled Around these images, and cling: The notion of some infinitely gentle Infinitely suffering thing.

Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh; The worlds revolve like ancient women Gathering fuel in vacant lots.

Now, a disclaimer: Although these examples and others mentioned later in this chapter concern aspects of Judeo-Christian mythology, the ideas behind the various types apply to all religions or beliefs. And, while poems may be set in the occidental mind in some examples, you certainly should not attempt to mimic that mind if you hail from another culture. In sum, the beliefs, entities and settings described herein are important because of the methods that poets employed to compose their poems.

Let's see what those methods involve, by way of craft.

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