|"Grieving Patroklos", by Troy Caperton|
"- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening", Frost said. He put both hands on the pulpit and peered at Mr. Ramsey.
- [Mr Ramsey :] Yes, sir. Now that particular poem is not unusual in your work for being written in stanza form, with iambic lines connected by rhyme.
- Good for you, Frost said. They must be teaching you boys something here. [...] You had a question ?
- Yes, sir. The question is whether such a rigidly formal arrangement of language is adequate to express the modern consciousness. That is, should form give way to more spontaneous modes of expression, even at the cost of a certain disorder ?
- Modern consciousness, Frost said. What's that ?
- Ah! Good question, sir. Well - very roughly speaking, I would describe it as the mind's response to industrialization, the saturation propaganda of governments and advertisers, two world wars, the concentration camps, the dimming of faith by science, and of course the constant threat of nuclear annihilation. Surely these things have had an effect on us. Surely they have changed our thinking.
- Surely nothing. Frost stared down at Mr Ramsey.
If this had been the Las Judgement, Mr. Ramsey and his modern consciousness would've been in for a hot time of it. He couldn't have looked more alone, standing there.
- Don't tell me about science, Frost said. I'm something of a scientist myself. Bet you didn't know that. Botany. You boys know what tropism is, it's what makes a plant grow toward the light. Everything aspires to the light. You don't have to chase down a fly to get rid of it - you just darken the room, leave a crack of light in a window, and out he goes. Works every time. We all have that instinct, that aspiration. Science can't - what was your word? dim? - science can't dim that. All science can do is turn out the false lights so the true light can get us home.
Mr. Ramsey began to say something, but Frost kept going.
- So you don't tell me about science, and don't tell me about war. I lost my nearest friend in the one they call the Great War. So did Achilles lose his friend in war, and Homer did no injustice to his grief by writing about it in dactylic hexameters. There've always been wars, and they've always been as foul as we could make them. It is very fine and pleasant to think ourselves the most put-upon folk in history - but then everyone has thought that from the beginning. It makes a grand excuse for all manner of laziness. But about my friend. I wrote a poem for him. I still write poems for him. Would you honor your own friend by putting words down anyhow, just as they come to you - with no thought for the sound they make, the meaning of their sound, the sound of their meaning? Would that give a true account of the loss?
Frost had been looking right at Mr. Ramsey as he spoke. Now he broke off and let his eyes roam over the room.
- I am thinking of Achilles' grief, he said. That famous, terrible, grief. Let me tell you boys something. Such grief can only be told in form. Form is everything. Without it you've got nothing but a stubbed-toe cry - sincere, maybe, for what that's worth, but with no depth or carry. No echo. You may have a grievance but you do not have grief, and grievances are for petitions, not poetry."
Tobias Wolff, Old School, Bloomsbury