The Muses we understand from Part 1 of this article are the daughters of the future and the past, and more specifically of memory, light, truth and beauty; they are essential for the ‘good life’, and we understand as well that because they are goddesses, they cannot be summoned by human will, but they can be invoked by supplications, by readiness, by the human spirit or soul that is aligned with their purpose.

This takes us to a new and key observation: that everyone can be a poet if – IF – they can speak from their own true, authentic self, or what we used to call their soul; their core being. In her book ‘Poetry and Story Therapy’, Geri Giebel Chavis writes, “This experience left me with the strong belief that we are all poets when the true self finds its voice”. It is not easy to do this, and goes way beyond understanding or using the skills and techniques of poetry that poets so typically deploy. The reason it is so difficult is because, sadly, for most of us, most of the time, we speak as our false self-dictates. ‘Persona’ is a word meaning ‘mask’; it was used in Greek drama and from it we derive our concept of ‘personality’. But personality is too simple a word really, for we all seem to have, more accurately, personalities: multiple ‘persona’ or masks that we exhibit – or hide behind – to present our false or ego selves to the world.

We see this clearly when we consider how differently we act and behave in the different environments in which we find ourselves: as a son or daughter, as a sibling, as a parent, as a friend, as a co-worker, as a subordinate, as a boss, or down at the ‘club’, or in a sport’s situation, and so on. The mature personality can manage some consistency of being, but even in the best of us there is a mask – we project who we are rather than allowing our essential self, or soul, to manifest its own unique properties – unique, and thus original.

And this contaminates our language; nowhere more so than in writing poetry itself. Every generation seems to produce a ‘top fifty’ list of poets whom the media raves about, but which the next generation comes to realise are no poets at all, just clever versifiers, free versifiers, who tapped into the zeitgeist of contemporary values and ideas, and so were popular and seemed important. Occasionally 1 or 2 of that 50 get read 100 years hence, and often too, alarmingly often, 1 or 2 who nobody heard of at the time – e.g. Emily Dickinson or Gerard Manley Hopkins – get the recognition they were denied in their life time. Because – why? Because they spoke from the Muse and their poetry lives.

For the Muse – the poet’s Muse – if she can be invoked – in that timeless and abnormal present moment – transforms the soul of the poet so that he or she can speak directly from their soul, bypassing the masks, the ego. And here is the truth of the matter: the human soul itself is inherently pure, beautiful, truthful and eternal. Whatever the subject matter – no matter, as with Dante, if one is in the very pit of hell, or with Shakespeare in Macbeth’s castle – yet the soul speaking will render it beautiful and true (and we know post-modern poetry is not poetry since it confronts ‘reality’ and renders it uglier still – then pats itself on the back for being ‘realistic’!).

Such words as these, then, live forever; for they are inspired – breathed in – by a goddess. And I need a word here from Jung, lest I be thought to be some half-baked literalist in discussing these gods and goddesses: “We think we can congratulate ourselves on having already reached such a pinnacle of clarity, imagining that we have left all these phantasmal gods far behind. But what we have left behind are only verbal spectres, not the psychic facts that were responsible for the birth of the gods. We are still as much possessed today by autonomous psychic contents as if they were Olympians. Today they are called phobias, obsessions, and so forth; in a word, neurotic symptoms. The gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer rules Olympus but rather the solar plexus, and produces curious specimens for the doctor’s consulting room, or disorders the brains of politicians and journalists who unwittingly let loose psychic epidemics on the world.” So, how different this is in every way from the negative, structure-less, formless, ego-centric ideologies that inform poetry now – and have done so for about the last 100 years. But the results of these various ideologies are what is most notable: contemporary poetry which is not only mostly ugly, formless, ego-centric, self-referential, but critically, and most of all, mendacious. Mendacious in the sense that it wholly misrepresents the cosmos and creation; it relishes evil, absurdity, nihilism and pointlessness, and promotes these ideas and attitudes as sophisticated and good; and when stuck, facing all the massive evidence to the contrary, retreats into a total subjectivism, which shrugs its shoulders with as much as to say, ‘Well, that’s just your opinion’. They, of course, know better, and cannot see that such a position equally undermines their opinion. But the simplest anonymous folk song or some lyrics by Bob Dylan have more poetry in them than the combined weight of all the post-modernist poems of the last 30 years. How do we know? Because we’ll all go on reading and enjoying the former as long as our culture lasts; whereas the post-modern poetry is largely unread even now by the post-moderns – it contributes nothing to the ‘good life’.

It is, then, relatively easy to write such poetry and to fool oneself into thinking it is poetry. But it is much more difficult to speak from one’s authentic self. Most people at some point in their lives have tried to write poetry (and even still secretly do) but finally give up (or hide it in a desk or on a computer somewhere) because they realise or think that it’s no good. What they fail to realise (or wantonly don’t want to realise if they have gone over to the post-modernistic modes of writing) is that one doesn’t have to try to write poetry if one is speaking authentically – that is, from one’s self or soul. As GK Chesterton expressed it: “For I am one of those who think that the poet stands separate and supreme among men, in that simple fact that the poet can say exactly what he means, and that most men cannot”.

This is a paradox because, of course, the poet does say exactly what he or she means, but what that is he or she may not know in advance of saying it; for poetry is like ‘being’ – mysterious, wonderful, unlimited. Aldous Huxley noted: “The world is poetical intrinsically and what it means is simply itself. Its significance is the enormous mystery of its existence and of our awareness of its existence.” To speak, then, authentically requires submission, openness, and capacity – qualities which allow the Muse to enter, to generate the abnormal ‘present’ in which the words dance and a new cosmos of consciousness is created. Yes, a new cosmos of consciousness is created; the intrinsic likeness of mankind to God is in their creativity. The poet continues the creative act of God that began at the beginning; all humans do – or should – of course, and not only in the discipline of words; but that is the tragedy of humanity – the failure to be creative and to resort to destruction instead.

