Philosophy or Poetry

"A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death."

WB Yeats, 'An Irish Airman Foresees His Death'


Philosophy or poetry?

Let's kick this football around a bit. 

Plato preferred philosophy,

As he would, being a philosopher.

He thought poets were mad, he may have a point.

Poets, of course, are liars by profession,

So, when I say I prefer philosophy, you'll know

I have my fingers-crossed and am thinking of Keats

Saying that philosophy will clip an angel's wing.

Poets endeavour to give an air of truth

To airy nothings. And truth is beauty.

Poets, like children, personify ideas

Giving shape to airy nothings

Through extended metaphor and conceit

Poets imagine in more than the three dimensions

Time is the fourth dimension

And poets stop the clocks.

Create a golden age: an Arcadia, 

Bewilder’d by poetic speculations.

Philosophers retreat into Plato’s republic of ideal forms.

While poets seek to catch the wind in words

Unafraid of being thought absurd.

Plato thinks each effect has a single, discernible cause

Poets disagree

Post a  cacophony of inequality

AS this poem may, very likely, be.


Plato quote: If anyone comes to the gates of poetry and expects...


◄ Vanishing point

Speed of the sound of self-isolation ►


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Wed 8th Apr 2020 22:47

Erudite as always and there are some interesting strands to engage us John. Incredible that after the passage of so much time the minds of learned and intelligent people can still pass muster. And so we make a mark, however transient it may be.

An enjoyable read.


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Wed 8th Apr 2020 14:45


Very interesting. I have thought about this question in the past and I tend to agree with the straightforward view of the American poet William Carlos Williams who said: “Philosophy is about ideas; poetry is about words”.

I say let’s keep playing with words, humbly.


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keith jeffries

Tue 7th Apr 2020 22:47


This is a good poem of exploration and comparisons. I have always regarded poets as people who are in varying ways philosophical. Poets often explore the truth and challenge the mind. I shall read this poem again a few times. Plato wrote at a time of antiquity alongside some of the greatest poets. Homer being perhaps the greatest.

Well done John. As usual you rake the grey matter
Thank you for this

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