Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Passions, Poems, Prose

She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that's best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes...


I have kept a paper journal for years, and have done pretty well in expressing a rough version of what's on my mind for my own purposes. But recently, I was looking back over Goethe's "The Sorrows of Young Werther", and felt a sense of want for the expressiveness of a bygone age. I know that there are plenty of people being expressive these days, but a look at one or two "random" pages from livejournal tells me that most of the 15-year-olds of today aren't only a few years of maturity away from such passionate and lucid narrative. Of course, perhaps computers, and the attendant ease that they bring to writing, and spreading our writings may have something to do with it, but I don't think so. As support for that view, I point to a number of letters from everyday people I've read from the turn of the century. Though not necessarily of publication quality, there's solidity, continuity, and depth that seem hard to find today.

I don't think that that level of expression is absent today, just harder to find. There are more distractions, a less favorable "signal to noise ratio," and a general difficulty in appreciating what isn't immediately processed. Fortunately, that that was written years ago is itself easier to find, thanks to those same advances in technology. And sure, plenty of the stuff created today, even popular song lyrics by young writers, is pretty good, and some relatively recent material may well even become classic.

Some of the best expressive writing of today, like that of old, is able to help us express our sentiments through the art of others, and I'm glad to have it. And, of course, it's not a bad idea to follow that inspiration and craft something of your own, even if your only audience is yourself.


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