The theologian H.A. Williams expressed it thus: “There can be no Joy where there is no creativity because the absence of creativity is a denial of Joy at its source, that is, a denial of God the Creator. That means that we must all be poets if we are to be what God intends us to be – not, of course, poets as we now understand the word (very few of us can be that), but in its original sense of makers.”

In part 3 we will look at how poetry balances the mind, helps us heal, and leads to the magic of words. What is the most magical word in the English language? And why? Find out in Part 3. Learn, too, about the holy state we must enter to be poets.


PLEASE NOTE: I welcome any one trying to guess what I think is the most magical word in the English language. Post your guess in the comments section below. The answer will be revealed in Part 3 of this article next month. If anyone can guess this before I reveal it, then the first correct answer will receive a free, signed copy of my book, The Lyre Speaks True. So, think about it, fellow Classical Poets!

PS. In the event of no-one actually predicting it correctly, I reserve the right to award the prize to the most original or best alternative answer to mine.


James Sale is a leading expert on motivation, and the creator and licensor of Motivational Maps worldwide. James has been writing poetry for over 50 years and has eight collections of poems published, including most recently, The Lyre Speaks True, his metaphor for the paradoxes of being a poet. He can be found at and contacted at james@motivational He is the winner of First Prize in the Society’s 2017 Competition and regularly writes reviews for the Society.

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The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or commentary.

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75 Responses

  1. Alex Andy Phuong

    Dear James,

    My name is Alex Phuong. I would like to guess the most magical word in the English language.

    My guess is, “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

    Thank you!

    Alex Andy Phuong

    • James Sale

      A fabulous answer – not my one – and I think you will agree mine is superior, but if no-one gets it, you are now in with a chance!!

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    When James Sale speaks of the Muses as “goddesses” or divinities of some sort, he touches upon a crucial issue. For those of us who are consciously religious, the words are metaphorical and acceptable as such — just as believing Christians in the medieval or Renaissance periods could make reference to various Graeco-Roman divinities in their poetry without any hint of apostasy. Only crazed Calvinist Puritans would object to that.

    But when we think of “the gods” in a Jungian sense, things get more complicated. There are deep psychic urges in all of us that can drive us to triumph or tragedy, and if we think of “the gods” as fictive representations of these deep urges we are thinking very much as the more sophisticated ancients did. They saw “Aphrodite” as an actual divinity, but also as an excellent personification of the sexual urge itself. “Ares” was the god of war, but also combat itself, with all of its fury, rage, and savagery. Dionysos was the god of wine, but also of the human impulse to drunkenness, disinhibition, and wild revelry. What we have here is the notion that whenever a human being is in some kind of deeply excited or altered state (sexual desire, rage, drunkenness), a god has possessed him. This idea is analogous to the Jungian notion of an unconscious that can at times overwhelm the carefully constructed personae of our ego. Sometimes this event exalts us; more frequently it leads to abysmal disaster.

    As Mr. Sale points out, today these “autonomous psychic contents” are still alive and kicking, but because we live in a culture where they are essentially uncontrolled and unmanaged, they manifest themselves in all sorts of obsessions, phobias, rages, delusions, insane superstitions, mindless ideologies, perversions, and mental derangements. I have called this widespread phenomenon “ethopathy,” and have written on it frequently. See my essay “Ethopathy: A Word Whose Time has Come”, which is on the internet:

    Serious poets have to confront the deep promptings of the unconscious mind, but they have to do it as the ancients did — within a carefully drawn temenos or sacred border that keeps their intelligence and rational perception active and in charge at all times. This is why Jung himself (not a Christian in any denominational sense) said that when one is threatened by an eruption of the unconscious, one’s only hope is to kneel before a statue of St. Christopher with a burning candle, and pray devoutly that one’s light does not go out.

    • James Sale

      Thank you so much for these thoughts and ideas Joseph Salemi; I have read your link to ‘ethopathy’ and loved the article – so much so I have posted an accredited sentence or two from it on both my Facebook and LinkedIn pages. The thing is: you write with such wit. Some of your examples made me laugh out loud. The final sentence of the essay proper is a case in point: “And we can expect to hear sentences like “You’re a goddamned ethopath!” or “What kind of ethopathic insanity is this?” or “He’s the most flagrant example of ethopathy since Michael Jackson.” It’s the specificity of Michael Jackson – the final two words – that got me guffawing loudly!

    • Charles Southerland

      The word surely has to be “faith,” James. Without it there can be no love, no getting in your car to go anywhere, no calling or impetus for living. Even atheists have faith, however misplaced it is. Faith is causal and a gift. It would seem impossible to motivate anyone without it. It is “magical” because it is unquantifiable. Limitless.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Charles, the problem is that many Americans (not you) confuse “faith” with cheerful optimism and the power of positive thinking. Faith isn’t that at all. Faith is trust in and loyalty to divine truth even when your entire world is shattered, your hopes are blasted, your heart is lacerated, and all that you have loved and cherished in this valley of tears has gone up in smoke and ashes. It is obedience unto death, and in the face of all worldly contempt and injustice.

        Americans have an inbred tendency to see faith as a kind of cheerful, upbeat energy that will somehow always save our bacon. This sort of “Rah-rah-let’s-go-team” faith will (in the American viewpoint) always win the day, despite all obstacles and setbacks. But it’s just not true.

      • James Sale

        Thank you – Mr Mackenzie – for your reassurance that I am experiencing an interior life; I hadn’t thought of what I was saying as a symptom, but I can see that now. And thank you Mr Salemi for your candid disclosure; actually, like you, I have always admired Jung precisely because he successfully countered Freud, who is far more pernicious in his core beliefs and deep atheism.. Finally, to Mr Werecub – numerology is of great interest to me, so thanks for these details from the classics. My review of Mr Mackenzie’s sonnets exists in a longer form, which specifically goes into more of his numerology and can be found at:,-Joseph-Charles-Mackenzie&id=9712185 Deep thanks all.

      • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

        It is a good question being raised about what we read as poets.

        For me, the great writer of the age was neither Freud nor Jung, but Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, perhaps the greatest anti-modernist of the 20th century, a true Thomist.

        Les Trois Ages de la Vie Interieure (1938) surpasses all the Germanic psychologists put together, in my mind.

