Monday, July 12, 2010
Ode to the Dead Poets
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.
One of the nicest features of the internet is that it allows you to catch up on your past. Being in a reflective mood recently, I sought to search for the contact information of an English professor whose class (Introduction to English Literature) I took as a college freshman. I wanted to express, almost 20 years later, how much that one course changed my life and made me appreciate the written word as a way of "saying the unsayable", as the phrase the professor used to explain the purpose of poetry.
Now that's deep when you think about it. It means that all poetry is ultimately futile. No matter how well you choose your words and arrange them, they can never fully express what motivated you to write them. But the very act of trying to express those feelings goes a long way just the same. That was just one of the important revelations that unfolded in that class. It was a basic, introductory class, but the reverence shown for the written word combined with the interpretation of the meaning of each line got my attention. The interpretation of each poem was attended by an explanation of the personal motivation of the poet, so that the words could be fully realized and appreciated by the students, who all too often were disinterested, hungover and just there to fulfill a requirement. Which was the reason I was there, too, because I could not get out of it by taking a CLEP test. This was one case of things working out for the best.
When you do intensive physical training, you can actually see your body changing. This class was the educational equivalant of that transformative process. I could actually sense my perceptions of the world around me changing. It made me realize the true purpose of education in making us better at appreciating all we are exposed to and motivating us to seek further horizons. This is what I wanted to thank this professor for after all these years.
So I searched for the name on the internet. Sadly, I found that the professor had died almost five years ago. I knew this was one of the possible outcomes of so many passing years, but it still came as a great disappointment to me. There was no way to express how he had transformed my mind. Then again, it would not have been fully possible to do that anyway, as he had already explained.