In response to an earlier post on this blog, Vassilis Zambaras posted a comment in which he quoted from Owen Barfield‘s classic Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning. I had read the book early in my twenties and frankly was too callow, both as a reader and a writer, to grasp the fullness of Barfield’s insights. Vassilis’s comment sent me back to the book, though, and I’ve been discovering just how much I missed the first time through.
Like many writers of his generation Barfield frequently uses footnotes, where he makes offhand remarks that could easily inspire whole essays of their own, if not entire books. Here’s one:
Logical judgments, by their nature, can only render more explicit some one part of a truth already implicit in their terms. But the poet makes the terms themselves. He does not make judgments, therefore; he only makes them possible.
There’s a truth whose light one could read by on the darkest night. And I think poets need such light, especially in this strange country of ours, with its volatile mix of two fundamentalisms—technological rationalism and religious unreason.