        The world is more neurotic now than ever before, most especially the Germans. Defective books, defective societies.

      • James Sale

        Yes, you are right, Mr Mackenzie, what one reads on an ongoing and persistent basis becomes part of the material that shapes one’s own character, so again we need the Scylla and Charybdis of … really good stuff that we can return to time and time again. Balanced by … the really bad stuff that reveals how good the good stuff is. Initially, certainly, it was all hit and miss for me; but as I have got older, hopefully wiser, I now only go to the good stuff. And eventually, a paragraph, a sentence, even a word supplies ample clues to go no further. But, then again, we do have to extend ourselves and not only reinforce what we know, but venture where we do not. The thing about the cosmos is: since everything is connected, eventually every piece can play its part.

      • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

        An aside for everyone thanks to Charles.

        I myself am beginning to understand Professor Salemi’s “terribilità” in his satires from the angle of his faith. Michelangelo possessed this quality in his frescoes.

        In other words, the best satire, which is often some of the best poetry, confronts reality and its frustrations head-on, as opposed to the Americanist approach in which “faith” seems to be a complete and utter denial of reality.

        So, I myself had to undergo a learning process about the Salemi poems I am reading now.

      • James Sale

        Yes, Mr Salemi, I understand exactly where you are coming from. My professional work is as a management consultant who specialises in people development and motivation. I probably give more credit to ‘optimism’ (yes, despite my great hero, GK Chesterton’s strictures) than you do. But you are right in essentials: optimism, as which started more or less in America with Emerson, got seriously going with Napoleon Hill (‘what a man can believe, he can achieve’), and now is a major industry with academic heavyweights like Martin Seligman at the fore – and Harvard as a whole! – is not faith, though it seems like it, and it does have its profound uses. But the sad thing is: it is simply another attempt by secularism to get the benefits of religion without the religion.

      • Michelle Simon

        Hi, just wanted to say I agree with Joseph’s explanation of “faith.”
        On that subject, I wrote a haiku on that very subject a few months back. Would love to know what you all think of it.
        It is basically, a reinterpretation of Heb. 11:1–

        tomorrow the sun
        a thing unseen, yet assured
        eyes no longer blind

      • G. M. H. Thompson

        A good haiku, and indeed better than most I’v e seen written nowadays, yet the second line is a bit lacking– a second line such as “melts away tonight’s snowfall” serves the poem better in providing a seasonal image and creates more of a turn by not talking about sight explicitly until the last line. But the first and third lines are good, and overall, it’s an interesting and well-executed haiku.

    • James Sale

      Hi GMHT – ha! If there were a runner-up prize, you might get it as ‘love’ is certainly one of the words I consider in my account of magical words – so close, perhaps – but this is not my choice. Truly, though, you are a great romantic!

      • G. M. H. Thompson

        I will guess again, both because someone should have guessed this by now, and because my initial instinct was to guess this: your magic word is “Beauty”, for as Fyodor Dostoyevsky said, “Beauty will save the World.”

      • James Sale

        Hi GMH – I have no problem guessing again, since there are some 750,000 words in the English – and more – then it seems only fair if people can have 3 guesses since the odds are stacked against them! Beauty is, it is true, is a magical word, is one of my favourite words – I have just commented on it on another post on this site – but it is not my most magical word!!! Keep watching – you will be surprised. And for effort – you are certainly ahead, as well as having great suggestions!!

  3. David Watt

    I believe “faith” is the most magical word in the English language.
    Faith to believe in a better world. Faith in God. Faith in believing we can and will overcome that which constantly challenges our lives. Faith that in some small way we may set an example to follow.

  4. James Sale

    Thanks David – this is actually one of my all-time favourite words, and faith is magical as it does move mountains seemingly without effort. But alas, this is not my word; yet it is a very strong one!

      • James Sale

        Thank you for referring to my English Cantos, Joseph, in this context. Dante certainly saw the will as being the mainspring of our salvation, if we were so to achieve it; and of course the operation of the will depends on faith, for if we do not have it – in anything – then why would we act at all? Isaac B Singer said: ‘We must believe in free will. We have no choice’ – that captures the paradox and the passion of our need for it. And for those who have been enslaved by determinism all their life, let us recall William James’s observation: ‘My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will’.

  5. David Hollywood

    “Poetry” – because it embraces all ranges and opportunities for philosophical reflection, creativity, feeling, imagination, abstract imaginings, rationality, the use of symbolism, the formation of a theme, formatic presentation, inclusion of simile and metaphor, unusual and surprising language, contradiction, repetition, difficulty of understanding, allusion, dramatic turn, enhanced descriptions, tension, freshness, ambiguity, conflict, challenge, perception, evocative insights. Whatever the word is, for me it is poetry. I look forward to Part 3, and thank you.

    • James Sale

      Ha ha ha – what a wonderful answer and with such good reasons. You are of course not wrong in what you say, although this is not my choice. What is will, I think, surprise you. Thanks for your feedback.

  6. Sultana Raza

    I agree with most of this article. I’d say ‘truth’ is the most magical word, as truth has the power to alter lives, if not societies. At the same time, keeping Plato’s Cave in mind, it’s best to recognise that what is one person’s truth is not necessarily another’s, and as such to respect their truth. Since our view is formed by perception, which is itself coloured by too many unconscious factors, how can any human being claim to know the absolute truth? All we have is our relative truth. As long as we can respect that, there’s a chance we can progress as a species.

    • James Sale

      Thank you Sultana – this is a great response: so many people are coming up with words I love and which are true poetry. But alas, in the case, this is not my word. But all your points about it are well taken. Glad you enjoyed the article.

  7. Robert L. King

    All things considered, the word I would choose is “lyrical.”
    I look forward to learning your choice. Thanks for Part 2, with which, as usual, we have a lot of agreement.

    • James Sale

      Thanks Robert – who could argue with this wonderful word. So many good words are being said, that I reach a point of thinking there will be an indignant riot if nobody choose my choice! But I shall hand out the prize to what I consider the best alternative – thanks again Robert, but wonderful as lyric is, and a special favourite of mine with the 9 Muses, it’s not my number one word.

  8. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    I will go ahead and use Dr. Salemi’s word.

    For me, as a Thomist, recourse to an “unconscious,” to such a thing as “psychic urges,” and “possession” is an ethopathy in the strictest sense.

    I say this in full disclosure of the fact that I believe James Sale has provided one of the best essays yet. In other words, even if the ethopathy of Jungian “psychology” is taken as the essay’s intellectual framework, James Sale manages to use it to get to the core of many issues.

    And I also say this with perfect respect and admiration for Professor Salemi’s response which reminds us of the essential “jouissance” of happier times, when Christendom could freely appropriate the ideas of the ancients to advantage.

    But that is only because Christendom was strong enough at the time to make the kinds of distinctions Professor Salemi is making. This is no longer the case. Leo XIII published the Parma edition of St. Thomas in reaction to philosophy’s decline within the Church, thereby giving birth to neo-Scholasticism throughout the world.

    This is why I think we must be exquisitely careful in our choice of frameworks. There is no doubt that Jung is the father of Naturalistic Pantheism—the very religion of today’s secular atheist, the religion, in fact, of Vatican II. Jorge Bergolio and Joseph Ratzinger are essentially Jungian, whatever their public rhetoric. Jung’s framework has a genealogy going back to some of the worst philosophers who ever lived, including Descartes, philosophy’s de-Christianizer as Pascal rightly discerned.

    What most of our readers may not know is that Christendom has its own Psychologia developed and refined by the Schoolmen of Paris. It was a branch of metaphysics and it preserved philosophy intact for centuries prior to its rejection by the Reformation. It is a pure psychology, untainted by Platonic innatism, Leibnitzian monadism, and the completely absurd transcendentalism of the German psuedo-philosophers, Kant and Hegel who form the basis of Freud’s system and for that matter Jung’s.

    Why am I bringing all of this up this up? Because all of these systems in which Jung was steeped, are the source of modernist subjectivism and skepticism—the very enemies of poetry, indeed the enemies of all mankind.

    I therefore recommend that everyone find a good copy of Edouard Hugon’s Metaphysics. Open it. Take the time to go through the first chapters of the tract on Metaphysica Psychologica—it’s surprisingly easy to understand and provides the pertinent Aristotelian axioms for you. Discover a real and workable notion of the nature of the intellect. You will be astounded by the simplicity of the Thomistic approach.

    For me, as a poet, absolutely nothing wells up from within. Everything is given ab externo. And the self, authentic or not, has not one thing to do with any of it.

    The less of me, the more of Christ. This is all I know of poetry.

    • James Sale

      Thanks for this Joseph – it’s wonderful. I will get a copy of Hugon’s meteaphysics now you mention it. I ought to say, by way of rationale, I completely agree with you about the externality of inspiration – in-spire: God breathed in, as it were – but I have spend a long time in my life trying to get to grips with this whole thing, and without wishing to bore readers of SOCP by being too theological about it – it is poetry after all we are here for – there is that marvellous fine line, a Scylla and Charybdis if you will – between asserting the transcendence of God (which I vehemently do), which means inspiration is external, whilst simultaneously understanding that God is immanent, which I also believe. The immanence of God is fascinating because mankind is in the image of God – we are images of infinity. But, infinity cannot be diluted; hence Christ’s affirmation that ‘ye are gods’ and the scripture cannot be broken. In that sense, then, I metaphorically use both Greek myths and Jung as ways of confirming to others the internal inspiration that is also part of the nature of things. I hope this makes sense, and if it doesn’t, I wouldn’t want to be dogmatic about it; but clearly, not being a Catholic, yet calling myself a Christian, I am in a constant state of working out a theology whilst simultaneously accepting much of the deep wisdom of the masters before us.

      • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

        In fact, James, you would make the very best kind of theologian, precisely because you are not afraid of paradox. All too often, seminarians will see only the trees of a particular tract of metaphysics, forgetting the larger forest and the sky above it.

        But all of that was simply to say that one powerful feature of the Ars Poetica Nova is the ability of poets to utterly discard whole systems, however venerable, if they lead away from the path our very poems would have the reader travel, the path to Highest Truth.

        So if the poetry leads to there, but our framework for discussing it leads to everything that opposes it, then we fall into a deadly snare. 20th-century systems are only an option, not a requirement, especially given that civilization happily embraced Scholasticism for centuries—with the flowering of human arts and letters as a result.

        It is wonderful that you embrace paradox so easily. In “traditional” “Catholic” circles, the tendency is to believe that “I don’t need to work out a theology because the Fathers have already given me one.” Concedo: There is only one theology. Nego: The fact that we possess the theology of the Apostles and Fathers does not absolve us from having to study it in order to “work it out” in our lives.

        Granted, Hugon is writing one of many countless wonderful manuals published since the 13th century, but manuals are always a good starting point. I have seen priests boast of having read all four volumes of the Summa Theologica. I always tell them: “Your proud boast indicates you never read the preface wherein St. Thomas states that the Summa is only a beginner’s manual. You have just boasted of being a beginner.”

        And then there is the paradox of frater Thomas saying that all his works were chaff because the crucifix in his cell is the true summary of theology.

        This is where we Thomists live, embracing the study, but knowing it can take us only so far, and that the two talents of faith and grace must be used on the level of action—which is poetry for you and me and Salemi. We penetrate the mysteries, knowing that they surpass our intellect’s capacity for doing so.

        But I could not function was it not for my awareness of paradox. You have that to a very high degree. In fact, this is one of the classic signs of the interior life.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      I must confess that as a very young man I was profoundly influenced by C.G. Jung’s psychological studies, and particularly his exploration of the occult symbolism of Renaissance alchemy. This doesn’t mean that I reject what Mr. MacKenzie says against the terrible deformations of Jung’s ideas perpetrated by some of the less important camp followers that swam in the man’s wake. New-Age psychobabble, self-awareness fads, naturalistic pantheism and occultism, worship of The Other, deep ecology, gender feminism — all of this garbage had some of its roots in Jungian attitudes.

      And yes — Jung was deeply indebted to the godawful German Idealism that gave us Kant, Hegel, Marx, and their various spawn. But then again, he was a Swiss German, and hardly any German thinker of the last two centuries has escaped that poisonous heritage.

      But despite this indictment, there are things to be said in Jung’s defense. First off, Jung was a world-class mythology expert, on the plane of Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, and Georges Dumezil. Second, he single-handedly rescued the fledgling modern study of psychology from the polluted grasp of Freud and the Freudians. (Jung has been hated by Freudians ever since, and if we can partially judge a man by the enemies he makes, this is to Jung’s great credit). Third, he was a first-rate analyst and diagnostician of psychological disorders, and a man of very extensive erudition. Reading his work (despite his errors and misunderstandings) is a humanistic education in itself.

      Nevertheless, I grant Mr. MacKenzie an important point: Jung’s essential agnosticism on religious matters makes possible a new “religion of the self,” wherein an individual can construct his own mythology and doctrines out of personal experiences (whether pleasant or traumatic). Taken to an extreme, this is a form of self-worship that ultimately makes true religion irrelevant. Did Jung consciously intend this? I doubt it. But ideas do have consequences, and he remains at least partially responsible for what bedevils us today.

      I’ll now reveal something that I have never told anyone before.

      When I was a teenager, immersed in reading Jung’s work, I was quite naturally inflamed with enthusiasm for it. And in accord with Jungian practice, I paid close attention to my dreams.

      One night I dreamt that I was called into the presence of a Papal Figure, seated on the Throne of St. Peter, and crowned with the triple tiara. The Figure was not the reigning Pope, nor any other recognizable historical Pope. He was simply a hierophantic icon embodying all the magisterial authority of the Roman Catholic Church. I knelt in respect to him, and mentioned my interest in C. G. Jung.

      The Papal Figure snorted and replied “Jung? Jung is shit, but he’s the latest shit.” (I hope Mr. Mantyk will allow my use of a bad word, since I need to be honest about what I saw and heard),

      It was then I realized that C.G. Jung, despite his brilliance and profound perceptions, was not in every way compatible with orthodox Roman Catholic belief. I did not lose respect for the man, nor did I stop reading him. But I began to consider his work cum grano salis, as the Romans said.

      I’m very grateful for that dream. It saved me from the coming New-Age psychobable of the 1960s.

      • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

        A gratia gratis data. Infusion!

        When you place Scholasticism against all the philosophies that reject it, it has the appearance of a Lamborghini Roadster in a garage full of 1973 Ford Pintos.

        Just the fact that it establishes a hierarchy among the sciences and places Metaphysics at the top. Or that it requires Major and Minor Logic as preambula.

      • James Eliot

        Mr. Salemi, your answer is an essay in itself!

      • James Sale

        Thanks James Eliot – I am glad you appreciate Joseph Salemi’s insights – please check out my review of 3 collections of his great poetry which is on this website.

  9. Esiad L. Werecub

    In classical poetry, the third word of the Iliad is goddess, and the fourth word of the Odyssey is muse. Vergil does not use the word muse until after the first paragraph [W. F. Jackson Knight’s term],
    but it is prominently displayed at the beginning of the eighth line. Notice Vergil’s third word of the Aeneid is “I sing.”

    μηνιν άειδε θεά

    άνδδα μοι έννεπε, μουσα,

    Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris
    Italiam, fato profugus, Laviniaque venit
    litora, multum ille et terris iactatus et alto
    vi superum saevae memorem Iunonis ob iram;
    multa quoque et bello passus, dum conderet urbem,
    inferretque deos Latio, genus unde Latinum,
    Albanique patres, atque altae moenia Romae.
    Musa, mihi causas memora quo numinae laeso,
    quidve dolens, regina deum tot volvere casus
    insignem pietate virum, tot adire labores
    impulerit. Tantaene animus caelestibus irae?

  10. Wilude Scabere

    In Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” line 6 begins: “Sing Heav’nly Muse…”

  11. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    Just in case people are wondering about immanentism, it is the doctrine that teaches:

    All religion, all revelation, and God Himself, are but a sentiment of the heart welling up from the unconscious outside of which there is only the world and the unknowable (agnosticism). All religions therefore have the same status because they have one and the same source (relativism) in the individual religious experience (subjectivism).

    This idea was refuted and condemned by Pope St. Pius X in 1908 in one of the most philosophically majestic encyclicals ever produced, Pascendi Dominici Gregis:

    Poetry, under immanentism, can never be inspired, as inspiration is merely a personal experience rooted in the undefinable unconscious. Poetry therefore has the same origin as every other phenomenon—the unconscious.

    The danger is in creating an anti-intellective idea of poetry.

    If faith is an illumination of the mind, then immanentism removes the mind from the process. And we are back to sentiment.

    • James Sale

      Hi Mr Mackenzie – thanks for your comments on immanentism. I am about to go to bed and am in London tomorrow, so will return to this fully on Wednesday. But for now I need to check whether we are talking about the same philosophy. I note you call it immanentism, whereas I am referring to it as immanence. My understanding of immanence is not how you describe immanentism, and I thought it too, like the transcendental nature of God, non-heretical or standard Christian belief. So I am intrigued and will get back to you on this; naturally, I could be wrong. I certainly wish to avoid subjectivity and the illness I am always castigating which results from it: namely, solipsism!

      • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

        Yes, sometimes our terminology is the problem.

        Immanence, as put forth by the modernists (Blondel, Loisy, et al.) has various degrees, but they lead to the same errors.

        This is where Scholasticism saves us every time: it gives us well-defined terms to work with and teaches us to avoid those terms which, by their vagueness, get us into trouble 100% of the time.

        Immanence, however defined, is one of those dead ends, a cul-de-sac. If one wishes to speak of an indwelling of the Holy Ghost, one is in a much more workable space because Tradition (which includes Sacred Scripture) and Sacred Doctrine are able to give us light for that.

        As a rule, a new theologian must “prune” philosophical ethopathies—just cut them off and toss them away. If it looks like it is not going to get one anywhere, then, guess what? It’s not!

        French theology professors constantly cry “fausse piste!” when vague terms start to get out of hand.

        This is why the three major parts of philosophy—Logic (major and minor), Natural Philosophy, and Metaphysics—must always be mastered first, as they are the preambula to theology.

        There is a sequence which is best followed—because the sciences are hierarchical in nature.

        Philosophy is the handmade of theology.

    • James Sale

      Hi Mackenzie – I am back! On the subject of immanence, briefly, I checked in my ‘A Handbook of Christian Theology’, an article by John A. Hutchison, erstwhile Professor of Religion at Columbia University: “Among the various faiths and religions of the mankind the Judeao-Christian Bible is unique in its paradoxical assertion that God is both above the world and in the world, ie. both immanent and transcendent’. H e goes on to say, “The central dogma of Christianity, the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, may also be taken as an illustration of the the transcendent-immanent God’/. for the avoidance of further doubt I went to a stronger tome, Augustus H. Strong’s ‘Systematic Theology’ where he states, which I think explains your concern, ‘The elements of truth in Pantheism are the intelligence and voluntariness of God, and his immanence in the universe; its error lies in denying God’s personality and transcendence’. So if I understand this correctly, immanence is not something exclusively attached to pantheism, which I reject as you do. Anyway, one, you may reject my sources, which are more Protestant than Catholic; and two, I shall say no more of this matter here as it is a poetry site, and at the end of the day we are not assessing religious beliefs – except perhaps where they may have a bearing on … – but poetry!! Thanks for your always interesting comments and ideas.

      • Joseph Charles MacKenzied

        August Strong is already involved in the dismantling of Sacred Doctrine. He fancied himself the originator of a “new theology” which he called “systematic.”

        When he states that the elements of truth in Pantheism include God’s immanence in the universe, he is stating what is essentially erroneous about pantheism.

        He has not really thought about it. Pope St. Pius X was way ahead of him.

        In other words, Strong is not a theologian, nor could he be. He is already working within a false system—whatever his backgound (there are over 30,000 anti-Christian “Christian” sects in my own country).

        And this has everything to do with poetry and a poetry site. Rumi, the latest poet-idol of the left, is a pure pantheist, which makes his works practically unreadable as the poetic manifestation of a false principle magnifies what is ridiculous in the principle.

        Do the muses have anything, anything at all to do with Truth? This could not be more precisely relevant to this article. Because, if not, if poetry has no relation to Truth, then it loses its connection to beauty ipso facto, and become simply another weapon of modernism to disarm the human mind.

        Not a horse I would want to hitch my wagon to. But without clear principles, we risk doing just that.

      • James Sale

        Hi Mr Mackenzie – I said I wouldn’t comment again on the theology of this, since I don’t wish to get into a strictly theological argument, but you have widened the point extremely well by referring to the sacred concept of ‘truth’, which I agree with you is pertinent to poetry and its relationship to goodness, beauty and truth. But here I think you may be being too severe, for I am no fan of Rumi, but it was the Apostle Paul who spoke, Acts Chapter 17, of the Unknown god who the pagans worshipped , and specifically, ‘they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said’. This latter reference to pagan poets, and the acknowledgement by Paul that there was truth in some of their verses, is why I think poetry cannot be exclusively doctrinal. Sadly, for the faithful, the Muse can strike even a pagan so that their verses speak ‘truth’. It is weird, I know, but I think this is the case. Of course, it’s also great when you find doctrine and poetry meshed – as in your great case. As an interesting sidebar for you, I think the status of Shakespeare is interesting in terms of poetry/beliefs. In the last 40 years there have been at least half a dozen compelling books providing evidence – substantial evidence – that Shakespeare must have been a Catholic. At this distance, it is difficult to be sure, but it is a fascinating finding.

  12. Michelle Simon

    I’ll take a shot. Your most favorite magical word, James, is: muse because the muse is at the core of creativity.

    • James Sale

      Thank you Michelle – your haiku is quietly beautiful; and muse is an inspired choice, although not actually my pick – but thanks – all will soon will revealed and you have the chance of winning if no-one gets it – which I now increasingly think likely!!

  13. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    That poetry be doctrinal in the sense of a mere treatise in verse, nego.

    In the sense that poetry must must elevate the mind and heart to God without canonizing the false idols that oppose Him, concedo.

    The poet who possesses Sacred Doctrine, who recognizes its necessity, and who never ceases to ascend its heights, is the poet of the future.

    For, while the Spirit blows where it will, illuminations which could just as well be attributed to chance, make neither poets nor poetry. Let us not forget that man must cooperate with grace, or it is lost.

    God supplies the wind, man must raise the sail.

    In poisonous soil, the vine of grace is withered.

    I say that true poetry is all about the formation of the poet. I offer Dante as proof.

  14. Satyananda Sarangi

    Hello Sir.

    This essay is as good as it can get. The part where you have written on how the post modernists confront the true art and then boast as ambassadors of realistic writing despite knowing the truth deep within themselves, is what I have experienced many a time. In-fact, I liked the point wherein they have been referred to as those who spread negativity, ugliness and despair. Most of the essay echoed my own opinions and the rest was rich knowledge stored in my mind.

    Now, coming to the guessing part ( which I think I am quite poor at), the most magical word is ‘rhyme’.

    Rhyme is omnipresent and whenever it is violated, it begets misery and calamity. The absence of it breeds discord, disorder and disagreement.

    It is in the love that fades not until eternity and also in the one that must be discarded if not genuine. An example of the former is the sonnet ‘ Since There’s No Help’ by Michael Drayton – the poet wishes to bid his lover a goodbye. But in the last two lines, he writes:

    ‘ Now, if thou wouldst, when all have giv’n him over,
    From death to life thou might’st him yet recover.’

    Ultimately, his soul ‘rhymes’ with what the heart of every lover desires.

    Likewise, the poem ‘Love me Little Love me Long’ by Robert Herrick has these lines that exemplify the latter:

    ‘ Such the love that I would gain,
    Such the love, I tell thee plain,
    Thou must give, or woo in vain;
    So to thee, farewell! ‘

    Here, the poet’s realisation of transient love rhymes with truth.

    Rhyme is in the strongest of friendships as evident in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 104:

    ‘To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
    For as you were, when first your eye I ey’d,
    Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
    Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride,
    Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn’d
    In process of the seasons have I seen,
    Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn’d,
    Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
    Ah! yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand,
    Steal from his figure and no pace perceiv’d;
    So your sweet hue, which me thinks still doth stand,
    Hath motion and mine eye may be deceiv’d:
    For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred;
    Ere you were born, was beauty’s summer dead.’

    Here, the heart of the poet rhymes with immortal tunes of bonding.

    And each beautiful thing rhymes with the other- the autumn beats rhyme with our relief, the winter with our strife, and the heavens with glory.
    Whilst I say this, I am commenting on this post since my perception of art somewhat rhymes with yours.

    • James Sale

      Hi Satyananda – I love your comments and I love your examples; it is so good to see somebody so familiar with those greats from the 16th/17th Century – wonderful. A marvellous choice of poems and rhymes from them to illustrate your points. Thank you so much.

      • Satyananda Sarangi

        It is always a delight to read your essays and I am glad that I’m glued to them every time they are posted here.
        For a matter of fact, I have always had the urge to read poets of earlier generations- I’ve read poems of Sir Walter Raleigh, Michael Drayton, John Donne, Sir Philip Sidney, Christopher Marlowe, John Wilmot, Samuel Daniel, Andrew Marvell, George Wither, Sir Edward Dyer and many more. At a time, when my contemporaries are obsessed with poets of late 20th century, I have failed to read them barring a few. Still I would say maybe it’s the invisible muse from an ancient time who flies me to an antique land rich in language, beauty and emotions.
        I have even come across people who started as poets interested in form and metrical stuff, but fell captive to the grasping madness of the generation. They propagate that poetry when penned in structure is not free flowing and that poems must shun rhyme and rhythm to emphasise on emotional content. But the real reason is that rhyming poetry is too difficult to execute, and post modernists desire immortality of their verse without paying the cost of struggle.
        At school, we were taught Shelley, Coleridge and many others whose writing never failed to resonate with our hearts; the reason? They were rich in rhythm, imagery and what not.

        This reminds me of my own lines:

        ‘ If at all life of thee blossoms and wilts,
        Strive and toil to harness thy gift so dear;
        Water it not by love of kindred near,
        But with sweat until towards death, life tilts.

        Nay! Not fame, nor youthful love can restore
        The lost time’s potent eroded unseen;
        Gather the fire that ignites with such sheen,
        Upon thee bestowed by angels galore.’

        © 2017 Satyananda Sarangi. All rights reserved.

        Looking forward to part three of this series.

      • James Sale

        Thanks again Satyananda, especially for your lines, but also too for your appreciation of rhythm and rhyme – and the key point you make: they want to write great poems but ‘without paying the cost of struggle’. That says it exactly.

  15. Aedile Cwerbus

    In reference to an earlier question, Mr. Sale, the important point is that Vergil places the invocation of the muse “after” the very overt “I sing.”

    Milton, without Vergil’s artistry, but acknowledging its power, like Vergil, places his invocation after his opening argument, but, like Homer, before lines 12-13, “I thence/ Invoke thy aid.” Note: “I thence/ Invoke thy aid” is a very Vergilian aside.

    • James Sale

      Thanks for clarifying. I am glad you like Virgil so much, but as for me, as Dr Johnson observed, Milton’s is only not the greatest epic because it is not the first … for as he goes on to say … whoever flew so high for so long?

      Possibly Dante, but not Virgil – I haven’t gone back to him for a long time, and I think this is because it is too derivative from Homer, too similar, and so I return to Homer. But each must find his own heroes.

  16. R. Lee Ubicwedas

    Sensitivity Warning: De gustibus non est disputandum.

    I am glad you think “Paradise Lost” is the greatest epic. There is much in Milton’s poem worthy of admiration, not least of which is its solemnity.

    In T. S. Eliot’s essay “What is a Classic?” which was also the title of an essay by Sainte-Beuve, T. S. Eliot stated that whatever “definition [of classical] we arrive at, it cannot be one that excludes Virgil—we may say confidently that it must be one which will expressly reckon with him.”

    Of Vergil’s dactylic hexamter line “Formosam resonare doces Amaryllida silvas,” [And the wood rings with Amarillis’ name], Samuel Johnson states: “All the modern languages cannot furnish so melodious a line.” I do disagree with Johnson.

    Now there is no one writer that I believe is superior in all areas—such a thought to me would be ludicrous. And the poets themselves are not always the best writers. In an earlier poem I pointed out that there are dozens of genres and areas. Among poets, one of the reasons I admire the epic writers Homer, Valmiki, Vergil, Dante, Milton, and others, is because they tried to consider all the World in their visions; but so too have philosophers, like Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Bacon, Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Whitehead, Russell, Wittgenstein, and so many others; as well as many of the mathematical scientists, like Euclid, Archimedes, Pascal, Kepler, Newton, Euler, Gauss, Riemann, Einstein, et cetera; and so many other figures in so many areas they would be more difficult to enumerate than Homer’s Catalogue of Ships, and even more difficult to enumerate than than the words in Samuel Johnson’s first edition of “A Dictionary of the English Language” with more than 40,000 words.

    • James Sale

      Hi R. Lee – thanks – your points are spot on and I have no wish to exclude Virgil – it is a very great epic and must be considered. Also I like your point about writers not being superior in all areas; that is so true, so we must identify and relish the areas where they are particularly strong. Thanks for quoting Johnson back at me – always edifying!

      • R. Lee Ubicwedas

        Mr. Sale, I mentioned those “two” lines of Tennyson’s at the beginning of the essay “From Eliot to Poe,” the title of which Mr. Mantyk altered to the lengthier “A Look of T. S. Eliot Looking at Edgar Allen Poe,” and also he cut the length of the essay itself; but they are “two” lines and predominantly alliterative.

        Though I disagree with Samuel Johnson on his choice, I think his point was “one” line [five words of dactylic hexameter], and likely not merely alliterative. I do enjoy Tennyson’s use of labial and dental nasals in his “two” lines, for they seem to have a certain kind of magic about them; though I would never dare assume Johnson would like them.

      • James Sale

        So you did! But part of the trouble with you R Lee Ubicwedas is remembering which part of you you are!!

      • James Sale

        And yes, on the other point: I myself would not assume Dr Johnson would like Tennyson’s lines either. But we have to judge poetry from our perspective now; there’s a lot of poetry flowed under the bridge since Dr Johnson’s day, and tastes change. The lines do seem to me extremely melodious (which is not to say great). Tennyson was an exemplar of this kind of writing: the Mort D’Arthur with its ‘long day wanes’ lines also has these incredible onomatopoeic effects. Others sought to ape these effects until World War 1 came along, and the Modernists after it banned beauty – or what they saw as ‘poetical effects’. And which of course in the pale imitators without Tennyson’s skills were just that – poetical effects. However, now, 100 years on, even those weak Georgian poets can look good beside the drivel that is post-modernism.

  17. James Sale

    PS and on the subject of melodious lines, which could be a competition in itself, though I would restrict it to English to make the comparisons fair, Dr Johnson of course did not have the benefit of reading Tennyson:
    The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
    And murmuring of innumerable bees.

  18. paul hawkes

    phantasmagorical – a fantastic fantasy phantom magic allegory!

    • James Sale

      I love this word Paul – thank you – and you are more in the spirit of what I have in mind than anyone else so far! Excellent – but alas, this is not my first choice! Keep your eye open for Part 3. And you are in with a chance for best alternative!!!

  19. I. E. Drew Bascule

    After British drama left the centre stage of literature in the 19th century, until the time of the rise of Irish drama, with figures like Wilde, Shaw, Synge and Yeats, it was the dramatic monologues of Victorian poets, like Tennyson [Ulysses] and Browning [My Last Duchess and Fra Lippo Lippi] as well as Euro-American Modernist poets, like Pound [Hugh Selwyn Mauberley] and T. S. Eliot [The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock], that sustained the dramatic impulse of English literature, with, of course, the great Elizabethan and Jacobian poetic dramatic impulse, and the 18th century dramas.

    You are right, the trouble with his charichords (anagrammatic heteronyms) is it’s hard to tell which one he is. But really he is each one of the charichords, because they are merely the letters of his name scrambled. Poets, like Shakespeare, and novelists, like Charles Dickens, were far more creative in character construction. And modernists, like Pound [Personae] and Pessoa, were far more preoccupied than he is, which is more in the Realm of Gulliver’s Travels than in serious character creation.

    I concur with your assessment of Tennyson, and, I would add, his poem “To Virgil…” is only one of his many remarkable poems.

    “All the charm of all the Muses
    often flowering in a lonely word…”

    • James Sale

      Mimesis: the word ‘lonely’ in that quotation is perfectly an example of the flowering it is describing – brilliant!!! Thank you.

  20. Joe Sale

    Well, Stephen King once said: “Alone. Yes, that’s the key word, the most awful word in the English tongue” And I heartily agree, it has a unique terror to it. Regards the most magical word, might it be something so simple as ‘compassion’? It rolls beautifully off the tongue, and it carries such awesome weight to it.

    • James Sale

      Thanks Joe for the Stephen King reference to ‘Alone’ and its terrors! Compassion is a wonderful word, though, and the Buddha would like it. But it’s not my number one choice for THE most magical word – all will be revealed soon!

  21. paul hawkes

    Metamorphosis – ancient Greek metaphysical poets’ metaphor meta = after morphe = form, considerable transformation of original structure/study of nature of reality or subtle discussion of reasoning – and Kafka!

    • James Sale

      Brilliant word Paul – and Shakespearean too as he loved Ovid, so could be in the top ten! Not my number 1, but thanks for going for it!!! Watch this space for the answer soon!!

  22. James Sale

    Thank you all who entered my mini-competition to second guess the word I had chosen as the most magical in the English language. The answer has now been revealed in part 3 of my Poetry and the Muses article; it is ‘abracadabra’, which may seem strange, but as you will know I give my reasons for it. Indeed, I have probably been too literal, as it literally is a magical word!

    But I am impressed by the entries and they come under four approximate headings. We had one neologism: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins – wonderful word. We had six grand and abstract nouns: faith, love, beauty, faith, truth, compassion, all of which I love. We had two marvellous fantastic type words: phantasmagorical and metamorphosis – who couldn’t like these? And then we had 4 specifically poetical words: poetry, lyrical, muse, and rhyme. There was a fifth word, which wasn’t entered, but was mentioned by my son, Joseph Sale, as the most terrifying word in the language, ‘alone’, a fact which apparently Stephen King believes; but that word isn’t magical, so must be discounted.

    So, with all these wonderful choices, which word wins my prize of a signed copy of my latest book of poetry, The Lyre Speaks True? So, so difficult. So many great entries. But I am reminded by the Book of Sirach that: “For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator”, and as St Francis of Assisi said, “God is beauty”. To enlarge on this further, “Everything from a dewdrop to Mount Shasta is charged with beauty … it must imply behind things a Spirit that enjoys beauty for its own sake and that floods the world everywhere with it. Wherever it can break through, it does break through, and our joy in it shows that we are in some sense kindred to the giver and revealer of it” (Rufus Jones).

    In all aspects of our lives, and in poetry in particular we want beauty – all the words themselves possess beauty: rhyme makes beautiful, love makes beautiful, the Muse makes beautiful. Thus, for me I am going to choose the person who selected ‘beauty’ as their word as the winner of my little competition. That person is GMH Thompson, who actually had 2 bites at the cake, which goes to show that one should never give up, or even be satisfied by a first draft!

    My email address is, so if GMH would like to contact me I’ll arrange to send him a copy of my book. Thank you all for entering. It’s been great fun and please comment on Part 4 when it comes up – I think it’s the best part of the whole article.


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